Friday 24 September 2021

Sherbourne Wharf

Today's Canals - BCN Old Main Line, New Main Line,  Icknield Port Loop, Oozells Street Loop

It was a pleasant morning as we sett after a quiet night  and we soon arrived at the top of the Smethwick Looks flight of three.

The old Toll House had been repaired yet again. Last time we came this way it had been vandalised and badly burned. This time it has sprouted a strange pimple of the top which was not there the last time (we think) that we saw it in good repair, in 2012.

The locks were a bit stiff but mainly, we suspect, through lack of use. The gates themselves were generally OK but the paddles needed a bit of a push to persuade them to get up this morning!

So we left the last lock on this trip.

Just as we were emerging from the end of the Old Main Line onto the New, a boat appeared coming from the Birmingham direction and so we had to make a quick stop. In the process something cause the engine to stall but it restarted OK and we were able to continue,. Fortunately we had already lost enough momentum not to cause a problem for the other boat. Going ahead we made good speed as we entered the deeper water of the \Mai Line but were still a little unsure whether we had thrown off the prop whatever had caused us to stall.

As we continued down the familiar straight of ge Main Line we noticed a number of the smart new litter bins that CaRT of recently been installing.

We planned to explore the Icknield Port Loop. It is some years since the only time we have done this. At that time it was still very derelict and not particularly scenic. It was also very heavy rain! Since then the site has been taken over for redevelopment and the first few blocks of housing apartments are already occupied. As we turned off the main line and under the towpath bridge we stalled again when using reverse to help with the angle. We manage to recover enough so that we did nit bank the edge too hard but we were then making little progress. Fortunately, the developers have installed a nice long line of mooring rings all along the first part of the loop so we were able to come alongside and remove the rather large amount of waste that was clogging the prop. After that we moved a lot faster!

Half way around the loop is an active CaRT and maintenance yard.

There are also moorings for a number of old and replica working boats.

The waterside block look quite attractive, although, as far as we could see, they are all quite small.

The other blocks, still surrounded by open waste land, are less impressive and look quite regimented

We rejoined the main line and continued the short distance to the Oozells Loop, which we entered from the Old Turn end, as we had been advised by Sherbourne Wharf where we had arranged a visitor mooring. Just before our destination we passed nb Harnser moored near the Sea Life Centre but we could not see anyone around. Their blog indicates that they must have been making final preparations as they left a few minutes later.

It took some time to sort out where we should moor as our main contact is on holiday this week. We eventually found ourselves on a central pontoon close to a tap and electrical hookup.

It is clear that Sherbourne Wharf has changed dramatically since we were here last, a number of years ago. (We have moored here at least twice before). The land that they used to have for an office and facilities has since been sold for redevelopment and most of the construction work is now complete, leaving the moorers with just the waterside! There absolutely no on site parking, not even for deliveries. However  people here have been just as helpful as we remember.

You may remember that at the start of this trip we left the car in Banbury in a space managed by  Your Parking Space at Morrisons. We were booked until Sunday but Mike has a Zoom meeting on Saturday until early afternoon and on Sunday morning we planned to visit the cathedral, not leaving much margin for the unforeseen. So, after a quick lunch, he set off to catch a train from New Street.

The route is much as before, through Brindley Place (eating district), the ICC and then Century Square. Last time we were here there was a lot of development taking place and the open spaces were all enclosed by construction hoardings. Almost all of that (save for one office and retail block) is now compete and there are some great open areas. 

One of them has a mirror pool and fountains which is only a few millimetres deep so that kids (old and young alike) can happily splash around in it. (Alas, most dashed off to the far end just before Mike took his camera out and there was not enough time to wait around)

Mike made it to the right platform (having misread the indicators once) with a minute to spare before the train arrived. It was a smooth and efficient journey to Banbury and then a little bit of a walk back to the car which seemed to have enjoyed its own holiday at the far corner of the car park.

Most of the journey back was straightforward until about four miles to go when the car's sat nav (which does not have automatic updates) tried to make a route down roads that have recently been made No Entry! Eventually we were back on track until about 200 m to go to the car park that Christine had meanwhile arranged: Broad Street was closed immediately before the final turn. Mike reverted to Google Maps on his mobile which sorted out final part of the journey. Paying was yet another hurdle.  The signs offered three options. The  first, using a QR code, did not work and so on to the phone number which was an automated system that required endless option choices. Eventually a text confirmed that the payment had been made!

4.6 Miles - 3 Locks

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