Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Circling Birmingham

This is the time of the year when commuters experience “Leaves On The Line” - the sometime all-too convenient excuse for late-running trains, but we have a different take on this phenomenon. Ours is “Leaves In The Canal”, slowing us down and almost stopping us coming out of locks.
Crusing on a carpet of leaves on the North Stratford. Looks like I could do with getting over a bit.
I don’t know how many times I have had to stick the old gal in reverse to clear the prop of debris over the past few days. Dozens I would guess. And I really can’t recall this being a feature of our autumnal adventures in previous years. Might it be something to do with my new shiny, propeller. Who knows! Anyway, that’s my rant for this week.

Our moorng at Curdworth. Waiting for whatever Hurricane Gonzalo can do to us.

 I write this as Hurricane Gonzalo, sweeps through the Midlands. We have holed up for the day beside a little village called Curdworth, between Birmingham and Fazeley. We are in a wooded cutting, by a small tunnel. We had considered stopping at a more open location, but this offered a degree of shelter from the strong winds and the trees are solid. There is little dead wood around. It looks like a good place to shelter. We are hardly moving and after just going on to “Facebook” I see from a couple of boating sites that boats are already adrift in some places.

I didn’t blog last week, because we had not gone anywhere or done anything much. We enjoyed our week or so in central Birmingham and got everything done we had set ourselves, the most important being getting Pat’s ears sorted out, which we eventually did at a drop-in clinic in the city centre.

The centre of Birmingham, around Brindley Place
We decided that as we still have a couple of weeks to kill before we go back into a marina for the winter months, to do a bit of circular route around the city, which is relatively easy, via the Worcester & Birmingham, and the North Stratford-On-Avon, before turning left and coming back into the city via the Grand Union. A big chunk of this was shared by our old pal Bobby, who left his good lady at home and spent three very enjoyable days with us. He’s pretty good on the helm, so I was able to help Pat with some locks, especially on the long Lapworth flight.

Pat & Bob at top of Lapworth Flight

Bob takes the helm as we approach the bottom lock, but one.
 I must say coming into Birmingham from the south is not too pleasant, once you have cleared Solihull and Acocks Green, especially around Sparkbrook, but we found a decent mooring in Bordesley on Sunday night and made a dash for here on Monday. As in most urban locations there is a lot of junk in the cut, and although there were the usual scrapes and bumps from the subterranean depths, we did not have any of the problems we had last time we cruised through the city and hardly saw any shopping trollies or submerged furniture.

Another side of Birmingham. Your welcome to Sparkbrook
Our overnight mooring on Sunday night at Bordesley

I did some calculations last night and by the time we return to Mercia Marina we will have done 2,250 miles and a massive 1,900 locks and swing bridges over the three seasons we have been cruising. Not bad at a average speed of just under 2mph. Just 600 miles this season though.

Naughty boys doing "CommunityPayback" on the towpath near Minworth. Seemed very cheerful
Fazeley tomorrow, weather permitting, and we should be back in Alrewas for the weekend on the Trent & Mersey. One of our favourite moorings.

Toodaloo chums


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Back in Brum

I think we both let out a huge sigh when we arrived in Birmingham city centre last Sunday afternoon. We made it before it started bucketing down (which was threatening all day) and it was good to be back in familiar territory. And there are not many city centre locations on the waterways that I can say that about. Though one thing I have learnt about myself since we started boating is as much as I enjoy the delights of the British countryside I am really an urban boy at heart and look forward to mooring in a metropolis.

We took the journey down the Shoppie and up the 21 locks into Wolverhampton at a slow pace. I can now almost function normally now, so can hop off the boat and do gates and paddles, making a bit easier for the First Mate.
Not far from Autherley and Wolverhampton. Where is everybody?
But there was no-one around. Last Friday, when we did the Wolverhampton locks, we saw nobody all day – going up or coming down – and then, on the run into Dudley, it was much the same. I think one boat went past. Quite strange really, especially as the weather was dry and bright.

We were going to moor at the Black Country Museum but stopped a bit short of there and stayed in Tipton Green on Friday and Saturday nights on a mooring we used two years ago. One reason was to visit Mad O’Roukes Pie Emporium. On previous visits I have often hankered to visit this place, renowned for their 4lb Desperate Dan Cow Pies. As a bit of self-appointed international pie expert, an opportunity like this could not be ignored and as soon as “Strictly” finished on Saturday night, we were there.
The Desparate Dan Cow Pie arrives. Down to business
It was very good – a thick mixture of steak, kidney and vegetables, complete with pastry ears. I must say though, it was a bit of a struggle, even for a greedy bugger like me, but I made it, and got the certificate to prove it. Interestingly, the certificate gives directions to the local A& E at the bottom! I think if you also order a dessert, they have an ambulance standing by too. The music was good and everybody was singing along. The beer wasn’t bad either, though I am still very restrained in the drinking department.
Mission completed. Now where's my certificate?

Ahh there it is. Complete with directions to the nearest A&E and a note to "Get Well Soon"
We came into Birmingham city centre, via the old line. Birmingham, as many of you non-boaters are probably aware, has a plethora of canals, jutting out in all directions, but arriving from the Black Country you can take two possible routes, that run almost parallel. We took the old line this time, and much preferred it.
We have scheduled a week here. That was always the plan, but has been reinforced by the weather. Like most of the country we have had a lot of rain and wind and it’s no fun boating in those conditions if you can avoid it. It seems that it’s going to be much of the same for the next few days so I would rather be in a city where we can do “stuff” than be moored by a muddy towpath, miles from anywhere, but I know that’s paradise for a lot of my boating pals.
Hubert joins us to fill up with water at Cambrian Wharf
An old John Lewis pal of mine visited us on Tuesday and stayed over until yesterday. I’m not sure what Hubert made of it all. We were able to travel down to Cambrian Wharf to fill up with water, during a break in the rain, and then I made an almighty mess of winding there (turning around). The wind got up, my bow thrusters ran out of battery, and it all got a bit messy. Still it was good to see him and catch up with his news.
We have a long list to things we do here in Birmingham. Pat has a blockage in one of her ears that needs sorting out and she has been going into the drop-in clinic in the city centre. She is there this morning. 

Clutching a temporary library card I prepare my assault on the new City of Birmingham Library
Meanwhile I have decamped into the new multi-million City Library for the day, to do this blog (free Wi-Fi) and start printing out car hire, hotel and other travel receipts, as we start to  crank up our plans for this winters’ excursion. I love it in here – there is a huge music library in the basement and I am considering spending the rest of the day here. It’s pouring down outside, so I might as well stay put.
Unfortunately I am going to miss the Moseley Ukulele Group (Mosele), They are one of the finest clubs in the country, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I have visited a few over the last couple of years. They meet twice a month and the meeting is next Wednesday. I was looking forward to bashing out a bit of “Slade” and “ELO”.
Next Monday we leave the city, rain or shine. On Tuesday we are picking up an old pal Bob, in Shirley, who is staying on for a few days. Looking forward to that.