Mon 24th Aug
Camp Hill Locks to Minworth
We started early as rain was forecast later and we wanted to get the locks done in the dry. The first challenge was to manoeuvre round Emma Hamilton, who was sticking out a lot. Apart from a visit to a buddleia bush, we managed OK. Bow thrusters are helpful at times.
Early morning getaway
Camphill Top Lock
All the Camp Hill Locks were against us, so we had to fill them first. A CRT man was around, ensuring that the pounds were all OK, but he didn’t set any locks for us.
We went through a decaying area of Birmingham, with faded graffiti everywhere. We saw some traveller’s caravans, a rough sleeper in a doorway, and a tent on some waste ground.
Railways, roads, and canals
At lock 55 we discovered that one of the bottom paddles did not work.
At Bordesley Junction, where the graffiti was at its thickest, James needed to rejoin the boat, and we found that the steps down had a concrete wall to climb over at the top, presumably to stop people falling down the steps.
The graffiti and the wall
We took a right turn, along a straight with lots of bridges, before the five Garrison Locks. Here we met the CRT man again, and were able to report the fault with lock 55.
Line of bridges
A mile after the locks, there were two boats coming towards us, passing a boat that was moored. As we passed the two moving boats, the one that had been moored (That’ll Do) decided to leave in front of us. Once they got going they were moving reasonably quickly and didn’t hold us up.
Following That’ll Do
Star City mooring
We noticed a good mooring on floating pontoons by Star City, a leisure complex.
At Salford Junction, where the Grand Union ends, there is a canal crossroads, with the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal coming in from Birmingham on the left, and heading for Fazeley on the right. Opposite is the Tame Valley Canal. This is all under the M6 at Spaghetti Junction, and there are roads in all directions on huge concrete pillars. We made the sharp right turn in the direction of Fazeley.
We emerged from the twilight zone under the motorways, and almost immediately were cruising under a large factory building.
Into the gloom again
A wet cellar
We had decided that if the boat in front carried on down Minworth locks, we would stop at the water point. If they stopped for water we would carry on. When we reached Minworth Top Lock, they were tied up waiting for the lock, but they hadn’t started filling it.
It transpired that the locks had anti-vandal devices fitted, and they didn’t have the right key. We showed them ours, and unlocked the paddle gear. The suggestion was that we should go first, unlocking the devices, and they would follow, locking them again, an action which does not require a key. They went through the first lock and paused at the sanitary station. Meanwhile James was down the weedhatch retrieving an assortment of polythene bags – most major supermarkets represented.
We then also negotiated the top lock, by which time they were ready to leave, and they were brandishing an anti-vandal key, which they had found after a search. They have had the boat for ten years, but never had to use this key! They decided that they would go on, so we decided to fill the water tank.
The rubbish facility was a skip, which was overflowing with rubbish. We saw later online that this rubbish facility was to be closed down.
Conflicting instructions at Minworth Top Lock
We needed some shopping, so we stopped near Dickens Bridge where there was easy mooring, and we walked to a huge ASDA nearby.
The ASDA experience was not very good as we did not know our way round the shop and it was very crowded. When we reached the checkout there were long queues. We noticed that it had started to rain, so we decided to go to the café first for a drink. Hopefully both the rain and the queues would die down meanwhile.
Then we discovered that the café was the other side of the checkouts. We thought about leaving the trolley and going back for it after the café, but the idea that it might not be there, and we would have to start again, made us rethink. We decided to leave the frozen food in one of the frozen food cabinets, and check through with the rest. Meanwhile we had lost our place in the queue, but it didn’t take too long to get to the tills. We went for our drink in the café, and Hazel went through again with our frozen items, which, thankfully, were still there where we had left them. We then discovered that there was another café upstairs where we could have gone before checking out.
We walked back in the rain, which was lighter than before. It was very difficult pulling our heavy shopping trolley on and off pavements, which had no lowered section, and trying to cross very fast traffic at the exit from a major roundabout on the A38.
We decided not to move on in the rain, but to stay for the night.
Hugo disappeared for a while into some gardens.
Moored at Minworth
13 locks, 8 miles
Tue 25th August
Minworth to Middleton Lakes
Several boats had moored near us, presumably using the “safety in numbers” principle. We made an early start because, once again, rain was forecast later.
We noticed some good moorings between Minworth and Curdworth, with views over agricultural land, but it would depend on the wind direction, as there is a huge sewage works nearby.
We passed through the diminutive Curdworth Tunnel before the start of the Curdworth Locks by the M6 Toll Road.
M6 Toll Bridge
Most of the locks were in our favour. James had a bad back, so Hazel operated the locks while James steered the boat. There was one boat following two locks behind, and we met three boats coming up the locks. At lock 5 we passed a notice where HS2 is planned to cross, rushing on its way to wreck the countryside west of Fradley Junction on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Here on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, it won’t make too much difference, as the M42 is alongside at this point anyway.
Hazel doing the hard work
At Bodymoor Heath Bridge we emptied our rubbish, despite a confusing notice, which suggested the nearest disposal points were at Minworth Top Lock or at Fazeley. There was clearly a CRT rubbish facility on site, seen in the background of the photo.
After the 11 locks, we moored up at Fisher’s Mill Bridge, by the entrance to Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve.
Washday at Middleton Lakes
Rain was forecast later, so James went for a walk round the reserve while it was dry. Several little egrets, two hobbies, some gadwall, a widgeon, and two sandpipers were the highlights. The photos are of flowers and plants, which don’t run off or fly away.
Meanwhile, back on the boat, Hazel was at work making new covers for our dinette cushions, from the fleeces we had bought in Leamington Spa.
Hugo was out and about enjoying some freedom after two fairly restrictive moorings the previous nights.
11 locks, 6 miles, 1 tunnel
Wed 26th August
Middleton Lakes to Fazeley
A leisurely start today with a short journey to make. The heavy rain in the night died away to leave a pleasant day.
We had an uneventful cruise into Fazeley, and we found a mooring just beyond the Litchfield’s by the mill. We phoned Mary to let her know that we were here. They came round to see us mid afternoon, and invited us to join them for dinner.
So after a relaxing day we didn’t even have to cook. We enjoyed the company of David, Mary and Ching Li, who is to return to Malaysia next week.
0 locks, 2 miles
Thu 27th August
Fazeley to Hopwas
There were several boats moving, and one of them was Shammah, our BCF friends David and Brenda Gooding, with their family. They were out for the day, and are temporarily moored at Fazeley Marina, instead of their usual base in Banbury. They turned right at the junction.
We set off and went to the water point opposite the junction, where another boat was just leaving. This tap is easier to use than the one at the sanitary station, which is not designed for boats travelling north, as it is at the southern end, and the hose won’t reach.
On the water point at Fazeley Junction
While the tank was filling, James went to Tesco to buy milk. When he returned, we set off once more, hoping to empty cassettes and rubbish at the sanitary station. We were pleased we didn’t need water, as there were three boats there already. We discovered that they were all heading for Alvecote for a boat rally.
We managed to tie up in the entrance to the small basin there, and did what we had to do.
The queue for the facilities
We continued our short cruise up to Hopwas, and met lots of boats going the other way. We guessed there would be a long line of boats waiting for the two locks at Glascote.
Arriving at Hopwas, we attempted to moor outside the Tame Otter, but the only space available was under a tree. We picked up something on the propeller, so we had to stop anyway to visit the weed hatch. With a cleared prop, we carried on past the Social Club, and under the final bridge, and found a good mooring just beyond the 48-hour post, which was ideal, as we will be here for five nights.
Our mooring at Hopwas
Hazel was suffering from a stiff back as a result of doing the Curdworth Locks, and decided she couldn’t sit on chairs in the social club for a whole evening, so James went by himself to the folk club. He sang Dorset Juggernaut, and Well, Well, Well. At the end he was asked to close the evening, so he sang Once I knew a pretty maid, and Pick a bale of cotton.
They are a very friendly club.
0 locks, 3 miles.