So, if all goes to plan, next week’s blog will be from somewhere around Gas Street in Birmingham. ….. is what I said last Wednesday. Well, we are in the centre of Birmingham BUT all did not go to plan!!
Yes, all of the Lapworth Lock flight opened as promised after winter repairs finished on time last Friday, so we were up early and up the flight. Took longer than we expected as we caught up with a single-handed man on a little “plastic” boat who needed a stick to walk.
Oh dear ------ so I took over the steering and Dai was working the locks for him and then for me. Well, he is always going on about how he doesn’t get to do locks so he couldn’t really moan could he!
After the flight we carried on for a few miles and moored at Hockley Heath as we knew there is an excellent fish ‘n’ chips there. Next morning we sent off early again and just had a brief stop by Bridge 20 to get lovely sourdough bread from the bakery about 2 mins walk from the canal. After a bit of cruising we were told by a man-on-a-moored-boat that we wouldn’t be getting into Birmingham that way. Oh no - what? So I scooted inside to fire up the laptop. Oh no - he was correct - work at Guillotine Lock was being extended to Dec 21 as they had discovered more to be done but we could get into Brum the other way as they were lifting other stoppages so there was at least one way in from the south.
What to do? Hang around for 2 weeks or turn around and go the other way?? Yes, we winded about 2 miles from Shirley (so about 8 miles and no locks from Brum) and mentally prepared to do Lapworth flight again!! We did manage to get through the 2 lift bridges and first 4 locks of the flight before dark ascended.
Next morning we tackled the rest of Lapworth and turned back onto the Grand Union Canal; then through Knowle 5 double locks (bit of a trial as the wind was blowing a gale over the pounds and Dai approaching the lock entrances side-ways-on !) and then we moved on to Catharine de Barnes which Nicolsons tells us is “the last mooring opportunity before centre of Birmingham”. We decided to trust Nicolson and moored up even though we still had a couple more hours of daylight.
Alarm set next morning so we could get an early getaway. Why all the panic you may ask? Well, Mr. Weatherman was telling us below freezing temps day and night fast approaching and the last place you want to be stuck in the ice on a narrow boat is on the outskirts of Birmingham with no facilities and prospect of naughty scallywags wandering around. So on Monday we set off at 7.45 am as daylight was breaking, ready to do 11 miles and 25 locks whilst it was still light!
Down Camp Hill locks (which rather confused me cos Dai had always told me locks into Birmingham are up as the city is on a plateau - well, these ones aren’t !). I was going ahead setting the locks so rounded a corner leaving Dai and Jandai going down in the lock - lo and behold, a million CART men, vans, generators, boats. They had just finished up working on this flight and now had to move their 3 workboats to next location. Trouble was, 3 boats and only one engine so they had to do a lot of hitching up to move each workboat and hitching off. Oh boy, just what we wanted - today of all days. There was a workboat just being pulled out of the lock by one man but, his rope wasn’t long enough as the towpath went round in a big circle so once the boat lost its momentum it stopped, half in and half out the lock. I went back to tell the men messing about with a generator - so they had to haul the boat back into the lock so a man could go down the lock ladder to push the boat out by pushing on the lock wall and gates! The other two boats had disappeared and by the time we got to the next lock, there they all were doing their thing with the engine boat! However, they all helped us through the last lock so I at least had a “free” one!
Only enough time for a quick wee and then Ashted Lock flight was upon us…. And yet another adventure! Half way up there was a cuff on the paddle spindle and yards of thick chain and padlock on both paddles which meant the lock could not be operated. No way, we just could not be stuck there!! Luckily, because these paddles have a spindle either side (apparently so they could be raised by two children, one each side, to make the passage quicker when Birmingham was chocoblock with working boats) there was enough movement for me to pull the cuff while Dai could raise the paddle on the other spindle which didn’t have a cuff on it.
Then, going through the very short Ashted Tunnel before the last lock, I heard a big scraping sound and “annoyed” shouts from Dai. There was some stonework sticking out which knocked off the nav light and scraped all the paint off down to bare steel for about 6 inches on the top hand rail. Actually it could have been a lot worse - at least the scratch wasn’t down the cabin side! We saw a CART man once up the locks and told him about the chains/padlock. Yes, as we thought, there was supposed to be a stoppage on the flight and they had forgotten to take the locks off as no stoppage now.
Thank goodness we had no “adventures” on Farmers Bridge flight which we flew up as they were nearly all set for us. No narrow boats at all on the 48 hour moorings in Birmingham and room on the 14 day moorings so that’s where we are and will probably take full advantage of the 14 days which takes us to Christmas Eve ----- and maybe we’ll get iced in as it is sooooo cold here right now!
The German Christmas market is on until 22 December and we had our first rummage around it last night with Dai’s brother Glyn and Linda - German sausages, donuts and hot Gleuwein (don’t think that is how you spell it though!!). It was a lovely evening and very atmospheric. We’ll be going round several times before it’s gone as we’re expecting quite a few visitors over next weeks!!
Since last blog we have done … 37 miles and 67 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 2106 miles and 1768 locks
|if you're ever passing bridge 20 on the GU|
you must go to this bakery - fantastic
|CART workboat stuck in lock|
|CART man had to manhandle the boat out of the lock|
by pushing against the walks and gate!
|what an arty shot eh??!!|
Birmingham's Big Wheel reflected in Symphony Hall
|Big Wheel with the swingchairs behind|