Sunday, 2 September 2012

What a Week ...

Going back to Bank Holiday Monday, typical weather raining as usual but then it was a Bank Hol! James and I had throught the day before it was about time to move from our position near Drayton Brick Bridge by the bird nature reserve (I don't like calling it a water park as it brings thoughts of chlorine filled swimming pools with water chutes etc and for some reason bumper boats). Waking up to the not so good weather was not very motivating so we had brekkie in our PJs, which is unusual, and after I settle down to read my book. James had disappeared to the other end of the boat and then reappeared 10 minutes later announcing 'ready when you are', this spurted me into action as we had to sort the bikes out, they were still on the back deck and by the time I was dressed and bikes put into moving position down came the rain again, so I was back to my book for a couple of hours. When it eventually stopped a couple of hours later it was off again after saying goodbye to Walkie Man, we weren't going far only to the bottom of the Curdworth Locks which only took about 40 minutes. Monday night was when James had his horrendous indigestion so not a comfortable night for him and very little sleep.

Tuesday - James got up very early, must have been around 5:30am as lying down wasn't comfortable for him, he did wake me to let me know, now having totally totally lost the hearing in my left ear if I'm laying on my 'good' side there is no way I would wake, so James touched my arm to wake me and I virtually jumped out of bed knowing it must be really early with memories of that awful December morning, anyway with a reassurance from him "that I'm ok just uncomfortable" I fall back into my deep sleep. A couple of hours later he wakes me again to say  "Walkie Man's just gone by to the locks - shall we give him a hand?" I was up, dressed, windlass and bottle of water in hand, walking along the tow path before I had even woken up properly. We caught up with him at Lock 10, which is the second one up in the Curdworth flight. He was pleased to see us, even more so when he realised we were armed with our windlasses to give him a hand. By the time we were through Lock 9 a cafetiere of fresh coffee was brewing and when we re-joined him on his boat (it is quite a distance between these locks) he sent me to the gallery to pour the coffee, sugar already in the cups and milk left ready to pour. As we finished the coffee we were arriving at the next lock - perfect timing. I think we managed the flight in record time and it seemed in no time (although realistically it was a good couple of hours) we reached the top, so time to say our goodbyes with a hug and kiss (for me anyway - a hand shake for James) we left with our reward of some lovely smoked bacon that he had got from the butcher in Polesworth. This will be a real treat for us as our budget doesn't run to such luxuries!

James finding out what working locks is all about
Ok - so maybe it's not all hard work
Wednesday it was rain again only much heavier this time and didn't ease off until about 4:30pm, when the sun came out. James and I put our boots on and went off for a late afternoon walk around the nature reserve before heading off  tomorrow through the locks ourselves.

Some of Kingsbury Water Park - or Nature Reserve as I like to call it

Thursday it was up and off through the locks which seemed all too familiar, the first few were against us so it was a bit slow going having to empty first before James and LJ could get in and fill again, then we passed a boat coming the other way - brilliant they should all be in our favour now. We tried to stop between Locks 1 and 2 at the top of the flight, but found it was too shallow at the edge so continued on to the top and we moored just after the top lock, which turned out to be a lovely spot complete with resident moorhens and a heron.

Forward view from our mooring at the top of the Curdworth Locks
Friday was the day to collect the Bongo from the lay by it's been parked in since arriving at Fazeley, it was also time to get James' prescription too, so a call to Eden Court Medical Centre in Castle Vale and after speaking to a very friendly and helpful receptionist an appointment was  booked for 11:30.  After a two mile walk we arrived at the Bongo, for most of the way we were following a couple of guys with their strimmers making the tow path and lock areas neat. Then it was a drive to Castle Vale arriving there just before 11am giving us plenty of time to complete the temporary patient form, this time the Doctor prescribe two months worth so that means we save £7.65 next month and won't have the hassle of finding a surgery for a couple of months - not that its much hassle with the internet! We popped into the Sainsbury's next door with the intention of only getting a few necessary supplies as where we are planning to leave the van next was a two and a half mile walk back to LJ. But as usual we got more than planned, luckily I had taken my back pack so the heavy stuff went in there, we managed to get parked where James had planned and then started our walk back picking some more blackberries on the way. We then had a nice early night as it would be up early to start our journey into Birmingham, which we were planning to do in one hit - nine miles and 38 locks!!

Saturday it was up early as planned and we were off by 6:45am, first it was through the Curdworth tunnel, which is short but very narrow, not a lot of room for error, then up through the Minworth flight of three locks - although not really a flight as they are really far apart, we stopped just before the second lock to top up with water and empty the liquid waste in the Elsen! Once through the locks it was time for that long awaited bacon sarnie. We were now out of the country and into industry/town, we passed a massive electrical station and then the M6, coming upto Salford Junction which is actually under the M6 and the beginning of Spaghetti Junction. Salford Junction is where the Grand Union turns off followed closely by the continuation of the Birmingham and Fazeley into the centre, with the Tame Valley continuing straight on passing under Spaghetti Junction, I bet all those thousands of cars and lorries passing overhead have no idea of the history below them. The original iron bridges and sign posts ensuring boaters go the way then intended. So off we went continuing along the Birmingham and Fazeley towards the flight of 11 locks in the Aston flight. As we were heading up them we came to Lock 11 first, looking at the map it was a good distance between the first four in the flight so I jumped back aboard LJ heading for Lock 10, we got in ok and filled it up, I was just opening the gates when I noticed a Canal and River Trust man heading our way, when he got to us he announced "you won't be going much further, in fact you're probably better to stay where you are, there's a faulty paddle at Lock 8 and no water in the canal." Now he mentioned it I noticed that actually in the next pound it was about a foot lower than the water mark suggested it should be. We were told it would take an hour and a half to two hours to get enough water down through the rest of the flight to re-fill the empty pounds, how annoying we could have had an extra couple of hours in bed this morning! James went off to investigate and take some photos, when he got back I then went off and walk up to the source of the problem. Between our Lock 10 and 9 wasn't too bad, it was the next pound up between 9 and 8 was the worst a good two foot down, there was a boat stuck at Lock 8 pretty much as we were stuck at 10. The Canal and River Trust guys were also there, "looks pretty bad" I said "you should have seen it when we arrived" they replied "it was virtually empty". They had opened some sort of sluice gate and water was gushing in from the upper pounds. It would be a least another hour before there would be enough water through to float a boat so I wandered back to James and LJ and got my book out again, luckily the sun had come out so an unexpected rest for an hour or so. 

At about 2pm the guys came down to let us know the boat had just left Lock 8 and managed to get through ok so we should be alright to leave now. So off we went James with LJ and I walked along the tow path as there was no way James was going to get close enough to the edge so I could jump off for the lock. James could keep hearing poor LJ scrapping the bottom as he headed towards the next lock, but made it through ok. Once past Lock 8 no problems there was loads of water. After a couple of locks we past a boat coming down, they said the waterways guys had asked them to keep the bottom gates open - I wonder if that was to help the water get down to the problem area or they knew no-one else was coming down and it would help us. Either way we were really grateful as we got through the rest of the flight in no time. At Aston Junction I jumped back aboard for the half mile or so to the bottom of the Farmers Bridge flight. These locks are all very close together, only about a boat lengths between them so I hoped we didn't meet someone coming down as it could be tricky. Luckily we didn't but unfortunately they were all against us, but James and I got a good system going and we made it to the top by 4pm. There were a few people out and about watching and some even giving us a hand opening and closing gates for us - very helpful. So here we are in Birmingham in the last possible space at Cambrian Wharf, tired and achy - but we did it!!!

Taken at 7am, 15 minutes into our departure

Entering Curdworth Tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel

Retrieving a shopping trolley in the Minworth flight

Passing by part of the power station with the M6 in the background

Approaching Salford Junction, the M6 above

The Grand Union Canal

Well signposted so you can't go wrong

Tame Valley Canal

Heading up the Aston Flight after our unexpected delay

Water gushing down to help fill the empty pounds

A lock within the Farmers Bridge flight, under a building 

Between Locks, no room for passing boats in this one

The building the locks are under

This one is under a bridge

Back out in the open and nearly there


  1. Hi we have enjoyed reading your update, an I testing week, enjoy Birmingham. We are at Trinity now and plan to go on up the Ashby tomorrow.

    1. Thanks Mea. Hope you enjoy the Ashby, if it's sunny watch out for the dinner plate sized terrapins.