Thursday, 22 August 2013

Almost exactly the same trip we made a year ago to the day.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
This time I spot we are about to lose a chimney, and David has rescued it.

When in Birmingham, and planning to leave through the many locks in the Farmers Bridge & Aston flights, and move on to a lot more on the Birmingham and Fazeley there is a good bit of advice that we usually fail to take good notice of - that advice is "Leave early!".

Sadly several people were sleeping rough in this part of Farmer's Bridge
Basically you know that only if you are the first boat out of Birmingham are you likely to find many locks in your favour, or at least not until you have been through an awful lot.  It is unlikely that anybody will have started off up the first two flights in the opposite direction, as nobody really likes overnight mooring in the areas involved.  If you leave Birmingham much later in the day you will not have time to clear its rather unattractive outer reaches, and actually spend the next night somewhere a whole lot more attractive.

This family had spent the night aground in the middle one of the Aston pounds.
So when "Odin" unusually had us awake early, we decided to get moving, and I think narrowly pipped another boat into the top lock of the Farmers Bridge flight.  Virtually all locks in the flight we full, or near full, making it very easy to prepare locks ahead in minimal time, and unusually Cath and I handled it alone without needing to invoke David.

Aston locks, however, the next flight, were not so favourable, and it is unusual to arrive at a top lock where paddles are open at both ends.  In fact it wasn't an act of vandalism, it was Canal and River Trust men running water into the flight to deal with low water levels in pounds lower down.

Curious factory straddling the B&F we now know to have been "The Birlec"
Half way down we were more than a little surprised to meet a hire boat coming up - where had they spent the night, then?  Te answer proved to be "aground in ine pound below, stuck on an obstruction they couldn't extract themselves from",  Unable to do anything they had called CRT but had to remain there overnight awaiting their rescue!  I shudder to think how we would handle that situation if Odin was on board!  The crew, (possibly Scandinavian?) seemed undaunted, but what a lousy place to spend the night.

Bricked up entrance under "The Birlec" - Did they unload here?
When we got to the pound involved it was still very low, and, despite trying to find a channel down the middle, "Chalice" was crashing over much solid debris on the bottom.  "Chalice" is fairly shallow draughted - I doubt "Sickle" would have made it.

Pausing for an obstruction in Curdworth tunnel
We passed on to the Birmingham and Fazeley, which is fairly unappealing as you start off on it, and very infested with rubbish - I made certain I didn't get entangled with about 20 feet of heavy duty flexible hose that looked like a large eel waiting to attack us.  At Minworth a former BW rmployee lamented with Cath about how uch worse the B&F has become since British Waterways transitioned to the Canal and River Trust.  He reckoned that regimes of clearing much from the canal had been heavily ramped back, and that waste facilities once regulary serviced are now emptied far less frequently.  I'm not sure how much is down to this though - the state of this part of the canal has always been bad in our experience.

What is the betting it floated straight back in after we got through?
Further on we saw where temporary repairs, and large amounts of plywood are shoring up a bank that was leaking and giving concern.  Although it has already resulted in a summer stoppage, it is obvious a much longer stoppage, and presumably a lot of money, will be needed soon for full repairs.

First lock at Curdworth is a new one replacing one lost during road construction.
Usually the going gets easy on this stretch by Curdworth, but today the tunnel was filled by a very large chunk of floating vegetation.  I didn't fancy trying to get the boat to push it ahead of it in case it got jammed between boat and the tow-path or the tunnel wall, so we had to stop and pull it out.  It looked easy, but it proved quite hard to keep a shaft hooked into it to achieve this.

Hire boating about 1971 - the now lost lock replaced by the one above.
As you go up the Curdworth locks the whole character of the Birmingham and Fazeley changes.  Semi or completely derelict industry gives way to very attractive rural scenery, and it is this that makes it worth having a major push to get this far out, even if it pushes the day's lock count into the thirties.

The Curdworth locks are pleasant and easy to work.
Cath suggested we tried to eat at one of the two restaurants or pubs near Bodymoor Heath.  The first proved to be expensive with only one poor choice for vegetarians, but the second was far more down to earth, and offered us a much better choice of meals,  Odin entertained the public doing tricks, and we had a good evening.

By sheer coincidence we did a near exact trip out of Birmingham on exactly the same calendar day last year. - Blog post 22nd August 2012 Had we gone one more lock today, I could simply have copied trip details from last year, but today we decided to have a"short" day, stopping after only 36 locks.

Birmingham to Bodymoor Heath, Curdworh
Miles: 13.4 (Chalice), Locks: 36

Total Miles: 328.9, Locks: 188

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