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Wednesday 30 September 2020

Bits of Birmingham.

 Here at Cambrian Wharf it was super quiet over night, and the Flapper and Firking Pub that overlooks the basin is closed so we don't even have to wait until 23:00, or 22:00 currently. I was expecting to wake up a little stiff in the lower regions, I mean legs, after yesterday's lock work out, and I wasn't wrong. I was also expecting the rain to start later in the day but we had a brief shower over breakfast. It had stopped by the time we ventured out to explore what had changed in Birmingham city centre.

I was intrigued to see that the West Midlands Metro has expanded from New Street Station up to Centenary Square in front of the 'New Library'. I couldn't work out how they were able to get here as there were no wires for a pantograph to be raised to connect up for the electricity. Looking on the website of the manufacturers, CAF from Spain, and their new trams can be fitted with lithium ion supercapacitors and batteries to enable it to run with out direct electricity for short periods.

There have been £13.5 million worth of improvements on the square in front of the library as well as the tram stop. A competition was held and this was the winner from a Scottish Company. It looks like a massive pool but in fact it is about half an inch deep and acts as a reflection pool for all the buildings around. There is a series of 28 water jets that have coloured lights and can be timed to make 'interesting' patterns. The tall lighting columns are interesting as they spread a 'datum of starlight' over the square with their twinkling LED's. It seems that they are to have a sound waves effect with the water features. The pool can be quickly drained to create an events space. There was also a countdown clock for the Birmingham Commonwealth games in 2022, hence all the works. I was a little worried that the number of days indicated until the start of the Games was 666!!

The 'old' brutalist concrete, leaking concrete, building and surrounding buildings have been demolished a while now and it has opened up a great vista of Chamberlain Square and the Museum and Art Gallery and the Town Hall. The new buildings behind me did not over inspire me, so I forgot to take a photo. However the rounded front facing the Museum was quite attractive.

I must have passed this obelisk many times and not noticed what it was. It seems that it was erected in 1885 for a national hero Colonel Fred Gustavus Burnaby. He was born in Bedford and was a large and powerful man. He joined the army and was famous for getting on with all and being able to jump over a snooker table from a standing start and carrying a donkey under each arm. His exploits quickly found him becoming an national celebrity. He left the Army and did a lot of travelling, and spying! The bust is obviously of the man himself. The Abu Klea 1885 refers to the place of his death. Having rejoined the army he was sent on lift the siege of General Gordan at Khartoum. He was too late and was killed at the watering hole of Abu Klea when he dashed out of the defensive square to rescue a soldier. He was only 42.

The Khiva 1875 refers to when he had left the army had gone travelling on his own, with a bit of spying on the side to travel to the Khanate of Khiva (modern day Uzbekistan). It was his book 'A ride to Khive' that brought his his extreme fame. He spoke several languages and had mastered hot air ballooning too. The only reason I can find that it is in St. Philips Square is that he stood for parliament against Joe Chamberlain!

St Philip's Cathedral is not whatnyou may expect for the Second City of England but I must say I like it and the square is always busy.

79 - 83 Colmore Row attracted my attention. It seems to have housed RBS Bank recently but it was built in 1873 for William Spurrier. I'm not sure whether it was a home or a showroom. William Spurrier sold silver and gold items, and it seems that he also perfected the art of  making electro silver plate in Birmingham. It is Grade II listed.

Benvento Cellini was an Itallian Goldsmith who lived 1500 - 1571 and is the right hand bust on 79 - 83 Colmore Row. He was also a poet, artist, sculptor and soldier.

Lorenzo was also an Italian goldsmith that lived 1378 to 1455 and his autobiography maybe the oldest surviving. It makes you wonder why a bloke in Birmingham would select these two to adorn is building, when there must be more 'appropriate' candidates.

Outside the Council Offices was this little montage to the NHS. Birmingham Council always have a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Birmingham Bound.

 Before we left our mooring 6 boats passed us going the other way. They must have been moored up round the corner We were away before half past as it was such a nice day. We were toying with the idea of getting up the Aston Locks today.

Curdworth Tunnel comes along pretty soon and we met another boat heading towards us. That was the last one for a good while.

At the bottom of Minworth Locks (I'm not even sure that the first near Carter's Bridge counts as a Minworth Lock, or one on its own) I saw this old lock keepers shelter. I am assuming is is original. I love the fact that these things remain over the decades. I suppose that it shows that they re practical.

You can definitely see why the call the canals green corridors. On the port side is the busy A38 and the Castle Vale estate (built on another WWII aerodrome) and on the left industry. Looking at the photo you could be miles away in the proper countryside.

We had commented on how much tidier the cut was, much less litter in the water and on the side, when on approaching lock No.2 I caught this little; a pram cover and the top of a boot. It didn't bode well but that was the last visit to the weed hatch of the day.

You always get a good light when passing under the factory, and shelter from the rain too, but the sun is lovely and warm today. Erdington Hall survived near by until 1938 when it was lost to industry, probably as we scaled up for war. This factory was not built over the canal until the early 1960's. and as far as I know is redundant again.

We had decided to head up the Aston Locks as we hadn't been that was for a while. Not for us the difficult turn into the Saltley Cut and Star City moorings this time.

After passing Cuckoo Wharf we can see the first lock in the flight. One of the great things about Brum is the roving bridges over long lost arms. The three in this stretch on the left are as follows; the first went to a varnish work as well as a tube and rolling mill. The second was for another tube works and the last seems to be for an edged tool factory.

Not quite the green corridor of the previous photo but there were herons fishing along here and ducks and geese. The bird song in thew quiet away from the road noises was also a real tonic.

I don't remember seeing a cantilevered bridge like this before, fixed on just the left side.

The tow path was well used by cyclists and some walkers and was very clean and tidy on the whole. We did pick up a dustbin liner that we filled with v]cans and bottles that we picked out of the locks and drinkers haunts. The view down the flight in the sun is quite nice, with the large side pounds. We got to the top of the Aston Locks in 90 minutes without meeting a boat. Most of the locks were our way. The sun was glorious, and with rain predicted for tomorrow we kept on for the Framer's Bridge Locks 

We changed over with me doing the windlass work for the next flight. and after lock 1 we met a a few boats coming down so that helped. A nother spot to be out of the rain for a brief respite, but not today.

Back out into the sun and making good progress.

The road must be pushing out so they have unleashed the Duplo bricks to hold everything

We got to the top in just over three hours, so as you can imagine we needed a cup of tea!! The berth just by the top lock was vacant so we just backed on to it. 14 day moorings and plenty of sun. What more could you ask for. I took this photo of our mooring in Cambrian Basin when I drop all the rubbish we had collected off at the bin store. Full again! I can't remember ever being here when it wasn't rammed. This will do us for a day or two.

PS. Can anybody let me know the secret of how to keep the top gates of the Farmer's Bridge Locks, when going up, shut!! You have to keep them pushed shut for ages until they will stay shut on their own which really slows you down. Must be something with the short pounds, by-wash etc etc.

Monday 28 September 2020

Climbing up Curdworth Locks.

 We woke to a nice day, no wind and warm. What's not to like. 

The flats at Peel Wharf see appealing as they have the basin, a small garden and the ever changing vistas of the boats passing and mooring.

There was somebody on the water point just before the junction so we continued on and turned to starboard and headed up the Birmingham and Fazeley. 

Somebody has made a good job of the toll house a nice spot. We didn't go far as we turned into the marina and bought three bags of smokeless as an insurance policy. We then pulled out again and on to the cut and then tied up again to take on water.

Drayton Manor Swivel and foot bridges must be in every bodies photo album. It was built about 1830 when Sir Robert Peel, he of the Police Force and Prime Minister had his mansion built nearby. As the canal ran through the estate he wanted it to look good. He also built the mills that are found at the junction we passed through this morning. His house was demolished in 1929 and the land was where Drayton Manor Theme Park was built.

It is lovely and still today and the canal has no roads or rails close by. A little later on there is Kingsbury Water Park in disused gravel workings. I like this stretch of canal up to the top of the Curdworth Locks.

We had been pursued by a hire boat as we approached Curdworth Bottom Lock so we let them go ahead and they had a boat coming out too.

I like the solidness of the BCN houses and it is nice to have the numbers on them too. The Birmingham and Fazeley merged with the BCN in 1794!

Helen did the driving after the first lock and a boat pulled off the water point at Bodymoor Heath ahead of us. They weren't very fast so no records to be broken on this run up the locks.

Helen enjoyed the day with the warmer weather and single narrow locks. I had to take a bit clothing off as it was warm work.

Getting near the top now. I like the little shed by No.4 Lock. The sound of the M42 is not too bad even though it is pretty close.

At the top end of the flight the pounds are small so the locks are close enough together to work ahead.

When the M42 was built they had to move the top lock and the lock cottage was demolished. The old lock was just a few metres ahead from this old arm, Dunton Wharf appears to have been on the opposite side of the canal. On old maps you can see a bank of lime kilns. I like the old iron railings over the arm's bridge that would take the tow line up and over, and not just to stop people falling in!

We moored up just a bit further on from the top lock and I decided that I would wash the roof and get some winter protecting polish on it. I then ended up washing the tow path side too. I wish I hadn't as I have been eaten alive and don't think I'll be getting much sleep with all the scratching I'll be doing.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Free flow from Fradley to Fazeley.

 Boats were passing us both ways before we set off, so we thought we would be following a line of boats. It didn't turn out like that in the end.

The sun was out and the wind was down as we crept up to Junction lock about 0930. There was a good few enjoying coffee and bacon banjos at the cafe and the keepers were ready and armed with windlassie. We were to turn left so of course we needed to swing the bridge.

Some trees have been lopped so there is a better view of the hangers from the airfield. Officially it was known as RAF Lichfield, but seems to have been always known as Fradley. It opened in 1940 with three runways and was very busy. It started out as where new aircraft were flown to from the manufacturers and prepared for the operational units. From 1942 operational missions were flown by bombers from here including the 1000 bomber raid. After 1943 most of the raids were for dropping propaganda leaflets or bombing German airfields in France. After the war many aircraft were broken up here and many readied for sale to other air forces. No further use could be made of the base in 1958 and it was sold off in 1962. The hangers were utilised for storage and now there is an industrial park and the number of houses seems to be growing year on year.

The canal passed Fradley has trees growing along the sides and with the low sun the sunbeams shining through the branches make it a magical place.

Helen is bundled up against the cold despite the sun. When not in it glow it was pretty cool I must say.

As we approached Huddlesford these gongoozlers were watching the boats go by and were hypercritical of the wake they were making if going too fast! As we got closer to Whittington we came across a procession of boats coming towards us. All a bit of a shock to the system after our northern sojourn where it was rare to see more than one moving boat in a day.

Before arriving at Hopwas Woods there are some lovely spots to moor, with a slight rise between the cut and the railway. The polytunnels at Fisherwick have gone and the asparagus beds have gone too. I wonder if they ony have so many productive years before the land use needs to be different. There was a field of plenty of asparagus closer to the woods. The polytunnels are removed over winter.

Hopwas Wood was busy with walkers but there weren't too many boats moored there. We weren't stopping today but kept on going.

As we got closer to Fazeley we came across the little chimney boat that had installed our new flue and built a new double skinned chimney for us.

The chimney boat must have inspired me as after stopping at Fazeley and having a bite to eat, and then going for a bit of shopping I set to cleaning the stove out and blacking it all ready for the cold night ahead. It has been warm in the sun, but is getting cool tonight. After the stove I decided to stow the anchor and chain and lifebelt under the dinette. All a bit of a commotion but it was achieved. Then is was cleaning up the bow deck etc. It is nice to sit down to right the blog.

Saturday 26 September 2020

Finally, Friends at Fradley.

 It seemed to be cold this morning but the thermometer tells me that it wasn't. The wind had gone down but when out of the lovely sun and in the wind it was bitter none the less.

Shobnall Fields moorings are a nice place with open views under the trees with dogs with their walkers, runners, cyclists and further on the little football players with their parents or guardians seemingly huddled together for warmth!!! and F'ing and blinding at their little darlings.

You get a better picture of the Marston's Brewery Bridge from this direction and get a sot of the entrance to the Shobnall Arm too. Shobnall Marina is on the original Bond End Canal. Before what became the Trent and Mersey Canal was built the River Trent was used for Navigation up to Bond End where there were warehouses etc. There needed to be a connection from the river to the new canal and the canal, just over a mile in length was opened in 1790. However the Grand Trunk Canal Co. wouldn't allow a connection so all goods had to be transferred from widebeam to narrow, or vice versa across a 'bar'. This continued until 1794 when it was taken away and a lock instated to take into account the levels. The River Navigation largely ceased by 1874 and the 1 mile from the Trent end was filled in leaving the Shobnall Basin. This became a transhipment basin with rail tracks around the basin until 1950's. Jannel Cruisers took over part of the basin in 1973.

Tattenhill Lock is pretty scenic as locks go. We had a been following the boat with the man with blue top but they seemed to disappear before the next lock???

Just above the lock I noticed the MR Railway boundary marker that can be seen just to the left of the tub. I was puzzled by this as I hadn't thought that the Midland Railway had been involved in the canal. It seems that the North Staffordshire Railway Co bought the Canal in 1847 to stop it's opposition to the building of the railway. The North Staffs had running rights on the Midland Railway's lines at one time, but there was no merger until 1921 when they were grouped in the London Midland and Scottish Railway. So where did this boundary marker come from?

I always take this photo as I love this little warehouse and crane at Wychnor Lock as we penned up on to the River Trent. It still seems counter intuitive to go 'up' onto a river, despite spending last year defying gravity on the Great Ouse and Middle Levels where it seems to happen all the time.

St. Leonard's Church at Wychnor stands proud above the River Trent as you pass. It has some 12th Century, mainly 14th and some 17th.and is Grade II*. Around is also an abandon village with several houses and an old hall with moat and fishponds etc. There is a nice walk from Alrewas to see it.

I can't thin of any further parts of the Trent that is now navigable above here where the Trent is used to get from Wychnor to Alrewas. If that is the case we have traveled from Trent Falls where it joins with the Yorkshsire Ouse to form the Humber to here. I always love these horse bridges to get over the river and tributaries etc.

Waiting our turn for the lock at Alrewas the local lads were leaping across the bye wash just to past the wait for me! There was one in and one out, but not much of a wait.

I'm not sure how long this has been on the gable end, but it looks very new. I can think of worse ways of spending lockdown.

And there he is, our most favourite Voluntary Lock keeper, and the reason that we have been putting the hours in as we wanted to get here whilst he was on duty as we haven't seen him for nearly a year. Plus he always has tea loaf for us! He excelled himself this time with a layer cake and two jars of jam, plus he bought us a coffee!! It was great to catch up with all his gossip, and drop the occasional line in too. Hopefully we will see him when we come back this way next month. We are moored up between Keeper's and Junction Locks tonight.