Monday 5 September

I was woken before 7am this morning with a cup of coffee.  The mizzle didn’t encourage an early start but we managed it.  We spared a thought for all those whose new school term starts today as it was such a cold damp morning.

We headed first the 5.5 miles and 3 locks to Salford Junction, needing our anti-vandal key for Minworth Locks.  We filled up with water at Minworth Top lock, all other services there being ‘out of use’.

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Salford Junction sits right under Spaghetti Junction and is relatively quiet given all the traffic that travels overhead.   We managed the tight turn onto the Grand Union Canal easily and pulled in briefly at Star City Visitor Moorings to open our weed hatch cover and remove some plastic bags and string that had  wrapped itself around our propellor.

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Moving off again we headed for the five Garrison Locks.  Whilst these locks are narrow, the two bottom gates refused to stay closed without us raising the top ground paddles first to create a water flow.  This 2.75 mile stretch of the Birmingham Canal Network (BCN) looked quite uncared for with lots of overhanging shrubs and the towpath looked as though it didn’t see much footfall either.  There was a lot of surface graffiti and vandals had even tried to set fire to the balance beams at some time in the past.  We didn’t see another soul.

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You know you are back in Birmingham when you spot the red doors in the bridges that the Fire Brigade use for their fire hoses.

Looking back at Bordsley Junction

Looking back at Bordsley Junction

At Bordesley Junction I managed to put Storm ashore on the short length of quayside so he could prepare the first of the Camp Hill Locks but then ran aground as the water levels were quite low.  There was a guy from CRT at the lock above who was busy letting water through and he came and assisted Storm with opening lock gates.

The West Midland Fire Brigade had a team of trainee firefighters standing by Lock 54 who were preparing to learn how to float a boom across the canal.   They enjoyed being distracted by Max who was delighted to see so many people keen to make a real fuss of him.

Once clear of Camp Hill we settled down to cover the 7.75 miles to the first recommended mooring at Catherine de Barnes.  This stretch of canal is quite boring as it is mainly tree lined and it is hard to see any of the built up area that surrounds the canal, but we were watched!

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We had to take it quite steady though as there were a lot of branches floating in the canal.  We finally moored up at 3pm, some 7.5 hours after setting out, which is just about spot on time-wise to cover 16 miles and 14 locks at a top speed of 4 mph.

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Sunday 4 September

This week we’ve missed some of the Archers’ episodes and so we promised ourselves that today we would have a lazy start, enjoy a cooked breakfast and listen to the Omnibus.

After we’d caught up with the Ambridge news we headed off.  With a load of washing to do and with a forecast of a fine breezy day, we planned to slowly motor up through the remaining Curdworth Locks and stop somewhere east of Minworth where we could hang the washing out, before we head into Birmingham tomorrow.

 

Saturday 3 September

The weather forecast suggested it would be a day of two halves; a dry morning and a very wet afternoon.  We only had a couple of miles and three locks to cover today but as we were heading out into the middle of nowhere, I volunteered to cycle back to civilisation for a newspaper.  Storm said he would make a start and move the boat nearer our destination.

Curdworth Bottom Lock

Curdworth Bottom Lock

By 9am I’d cycled five miles and caught back up with Storm  at the bottom of Curdworth Locks.   This had been quite a work out as my gear cable had snapped, leaving me with top gear only.    With the papers and the bike safely stowed back on the boat, I took over the steering and Storm went off to prepare the locks.

After a couple of locks we stopped to fill up with water and while we were waiting for the tank to fill it started to drizzle.  Thankfully we just had a few more yards and one more lock to do to reach our destination beside The Dog & Doublet pub.  We’d arranged to meet our friend John here at lunch-time as he was on his way to Yorkshire to see his parents.

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The Dog & Doublet – I’m sure this boat was here on the 48 hour moorings two years ago

It was still only 11am and we had a while to wait for him to arrive.   We were so glad we’d made an early start as by now the drizzle had turned into a downpour.

Last night after dinner, I’d gone in search of brambles near the lake.  There were so many lovely juicy ones there that I gathered a couple of pounds which I’d then boiled up and left  draining through muslin overnight.

While we waited for John to arrive I finished making the bramble jelly.

John suggested he treat us to lunch out rather than eating on board and so we introduced John to this unusual canal-side pub and by the time we’d finished eating, the rain had stopped and we returned to the boat to continue chatting.

John left us about six to continue his journey north and we spent a quiet night reading and watching telly.

Friday 2 September

We met up with James & Ali in a carpark next to Rugeley Trent Valley railway station.  James paid the parking fee as per the instructions in the phone box and trusted his car to the care of the local farmer for two days.

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We walked the short way to the boat and after a reviving cuppa, James, Ali & I headed off on foot to Tesco to stock up our cupboards for the next week and buy all we would need for their visit which included a BBQ feast and a wine box.

As we left Tesco I phoned Storm and he brought the boat down to the bridge to pick us up with our heavy bags.

We had a leisurely cruise towards Fradley Junction.  The sun was shining and all was going really well until we arrived at our one and only lock of the day.

We’d noticed a boat following us some distance behind us and as we approached the lock, we’d slowed right down to tick over to pass boats moored either side of the canal and as I steered the boat towards the lock I was busy concentrating on boats ahead, rather than looking back.

I was just pulling in towards the lock landing when I was startled by a boat horn right behind me which made me jump.  I glanced back and the boat that had been behind us and which should have still been about 300 yards behind us if he too had slowed to tick-over as he passed moored boats, was instead about to hit us.

An aggressive shout from their helmsman asked if I was going through the locks and if so could I move along the lock landing, I shouted back that we were and that we were already doing so as our boat was not yet stationery.

I stepped off the boat, taking the middle rope with me and once the boat had stopped, I handed the rope to Storm and went with James & Ali to start preparing the lock.

All of our crew thought the man was just rude!  The man came to speak to me and he tried to apologise for shouting and he said he hadn’t meant to cause upset, but then he went on to say that he’d encountered another woman earlier in the day who’d gone so slowly he hadn’t been sure whether to ram her or moor up.   Whatever, I was one unhappy female skipper and he wasn’t a very nice man!

Anyway we passed through the lock and continued our journey to the top of the locks at Fradley where we moored up and set up our deck chairs on the tow path and were too busy chatting to pay attention to passing boats   Next we hear our neighbours, also on the tow path, shouting at a boat to slow down.  Surprise, surprise, it’s Mr Rude and our boat is just recovering from a violent rocking motion which when I went to investigate, had caused all our cupboards and drawers to open and had knocked over a mug of water which was  dripping onto the floor.  I mopped this up, chuntering!

He was obviously a man on a mission and I hope that we never ever meet him again.

Once we’d given Mr Rude time to get away from Fradley altogether, we headed to the well-known Swan pub for a meal.  Three wonderful steaks and a mixed grill later, we headed back to the boat for an early night.

Thursday morning surprised us with more warm and sunny weather and once the first rush of boats heading down the locks had cleared, we followed before turning left onto the Coventry Canal.

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A steady four mile poodle to Huddlesford Junction where we moored up.   We enjoyed a drink in the beer garden of The Plough Inn before returning to the boat to BBQ on the tow path.   The BBQ was delicious.   We were so busy eating we forgot to take photos.  Before heading off, we poured water on our disposable BBQ’s and bagged up all our rubbish leaving no evidence behind.

We stopped for an hour in Hopwas so we could make a Skype call to Summer to wish her Happy Third Birthday.   She’d had a fun filled action-packed day which had included a trip to see ‘Finding Dory on a really big TV’, lunch out at ‘Pizza Hunt’ and some amazing presents.   The Dolls’ House, that Dandad helped make, was a hit.

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The Tame Otter beer garden beckoned and after a quick drink we continued on our way again.  The sun disappeared and we were glad that we’d BBQ’d at lunch time.  We spent an evening listening to the rain, listening to music and playing games on board.

This morning the weather seemed to announce that James and Ali’s cruise was nearing an end and we cruised through Glascote Locks in the rain.  We dropped them off at Anchor Bridge where they’d arranged for a taxi to pick them up to take them to Tamworth Train Station.

After parting hugs we waved them off and returned to the boat to plan our route for the next week.  Of the three routes we considered, we opted for the route that means we won’t need to cruise at least six hours a day.

The cloud lifted and we headed off, winded and returned to Fazeley Junction where we turned onto the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.  Where once Tolson’s Wooll Mill existed, a fitness centre now occupies the site and so we continued on our way, passing a curious gothic style footbridge over the canal before mooring up at Fishers Mill Bridge to enjoy a quiet night out in the countryside where only the sound of birds may disturb us as we’re moored right beside the RSPB’s Middleton Lake.

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A very tame heron sat on the bank behind us for most of the afternoon sunning itself.

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