Saturday, 29 September 2012

Locks, locks and more locks!

After yesterday’s 23 locks, our journey today involved even more  locks – only 14 this time but they were all against us.  Enough of that though because we had lots of interesting features on today’s stretch of canal (some of which we will blog about on our way back in a few days time).
Early morning on the rear deck!  Oscar insists on being with us whatever the circumstances – even when it would be more comfortable and warm inside the boat!
Passing under the thunderous M40 – and then straight into the last lock of the Lapworth Flight which is just out of sight on the other side of the bridge.
Doug buying eggs from an honesty box at one of the lovely barrel– roofed lock cottages – this one is still relatively unspoilt.
We’re getting a better standard of gongoozler these days.  As the boat went down in the lock James came eye to eye with these “beggars” –making him feel very guilty that he had nothing to feed them.
The first of three aqueducts we passed over today – this one is at Yarningdale and is immediately before the entrance into the lock.
The second aqueduct of the day – this time at Anglo Welsh (Wooton Wawen) where we refuelled. We had to stop right on the aqueduct thus stopping all canal traffic in the process.  (Actually, there was no traffic so we didn’t have to worry.)  On the subject of canal traffic we only passed one boat today and that was nb ‘Samuel Pepys’  who  kindly told us that they read this blog – thank you very much, it was nice to see you!
This is the Edstone Aqueduct – the third and final one of the day.  This is truly a “mini Pontcysyllte” on the Llangollen Canal and Doug had to take the tiller while James walked across because of his fear of heights.  The walkway is well below the water level hence the dramatic shot.  
The wind was pushing ‘Chance’ across into the side of the iron trough.
Soon after our last aqueduct experience we were at the village of Wilmcote and our scheduled mooring. We’ll be meeting a friend here tomorrow who will join us for the remaining part of our journey into Stratford on Avon. 
This afternoon we tried to take the short train trip into Stratford to do some shopping.  However, the train never arrived and, cutting a long story short, the only mode of transport we could find was the open topped tourist tour bus which brings visitors to “Mary Arden’s House” at Wilmcote.  Doug managed to persuade the driver to take us back with him to Stratford, resulting in a small tip for his help! ……….IMG_2713
……Just to prove we genuinely did take the open topped option! (James is taking the photo, hence the look of concentration)

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Longest Day?

Last evening we went to “Bar Estilo” for our last meal in Birmingham.  We enjoyed ourselves and the food was very good indeed.  Following that it was a few bars and clubs and we were sound asleep by mid night.

This morning we left at 8 o’clock on, what was to be, a long days’ cruising.

IMG_2649 We slipped quietly from our mooring and left via Gas Street Basin – the massive “Cube” dominating the skyline.


Turning left at King’s Norton Junction onto the Stratford Canal we immediately came upon this former Guillotine stop lock.  Good job the guillotine is chained and locked!


Next was the Brandwood Tunnel – just 275 yards long but with an intriguing stone relief of Shakespeare above the portal.  After a further 9 miles we were soon onto the top of the Lapworth Flight of locks.  The Stratford Canal is tiresomely shallow most of the time and we hit quite a few underwater objects.


On one of the 24 (!) locks we worked today we found this ‘cotton real’ device for helping with the rope during a “cross over” on the old horse drawn narrow boats.


Most of the by-washes on the Lapworth Locks are like Niagara Falls and one of them is so intense it caught James out with an mighty collision onto the stone edging of the pound.

Half way down the flight is Kingswood Junction where the Grand Union Canal almost touches the Stratford Canal.  There are two connecting channels between the two canals, making Kingswood an interesting layout.  It was our third and final junction on our trip today – to come across one junction in a day is quite something!


‘Chance’ at Kingswood Junction – the white building is a barrel roofed canal cottage (modified and extended!) one of quite a few on the Stratford Canal.


There was quite a lot of yellow “aware” tape on the Stratford Canal.


Our mooring this evening – just the sheep for company making a distinct change from Birmingham!

Today being one of our longest days ever, we’ve completed 24 locks in 17.5 miles which took us over 8.5 hours, not a normal cruising day for us.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Back to Brum

We had a great evening yesterday moored up in the Black Country Museum. We met with fellow bloggers Angela and John from nb ‘Ellen’ for the first time – they were also moored up in the basin.  They came on board for a drink and a chat and, after a lot of chat, we decided to carry on the evening and get a fish and chip supper!  Great company and enjoyed by all of us! 


Doug, Angela and John enjoying their Fish and Chips.

Today we left the museum at about 7:30 after taking on water.


Having come down on the ‘old’ canal line we took the ‘new line’ back to Birmingham.  At the beginning of the journey we followed a British Waterways working boat and butty being operated by volunteers. We had a bit of a delay as they worked their way down the three factory locks at the start of the trip and then they just disappeared into the distance never to be seen again!


The new line is as straight as a die for most of its length and not very interesting – the old line is much better.  We’ve had bright sunshine all day – very nice indeed, even if it was in our eyes for the whole journey back!


Things got a bit more interesting as we approached Birmingham – the main supports for the M5 have been built right in the middle of the canal. They’re big enough to see luckily!


View to our rear showing the aqueduct taking the old canal line over the new one and the mighty M5 dwarfing everything.

After 3 hours of cruising we’re are now safely moored up back in  Birmingham on the opposite side of the canal to where we stopped before.  After a quick clean of the boat we took a walk into town to visit the “Back to Back” houses (NT).  As recommended by James and Debbie, thanks guys!


On the way into town we came across some filming – a very nice Bentley on a trailer, with cameras, in front simulating the car being driven along the road. 


An impressive gold leafed statue of three of Birmingham’s most influential past citizens – James Watt, Matthew Boulton and William Murdoch


The frontage of the National Trust owned “Back to Backs” in Hurst Street.  They are the only ones left in the city and are very well presented inside and out.

Tonight we are planning to eat out in town again and give our tastecard another pasting.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

It gets even better!

We left Birmingham early this morning to travel the 3 hours to the Black Country Museum At Tipton Junction near Dudley. There are two canal lines to get there - we took “the old line”, travelling up the three locks at Smethwick.


The top lock at Smethwick.


We very soon found ourselves dallying with the M5.  We followed it and weaved in and out of it for well over a mile.


The old and the new.

We arrived at the museum at 10:30 so had the major part of the day ahead of us. It’s a vast area which the museum covers, with buildings harking back to the industrial era being moved from their original places to the museum and rebuilt brick by brick.


There are streets and streets of houses, shops and industry – all open to walk round and talk to the guides.


Doug inside one of the many cottages.


A row of shops – there’s a queue for the fish and chip shop in the distance.

We had a great time watching all sorts of demonstrations and we went on a tour down a coal mine which was very good indeed.  We couldn’t leave without doing the Dudley Tunnel trip which is well worth it ……….


……..and to round off our brilliant day we were given the chance to do some “legging” of the trip boat inside the tunnel – something James has always hankered to do.


It was surprisingly easy to do once we’d got the boat moving.


An instant expert!

We shall spend the night here before returning to Birmingham tomorrow.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Another enjoyable day in Birmingham

Today, we decided to visit the Birmingham Jewellery Museum, which had been strongly recommended to us.  As we walked along the canal on our way to the museum…… 


……… we came across this working boat loaded (literally) to the gunwales.  Not a sight we’ve seen very often.

The museum is in the Jewellery Quarter, about a mile  from the canal, at the old premises of the old Birmingham jewellery makers of Smith and Pepper who closed the workshops in 1981, due to the competition from cheaper imports, and left everything just as it was.   It became a museum in the 1990’s and is still kept just as Smith and Pepper had left it.


About 40 people would be hard at work in these workshops.


Our very informative guide, John, gives us a demonstration of how they punched out the blanks for gold broaches. The original operator of this machine did it for 60 years!


10 workers would be seated at this workstation.


Shelving holds 2500 pairs of punches and dies for different designs of jewellery.

We had a fantastic time at the museum and could thoroughly recommend a visit if you’re in Birmingham.


This evening we went to Zizzi in “The Mailbox” for dinner.  Our walk took us along the canal through Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin – it has a great atmosphere after dark.


Zizzi was very busy indeed and it was amazing to watch how fast the pizza oven operator worked.


Our very efficient waiter, Olly Vincent, is at university in the city studying and training to be an opera singer.  We’re looking forward to seeing him at Glyndebourne at sometime in the future!


We had a lovely meal this evening – the atmosphere was great and the service first class.  Like the museum – thoroughly recommended.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Farewell Adam!

Last evening we had a farewell meal with Adam as it was his last day with us.  The rain, which started around midday, never abated so we decided to eat at Strada which was only a short walk from our mooring.  We arrived reasonably dry to a virtually empty restaurant -  it seemed everyone else had sensibly stayed at home.

The rain continued through the night and for the whole of this morning.  After a breakfast of porridge we said a sad good bye to Adam as he disappeared into the rain to get back to his car.  We’ve had a brilliant few days while he’s been with us – we’ll miss his amazing knowledge of the canals.  Thanks Adam for a great time.


This is Old Turn Junction now dominated by the National Indoor Arena.

At 11 o’clock this morning we were invited to meet fellow bloggers Yvonne and Roger on nb ‘ Fizzical Attraction’ who were moored on the opposite side of the canal.  We had a good chat over coffee and some delicious home made fruit cake before taking a walk into town.   It was very nice to finally meet you both. 


Gas Street Basin – now established as the centre of the Birmingham Canal Network (BCN).


Walking along further to the end of Gas Street Basin and  the massive bulk of “The Cube” now dominates this area. When we were here in 2008 on our last boat ‘Spirit’, this building was just a huge hole in the ground. 


The old part of the city with the Town Hall on the left.


The Council House.


Great Name!

As we made our way to do a bit of shopping the rain finally stopped and the sun even shone for a few moments.   To celebrate a break in the weather James bought Doug a new wallet (as his old one had worn out!) and, for himself, a smart leather toiletries bag (as his old one had worn out!).  We then decided, as it was 3:30, to have some lunch so we found somewhere next to the canal and near to where we’ve moored. 


The place was completely empty as you can see and reminded us of last night in “Strada”.

During our lonely lunch we had a text message from Yvonne on nb'’ Fizzical Attraction’ asking us to call in on our way back to ‘Chance’ and, on doing so, she gave us a loaf of bread which she had just baked.  What a kind thing to do – thank you very much Yvonne.