Saturday, February 26, 2011

Change of canal, and TREES!

Carol and George went to see Willy Wonka this morning, so we dogsat Molly till they came back. We didn’t fancy it, don’t mind eating the stuff, though! We didn’t get away till gone 1, but it was a good plan as it turned out. The morning has been pretty grim. Wet and windy. But the rain stopped about noon, and we even had a bit of sun this afternoon.

It was about 1¼ miles to Kings Norton Junction, where we made a left turn onto the Stratford On Avon Canal.

Kings Norton Junction

There’s a fine house overlooking the junction, the old toll house.

In the days before Nationalisation, each canal company charged the carriers for the use of their water, so toll houses were often to be found near junctions.

There’s a board on the wall listing mileages and cost per ton per mile for different cargos. For example, a pair hauling maybe 40 tons of coal to fire the boilers at Cadbury’s would have paid 4/2d (about 21p) for the 1¼ miles.

Toll Board

Stop locks were also sited here, to prevent loss of water from your canal if the connecting one sprung a leak. They also acted as a lockable barrier to prevent unauthorised (unpaid!) use of the canal.

A lot of these stop locks are still in use, those at Autherley Junction, Hawkesbury, and Preston Brook for example. Some are now left open, and the one onto the Stratford Canal falls into this category. It is unusual though in that the gates are of a guillotine design, wooden gates sliding vertically in iron guides. The gates were raised by means of a chain pulley system, but have not been used for years.

Stop Lock No1, under Bridge 1

The lifting gear is easily seen against the sky.

Brandwood Tunnel is next, at 352 yards long a mere blink compared to Netherton, but well built, brick lined and broad allowing two boats to pass.

Brandwood Tunnel

Is this a representation of the Bard of Avon himself? The canal does end up at Stratford On Avon, after all. Old Willy Waggledagger would have been pleased….

The canal winds around the southern suburbs of Birmingham, heading generally east towards Solihull, before changing it’s mind and turning south-east into open country.

Wooded cutting leaving the built up area.

Or at least we thought so. The city had a last surprise to throw at us. The area around Dickens Heath appears to be open country on the map….

But this little lot has sprung up like a masonry mushroom!

New development near Dickens Heath

A little further on we ran the boat chicane at Lady Lane Wharf, and moored a bit further on near Bridge 19.

Busy at Lady Lane

It’s good to be out in the country again after several days of urbanisation. But the towpath is very muddy. Decent all weather surfaces are one of the benefits of city canals, but then you have the Chris Boardman wannabe’s to contend with…

And then there’s the wildlife.

I didn’t think this guy was going to move when he spotted us coming along…..

But then his nerve broke and he dived into the undergrowth.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the bare patch of Seyella’s roof in the foreground of the earlier pictures today… then a couple of logs appear…. and a final one after Dickens Heath. Yes, another good day for firewood foraging. The chainsaw isn’t to be packed away just yet.

Locks 0, miles 9

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