Monday 23 October 2023

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 An update - might add a photo later

Later on Friday, after we had posted blog, it became apparent that the blockage is serious and not likely to be cleared quickly. Indeed, CaRT did not promise an update until after the weekend - still nothing on the Stoppage list (end Monday).

The location is quite remote with no nearby road access. just outside the south western tunnel portal. Unless a repair can be effected by boat (which we suspect is unlikely) then an access agreement with the adjacent landowner is going to be needed. If it is a major landslip and not just a tree fall, then it may well be necessary to re-stabilise the bank to make it safe.

We also understand that several other Droitwich Marina moorers are similarly held up. 

The staff at Alvechurch Marina have been incredibly supportive and we thank them for that. They have managed to find us a temporary mooring for the next two weeks which is most helpful as we have a number of items in the diary that do need attention - we had been planning to return home today or tomorrow before all this happened.

Yesterday we walked down to Alvechurch Parish Church for the 9.15 service. There were about 35 people there and it was a less formal 'family' service, even if the congregation was generally typical of its overall age profile! It was led by a lay worship leader and helped by a small music group, with use of slides projected on a screen (A new modernised AV system is about to be installed) Everyone was very welcoming and keen to make sure we stayed to have a cup of coffee - and a biscuit - afterwards.

Friday 20 October 2023


Today's Canal : Worcester and Birmingham

It had rained substantially overnight and we could see that the level of the canal had definitely risen. This stretch is part of the very long pound that forms the Birmingham Level, so changes in level involve a lot of water!

At first it was still raining heavily but by mid morning it cleared enough to persuade Mike to make a start. It was not far to the entrance to Wast Hill Tunnel - at least we should be just about dry there - little did we know.

All of the channels that drain surface water into the canal were running at max - some were so strong that they pushed the boat sideways even  more than a strong bywash. Others were doing their best to fill the canal to capacity.

We did not notice it at first, but as soon as we were in the tunnel it was obvious that we were going much slower than usual. After about four minutes another boat came into the tunnel behind us.

Juts before the mid point we still could not see the other end - a bit of a surprise as the tunnel is dead straight. However, it soon became apparent that there was a deluge coming down one of the ventilation shafts which was blocking the view. It was so strong that it covered the whole width of the tunnel and so we could not avoid it. Mike was very wet! About 400m from the far end another deluge, if anything even stronger. It was quite some physical sensation being hosed down so effectively, even if for just a few seconds. We cannot recall any other tunnel being anywhere near as wet as these two shafts.

We emerged 32 minutes later and the drain at the southern portal was equally fast flowing and we could see more clearly that there was a definite flow northwards. (That is not the other end of the tunnel, but the head light of the following boat)

The rain had now returned but Mike decided that as his trousers were already wet, he would continue for a while. In fact, the rain soon eased off and was only a light drizzle for the rest of the morning - at least until just as we eventually decided to moor.

There was not enough room for us at Withybed mooring (the towpath in this section is generally not very good for mooring at will) and it was a bit disappointing that the same proved to be the case at the net mooring just before the bridge at Alvechurch. Fortunately we remembered that there is a very short section designated as 2 days, just opposite the Marina base - most is No Mooring - and to our surprise it was entirely empty.

As Mike was tying up, a chap from the marina opposite called to Christine to tell us that the canal was blocked just ahead with a landslip an tree fall. As soon as we could we checked the Stoppage Notices and less than an hour ago CaRT gave out exactly that with, of course, no estimate at this stage of how long we are likely to be delayed. It had also bee announced that the Tardebigge flight was considered not safe to use with the risk that boats descending might flood the towpath, so it too was closed. So it looks pretty definite that we will not be progressing further today. Indeed, if the tree is substantial it can take a day or so to celar and if the landslip has blocked the canal then it is not looking good for a while. In addition, the weather forecast now shows rain every day until the end of the month! Even collecting the car from Droitwich is hampered with flood closing the rail line!

Time to light the stove.

5.8 Miles - 0 Locks

Thursday 19 October 2023

Kings Norton

Today's Canal : Worcester and Birmingham

The forecast was not good for today (and the next two) but the chance of rain on the morning was quite low. The temperature was warmer than the last few days.

We began by reversing to Old Turn and then back down to Cambrian House to fill with water and do the usual disposals. A hire boat was already there but they were close to finishing. Nevertheless it was an hour before we could be on our way.

Next to the Sea Life Centre we saw what we think is a new visitor attraction :  the Park Experience. Sad to admit, but neither of us has had any experience of VR and so we can but imagine what you get for your money here (Around £40 each and you need groups of 4 or 6). We leave it to their web site to introduce themselves: Embark on thrilling adventures with friends, family or colleagues as you tackle challenging quests together. Afterwards, unwind over a refreshing drink at the bar or enquire about our catering options.

After coming under Broad Street Bridge we passed through Worcester Bar. The pub here (no connection with 'bar' in the title - at one time the different canal companies insisted that goods had to be transhipped across a bar here) is usually very busy but perhaps the weather put off the early morning customers.

We think that this is the first time we have noticed the striking architecture of The Cube, a multi-function 'destination', next to the rather older Mailbox. A hotel, bowling alley, a Marco Polo White restaurant and other features including residential apartments are to be found somewhere on the 16 floors.

Passing the Five Ways Station with a view that illustrates to diversity of a modern inner city.

The new University Station, with its rust-coloured footbridge to the main university campus, is all but complete - just a little final landscaping to go.

We have often stopped at Selly Oak for shopping but this was the first time we could use the new Whitehouse Wharf - we spotted that we could moor quite close to the new footbridge and walk across to Sainsbury. Eventually this will provide a turning circle for boats joining this canal from the yet-to-be restored Lapal Canal. Progress is inevitably slow especially as it involves cooperation from large scale developments but the Trust seem determined to open up as far as a new marina at California.

By the time we returned with our shopping we had lunch before setting off again. By now rain arrived and at first it was just a light drizzle. However, by the time we reached Kings Norton it was very much heavier and so we opted for an early finish to today's cruising at the mooring rings just after the Toll House.

6.6 Miles - 0 Locks

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Car Shuffle Day

Both Mike and Andrew needed to collect cars from the start of the trip. Andrew's was at Apsley whilst the other was next to the boatyard in Watford. After considerable discussion it was decided that they would both travel by train down to Apsley, Andrew would then drive them both to Watford after which they would separately drive to Droitwich Marina and finally Andrew take Mike to park his (Andrew's) car for a couple of hours close to where the boat was moored in the centre of Birmingham. After an evening meal he would then drive home. What could go wrong?

They left the boat in good time to walk vua the ICC to New Street Station. Arriving in good time they were able to buy coffees before boarding the first train. This was the medium fast train to London Euston via Northampton. They alighted at Milton Keynes to change to a slow stopping train to Apsley. This all worked well and they arrived on time.

It was only a short drive to Watford where the other car was still safely parked in an unmarked space next to a recreation ground. It was all going so well!

Just as he was setting his SatNav for the next leg of the journey, Andrew spotted that there was a lengthy delay on the M40 so they decided to take an alternative via Aylesbury and join the motorway further on.

Andrew managed to persuade his satnav to take him to Junction 10, just where the problem (road down to one lane for crash barrier repairs) - Mike thought he was headed towards Banbury after a food and comfort stop at Aylesbury Tesco, but after a while found himself heading resolutely to Bicester and Junction 9. The intersection was a nightmare - it was almost gridlocked as southbound traffic was largely all leaving because there were other delays after that, and the traffic lights were quite unable to cope, changing frequently to no purpose! Finally, Mike made it onto the M40 which was moving at a snail's pace - at least it was moving but it was perhaps it was perhaps 90 minutes later than expected when he finally left the motorways (M40, M42, M5) just outside Droitwich. 

Mike's delay was communicated to Andrew who was able to make use of the time to top up his new electric car, which he would anyway have needed to do before he could safely drive back from Birmingham. 

They met up at the marina where Mike left our car ready for when we get there in a few days time. Although it was now dark and rain started to fall, eventually rather heavily, they had little problem navigating to the chosen car park and the short walk to the boat where Christine was already preparing the meal!

Tuesday 17 October 2023


Today's Canal - Birmingham and Fazeley

A challenge lay ahead of us for today: to get as far as Old Turn Junction in the centre of Birmingham to moor for the night! Only 27 locks to go . . . 

As a result we started reasonably promptly, with thin high level cloud slightly covering what would otherwise have been a bright clear blue sky. Interestingly, it was less chilly than the last two days.

Shortly after Cuttle Bridge and very large new industrial unit looked on the skyline. As we came closer we could see that it is a new Amazon Fulfillment Centre. Located within a very short distance of two motorways and other dual carriageways, it seems to be well suited for this purpose. We found the Development Master Plan (here) which shows potentially nine other units on this site.

Just three locks at Minworth. The land to the north of the canal is an established industrial area but has undergone extensive redevelopment. The old ¬Kingsbury Road (now replaced by the A38) is close on the opposite side and it seems that a number of access points across the canal were closed off when the dual carriageway was created. 

The bridge just below the first lock was apparently a substantial vehicle access (but not perhaps for modern large artics) but has been closed for some time.

Another footbridge now closed was part of the former Cincinnati Works which has now been replaced by housing development. All that remains visible of the bridge are parts of its two footings.

As we came up the top lock we made a quick trip to the elsan unit just below. We opted to leave filling with water, if we run shirt of time then we could manage until tomorrow morning. The rubbish disposal has long been removed with a sign directing boaters to Cuckoo Wharf after Salford Junction.

Eventually the elevated M6 started to dominate the skyline, not to mention our ears. 

As we neared the junction we spotted this advertising sign opposite the motorway level. Given the appearance of its age it is little wonder that no-one has decided that it is an effective selling device!

The canal junction is right underneath the motorway. One canal leds off to nechells and Bordesley Junction bypassing the city centre en route to the Grand Union southwards, which the Birmingham and Fazeley continues over the River Tame. Straight ahead is the Tame Valley Canal.

The Aston flight has 11 locks - the first few are spread out with long intervening pounds, before gradually bunching up towards the top. The bottom lock is underneath one of many rail bridges on this route into the city.

The former lock cottage and the next lock has been painted a pleasant blue shade recently - five years ago it was bright red!

There are innumerable hump bridges in the towpath that spanned the entrances to short arms or wharves. The coping stones are almost all unnamed but just after the second lock we spotted a few bricks with their manufacturer stamped into the clay. They are not very clear - we think it says Cannock Colliery Walsall. we have not been able to pin down exactly who this was but there were several brick works that grew up alongside coal mines as a business diversification. In some cases they seriously undercut more traditional brick works.

A splendid turnover bridge heralded the arrival at the top lock. Just after the junction we moored to some bollards for a timely lunch break - another new soup from Christine to fortify us for the next flight. The flight took just under an hour and a half - including cruising the longer pounds near the bottom of the flight.

After lunch we continued on the Birmingham and Fazeley with a level section before the main flight. We have not spotted this building before - the former Cliveland Road Flour Mill. A little bit of its history can be found here, but we have not discovered its present use - even Google Street View does not help. the main flight arrived and all the locks are very close together.

The canal gradually becomes overwhelmed by surrounding development -some well established some very new.

Here it seems as if an existing building is being re-purposed with several new storeys being added and the whole block made into apartments.

The canal then almost disappears underground below Brindley House, part of the BT Tower complex.

The sky was now bright blue but we only saw glimpses amongst the tall blocks all around.

Islington Place Footbridge should be gleaming white - as it has in the past - but alas it has not been cleaned in a while and is now a dirty grey.

Eventually we arrived at Farmers Bridge Junction where, to the right in  this photo, the Birmingham Newhall Branch used to go. Only the short basin now remains. The rest has long since been built over. The thirteen locks has taken us 70 minutes.

We paused at Cambrian House above the top lock to fill up with water. This took took time. When full we continued through Old Turn Junction (sometimes mistakenly called Farmers Bridge but also known as Deep Cutting Junction!) to find a mooring outside the Birmingham Arena where we frequently have found a space. As Mike was tying up he was greeted by Debby from nb Bonjour (see blog list right). They were moored just a few boats away and are also now heading back to Droitwich Marina for the winter,

9.3 Miles - 27 Locks

Monday 16 October 2023


Today's Canal : Coventry, Birmingham and Fazeley

Still quite cold today and there was a thin layer of mist over the water early on which quickly dispersed. However, no blue sky as high level cloud stayed with us all day.

When we set off we almost immediately arrived at the two Glascote Locks which were in our favour. Now we are back in the swing of narrow locks, three crew can get through them at a good pace. However, we failed to take any pictures here or as we came around Fazeley Junction.

We needed to fill with water as Christine wanted to put the washing machine on as soon as possible. We debated whether to fill the diesel tank as well but initially we decided that it would last us back to base. When we reached Fazeley Mill Marina we spotted their price and went onto the towpath water point instead. No sooner had we connected up the hosepipe but there was a further debate about fuel. The route ahead does not have many places and the main one is at Alvechurch, another ABC marina so presumably the same price. Put the hosepipe back in its box and reverse to the marina entrance and then in to their service wharf. We filled up and also completed all the other usual services.

Drayton Manor Bridge is another popular image. Its twin turrets each house a spiral staircase. It was built in the early 19C. The Tame Valley Wetlands website says "The bridge dates to when Sir Robert Peel (British Prime Minister and founder of the police force) built his new mansion at Drayton Bassett. The canal ran through his estate so it’s widely thought that Sir Robert wanted the bridge to be a feature along the canal rather than the more practical styles typically seen along the waterways."

John Smeaton was the engineer hired to construct this canal and he managed to devise a route that allowed mostly long straight sections. Most of the locks were gathered into a single flight. The architecture is quite conventional but frequent modern signposts guide walkers to various parts of the country parks created form former quarries that occupied most of the land to the east of the canal from Fazeley to the first locks. They were started in 1930s when farmers discovered they could make more money this way than from agriculture!

Gravel Pit Bridge is about the only visible reminder of this history of the area. Older guide books describe it as a conveyor bridge but later became a roadway. As far as we could see it is now derelict, not even a footbridge.

We arrived at the bottom of the Curdworth flight around 12:20. A boat passed us just before this so we were surprised that the first lock was full. We reached the moorings at the Dog and Doublet at one o'clock - just right timing for a lunch break.

Each of the locks has a tiny flower bed around the lock number, all differently planted and kept looking very smart.

Between Locks 5 and 6 is new crossing for HS2. We assume that the line will be carried on a viaduct across the canal - a short section over the nearby motorway is already in place. However, we nothing much happening, the scene is quite stark, almost as if it was from a wartime prison camp!

Lock 2 looks as if it is the top of the flight as the next lock is some distance away.

However, the top lock was originally much close but was moved when a motorway was built right over where it was.

Not long and we passed through the very short Curdworth Tunnel, all 53 metres of it. Not worth putting on the head light! Before long the surroundings become industrial (or even post industrial) and not the most comfortable places to be overnight. We kept an eye on our mobile phone signals and opted for a spot a little before the MInworth locks and not too close to the main road that follows the canal for some while.

8.4 Miles - 13 Locks

Sunday 15 October 2023


Today's Canal : Coventry

Today has been very bright and sunny with hardly a cloud in the sky. It was chilly to start with (time for extra layers) but by mid  morning it was much warmer. 

We set off in good time with a lot of level cruising ahead of us.

Oh no! Not that pic again.

Bright autumn sunshine really dos highlight the scenic views, even if few leaves have turned yet. 

Hartshill was once an important part of the canal's maintenance capability, firstly for the original canal company and later British Waterways. Modern management techniques, with an added layer of political interference, mean that much less use if made of workshops like this, staff are more mobile and a lot of work is put out to contractors. However, this depot does show again that utilitarian buildings can still be made to look attractive.

One of the major contractors specialising in work on waterways is Rothen who have a base at Mancetter. As well as building a small marina they are gradually smartening up the maintenance base. It looks as if yet another work boat hull is being made ready for action.

Today we have long looks at the passing scenic views so you too can have another glimpse.

We arrived at the top of the Atherstone flight of 11 locks just on 11 o'clock. Only a couple of volunteers on duty today (we were told that it is much harder to persuade volunteers to sign up for weekend rosters) One had to look after the office and small visitor centre at the top lock leaving the other to see what help he could give on the first three locks. We were following a single hander but even so we made good progress.

Two of the locks have recently been fitted with these warning signs which seem to have sparked some discussion. We wonder how they are seen to be correct as it is when the gates are closed that the greatest danger exists, especially when trying to get around the end of the balance beam to work the bottom gate paddles. On the other hand, it may be being a little clever and taking into account that visitors not used to canal terms may see the balance beam, as a gate. Presumably an incident has given rise to this signage.

After Lock 5, Andrew popped to the nearby Co-Op which we have used several times before, leaving two of us to continue down the flight. It turned out that this store has closed and is to be converted into a tesco. Fortunately Andrew was able to get what was needed at and Aldi (not our favourite store usually) as well as Profiterole Gateau for tonight's meal. (That was not on his shopping list!) Later update: Andrew never expected to go to the Co-Op and planned on Aldi all along . . .

All of the locks at Atherstone once had working side ponds (several years ago we did manage to make one work) but all have now been abandoned and most of the paddles removed to prevent temptation to try!

These are yet another design - these cannot be filled in as they also provide the bywash channels. We assume that the idea was to keep the ponds topped up so that they were generally available to use for upcoming boats.

Only Lock 10 has had the blue sign treatment - at all the others boaters have to rely on the numbers carved in to the balance beams to know where they are! What is special about this one?

Here we are at the bottom lock - as you can see, Andrew re-joined us with the shopping after about three locks. We left the bottom lock two hours and 11 minutes after starting - not a world record but adequately respectable for us! We do not have many records (if any) of our time non-stop as mostly we seem to have spent time going into town.

Below the lock there was a good mooring - handy as it was now lunch time. When we set off again we only went a short distance before the Grendon service block for a quick empty of the elsan.

We were then back into level cruising mode again. The direction of the sun and sometimes its brightness made photos a bit difficult so only a couple of selected views. 

We passed Alvecote, the Samuel barlow and the large marina. This has long been a haven for odl canal boats, some restored, some re-purposed and otherwise made very smart. Just three of many more in one picture.

From Alvecote through to Fazeley the canal runs through a pleasant mostly modern suburb of Tamworth. It is unusual in the number of bridges that still remain - no sooner had we passed through one and we were lining up for the next!

By now the sun was quite low in the sky, even if still very bright, but occasionally making it difficult to spot oncoming  boats. On a day with much later sunset we might have continued down the Glascote Locks but we felt that at this time of year that would be a bit of a stretch that might leave us with limited mooring options. Hence we stopped in a place we have used before, just short of the locks.

14.5 Miles - 11 Locks