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Thursday 15 July 2021

Fradley, Fill up, fling the stuff in a bag and fly off.

 The Swan was quite busy and we had a table inside. It has been clkeaned up somewhat. I can't remember whether nit had been a Everard's pub last time we were in. The food is pub grub and all seemed home cooked and quite tasty service was quick and efficient and it was great to be out and about and enjoy eating out for a change.

It was a lovely evening when we stepped out of the pub and we decided that we would stretch our legs by walking up to Shade House Lock. We have had a great trip with 109 locks in ten days. We couldn't have done it without Amy riding shotgun windlass operator and all round spare hand. We are all looking forward to the next time now.

We went back to the boat and finished of a very difficult 1000 piece jigsaw that had been given us by somebody who had even started to do it. We were proud of that, just three days too.

There were the usual early risers that set of in all directions by 0730. We left at our usual time fully expecting it to be the wacky races at the junction. As it was there was one coming down and one going up. After being fully crowded the moorings only had the cruiser and our selves when we were leaving.

The girls had the swing bridge open and the photo of the pub with the sun on it was crying out to be taken.

We were soon up Shadehouse Lock on on the way in the sunshine. At Woodend lock there was one boat leaving and five above when we penned up. By the time we got to Kings Bromley Marine we had passed another six boats heading to Fradley, so I think the nlock keeper may in for a busier time than he had first thing. We could see there was a boat just sliding on to the fueling quay as we swund round to go stern first. As we were doing that a boat left one of the moorings for fuel and another one arrived from the canal. It was full for about an hour after we got fuel found a gap and swung round nto mour berth to tie up. 91 litres doesn't seem too bad all in all. It is always with a heavy heart that we leave the boat and back to Yorkshire. It maybe a while before we are back due to commitments, and I am a little worried about what we will find when we do get back as there seem to be ants everywhere at the moment, including over the outside of the boat!

PS two of my questions of July 13th's blog have been answered. The Sign at the Salford Junction was indeed previously in kilometres. A subsidiary question is when did it change, after Brexit or previously?

The other question answered is concerning the solar panels down the Curdwrth flight. It seems that these are powering a probe that is embedded in the ground at each flight to record if there is any movement in the lock structures caused by work at the HS2 sites nearby. Thanks for the help.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Flitted through Fazeley to Fradley.

 We met up with our friend for a couple of drinks out side by the cut. The weather wasn't cold but it did start drizzling a couple of times and the temperature dropped too. They did tell us that last orders at the bar were 21:30 too, so we weren't late.

The Dog and Doublet pub has quite a long history which I have blogged about in the past, but can't think when. We set of a few minutes before our normal as we had a distance to cover today. The first of the three locks of the day was right outside the pub, No.9 in the Curdworth Flight.

At the bottom lock were a family of ducks that were just too cute to pass for Helen and out came the old crusts and some porridge oats to feed them.

The swing bridge above the lock gets progressively more decrepit. I was intrigued as to why it was need in the first place. When I looked on the 1887 OS it doesn't appear, but it is there on the one printed in 1901 and it looks like just fields beyond on both maps so nothing appears to have changed.

The BCN cottages down this flight seem to well preserved and still numbered. They would have been fairly modest homes for larger families in their day, but seem to be highly sort after these days. Must have been idyllic at the height of COVID. Not sure they have the demand for second homes as a similar cottage in Cornwall or similar spots.

I had never noticed before bu there is the date plaque on the wall giving the construction date as 1820.

Despite it being pretty straight and reed bound it still seems wide enough in most places for boats to pass easily. With the old gravel pits being worked out the Kingsbury Waterpark and Middleton Pools were set up so there is good walking form the moorings around here. Amy ran from the bottom lock as part of her marathon training. Pretty great place for a run I would say.

She ran as far as Drayton swing and foot bridge and stood on the bridge as we approached. We didn't go far until stopping at the water point by the Fazeley Mill Marina and then heading down to the junction.

It seemed to be extremely busy at the junction with boats going in all directions, with one turning up the Birmingham and Fazeley and decided to ram in the small gap between us and a boat who had pulled out in front of us earlier who were waiting for him to clear the bridge hole. I had been waiting for the boat in front to enter the bridge hole so I could tie up on the moorings just by it. The other boat took that mooring, but luckily there was room for two. Helen and Amy went off to get some bits of shopping and were soon back and we were off, to a clear junction and the haul up to Fradley. The Methodist Church appears to have been converted already and awaiting new owners. There is lots of working going on at the mill.

Just by the bridge were these concrete posts, similar to the one with a D down the Aston flight yesterday. These are making up a stop plank rest though.

As we cleared Fazeley we were asked by a day boat from Streethay Wharf where the 'turning circle' was. This is the second time and I want to explain to them that they were alloowed to turn where ever the short length of their boat allowed, but not easy as we passed each other. They were having a good time so why bother anyway. Amy decided to get another view of Hopwas Wood as we passed by, not passing a boat at all.

I remembered to take a picture of the stone that marked where the Coventry Canal Co. and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Co met in the construction of this canal. The B&F got sick of waiting for the Coventry to complete the connection with the Trent and Mersey so set to themselves. The bridge numbers and bridge names also shows where the join was.

At Hudlesford, Ogley Junction the old route to the BCN serves as moorings for the Lichfield Canal Cruising Club. The canal is one of the most likely to be finished in the next decade or so, so I wonder what they will do about the moorings. If it stays as it is it could be quite busy, and not the nice quiet moorings they are today.

I was getting worried about finding a berth at Fradley as it was getting late, gone 17:00 when we came across the start of the moorings on the Coventry. There was moorings free so no problem. I was planning to reverse down the Junction lock and on to any free moorings by the cafe if we were stuck. We had booked a meal at the Swan for 18:30, so didn't want to be too far away.. As it rurned out all was fine.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Answers on a Postcard Please!

 Well the Aston Cross mooring is now on our list as we had TV, phone, internet and a really quiet night to boot.

By the moorings is this milepost with the miles and locks to near and distant places.

We were straight into the last three locks of the Aston flight and whilst walking down to set the lock, can't remember which but maybe between 9 and 10, I saw this post. The concrete is stamped with BCN and with the large D at the top. This was roughly mid way between the locks. The BCN buffs will be able to put me right, but is it something to do with who claims the lock when approaching? If I remember you couldn't see one of the locks from the post. Help please???!

Between Locks 10 and 11 is this art work in the bricks. I think the boats name is given in the forward plaque as Lady Anna and at the stern are the names of the 'brickies' that constructed in Paso, Paso and Wilkinson I think it is, in 1995. Nice bit of advertising too.

You could almost think that an episode of Peaky Blinders could have been filmed here. I love the fact that the old bridge gas lights have been put back.

It was a muggy day and I was expecting it to rain at any time, but we spent all day dry, hurrah. The last three locks are more spaced out than the top 8 so we got a nice walk between, with the claret and blue gasometers (Aston Villa colours for the non football fans).

Surprisingly there was only one boat on Cuckoo Wharf as we passed. We could have stopped for water but carried on to Salford Junction. One boat passed us heading up to the Aston Locks otherwise all was quiet. Any idea anybody why the mileages have all changed on the  Junction sign post? With global warming has the world shrunk? It can't be that it used to be in kilometres can it?

There had obviously been a lot of cinstruction traffic through this gateway. Nature is a wonderful as the disturbance has brought the lovely red poppies to flower and add a splash of colour along this much untidier stretch of towpath and water than the rest of Birmingham so far.

We passed a boat heading to Salford Junction with it's tunnel light on, and this reminded me that there is a tunnel at Curdworth, but doesn't really warrant the use of the tunnel lamp at 57 yards long!

Dunton Wharf is very photogenic, especially when heading down the locks. I removed the tape marking them as having recently being painted, as they were all dry now.

I have another question to ask. On these three locks of the Curdworth flight, 4,5 and 6 I think it was, there were large solar panels temporarily mounted to drive a black box of tricks that seemed to have a probe into the ground. They are behind the metal fencing. Any ideas anybody?

The distances between the locks stretch after lock 5 ans here we have decided we will cadge a lift after Lock 7 with just one more lock to negotiate. We moored up by the Dog and Doublet to meet and old friend hopefully. 

Monday 12 July 2021

Down but not all the way out (of Birmingham).

 We had an half hours lay in, and Helen and Amy went into town to buy milk etc and a Sunday paper. We were on our way down the Farmer's Bridge flight at just about 1100. Two hire boats had set off well ahead of us.

It was a lovely morning and plenty of folk walking, jogging and cycling up and down. I am always interested in some of the rubbish people tell their friends about how locks work and about the cut generally. 

It was much easier to work these lovely locks with three as you can work ahead and drive from one into the other.

There has been loads of new buildings put up it seems since we were last this way. I think they call it Newhall Square that is between locks 7 and 8 where the little side arm went off, Whitmore's Arm. This is represented by the water feature. For information there is a little Co-op in the square too. The old factory seems a little lost but makes a good feature. The area where the square is was once a silver and electro plating works

I'm not sure what the heavy steel work is for but there are bridges above bridges here as we dive under Newhall Street where the old Assay Office was, an important place in Birmingham.

We soon caught up with a couple on a hire boat who were making heavy weather of going down the flight. We helped them down the flight and agreed to help them down the Aston flight too. I always see more detail in a photo of this mural than I do from the tow path.

The hire boat stopped up the top of the Aston flight for a well earned cup of tea and we went ahead of them. It is great to think that these bridges have been here for nearly two hundred years soon.

The Aston flight are also pretty easy to work as the first 8 and nice and close together.

We were planning to stop at the Aston Cross Business village moorings. It has 24 hour security and has about 4 or 5 moorings if everything is nice and close. It seems that boats are abandoned for long periods though. You can see 'Holderness' moored up at moorings with the fake lock water feature. The site was built on the old Climax Tube Works.

After lunch I was still hearing the hire boat that we had left to do the last three locks of the Aston flight. They then reversed back to us to tell us that they couldn't get the paddle locks undone. They had black anti vandal keys and they just turned. I hopped on their boat with our keys and they opened not trouble. They had phoned their hire company to be told they needed the silver key as the black ones are not that good. They had provided them with two black ones! I gave them one of ours and they said they would post it back to us at the end of their holiday. We wandered out of the business village to post a letter, and have a walk. Just up the road was an old pub the Golden Cross that was built for the Holt Brewery in 1867. It was converted into flats into 2012.

Next door was an old public lending library that had this foundation stone. The Ansell's were a local brewing family. It looks like it is a community building but not a library.

The clock tower in the round about was moved her from a little up the road where the lay out has been changed. It was presented by Lewis Spokes Richards to the Manor of Aston Local Board. He was the Chairman of the board in December 1891.

We walked up a bit further and came across another fantastic Victorian pub, the Barton Arms. We had come out with no money and no masks, but now we know where it is we will be back.

Sunday 11 July 2021

The Underground to Digbeth.

 Another quiet night and up a little earlier than our norm so we pushed over to the water pint to top up, as it was there.

The citizens of the area are very lucky to have such a country park on the doorstep and I am pleased to say many of them take full advantage, and they mange to keep the area pretty clean too. As soon as were full of water we let go and headed to the Netherton Tunnel.

There as a boat just about leaving as we approached so we waited before diving in. We had a clear run through and it took about 45 mins. When about 1/4 way through I realised that there was a Canada Goose swimming down my port side!! I had never come across that before! We didn't meet another boat, but there were plenty of bikes making the passage north to south.

We just stayed on the New Main Line and on the trip in to central Brum we only saw four moving boats. May be tht is why there is weed growing and restricting the channel in a few places. I don't remember ever seeing this before.

We jusr witnessed a heron standing his ground as a cyclist zoomed past him on the towpath and we passed on the cut. City dwelling herons are hard!! Not like those country ones that fly off in front of you all the time! Then there was the cormorant surveying all from his telegraph pole.

Iknield Port Loop Village is developing and people are living there now. It looks like there is still about half to develop too.

We poked our heads in the Oozells Loop for a mooring but the boats were well spaced out and with some damaged edging there was no room for us. I drop Helen and Amy off and they went to check out Cambrian Wharf. There was room so I headed over and as there was nobody on the water we stopped and filled up, as it was there. There were some lovely poppies growing on the quay that set the paint work off nicely.

After a bite to eat Helen and Amy went off into town to do a little shopping, and rather than drag me around with them I was given clearance to go and explore the pubs of Digbeth. This is the up and coming area of Brum, the Shoreditch of the Second City. There are signs of this, but they are well spaced out. This mosaic had been originally been commissioned by the Irish Community of Birmingham and erected at St Chad's Circus in 1968. In 2007 the road layout was changed and the mosaic demolished. The son of the original artists, Kenneth Budd, Oliver, saved some of the main features and was reworked using these in 2013 in the Irish Quarter.

There are several great walls of art spread around the area too.

Behind this building is the Warwick Bar on the top end of the Grand Union Canal. I have never seen this side of thre Fellows, Morton and Clayton warehouse that was built in 1935. It is good it is still here.

A little further up Fazeley Street is this row of blue brick offices/premises. The door on the extreme right has Canal Offices above the door. There were built in 1850 for the Grand Junction Canal Co. I visited a couple of pubs before heading to the Woodman next to the Curzon Street Station, soon to be Birmingham terminus of the HS", to meet up with Helen and Amy.

After a pint we wandered back into town as we had booked a meal at 1800.On the way we passed the old Legal and General Building on Waterloo Street/ It was built between 1931 and 33 and the white Portland Stone cladding and design gives it a very Art Deco feel. Just another little gem lost in the street scene. We had out Indian at the Barajee overlooking the Worcester Bar. It is now tradition that we always eat here when in Brum. and once again it was a superb meal.

To work off our meal a little we wandered down the canal side, that was extremely busy, towards the Mail Box. On our right was the large Corporation Wharf. On the other side of the canal was the Worcester Wharf and straight ahead were more wharves and basins backing on to Commercial Street. In the tow path by the corner are these rails and points. On the old maps between 1887 and 1945 I can see no evidence of there being lines laid here, so maybe they have been added from elsewhere or they weren't deemed to be permanent in their day.

This was commissioned in 2006 from Cathy Lewis by the developers of the new Register Office on Holliday Wharf. It is hidden away really, but looks nice against the Cube opposite.

Cambrian Wharf was quiet when we got back. There has been a lot of work at the Telephone Tower and there is much scaffold and tarpaulin all around the city as they prepare for the Commonwealth Games, hopefully next year. Whe we stepped aboard we noticed lots of ants running free. They were just starting to mass, running up the fenders. Hopefully I have diverted their attention by extermination and fixing grease around the pipe fendrrs! We will see in the moring!