Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Fallen tree, poor value pub food and very noisy railway.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath with additions by Alan)
Broad Street "Tunnel", Birmingham
We were disturbed for a lot of the night by a property alarm, perhaps because of this we rather slow getting started. This meant that by the time we actually got going there were several boats already heading out through Gas Street towards the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. There was a long string of boats heading that way, but fortunately the slow hire boats moved over to let us through.

"Chalice" turns onto the Norther Stratford - the other boat had failed to!
There are many lock-less miles to get out of Birmingham, which should have been entirely straightforward, but ceased to be so, at the point we found a fallen oak tree completely blocking the Northern Stratford canal from one bank to the other.  It must have happened very recently, as we had passed boats coming the other way.  Frighteningly the day was not windy at all, so the fact that it had uprooted must have been entirely due to the sodden ground.  As at least one boater has been killed in recent years when a tree fell on heir boat, it is worrying how many tree falls you encounter - this is the second we personally have run into in maybe only half a year.

Shirley Lift Bridge - Northern Stratford canal
Cath quickly declared "there is no way you will clear that yourself", but was asked to ring the Canal & River Trust, (CRT), whilst Alan and David assessed, and eventually set about the obstruction with hand saws. CRT said they would have a team out as soon as possible, but we discovered that although it was a big tree, it was possible to cut enough away, provided a 7 foot wide boat would float right against the tow-path bank.  Another set of boat owners helped drag the cut branches out, and after an hour or so we were ready to see if we could squeeze through.  We could, so leaving a lot of debris on the bank, we moved off before anyone from CRT appeared.  If CRT West Midlands actually answered their phone we could have told them that, but it rang and rang, and eventually we could only send them an email.

Route blocked, but worst stuff is away from the tow-path.

David attempts to saw underwater branches
Next follows a flight of 19 narrow locks to get to Kingswood Junction where the Northern Stratford canal joins with the Grand Union main line.

Dragging the boat behind us through the cleared gap.
The weather was damp all afternoon, but we worked down the flight, arriving to moor on the visitors' moorings near the railway line. This proved to be a bit of a mistake - we are rarely disturbed by railways, but this one had some very heavy freight, which woke us early the following morning.  Another time we would go through and moor on the Grand Union itself.

Odin and Alan at Lapworth locks - still the drizzle continued!
We decided to eat in the Navigation in at Lapworth, which accepts dogs and has a menu that will feed vegetarians - and we were really too tired to cook for ourselves. The food really was delicious, we had risotto from the set menu. However, the portions were not at all generous, particularly for hungry boaters, and the risotto was the same price as the steaks and other meat options. Despite being very tasty, we are unlikely to go back to eat, as this just was too expensive for what it was.

Overnight mooring - we had no idea how many trains cross that bridge!
Back to the boat, and the very loud railway line, but having sawn up an oak tree, and worked a flight of 19 locks did help the sleep process regardless,

Birmingham to Lapworth
Miles: 18.8, Locks: 20 (includes permanently open stop lock).

Total Miles: 208.4, Locks: 143

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