Friday 23 August 2013

A long day into Birmingham

Catherine-de-Barnes to Birmingham : 11 miles, 25 locks, 1 tunnel
To date : 656 miles, 409 locks

Biggest day yet!

Carol wasn't in top form last night, perhaps having strained herself on the difficult lock paddles we've encountered lately.  But, being now at the point of our approach to Birmingham we had a meeting this morning and decided we'd go ahead.  I'd steer our boat through the locks and Mick would run back and forth - first getting us through each lock and then opening a paddle behind us so there was less for Barry and Carol to do. 

Poor bugger.  Only two locks out of the 25 were in our favour, we passed two boats the entire day and they were together.  I'd take the boat into the lock, he'd close the gate, open the paddles, run ahead to the next lock and open a paddle so that one would be ready, run back to the current lock arriving just as it was ready, open the gate to let me out or I'd open it if it was full before he returned, close the paddles, close the gate, run back to the other end of the lock to open a paddle for Barry and Carol, run ahead to open the gate for me at the next lock.

We were absolutely astounded at how quiet it was.  One boat passed us at about 6.30 this morning before we left (the reason all the locks were against us!), we overtook one extremely smelly boat (after trailing behind him for ages in tickover and a cloud of smoke pouring into the boat and our faces, I went down to the bow and politely ask him if he'd please let us by), and two boats coming the other way at the locks.  That's it... all day!

We left Catherine-de-Barnes at 8am this morning.... the absolute earliest Barry would tolerate.... stopped to fill with water before the first lock.... stopped for 45 minutes for lunch by the university.... and we moored up just before 4.30pm.

I think we all really enjoyed coming into Birmingham.  It feels like the canal is alive here with history.  We did locks right beside busy motorways and at one lock I lurked on the boat while I waited and cars were whizzing by just a couple of metres away.  The canal weaves a fascinating course among buildings old and new with regular reminders of the working boat days.  There were even locks right beneath an apartment block with side pounds disappearing into the darkness under the building.  There was a feeling of seediness with graffiti everywhere we looked and at the bottom of one lock there was a gathering of extremely drunken old fellows who could barely stand.  They'd peed all over the walls and it really stank.  We encountered homeless living beneath bridges and youngsters with nothing to do but sit by a lock drinking and smoking.

It was a huge relief to reach the top lock where I chatted with a couple who had just bought a boat and were wandering along looking at boat colours to choose what they'd paint theirs.  Seems they like blue too.  We had been joking along the way that the reason we hadn't seen other boats was because they were all moored in Birmingham.  We weren't far wrong!  Luckily we got a pair of moorings at the end of the 48hr moorings. 

We'll all sleep well tonight.... especially Mick.



nb Bonjour said...

Hi Elly and Mick - the last time we came up those locks into Birmingham, years ago, the apartment blocks were being built and there was scaffolding up all along the towpath, with diversions round the main obstacles - it was extremely dark! If you are feeling cultural, the museum/art gallery is worth a visit - there are some pictures on our blog for 3rd May
Debby and Dave

Elly and Mick said...

Thanks Debby and Dave,
I had a look at your photos. Birmingham's great isn't it!

Ade said...

Hi Elly another set of evocative pics, I remember it well from 28 years ago when we did the Farmers Bridge.


Elly and Mick said...

Ade, this was a great day. Long... and hard work for Mick... but very interesting. We loved Birmingham.