Friday, 28 August 2015

Camp Hill Locks to Hopwas

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

Bordesley Junction

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

Decaying Birmingham

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.

Narrow bit
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. 

Salford Junction

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.

Prop art

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.

Curdworth Tunnel

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

Winding down

Curdworth Locks

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.

Rubbish signs

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.

Middleton flowers



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.

Tomorrow we hire a car for the long weekend, and go to a golden wedding party in High Wycombe, where we have booked a B&B. Next Week: Up the Coventry and onto the Trent and Mersey to the Taft, where we celebrate 20 years of BCF.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Kingswood Junction to Camp Hill Locks

Wed 19th August

Kingswood Junction

We took our Nordic walking poles and had a very pleasant walk through fields and farm tracks to Baddesley Clinton, which is a fascinating National Trust property.  It a moated medieval manor house, with priest holes, ghosts and murder stories.  It was our third visit, but still very interesting.

 Nordic walking

NT sign

Baddesley Clinton House

Flowers at Baddesley Clinton

Fireplace at Baddesley Clinton

Baddesley Clinton moat and house

We were hoping to have a bite to eat at the café after our house visit, but the queues were long, so we decided to walk back before the forecast rain arrived.

 Little and large


We timed it well, as the rain came earlier than expected, just a few minutes after we got back to the boat.

No boating today

Thu 20th August

Kingswood Junction

We had heard that Shiraz was heading our way, coming up the Hatton flight from Warwick, so we decided to stay put so that we could catch up with Mike.  We last saw him at Little Venice in May.

Around lunchtime we went to visit the shop, and went the long way round via the junction. We found Shiraz moored up and went aboard to meet the crew – Mike plus four others.  Two were leaving today, and we arranged to meet the other three at the Navigation Inn.

We disposed of some rubbish before heading for the shop to get one or two items and returning to the boat.

The Navigation Inn is now an up market bistro pub, but the food is good.  Sadly the best cider on offer was Thatcher’s Gold. No longer do they have Old Rosie on draught.

Mike and the team had been on a prayer mission up the Grand Union to link in with the opening of a new church near Gas Street Basin. They had been in touch with many churches on the way.

No boating today

Fri 21st August

Kingswood Junction

We had discovered after some online research that the bus services from here were useless. Some of the buses only went once a week.  We decided to take a train to Warwick to do some shopping.

At the station we found that the ticket machine only takes coins. We had notes and credit cards, neither of which were any use.  We told the guard as we boarded the train, and she came and sold us some tickets.

On arrival in Warwick we walked through the park towards the shops. We found the place was full of tourist shops and pricey restaurants.  We had a drink in a coffee shop, and lunch at the Roebuck Inn, and decided to take a bus from there to Leamington Spa, particularly to buy some fleece material to cover our dinette cushions.

There was a bus stop near the Roebuck, and we were soon in Leamington.  After trying two or three shops, we found what we wanted in Cargoes and came away with four fleeces, which Hazel will sew into sleeves for our cushions.

We then found a large Tesco Express, where we stocked up on a few things before catching the bus back to Warwick station, where we had to wait 45 minutes for our train back to Lapworth.  We popped into the shop once more for some milk before returning to the boat

Hugo was not there, and he hadn’t been around at breakfast time either.  He had evidently been in for his food.  He seems to like it here and prefers to be out in the bushes than in the boat. He came in eventually for some more food, and then went out again.  We decided to put his flap on the one way in so that he was around in the morning.

Sat 22nd August

Kingswood Jct to Copt Heath Bridge 75

We had heavy rain in the night and Hugo was aboard in the morning as planned.  We set off fairly early to avoid the rain forecast for later.

We seemed to have the knack of meeting boats at bridges today, which happened three times.

 Black Buoy Cruising Club

Knowle Locks were all in our favour, and it took just 40 minutes for the five locks.  They are well engineered, and fill quickly. They have very wide pounds between the locks.

Knowle Bottom Lock

 Black headed gull

Fast filling locks

Wide lock pounds

Looking down Knowle Locks

We paused at the sanitary station at the top to use all the facilities.  It was very hot and humid.

We moored half a mile before the M42, as the wind was coming from behind and we thought it would be noisier further on.

Rural mooring before the M42

James gathered our first blackberries of the season.

Heavy rain arrived suddenly later on, with thunder and lightning. Hugo was not impressed and hid under James’s chair.

Sudden shower

5 locks, 5 miles

Sun 23rd August

Copt Heath Bridge 75 to Camp Hill Top Lock

There was more heavy rain in the night, but it was clear by the morning.

 Heron taking off

We went under the M42, and past Copt Heath Wharf and through Catherine de Barnes. We noticed that we had been right about the noise, which was louder north of the M42 due to the wind direction.

M42 Bridge

We were concerned about the mooring possibilities to enable us to get to the church we had planned to visit. Some of the edges are stone or concrete with nowhere to tie up, and no place for a mooring pin.   Thankfully we found a place just beyond bridge 80 where there was piling of a sort, with places to sink mooring pins behind the shuttering.

Lonely mooring for a few hours in Solihull

We walked a short distance to Renewal Christian Centre for their second service at 11am. Hot drinks first, among people who had been to the 9am service. We were given a visitors pack, which was bright yellow, perhaps to alert others that we were not regular members, as it seems to be a huge church. We discovered that this was a branch of the Methodist Free Church, which started in America.  It was a split from the Methodist Church, for three reasons: 1) at the time black people and native Americans were excluded from the Methodist services, 2) the Methodist Church were selling pews to the wealthy, and 3) They were adhering strictly to the prepared form of service, and not allowing room for the Holy Spirit to move.  The Methodist Free Church adopted none of these practices.

Renewal Christian Centre

Hot drinks area

We had around 400 people present at our service and there was another one at 1pm.  We didn’t know any of the songs and there were no credits so we don’t know who wrote them, but some were very good.  There was no sermon as such; instead there was a panel of six people who answered questions that had been sent in.

Renewal worship band

We left straight away after the service as there was rain forecast and we still had some travelling to do.  We had two visits to the weed hatch to remove plastic bags etc. The canal seemed to be very shallow and full of debris.  This was the summit level and much of it was in a cutting, with steep banks and trees.  We saw several badger setts and at one point there was a dead badger in the water.

The rain came, very heavy, so were pleased that we had our pram hood to keep us mostly dry.

As we passed under the excitingly named “Railway Bridge”, a steam train went across, heading back to the Tysley Locomotive Works, where, apparently, there is a lot to see if you are a railway enthusiast. The steam days are at weekends so we were fortunate to coincide with the train.

As we were arriving at our destination at the top of Camp Hill Locks, another boat, Emma Hamilton, was about to emerge from the top lock.  We turned round and reversed into the secure mooring behind the sanitary station, and they followed suit.  It was still raining hard, so we got a bit wet.

Hugo was not very taken with the place, and didn’t go out much.

Warehouse by Camphill Locks

Secure mooring

Tucked away behind the rubbish bins

0 locks, 9 miles

Next week:  Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.  Hopwas Folk Club on Thursday. Weekend Car Hire for a golden wedding party.