Friday, 24 March 2017

Birmingham from all sides

Sunday 12th March to Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Well we have put a few miles under the base plate since I last blogged and it is about time that I bring this up to date.

After spending our time at MerryHill, the boat was winded under Diane’s expert use of the tiller and we headed back the same was that we had come – up through the one lock and we moored at Bumblehole for one night before we would head back into Birmingham.
 
Ignore the washing and admire the lovely day which greeted us
We did enjoy the one night here and it was so very quiet indeed, but we did need to get back into the city, so after readying the boat we were off.

This time the transit through Netherton tunnel involved me being the complete passenger for the whole trip – I was in charge of photos and teas – whilst Diane was in charge of the boat – this was by far the longest tunnel that she had ever attempted and no problems at all.
 
The "Tunnel-Queen"
Whilst the sun was out for the entire journey back to the NIA the air was still quite cold.

During our cruiseback we had a phone call from the jeweller to advise that all of Dinae’s rings and her chain were ready to pick and they were ready to lighten my wallet.
Without any delay we were on our way (after mooring up) and it was all worth it see the smile on her face to have the valuables all fixed and ready to wear again.
 
Happy to have her rings back - her smile was more glittering than the rings
Once back and all moored up we got a text from Diane’s cousin (well her husband anyway) – were we free for dinner that night – all set; we would meet them there – a new restaurant on us – 1847Birmingham – a vegetarian place – two of them were vegan.
 
Diane's cousin Debbie and husband James....

...and youngest daughter Rachel

Dinner was excellent and we really enjoyed it all, so we can recommend it.

The following day Diane was heading down to Watford to see her doctor about the results of all of the blood tests and pick up new prescriptions – all standard stuff, but she needed to talk to him in person about a few issues which were all resolved to Diane’s happiness and she was back late afternoon – our time in Birmingham was now at an end – but we did stay for one more day before heading down the Farmers Bridge Locks and after that we mad a right turn at Aston Junction to go down the Ashted flight.
 
A trip to the new Birmingham library and to prove that we really are here,
the  BT tower in the background
I was on locking duty and Diane was on the back of the boat – all was going well until we arrived at Ashted Tunnel; my normally placid and even-headed wife became a bit distraught.
The tunnel is well lit with good lighting, but all it helped to do was show up the spiders hanging down from the tunnel roof and the light themselves – did I mention that she is a confirmed arachniphobe.
 
Not a happy face there - the spider's got to her

Ashted Tunnel - she won't be going through there again - ever!!

After that I had to inspect all bridge holes and the final tunnel before she would go through any enclosed space.
 
I do appreciate good graffiti....
We turned left at Bordesley Junction to do the locks on this stretch – we hadn’t been through here since 2008 when we had a hire boat – I have to say that the state of this section has not improved – it was still full of rubbish and we regularly picked up stuff on the prop – fortunately it mostly came off with some hard reverse.
 
...but I cant abide by the amount of rubbish in the canals - just a small amount here.

Some may have come from here

We had thought that it might be a nice idea to check out Star City – we had not been here before and our understanding was that it was another large shopping centre.
Imagine our surprise when we found out that it was essentially an entertainment centre – movies, fast food outlets and some restaurants as well as miscellaneous games centres.
Not quite what we had expected, but the mooring was very good, very quiet and we felt secure.

Needless to say we were off again the following morning. Our cruising schedule is about to be governed a bit by the weather conditions that were about to arrive – not that it would stop us from cruising, just the time of the day.

We took the very sharp turn at Salford Junction in a couple of passes and then were away – the Birmingham and Fazeley was a great deal cleaner and after a couple of miles it was pleasant country scenes – the weather was starting to get a great deal colder by the time that we moored up at North Wood at lunchtime – and the rain was not far away after that – luckily we were in the pub enjoying lunch – this cruising life is pretty well easy – by the time we left, most of the rain had gone.
We had needed to have a drink as a celebration for St.Patricks Day.

The mooring was far enough away from any noisy roads and the views were pleasant.

Have to say that locks down through the Curdworth flight are as good and pleasing as any that we have seen anywhere on the system – just a delight to work and a delight to enjoy the well-kept nature of them.

It was onward again on the following day – our aim was to complete this end of the B and F Canal; fill up with diesel at Fazeley Mill Marina; fill the water tank and then moor up at Sutton Road Bridge.
This was all achieved all before 11am – not bad eh?
 
The background at Fazeley Junction - like I said earlier - good work by the artist
is always welcome
A visit to the retail park; a coffee at Costa (we were hanging out for some coffee); back to the boat.
Someone had mentioned that the Fazeley Fryer was a great shop for it’s chips and although it was a mile back we hardly hesitated – the walk would do us the world of good – it was not a wasted trip – recommendation to you all.

Rain and wind were forecasted for the next few days so naturally as we were in a favourable place, we just sat right there.
One of the items on our list to do was a visit to Tamworth Castle – we had been through here a few times and never been before – it was simply a lovely visit – a castle situated on an ancient location; a castle that had over the years changed its purpose and a castle that had been lived in until around 1900.

 
That's the old castle up on the hill; the old bridge a bit further forward, and the
___-battleaxe in front

The revamped gate

The church

Looking down into the central courtyard...

...not quite the same view that the guards would have seen almost 900 years ago

Probably the sight my mother-in-law would like to see



Diane in her "let's look like a statue pose"


One other reason for the prolonged stop here was that we had put the new prescriptions for Diane into the Boots Chemist and on Monday morning all was ready – there were some new pills to be sourced in for her.

You know, there are some days when you just say to yourselves that it would be nice to just spend another day where you are and relax and so we did and had a thoroughly cosy day inside the boat – the wild wind outside made it an easy decision to make.
 
Yes, it was cold outside - thanks for asking.
By Tuesday morning the wind had subsided and we decided that it was time to move – as lovely as it is here we had the desire to go on and after untying we were off – it was slow going along this section of the Coventry – really nothing new in that.
In 2008 we tested this life on a hire boat and on our 3rd day on the boat, our 3rd day of learning the ropes, our 3rd day of testing it all out, we had made it down the T&M to Fradley Junction for the first time and made that right hand turn onto the Coventry and through that narrow section with the swing bridge. We slowly passed by the moored boats and then past a boat going the other way.
The comment that I still remember coming from the guy steering the other boat was “bloody Coventry, it’s always been shallow, hasn’t it?” – as if I had any idea, so I simply replied “yes”.
An early memory of boating but it has always stuck with me – pity that the Coventry  hasn’t changed in all of that time.

Diane thought that the mooring point closest to the water point before the junction would be nice – save having to move to fill up – luck was with us – perfect positioning.

There was a cassette that needed emptying; rubbish to get rid of; a perfectly lovely lake to wander around; and a cafĂ© waiting to be occupied – where they sold gas cylinders as well (just so happens we needed one) – Diane thought that it would be OK for me to wait for the rain to ease off from the torrential and simply be downpour before I headed off to replace our empty cylinder.
Like a drowned rat I returned, but full cylinder was in hand.

There are scary things that happen to us all on our boats – I have a couple of scenarios that haven’t arisen as yet, but the scariest of all possibilities happened to Diane on Wednesday early evening.
She got up to close the curtains; it was quite dark outside and just as she peered out to see what it was like, suddenly a face peered in at her and scared the livin’ bejesus out of her.
The culprit on the outside was Martin (nb Moriarty), who with other half Cathie, had moored up not far behind us.

Needless to say we met up after having some dinner, and made our way to The Swan for a quiet drink – it was however a crowded bar, with the main one closed for renovations and there was a make-shift one downstairs in the “crypt”.
Warmer inside The Swan with Cathie and Martin

Yep - two giggling schoolgirls

The girls were on one side of the table acting like giggling schoolgirls, whilst Martin and I were on the other talking sensibly yet again – don’t be surprised to see the photos of black eyes for Martin and I later on.

38 Miles, 39 Locks, 6 Tunnels
YTD:  150 miles (241 km), 119 Locks, 13 Tunnels, 3 Lift Bridges, 2 Swing Bridges

Total: 4782 Miles (7696 km), 3270 Locks, 137 Tunnels, 69 Lift Bridges, 174 Swing Bridges