Sunday, 2 April 2017

Drayton Bassett

Today's Canals - Trent and Mersey, Coventry, Birmingham and Fazeley

As promised by last night's weather forecast, today was a beautiful day with temperatures up around 18C. It was predominantly sunny with some wonderful blue skies and fluffy clouds. We set off pretty much as usual with a good hour's run before the first lock, Wood End just before Fradley Junction.

A few metres after the entrance to the well appointed Kings Bromley Marina is Kings Bromley Wharf, now looking very much past its best. According to the OS map from the late 1920's this used to be a creamery.

The four locks of Fradley itself all had volunteer lockies - for some reason at the first lock they insisted on letting the water out very slowly. Sometimes they do confuse the need to take it slowly at the top end, when there is a boat in the lock, with the bottom end. Since the water is running out of the lock it does not particularly disturb the boat itself.

Mike also confused the lady who wanted to know whether we were turning right at the junction or going down the ,lock immediately after. The response was "both", but she insisted on telling us that there were two canals ahead and we had to chose one or the other. In fact, as Mike explained to her, we intended to go down the one lock to the wharf so that we could empty the elsan - otherwise it is a bit of a walk.

Since there is no turning room here, this then meant that we had to reverse back and into the lock to go up. The volunteer on this lock was quite interested as he had not seen anyone do this manoeuvre before.

Back up the lock and we turned onto the Coventry Canal. Immediately there is a small swing footbridge which was replaced a little while ago so that it could have a locking mechanism. The junction is a good attraction for visitors, especially in the summer, with lots of children. Following a serious accident when a teenager was badly hurt when a group of youngsters were playing with a swing bridge, CaRT are understandably nervous here and the plan was announced that boaters would have to use a Watermate key to unlock the bridge. However,it seems that the lock has now been removed!

Shortly after Streethay, just before the entrance to King's Orchard Martina, we pulled in to moor for lunch.

There were no more locks for the rest of the day but plenty of lovely scenery, with many sings that spring is really with us. blackthorn with full white blossom, one or two wild cherry trees and even a brilliant yellow rapeseed field.

We passed the large undercover farm - we recall that we have seen asparagus being grown here before which probably accounts for why the ground inside the ;polytunnels looks so bare.

The first part of the Coventry was rather slow and also suffers from a lack of attention to the offside vegetation. As a result we had to travel nearer to the centre of the canal than is really desirable. In many places the original coping stones to the towpath have fallen into the water and offer hidden hazards to boats coming close to that edge.

We also realised (thanks to Christine reading the Owner's Manual!) that Alchemy is about 100 mm deeper draft than Take Five and we certainly noticed this at times.

We stopped at Peel's Wharf just before Fazeley Junction to fill up with water and to add some rubbish to the bins which we have heard will soon disappear, not that the adjoining CaRT offices closed at the end of last week.

Having had several discussions earlier in the day, we finally opted to turn right at the junction and make our way towards Birmingham via the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

Just after the junction stands Tolson's Smallware Mill, imposing but now sadly appears to be unused. Hopefully, someone will find a new purpose for it that retains the grand scale. According to it was "erected in 1883 for weaving of smallware for boot, haberdashery, corset, clothing and upholstery industries" Some more interesting detail can be found at

After passing the decorative foot and swivel bridges opposite the entrance to Drayton Manor Park, we found a good mooring with a clear for the satellite dish alongside the extensive flooded gravel pits.

19.8 miles - 5 locks

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