Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Lots of Locks

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Heading off down Farmer's Bridge
Leaving Birmingham to head out on to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal leaves you with "interesting" choices about how long you want your boating day to be.  Just the descent through the thirteen Farmers Bridge and eleven Aston flights means you have 24 locks before you have even covered three miles on the B&F - that's now a corrected statement after a comment received!

One of the more unusual locks in this flight.
The Birmingham and Fazeley doesn't exactly start off as a picturesque canal, and for much of the start of it you wouldn't particularly choose it as an overnight mooring, even if you ignored popular advice to get considerable distance along it to avoid any problems with the locals. In practice long before you reach the usually recommended first places to stop, it doesn't feel like you would have problems, but it is still far from attractive!

A massive railway bridges spans the flight
On the other hand, we know from previous trips, if you pass on right through Minworth, where the moorings are shallow and in a dark cutting, and on down the long Curdworth flight, then there are some really attractive places to stop.  Particularly appealing is the Kingsbury water park, but this means going virtually to the bottom of the Curdworth locks.  Canal planners estimate an exceedingly long day from Birmingham to Kingsbury, simply because there are 37 locks to navigate., but we thought we would make that something to aim at, but probably have to modify to a shorter distance, based on how the day unfolded

Post Office tower
When we got to the top of Farmer's Bridge locks it all looked pretty hopeless, particularly as a hire boat rounded Old Turn junction just  ahead of us, and then proceeded at a crawl pace up to the locks.  By now a queue was forming with a couple of boats going ahead of that, so when they ended up twice on the wrong side of the canal trying to access the lock, my hopes of a good day were fading, as once behind someone in these locks, you stay behind them all day, generally!

Building across end of lock apparently called the Bothy.
How wrong could I have been.  Two young children were despatched with windlasses to set the locks ahead, and whilst the steerer was not that confident, she proved easily up to the task of the straight run between most of the locks.  Meanwhile the man of the family was flogging himself to death rushing from paddle to paddle, and hopping between bottom gates.  Until the kids retired exhausted they proved to be efficient to the point that the boat ahead of them seemed to be starting to do things to deliberately hold them up.  Leaving gates open, and putting the anti-vandal locks back on the paddles is poor etiquette if you know someone is working hard behind you.  Nil points to the (very) shiny boat owners doing this, and all credit to the hire boaters for their spirit! (And yes, it was a Steve Hudson boat!....)

The tower fades into the background

Top of Aston locks.
Descending Aston locks.
Lock rebuilt at a new location because of a new motorway.
Eventually everybody else dropped out of the running, and we became lead boat.  After thinking at the start that we had little chance of completing a quite ambitious days boating we did so easily.  The canal planner had said well over eleven hours - we had actually done it in well under nine.

Dramatic change from the decrepit industry of earlier,

Birmingham to Just Above Bottom Lock Curdworth
Miles: 12.1, Locks: 37
Total Miles: 394.8, Locks: 246 (Worked)


  1. "Just the descent through the thirteen Farmers Bridge and eleven Aston flights means you have 24 locks before you even reach the B&F."

    Er, those 24 locks are all ON the B&F!

  2. Errm, yes indeed (red face!)

    Blog now modified!