Monday, 30 September 2019

A Short but Timely Visit to Birmingham - 26th September 2019

Thursday 26th September 2019
Hopwood to Cambrian Basin, Birmingham
9.25 miles, 0 locks

We set off with brilliant blue skies - we hoped it would stay dry and bright

I have lost count of the times we have been past the imposing Toll House at Kings Norton Junction and it would appear that the only photo I have of it is this one

Wikipedia came up with a better one

Imagine our surprise to find it looking like this as we went past today

I gather that there was a major fire here in February and due its remote location the only way the firefighters could get near was to carry all their equipment and then take water from the canal.  I wonder what the future holds for this 200 year old historic building?

The purple paint is a bit of a giveaway -

it can only be Bournville Station

Much to our surprise there was a space on the offside visitor moorings at Bournville

We did not take advantage, but just sailed on past the Cadbury Factory

In, where else but, Bournville.  I did visit the factory once with family, but the very young grandchild was (understandably) rather more interested in the freebies and the show (it was quite good) than in the history.  Maybe we need to go back one day in a term time weekday?  But then again.....

On past the QE Hospital where Chris had his cataract op earlier this year

Over the Selly Oak aqueduct which, I think, opened in early 2011.  Before our time of boating round here, so I have no idea what it was like before the new road was built.

This has to be an urban heron - it made no attempt to move as we sailed past

Last time we came through Edgbaston Tunnel they were still widening the towpath - it is now complete, so just one way working through this very short tunnel

With a much enlarged towpath - thankfully the lack of headroom still seems to slow the cyclists down.

We stopped at the services near the Mailbox and Chris filled and emptied whilst I popped to Tesco Express - the tap is painfully slow!

Monty was looking out for me when I got back

Through The Worcester Bar

and past Gas Street Basin

there was mooring available at the far end, however, there is no grass there for our four legged friend

There was a C&RT boat collecting rubbish from the canal - he had quite a boat full

Our mooring of choice is Cambrian Wharf - was that a space we could see?  Well the permanent mooring sign seemed to be on the left of the pontoon,

 so we went for it.  Chris did check with one of the residents (I gather there are four of them) and we were correct in our assumptions that this side of the pontoon is for visitors.

So why was this visit timely?  In a chance email about nothing in particular to Patrick and Angela (nb Chouette) who we met in July 2014 when we did the first Wash Crossing from Kings Lynn to Boston - See Here, I mentioned our itinerary to them.  Angela replied that they would be in Birmingham as they were attending a couple of concerts and could they come and 'rattle our cage'?  We love being rattled!  We spent an hour or so catching up and enjoying tea and marmalade cake.  

They mentioned that Sola Gratia with Tracy and Tim were moored round the corner, so as they left we wandered off to see if we could find them - and yes we succeeded.  

Tim was off at B&M buying large plastic crates - he arrived just before we left.  They are rather busy as they have taken over the 'Dog Boat' business as the people who used to run the business are taking their boat to Ireland for a while.  I know we have seen the boat (they have two Golden Retrievers) and I am pretty certain it was in Gloucester, but I am afraid I cannot remember what the boat name was.

Tracy is making dog tug toys, so if you have any of the items listed below, please pass them on to her

We knew that Debby and Dave on nb Chuffed might be in Birmingham and lo and behold they were moored next to Sola Gratia.  A quick catch up with them and Meg before we headed back to the boat

On our walkabout we spotted (well you can hardly miss it!) a rather large lego giraffe.  I have always thought that building these sort of things must be a fun job.

We wandered to Brindley Place just to see where we fancied eating that evening only to find that apart from All Bar One and Cafe Rouge they were all shut

A very empty Pizza Express

Where had all the water gone?  We gather that around 09:30 that morning someone had dug through the water main in Broad Street.  We went to have a look and found that at gone 18:00 it twas still a hive of activity.  Whoever caused the 'Broad Street Burst' did a very good job! I wonder how long it was before they could all go home?

Water was still flowing freely

There were pumps 

and pipes

and the excess water was being taken away in large tankers.  As they moved this one out it meant that 

meant the traffic emerging from the road opposite was halted.  There was a lot of horns blaring - presumably from those who had no idea why they were having to wait.  Thank heavens for life afloat and more so to not having to face a daily commute any more.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Hopwood - 24th - 25th September 2019

Tuesday 24th September 2019
Tardebigge to Hopwood
5.75 miles, 1 lock

This probably says it all!

We had had thunder and heavy rain in the night which disturbed Monty, so I was up at 05:30 trying to lend comfort and support!  It was still raining when we set off to go up the one lock of the day.  We had a Tesco delivery due at Tardebigge New Wharf between 10:00 and 11:00, so there was no putting it off.  We emptied and filled at the service point and at 09:45 my phone rang to say the Tesco man was at the Wharf.  He brought the boxes right up to the bow where I took delivery into our shopping bags.  Now bearing in mind I was under the cratch you might have thought I and most of the shopping bags would stay dry - no chance!  The receipt was so wet it was translucent and had to be dried on a radiator.

And the shopping bags adorned various parts of the boat until they were dry enough to fold up and put away

We were off at 10:50 with a rare sight in these parts - a widebeam!  It is being built by Crafted Boats who have a dry dock up at Tardebigge - I am not sure what they were doing with it but one thing is for sure they were not going down the narrow locks.  I know they have sailed a widebeam from the dry dock to Alvechurch (there is a crane there for the boats to be removed from the water and taken to their final destination by road) before now - both tunnels are two way traffic, so they just send a small boat ahead to stop oncoming traffic before they enter with the widebeam.

 I stayed inside with the dogs through the tunnels leaving Chris to the weather!  Both Tardebigge and Shortwood can be wet tunnels, but today they were a lot drier than the outside world was.

Monty, Kiera and I emerged fully togged just before the Bittell Reservoirs.  It is a lovely walk from there to Hopwood.  There were hardly any boats moored on the offside, so there was a great view of the reservoir, but no camera!  There was a tree down obscuring the towpath a bit further along.  Thankfully not so big that the dogs and I could not clamber over it.  As we approached Hopwood I met a C&RT employee.  I told him about the tree and he said he would take a look.  He was walking that way as he had had a report of a lot of water on the towpath.  I had to agree there were a lot of large puddles, but I did not think it was any more sinister than that.

This was the view when we moored up

And inside there were two very wet dogs and lots of 'stuff'' hanging around to dry!

 I am glad to say the afternoon was a lot nicer - this is the side hatch view we will have on our way back next week.  Well we would have done had we stuck to plan A and left Birmingham on Saturday, however we are now on plan B!

We are almost right up to the winding hole, so a good distance from the road.

 Ever the optimistic Brits - the boat in front of us was having a barbecue!!

 Good job they came prepared for all eventualities!

Wednesday 25th September

This morning was an internal domestic time for me whilst Chris walked the dogs.  Next we both showered and met our friends (Jane and Chris) in the pub (Hopwood House) shortly after midday.  We first ate at this pub some 14 years ago and had a disastrous meal.  I am glad to say things have improved and we all had really good food.  It is not fine dining, just Pub grub, but it was done well.

Then it was back to the boat for a joyful reunion for Jane, Chris and Kiera.  Coffee and more chat before they headed off taking our temporary boat dog with them.  She will be missed, not least by Monty.

 We will move on again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

A 'Mountain' to Climb - 22nd & 23rd September 2019

Sunday 22nd September 2019
Queen's Head to Tardebigge below lock 58
2.25 miles, 29 locks

We knew the weather was due to break, so it was no surprise to wake in the wee small hours to the sound of rain hammering down on the roof.  By the time we got up at 07:30  the rain had stopped, there was even a vague glimmer of sun and it was pleasantly warm, but would it last?

Just after 09:00 Chris and I set off just as a boat came out of the bottom lock - good timing on our part.

Before we entered the lock our daughter, son in law and their two sons had arrived to give us much needed assistance up the 'mountain' ahead of us.

They were soon put to work

The other two did their fair share as well

There were plenty of these to skirt round - well Monty goes round them - Kiera just goes straight through!

Sometimes a little rest was required!

As we approached lock 40 (we started at 29) the sky was definitely looking very ominous.

That is bridge 51 behind us and we are in lock 41 - it was time to get the waterproofs out and put the camera away for an hour.

As the rain eased off  Kiera was put back on board as I thought she was in need of a drink (she kept trying to drain the puddles!).  The water bowl was rejected and she took herself down to the bow to see if she could find a way back out.

Just before we reached the reservoir the fuel boat Mountbatten was emerging from the lock ahead of us.  The butty was one lock behind - a very long slow day for them as the butty has to be hauled from lock to lock.  I gather it takes them about 9 hours.  They are normally to be found on the Shropshire Union and Llangollen Canals.  I was chatting to Richard who said they did Tardebigge about 15 years ago and vowed never to do it again, but here they were!  I know they had a very large order of coal on board.

Ruth expertly manouvered a very heavily laden Mountbatten into position

and handed Chris the diesel pump for us to top up the tank.   A timely meeting for us and thank  you both for taking the trouble to stop on your long descent.

All done and Ruth went on her way

Meanwhile Jellico was waiting for us to go up the next lock before he could proceed down.

As we emerged Richard started to heave the butty on their downwards progress.  I suspect this is a sight we may not see here again (perhaps we will have to wait another 15 years!).

Above that lock there was a fisherman loading his car - had the weather driven him away?  We will never know.

Nor will we know if his little dog ever decided to go with him.  The fisherman was calling and calling, but the dog just sat at the top of the steps by the reservoir and would not budge!

I guess a bit of rain was not enough for him/her to want to cut its day out short.

We finally made it to lock 57 with two very wet dogs to contend with!

The boys had retreated and sensibly missed most of the weather!

We were going to moor below the 30th and last lock (no 58) as there are good mooring rings there.  Above 58 you need pins and the bank is quite soft - we were pulled out once by a speeding hire boat, so now tend to moor below the lock. 

Lunch was eaten by us all and it was time for the 'crew' to wend their way home.  Thank you to you all for your help.  This was the first really big flight we have tackled since my knee troubles started and I was worried how well I would cope.  I am glad to say that I managed well, but I don't think it is something we can attempt on our own again.

Chris was not far behind them as they were going to give him a lift to Droitwich to retrieve the car.

Monday 23rd September 2019

We woke to a lovely morning

and could appreciate the view across the cut.  It will be a good side hatch view on our way back again.

The dogs were walked, the engine run to charge the batteries and one load of washing done.

We then went home to dry the washing and do another couple of wash loads before we headed off to collect one of our grandsons from the school bus - our Monday duty for a few weeks, whilst he gets used to a new routine having just started secondary school.  Then it was back to the boat for a quiet evening in.  I hasten to add the lovely morning weather did not last long!  Autumn has arrived.