Monday, 3 April 2017

Star City

Today's Canal : Birmingham and Fazeley and Grand Union

Another really bright sunny spring day with almost entirely clear blue sky. There was a little breeze that kept everything feeling fresh but rarely did we feel at all chilly.

The fresh blossom and the died-back reeds all added to the scenery.

After setting off we had a straight run to the bottom of the Curdworth flight of eleven locks. The first few are spaced well apart but gradually become closer to each other.

The flight has - rather unusually -  a mixture of styles for the bottom paddles. About half the flight has two gate paddles whilst the others have ground paddles, just above the gate. The benefit of the two gate paddles is that, having had to cross the gate to open the paddles, this does not have to be repeated to close them as both are accessible from the towpath side when the gate is open.

At each of the locks there are small patches of daffodils, seemingly well cared for and, at one lock, a small bed of pansies and tulips

About half way through the flight we encountered three volunteer lock keepers. It seems that they maintain a rota most days, although this is the first week that they have covered Mondays. It is far from clear how CaRT 'market' the idea of volunteering here as this crew has rarely seen more than four boats a day and sometimes none at all. That said, it did seem a little busier today. This team were much more helpful than some, especially as they were able to set locks ahead, rather than always wanting to take over the lock operation itself, which can sometimes be a mixed blessing. One of the crew was on only his fourth time at this flight.

Christine took over steering into the top five locks - this was the first time on Alchemy and she suitable impressed the keepers by coming in without touching the sides! (Normally onlookers see the less successful operations!)

We were out of milk and also had a list of several hardware items that we wanted to look for. As a result we stopped just below the bottom of the Minworth Three Locks. Whilst Mike stayed to look after the boat, Andrew and Christine walked to a nearby Asda supermarket. The walk was a bit more complicated that Andrew had expected from Google, as there were some road works - in any event they had to negotiate a pedestrian round around the high speed road junction.

As well as the milk and newspaper, they ,managed to find some replacement kitchen scales as the ones that we had before seem to have decided that they do not appreciate the house move and refused to operate - even after having been tempted with a fresh battery! They also found a new AA battery charger - again the old one had partially stopped working and so we feared that it might soon give up all together! However, they did not find either hi-ball tumblers nor another item from the bathroom range that we bought a week or two before we came away. There were places on the shelves but no stock! They were also looking for a fridge and oven thermometer. We discovered yesterday that the oven seems only to reach a much lower temperature than the control indicates. Again, we did have an oven thermometer and it never read above 150 C even with the control turned right up. Before raising the issue on our snagging list we wanted to be sure that the problem was not with the reading.

When Andrew and Christine returned it was time for lunch with Christine's soup made from the bones out of the joint we had for roast last night. As usual she used up odds and ends of vegetables especially those which are towards the end of their shelf life. This time, somewhat unusually, she also added a carton of mushy peas - the portions on Friday night defeated all of us!

After lunch we set off up the Minworth Locks. Along the way we passed this sort remainder of what was once a longer arm. It seems to have been quite a late development. There is no sign of it on the OS maps until the 1922 edition - not there in 1901 - and was part of Minworth Works, which also had several rail tracks around the site. We have not found out what was made here, but the site is now covered by modern factory units.

The middle lock had collected rather a lot of plastic floating rubbish but a very pleasant chap was gradually clearing it out. He lives nearby and comes to the lock most days, especially when it is sunny and he is not attending to his window cleaning business (seems that the younger generation are now largely sent out with the ladders and chamois!)

Just below the top lock is the former Cincinatti site - just a part of the old works remains , which once made machine tools - with the rest of it being redeveloped by Urban Splash- one of the workers on the scaffolding had time to shout greetings to us (or at least that is what we think he was saying!)

There was once a distinctive foot bridge - demolished last year - where only the footings can be seen. Perhaps one day it will be re-instated.

At the top lock is a service block. It is supposed to have the full range and we were rather hoping to empty our elsan but, alas, this facility was locked and labelled out of service - the notice looked quite old. A boat coming down had been using the water point (which we did not need today) but Christine failed to find the rubbish bins - perhaps they too have gone on holiday. At least the shower unit was under repair!

We continued on to Salford Junction where we made the almost 180 degree turn to join the line down to Bordesley Junction. Historically, this part belonged to the Grand Union (But originally built as thew Birmingham And Warwick Junction Canal) but few would understand it as such today. The GU, having been broad locks all the way to the top of the Camp Hill locks then becomes narrow for the remainder.

We contemplated going as far as Camp Hill top lock where there is the next service facility but estimated that it would take about three hours - there are twelve locks. However, mooring on most the way is not generally recommended apart from the secure pontoon mooring alongside Star City, an entertainment complex on the site of the former Nechells Power Station, just a couple of hundred metres after Salford, Discretion took over, especially as there was space - with a work boat taking up some room, there is barely enough space for three boats with what looked like a long term stayer at the other end.

Thinking that we would be cruising for another hour or two (it was only shortly after four o'clock when we moored) Christine had decide to try out the washing machine (we are trying to make sure that we test out everything possible whilst on this trip so that we collect most faults into a single snagging list) She carefully read the instructions and loaded it up but after pressing Start nothing happened and no water was let in. Andrew managed a contortionist act to look behind the equipment stack and found the inlet valve which Phil had obviously forgotten to turn on. Immediately the washing machine sprang into life! However, by the time we stopped for the night, there was still quite some time to go on the programme so we had to keep the engine running until it finished. Having an on-board washing machine is a novelty for us. No more do we have to track down launderettes when on a longer trip!

10.8 miles - 14 locks

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