Monday, December 01, 2014

Through the ‘burbs, with help from a friend.

After a lazy day yesterday we were up and on the move at 09:10 this morning. Today’s trip was broken up into three distinct stages; the first to the top of Camp Hill Locks, Camp Hill Locks themselves, and then Garrison Locks and the pound down to the old Nechells Stop Lock and the moorings at Star City.

Two herons saw us away from “Catney” this morning…IMG_2567

Another gloomy, grey morning, but at least the rain stayed away. For the first couple of miles the canal runs through a wooded cutting, causing us a problem with the water thick with fallen leaves. Some bridge-holes were so clogged that we almost came to a standstill. IMG_2572

The cutting runs through dormitory suburbs of Solihull, housing developments occasionally visible through the trees.

Passing Land Rover’s extensive works, (although you can’t see it from down in the cutting) near Bridge 81, it’s another couple of miles before the housing gives way fully to the industrial fringes of the city. Travelling the canal is also passing through Birmingham’s industrial heritage.

On the left (south side) between Bridges 87 and 88 were Tyseley Wire Works, and an extensive site now occupied by an assortment of different businesses that used to be the Rover works.

Not much to see from the canal, just some 20th Century factory buildings.IMG_2580


The Rover site has come full circle. The area was the focus for pioneering motor companies in the early days of the industry. Early manufacturers like Bayliss, Meade & Deakins, Monarch and Perry started out here and their facilities finally absorbed into the giant that was to become British Leyland.

Behind a brick wall was the Birmingham Small Arms factory, formed after the Crimean War to mass-produce fire-arms.

After an initial encouraging contract to supply infantry rifles to Turkey, trade started to dry up and the company branched out into bicycles first, then motorcycles and cars.  The bicycle business was subsequently sold to Raleigh Cycles, the car business transferred to Daimler in Coventry and disappeared without trace, but the motorbike brand continued on until the 1970’s, when massive competition from the upcoming Japanese forced a government-led merger of the remaining viable motorcycle manufacturers, forming Norton-Villiers-Triumph.

Meanwhile, the company subsidiary, now trading as BSA Guns Ltd, continued to profit from two World Wars, but struggled in between conflicts. The production of military firearms ceased in 1961, and BSA Guns liquidated in 1986, but the BSA brand is still carried by sporting rifles and shotguns, manufactured at the original site here in Small Heath by BSA Guns (UK) Ltd.

Anyhow, enough history. After 2 hours 20 minutes we arrived at the top of Camp Hill Locks and pulled onto the service wharf to make use of the facilities. And fine facilities they are too! Warm, clean and modern, it’s no wonder that C&RT has to regularly remove the lurkers that set up home on the visitor moorings in the short arm alongside.

It was here that our unexpected visitor arrived. Paul Balmer had been in touch, sharing his extensive knowledge of the Birmingham waterways, and with not much on today, he’d come over to help us with the locks. Very welcome, he was. We had a brew, then, filled and emptied, set off down the six locks to Bordesley Junction.

Mags lining up for Lock 52IMG_2596
Paul can just be seen on the lockside.

Under the railway bridge towards Lock 54IMG_2599
This is a new lock, built when the canal was diverted during a major road development.

Each lock has cast iron heel post recesses, with the date, and [#]CHIMG_2600

It baffled me until I realised that the CH stands for Camp Hill, and each casting would be individual for it’s own lock.

Working well, with me ahead setting the locks and Paul seeing Mags out of them, we reached Lock 57, just above Bordesley Junction, after just over half an hour.

Lock 57 at the bottom of the Camp Hill Locks, with Bordesley Junction belowIMG_2602

Amazingly, a boat arrived from under the junction bridge while we were in the lock. This was the first craft on the move we’d seen for four days!

I re-boarded for the turn under the bridge, while Paul went ahead on his hybrid bike to set the first of the Garrison Locks.

Under Bridge 98IMG_2603
Turning right here continues on the Grand Union Main Line, to the left is the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal which was constructed to link to the Digbeth Branch of the BCN and Aston Junction, avoiding a 5 mile loop to Salford Junction involving an extra 12 locks.

The five Garrison Locks drop the canal through another 34½ feet. All that height we gained coming up the broad locks from Napton Junction is now being lost again!

Canal related mural on what could be old stables? on the offsideIMG_2604

Mags comes out of Garrison Top Lock in the distance.IMG_2609

There was something behind one of the gates that held us up for over an hour last time we came down here.

Toadstools in wet rot on one of the lock beamsIMG_2611

Heading towards Lock 62, and here comes Paul as wellIMG_2617

Another cast lock recess, this time with G for Garrison, and made a little later.IMG_2623

The bottom lock cottage has suffered at the hands of the local vandals.IMG_2619
What a shame.

More fungus…

I was back aboard for this last lock, and caught Paul doing the “leap of faith” across the bottom gates…

Mags went inside for a well-deserved sit down, Paul mounted his trusty steed and I took the tiller for the last mile or so to the pontoon moorings at Star City.

Paul was there ahead of us.IMG_2627 

Tied up, we went inside for a brew and a natter. With Paul’s help we’d made good time, 5½ hours including a pause at the services. Better than I’d expected.

Paul ready to set off for the station
Thanks, my friend, for your help. And it was good to meet you properly, finally!
The bike, by the way, is folding, and is motorised on the front wheel and conventionally driven at the rear. So in slippery conditions he can have all wheel drive. How cool is that!
Paul produces those excellent canal guide DVDs and also route maps using the Ordnance Survey-based Memory-Map. He left us with a couple of complementary copies.
If I've time I'll upload the Black Country Ring and try it on my iPad tomorrow.

Locks 11, miles 10.

No comments: