Sat 1st August
Tardebigge to Alvechurch
Now that the fuel gauge is not working, we spent some time trying to figure out when we would need fuel, based on engine hours. Then we prepared for Tardebigge Tunnel by putting the tunnel light into the flagpole socket. When we flicked the switch, it failed to come on. We also discovered that the navigation lights did not work, and neither did the horn. James changed the fuse, and suddenly they all worked, including the fuel gauge. Good! Problem solved.
We went through the lock, which, at 11ft, Nicholson says is the second deepest narrow lock in the UK. However, we can think of three others that are more than 11ft. Somerton Deep, Kidderminster, and York Street. There may be more.
Tardebigge Top Lock
We noticed that there are four white posts in a square, obviously quite old, between the lock cottage and the lock. Does anyone know what these were for?
We passed the slender spire of the church at Tardebigge (must go and look one day), and filled up with water at the sanitary station, with difficulty, as there is a boat permanently moored just where it would be best to access the water tap.
We emptied loos and rubbish, and then negotiated Tardebigge Tunnel. No serious drips in this one. A mile of pleasant countryside and an old wharf (now a hire boat base) leads us quickly to Shortwood Tunnel. Worth covering phones etc but not worth getting out the waterproofs.
Leaving Shortwood Tunnel
We moored in Alvechurch, just beyond bridge 60, and walked 15 minutes into the village to buy some provisions. The sky was very black as we about to walk back, so we sheltered in a coffee shop and tried out their products. The rain didn’t happen straight away, so we started back to the boat, and got there just as it started, so we put up the hood.
1 lock, 3 miles, 2 tunnels
Sun 2nd August
Alvechurch to Hopwood
We went to St Laurence Church for their 9.30am Family Service, which included communion, as it was the first Sunday of the month. We had gone for the least formal of the four services of the day, the other ones having robed choirs. This one had a singing group – two ladies and a guy with a guitar. Colours of Day, Amazing Grace, and Jesus take me as I am. Tea and coffee served in “The Ark” afterwards, a light and airy modern extension to the church.
St Laurence Church, Alvechurch
The singing group
We tried to visit the Weighbridge pub at the marina for Sunday lunch. We walked round it twice before we worked out which of the closed doors was the entrance. There were no menus visible and we didn’t want to wait 45 minutes for the place to open. It was hot and sunny and we decided to move on.
We discovered BCF boat Almost There, on a private mooring, and had a brief chat with Martin who was working on a plumbing project. In hindsight we guess they have recently moved to this house, as the BCF directory shows them in Birmingham, with the boat in Hockley Heath.
We went under the M42, and within two miles, saw an inviting looking pub, Hopwood House, with a line of moorings outside, and more just beyond the bridge. We went as far as we could beyond the road, without blocking the winding hole, and walked back to the pub, where we had a very pleasant and adequate lunch.
A few other boats started to arrive during the afternoon, most of them hire boats. Eventually the mooring line was full, and two boats even moored in front of us, obstructing the winding hole for anyone who wanted to turn. Fortunately no one did.
Line of hire boats
Moored at Hopwood
Hugo found his way into the field and caught a mouse.
0 locks, 2 miles, 1 mouse
Mon 3rd August
Hopwood to Dickens Heath
Our object today was to get into the outskirts of Birmingham on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, and out again on the Stratford Canal. The first feature was the Wast Hills Tunnel, 2726 yards long, just over 1.5 miles. The notice board at the entrance suggested the average time taken to go through is one hour! We took 25 minutes, or 3.7 mph. The notice at the other end suggested it takes 50 minutes.
Wast Hills Tunnel
Wast Hills Tunnel, Northeast Portal
From lovely countryside south of the tunnel, we emerged into outer regions of Birmingham, with graffiti on every available wall.
Welcome to Birmingham
We had caught up with a hire boat from our previous nights mooring line, who had left half an hour before us. We knew they were heading for Stratford from a conversation we had last night, so we decided to stop and have a drink to let them get away. We waited 20 minutes just before Kings Norton Junction before setting off again. As we did so, another boat came from the direction of Birmingham, and turned into the Stratford Canal. We followed them, past the old toll house and through the redundant Guillotine Lock.
Kings Norton Junction Toll House
After 5 minutes, another boat Hullabaloo, pulled out in front, just before Brandwood Tunnel. We were now third in a convoy. This time we didn’t see any bats in the tunnel.
The first boat stopped at bridge 5, where there are shops. This gave Hullabaloo a chance to get away. We weren’t going very fast, as the canal was shallow and we kept grounding. We passed the hire boat who had also moored for the shops, just round the corner. By the time we arrived at Shirley Drawbridge, the crew from Hullabaloo were just lowering the bridge and the barriers.
The drawbridge is operated easily with a key. No effort required. Hazel did it.
We stopped for the day soon after Bridge 13 (marked inaccurately in Nicholson). The hire boat from last night went past, heading for Stratford. We may meet again further down.
The 1997 Ordnance Survey map, on which the Nicholson Guides are based, shows this area as farm land. Since then a new village has been constructed, and we went to explore. Known as Dickens Heath, the place is up-market and stylish. We passed a wine bar, and posh shops, and people were wearing smart clothes. There is a major water feature where water runs down a flight of steps. There is still a large site in the centre where building work has yet to commence. They probably ran out of money in the recession.
The mooring we had chosen was very quiet, and backing onto fields. Hugo was happy.