Tuesday, 4 April 2017


Today's Canal - Grand Union

In order to allow us options for tomorrow's car shuffle we decided that we should make a good start today and so set off around 8.30. The weather was not so kind - all morning it was very grey and decidedly chillier than the past two days. However, it did improve in the afternoon, with a sprinkling of blue patches.

There are numerous bridges across the canal - sometimes several railways lines together, These all provide excellent opportunities for graffiti artists!

It was a twenty minute run to the Garrison Locks, the first of three flights today. Since this canal was never part of the BCN it does not have the typical single bottom gate design for locks but the more usual two gates.

At the bottom lock last year we noticed that the building alongside was in a rather poor condition but it does look as if a good restoration job has been done although we could not see from the canal side what use it is intended to have.

The six locks passed without much event - they are more spread out than some flights. The surrounding area is very much part of Birmingham's industrial heritage and we spotted several recycling or waste management operations, some better run than others.

We also passed a former wharf or loading bay which CaRT has 'improved'. When first done it must have been very impressive but sadly with many projects like this, whilst there is money for the initial work, there is then nothing set aside to maintain its appearance.

Phoenix Wharf must have been a substantial operation, judging by the impressive building that has managed to fine new life.

At Bordesley Junction there was a short pause whilst a CaRT work boat was pulled back out of Camp Hill Bottom Lock -  a team were at work checking the structures and cleaning away unwanted vegetation from the gates. There were three full time staff assisted by a couple of volunteers. They were cheery enough but it must be a bit frustrating to have to move out of the way each time a boat comes through. We passed two other boats coming down the flight.

This railway viaduct was abandoned after two newer steel structures were built alongside. However, the alternative use for the'arches' has been retained.

It was around two hours after setting off that we arrived at the top of the Camp Hill flight - rather better than the estimated three hours! We were quite relieved (in more senses than one!) that the service block above the flight was fully operational - we had not only the full elsan cassette that we could not empty yesterday at Minworth but also the spare was fast approaching capacity! In addition we disposed of rubbish and filled the water tank.

From here there is along level pound until we reach Knowle, well away from the city. A huge energy from waste unit look as if it is designed for the whole of Birmingham!

Google could not highlight any supermarkets close to the canal - a bit surprising as some stretches later on are largely residential. However, Nicholsons suggested that there are a few shops near Bridge 84, close to Orton Station. With no option to moor - the towpath has been hard surfaced to the coping stones - we had to hold the boat on a centre line whilst Andrew popped to the shops - just one relevant, a typical corner shop and newsagent and returned successfully with a newspaper. However, we then decided that we needed to top up our milk supply so Mike went back for a second visit.

The lack of moorings meant that we had to have lunch 'on the go' but that did not prevent us from finishing up Christine's latest soup, which we had yesterday as well.

Officer Dibble - brings back memories for some!

We arrived at Knowle top lock just before three o'clock. With three of us working the locks - now broad locks - we were through in just over half an hour. We know to be rather specific about how to descend these locks as the water emptied from one lock sets up fierce eddies which can catch the unwary by surprise. No unforeseen trips around the basins this time but  the wind added a further complexity.

That was the end of the locks for today. We continued on a long level pound that runs through to Hatton.

Shortly after is Black Boy Bridge with an eponymous pub. The pub's website explains its origins, "Pubs across England called The Black Boy are generally named after King Charles II. It was a nickname coined by his mother because of the darkness of his skin and eyes. King Charles is credited with popularising champagne drinking and yachting in England. The original Black Boy was closer to the Warwick Road than the building that stands today, the new premises were built in 1793 because of the new canal trade."

On the opposite side of the canal is a set of mooring operated by the Black Bouy Boat Club.Its website explains, "The Black Buoy Cruising Club (BBCC) was formed in 1963. Obviously the close proximity of the Black Boy pub was the inspiration. The subtle change was probably made to demonstrate that the club was, and still is, a separate entity. Unfortunately it is sad that the identity of the person responsible for this clever pun has been lost in the obscurity of time."

We passed Kingswood Junction where the Stratford Canal meets the Grand Union and then on a little further to moor for the night at Rowington, a place we have used several times before. Fortunately we managed to find a good spot just with a line of sight to the tv satellite!

18.6 miles - 17 locks


  1. Hi Mike
    Hope you all continue to enjoy your Alchemy. I love your posts - and great pictures. Re the oven (yesterday), we always thought that Calor burnt at a lower temperature than Natural gas. All the best, John

  2. It looks like my comments posted from my phone aren't getting published. Now I know I'll come onto the laptop if I want to comment. John

  3. Thanks - can see them now. Will reply properly to your email later as we are, unusually, on a bit of a schedule today.