Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Away from the bright lights

Not those of the city, we never got into the centre. Just the security lights of Star City!

A bit of sunshine to start the day today, although it was breezy and feeling cooler. At daybreak I set off for my morning run. I could get used to training in Birmingham. Plenty of choice of routes on the towpaths and generally a good, dry surface underfoot. Speed work on the long pounds and hill work on the lock flights. Excellent. I just don’t think I could live here…

It was after 10:00 when we moved on today.

Leaving Star City

We had only a few hundred yards of the Grand Union Main Line left, now. At Salford Junction we joined the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at a T junction. But first we had the narrows that held Nechells Stop Lock, almost compulsory in the days when the canals were owned by competing companies to control and levy tolls on the traffic passing from one to another.

Stop Lock chamber.

The roar of traffic on the elevated motorway interchange of Gravelly Hill starts to drown out the diesel engine as the junction is approached. The motorway, A roads and associated slip roads over shadow the canals, and the canal crosses over the River Tame.

Under “Spaghetti Junction”…IMG_2644

…and over the Tame.

We had to make a sharp right turn at the junction, but I was so busy taking pictures I got the positioning all wrong. But it didn’t matter, the wind was coming from the left and a bit of patience saw us facing the way I’d intended.

Coming round.
The sign on the car park says CAUTION. PLEASE DO NOT BUMP INTO OUR WALL. Looking at the coping stones not everyone manages it…

Looking back over my shoulder the Tame Valley Canal heads directly away, while the Birmingham and Fazeley takes the branch to the left, rising up the Aston and Farmers Bridge Locks to Gas Street Basin and the City Centre.
Both of these routes are closed for maintenance at the moment.

The north-bound Birmingham and Fazeley now heads west for a start alongside the M6 before slowly moving away.

It takes a while to shake off the industrial fringes of the city though. Factories sandwiched between the canal and Tyburn Road came up with a novel expansion plan. Build out over the water…

It was common practice on the B&F to name bridges rather than number them.

I wonder if braces are still made around here?IMG_2657

The first of the locks is reached at Minworth, still in the built-up area at this point. It has a pretty row of three cottages alongside…IMG_2662 …and something in the chamber that we sat on when I emptied the lock!

It was near the top gate so by putting enough water back in to shuffle forward a bit we were able to carry on. Email #1 to C&RT…

The three Minworth locks are spaced out over about a mile so I rode between them. By the time the last was descended the houses and factories had started to be replaced by trees and fields.

The wood-cutting contractors had been busy along here too. I wasted 20 minutes failing to get close enough to an offside stack of logs, only to find another pile just next to a bridge. We simply hung around under the bridge while I loaded.

There was a bit more as we got closer to Curdworth, I put some on but by now we were getting very full again. That’ll do.

Breaks my heart to leave it, though…

The 57 yard long Curdworth Tunnel takes the canal under the village, then shortly the top of the 11 Curdworth Locks is reached.
I could see some yellow-jacketed individuals around the lock as we approached, then the top gate was opened for us. It was a painting crew, working their way down.

With the balance beams wet I was instructed to get out of the way while they worked the lock for us. Result. But then we encountered the same problem as we had at Minworth Top. Mags got a third of the way out then stuck fast. More throttle didn’t help. After struggling for a few minutes I got back on board managed to reverse back into the lock, then, with a good flush of water from the top paddles and surrounded by a fug of diesel smoke we slowly scraped across the top of the obstruction.
If the crew hadn’t been there to help we’d probably have had to call them out anyway. That’s email #2, then.

The rest of the flight was a doddle. One of the guys went ahead and set numbers 2 to 6 ready for us, so they were waiting with top gates open as we arrived at each one. Saved me a bit of work and us quite a bit of time.

Part way down Curdworth, our helper just heading off to the next one.IMG_2677

It’s been six years since we last came this way and I’d forgotten how attractive the flight is, set between rolling fields. The only fly in the ointment is the M42 to the right, but we start to part company at Lock 6.

We stopped just below Lock 7, leaving the remaining four for tomorrow morning.

It should be a good day if the old saying can be believed…IMG_2684

First job in the morning is to get the roof sorted out, so the chainsaw and splitting axe will see some action before we head off to Fazeley. Probably fish and chips in the evening.

Locks 10, miles 7½

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