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Another footbridge now closed was part of the former Cincinnati Works which has now been replaced by housing development.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

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