Monday, 7 January 2013

Away at last.

Yes we’ve moved,we finally got away from Barton Turns after ten days and made our way here to Birmingham.A quick phone call to C&RT on Thursday morning gave us the all clear to go across the River Trent at Alrewas ,the water level having gone down quite a lot over the previous 48 hours.The 200 metre trip across the river was pretty much uneventful,the flow pushed us over towards the bank just before Alrewas lock,but other than that it was fine,for our first time crossing in those conditions anyway.

Lisa's Coventry Canal 03.01.13 018 Lisa's Coventry Canal 03.01.13 020

On the left there is still a lot of water going over the weir at Alrewas and on the right we just have to go round to the left before the bridge and we’ll be into calm water

From Alrewas we had 30 miles and 43 locks to do and we needed to do them within four days at the most.Birmingham sits on a plateau so every approach to it by canal has a number of locks close together called a flight.Coming from the east,as we were doing,meant coming up the Farmers Bridge flight,which consists of thirteen locks,and we knew that C&RT would be closing them for their Winter Stoppage on the 7th of January.That meant we had to be away from Barton before Friday if we wanted to take the shortest route,and yippee ,we did it.We cruised for six hours each day,which is more than we would normally do in a week,the weather was exceptional,for the time of year,and it was brilliant.We are going to relax now for a few days and let Lisa get some retail therapy as reward for the hard work she put in getting us here.Remember,she’s the one who works the locks and she had 27 to do on Saturday alone.Lisa doesn’t like being on her own,on the boat, in the locks,so I get the relatively easy bit,but we do work well together and I try to do as much as I can to help.half the locks she had to do were against us,i.e.they were full,so had to be emptied before we could enter with Chyandour.

On Thursday we made it to Whittington,on the Coventry Canal,after stopping to use the spotlessly clean services at Fradley Junction where the T & M and the Coventry Canal meet.This junction is one of the most famous on the canal system with a popular pub called The Swan,we didn’t have time to visit so we’ll save it for another day.

Fradley 03.01.13 001 Fradley 03.01.13 003

An old British Waterways van at Fradley Junction and a tiny narrowboat,with two famous people on board,in the Carpenters Shop there.

After turning left at Fradley,off the T & M and onto the Coventry Canal,we cruised as far as Whittington where we moored just short of the first bridge for the village.By Friday afternoon we had got as far as Curdworth on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal,where we moored in open countryside,and Saturday had us moored here in Birmingham by about 15.30.Three good days of the best that narrowboating has to offer.The journey was very quiet though,we met a couple of boats on both Thursday and Friday but non at all on Saturday which was surprising,‘cos it was ideal cruising weather.

Whittington 03.01.13 003 Lisa's Coventry Canal 03.01.13 027

On the left is the sunset as we moored up on the Coventry Canal at Whittington and on the right is Huddlesford Junction at the end of what was the Wryley & Essington Canal.This is now the proposed Lichfield Canal,which it is hoped,will one day be restored.There has been an aqueduct built over the M6 Toll Road ready for it but there is no water to it yet.The Wryley & Essington still exists to the west but the seven mile stretch from here was drained and filled in in the 1960’s

Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 003 Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 026

Anyone care to guess what could be flowing through this pipe?It has to be a metre in diameter.On the right is something that always intrigues me.What went on behind that wall when it was first built a couple of hundred years ago?Factory,warehouse,home,what was there,and how many changes has it had?I would love to know.

Lisa's Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.13 006 Lisa's Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.13 020

Factory Tunnel on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal,these are the foundations of a factory that was built over the canal but so far I can’t find any details of the factory,which incidentally,is still there but closed.On the right is part of Spaghetti Junction,where the M6 and the A38M meet,with Salford Junction on the B & F under it on the left.

Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 010 Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 012

A view down the Ashton flight of 11 locks and Lisa at the top taking a few minutes before we had our lunch prior to setting off for the Farmers Bridge flight.

Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 027 Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 024

Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 030 Birmingham & Fazeley 05.01.12 034

Above are some of the views we enjoyed as we climbed the Farmers Bridge flight,you can see that,over the years,Birmingham has always been built around the canals.This was a memorable experience coming up through the locks,something we would love to do again.

Visiting Birmingham has got to be one of the highlights of narrowboating because you can moor right in the centre of the city,and all for the cost of the annual boating licence.The canal system has been maintained as a feature of Birmingham and all modern construction has been sympathetic to it.The canals are,arguably,the reason why Birmingham is the UK’s second City,having provided a transport system that enabled all the ingredients for the Industrial Revolution to come together.The first canal was constructed in the second half of the eighteenth century and by the middle of the nineteenth there were about 160 miles of canal in use.Even the coming of the railways didn’t result in the decline of the canals,as happened elsewhere and they were still being used commercially in the 50’s and 60,s.Today there is only about 100 miles left and it is possible to see traces of the junctions of some of the old arms and branches that no longer exist,all bricked up,as you cruise what remains.It has been said that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice,it may be true,and it’s nice to think it has.

Birmingham 06.01.12 003 Birmingham 06.01.12 002

A couple of pictures of Gas Street Basin in the very centre of Birmingham.

Of course,being moored here,has the advantage of giving us access to all the major retailers in some of the best shopping centres in the country.The Bullring centre is vast,and there is also a lot of other interesting features only a short walk from the towpath.To cap it all,where we are moored is very quiet,even on a Saturday night there was no disturbance,we are opposite the N.I.A.,a few yards up the Main Line past the first entrance to Oozells Street Loop.Everything we require is nearby,other than shopping we have all the boating facilities within walking distance,if we don’t want to move our boat that is.

That’s all for this week,we are going to be staying around Birmingham now for a week or two,maybe do some more of the BCN navigations that we haven’t done before.Since our last blog we have done 46 locks and 33 miles giving us a grand total of 99 locks and 106 miles.Take care everyone.   

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