Wednesday 15 September 2021

Perry Barr

Today's Canals - Birmingham and Fazeley, Tame Valley

The day started very grey and slightly drizzly - but the forecast suggested real rain from midday. As the photo shows, views across the adjacent fields were not bright!

This short arm was only ever about twice as long and served an industrial area that developed in the early part of the 20C, but now replaced by modern industrial units. Today the site is larghely hidden from the canal although only a few years ago when we passed it was much mire visible - perhaps just because it was early spring? The arm is now retained just as a winding hole.

We now reached the edge of the Birmingham conurbation and the last of open fields.

The land to the left of this photo is housing and it is surprising that CaRT have not taken action to remove this evident safety issue - the unnecessarily huge tree, not maintained for years probably, almost completely obscures the bridge behind.

We now started to ascend the three Minworth locks which are quite spread out. The rain meant that we had to be extra vigilant around locks which were quite slippery.

The name of the former Cincinnati works can barely be seen on what remains canal-side of this once huge works, now replaced by a housing estate. Nor, perhaps, the most imaginative architectural use of what could have been a great waterside development.

Peering through the railings alongside the top lock we could see that there is still a large derelict site awaiting some useful purpose. At present it is a scar on the landscape, sandwiched between the houses above and modern industrial units.

Tyburn House is a pub alongside the bridge of the same name. From the canal it looks as if some of the structure is much older than the rest. Indeed, this short history The name dates back to the mid 18C, related to the Tyburn in London. There has been an inn here since the start of the 19C but the Three Tuns was demolished in 1930 and the replacement was deliberately designed in Tudor style.

By now it was midday and the forecast heavier rain arrived and made it impossible to do much taking of photos without endangering the future of the camera! In this time we continued on through Salford Junction where we continued straight ahead onto the Tam,e Valley Canal. The first section underneath the cavernous spaces created by the overhead roads that gave the junction is Spaghetti name. Almost immediately we encountered a considerable blanket of bright green water weed, fortunately of the type that does not slow us down too much. The comparison with the routes that come through Salford Junction from central Birmingham which are well trafficked by hire boats intent on completing one or other of the 'rings' whose names they happily tell us they are doing and which we can never remember where they go! We are heading in the much less used direction towards the Curly Wurly. At the bottom of the Perry bar flight we stopped for lunch and to wait for clearer weather.

Indeed, by two thirty it was all but dry and we set off. There are just two locks close together to begin with followed by a long level pound. The footways up beside the lock take some care as they were still very slippery. Cyclists come along them at some speed oblivious of the possibilities!

In the short pound between the two locks, the green blanket was all too obvious.

Sadly the cottage at the second lock appears to be left to decay unoccupied.

This industrial unit seemed to be yet another metal bashing factory with plenty of machine tools inside. However, it is home to a range of espresso and cappuccino coffee machines. Despite the sound of its name it is a UK company and makes commercial machines for shops, pubs and restaurants.

The long pound followed during which we made several encounters with overhead motorways. At the end we recommenced ascending the rest of the thirteen Perry Barr flight.

Unlike the Birmingham and Fazeley locks, these have the more traditional double bottom gates which meant that we had to adapt our operating scheme.especially as crossing the top gate is a bit acrobatic!

Nevertheless we were making good progress and by Lock 6 we could start to see the extensive remodelling of the Alexander athletics stadium.

The stand to the right of this picture has been completely re-built and new facilities, including a warm up track have been added. All of this is because this will be the centre for much of the Commonwealth games due to be held in Birmingham next summer.

And now we came to lock 5. As usual, Christine prepared the lock and Mike brought the boat in. He then climbed the ladder to assist in closing the gates and filling the lock. Alas, as Christine started to fill it was clear that one of the bottom gates was not quite shut. Usually this means that it is a bit out of balance and a little water from above will soon shut it properly. That was not to be this time and it stubbornly stayed just a bit ajar.

We together made an effort to force the gate shut but to no avail. Mike went back down to the boat and from the stern tried to shift what was blocking the gate using our long pole.Although he could, feel something in he way, it was too heavy to shift even a little.

After nearly half an hour of trying all that we knew and could manage to do, nothing changed so it was time to ring CaRT. Quickly they contacted he on call staff who rang to let us know that they would be with us in about an hour. We later learned that they had just made it home in Stourport when they received the call. We moved the boat back out of the lock to sit and wait.

The time estimate was right and well after six, with the light now fading, there was a knock on our door and two chaps in blue had arrived. They listened to our explanation and quickly realised that they needed a long handle keb from their van - a good couple of hundred yards back at the top lock which was the nearest they could access by vehicle.

After quite a bit of 'fishing' they eventually managed to bring nearly to the surface a large lump of wood - or so it seemed. We never really knew as it promptly fell off the times of the keb. Fortunately it had moved enough to allow the gates to close and that was enough for today!

This is not a flight to moor overnight as some of the pounds can easily lose water by the morning. The two chaps - alas, we never did get their names - we insistent that they helped us up the remainder of the locks so that we could reach the overnight mooring just above the top lock. We progressed at an amazing rate but even so it was almost dark by the time we tied up, very grateful to be able to relax and have our slightly delayed evening meal which had been cooking away when we waited for help to arrive.

We almost always find that CaRT staff on the ground are extremely knowledgeable, pleasant and willing to go the extra mile to help out when things do not go quite according to plan and two were only an exception by being remarkably cheerful and pleasant in their manner. Thanks chaps\!

8.4 Miles - 16 Locks 

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