Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Locked into Birmingham

After “whooshing” into Worcester on a swollen Severn, we are now back in the relative peace and calm of the canal system. That was far from the case last Friday though, when we ascended the Tardebigge flight of 30 locks, in 40mph gusts, driving rain and a temperature that hovered around 3-5 degrees most of the day. You know I’ll be glad when summer arrives. It’s my favourite day of the year!
Vic takes it easy before the big ascent. Pat's the "blob" over the next lock

The Tardebigge flight is one the “must dos” on the canal network, alongside the Caen Hill flight in Devices, the Hatton Flight into Warwick, the Pontcysllte Aquaduct over the River Dee and the Anderton Boat Lift (that one still needs ticking off) on the Weaver. I think the strangely-named flight is regarded as the longest flight of locks in the country and it has historical boating significance as the meeting place of Messrs Rolt and Aickman, who masterminded the Inland Waterways Association while moored at Tardebigge, a meeting that kick-started the post-war canal revival.
TCW about half way up the flight at Tardebigge. You wouldn't think it was pouring with rain and gale-force conditions from this snap.

We had anticipated that a: Tardebigge was going to be a bit of a slog with just the two of us and b: the weather was likely to be less than favourable. We were wrong about A but right about B, so we were glad we enlisted the help of our old pal, Vic, who came on board for a night and a day and helped Pat lock us up. It took around 3 1/2 hours, which is around 8 minutes a lock, so we didn’t hang about.
Pat and Vic at the top of the flight

We are quite enjoying the Worcester & Birmingham canal, which is a new waterway to us. It’s about 30 miles long, pastoral for the most part and almost lassoes Worcester before it turns north into the Worcestershire countryside, where we saw far more sheep than people, apart from the odd long-distance jogger. The W&B has all the essential boating ingredients: a smattering of half-decent pubs, locks in both urban and rural locations, meandering watercourses overlooking rolling countryside, and five tunnels of increasing length. It also has a high proportion of boating hire fleets, which brings an added dynamic to ones progress!
Last weekend was the Whitsun Bank Holiday. (Is it still called that?).
Bank holidays mean precious little to us now but we knew we were going to be pretty busy (for us). We had quite fancied returning to Gloucester. It was the tall ships weekend but I was more interested in the opportunity to take part in the ukulele flash mob, at the docks on Sunday afternoon. It was also the weekend of the annual Crick boat show, which we also quite fancied attending.
Norm takes the tiller. Do I look worried! 

But we knew we had some Canadian guests arriving sometime over the weekend, which turned out to be on the Saturday, which stretched into Sunday. Norm and Sue come over every two or three years from Vancouver and made a concerted effort to join us, flying from Spain into Birmingham airport. The weather picked up, at last, and we were able to cruise for a couple of hours, and return to Alvechurch, which was our base for the weekend.
Sue & Pat enjoy the sunshine. Make the most of it gals!

We had a good mooring, close to the Marina in Alvechurch, just by the very good “Weighbridge” pub, with the town centre being only a 10-minute walk away.
We left on Tuesday morning, on a very slow approach through the outer suburbs of Birmingham.
We have now done several of longer tunnels in the system now, and the Wast Hill tunnel coming into Birmingham is one of the longest at over a mile. I don’t mind tunnels but I like to be able to see the end if possible, and Wast Hill obviously has a slight kink in it. We followed another boat in and then, not one, but three boats came in from the other direction. This was a first for us, passing boats in a tunnel, and it was a bit of a squeeze, but it passed the time. I think it took us around 35 minutes from one end to the other.
Get over!!. You're supposed to pass on the right. 

We are now in King’s Norton at the junction of the Stratford canal. It is bucketing down outside, (so no change there). We’ll stay here until Friday and then float on down to Bournville and the Cadbury factory which is only a mile or two away. We have both been to “Cadbury World” a couple of times, but have never explored the town, so that is a must. I expect we will be in the centre of the city for this weekend. One thing we must do is go hat hunting. I am getting fed up with water running down the back of my neck!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Good blog Roger.Why haven't you got a hoodie? they can't blow away.