Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pigs and colliers

Today dawned bright and sunny. Cool, but it is only April…
After mooring yesterday afternoon in a quiet, out-of-the-way spot, we were joined by another three boats! Safety in numbers doesn’t really apply, there was no-one about. Must be magnetism.


…and our little flotilla!

We’re still on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, so Tamhorn Farm Bridge doesn’t have a number. IMG_9336
It does, however, have a little door in the side, behind which are stored stop-planks to use in the event of a breach. Neat, huh. That’s another B&F foible.

Past Hopwas Wood.
The River Tame is down on the right.

Hopwas is a popular overnight halt, no shops but there are two pubs almost facing each other across the canal. The mooring restriction sign is somewhat confusing though…
To the left you can stop for 48 hours, to the right for 2 days. That’s clear, then!Disappointed smile

The main centre of Tamworth is passed to the left as the canal heads towards Fazeley, but there are moorings at Sutton Road Bridge, handy for a large out-of-town retail park.

Do you remember the Tamworth Two? In January 1998 two pigs escaped from a truck on the way to the abattoir and managed to stay uncaptured for 2 weeks. They became know as the Tamworth Two, Butch and Sundance, and so great was the publicity that they finished up in luxury in a rare-breeds centre in Kent, rather than in sausages! Tamworth dined out on the story for a while, but in fact they made their bid for freedom in Wiltshire. The breed is Tamworth…

Sutton Road Bridge is just out of sight around the corner.IMG_9349

We cruised at tick-over into Fazeley, with several moored boats on the towpath side.

Peel’s Wharf is the local CRT office and has facilities too.IMG_9351

Just around the corner is Fazeley Junction

A turn to the right continues on the B&F to Birmingham, we go left onto the Coventry Canal.

WWII blockhouse on the Tame Aqueduct

The Tame was one of several natural barrier that would have been defensive lines in the event of a German invasion.

We were lucky on our arrival at Glascote Locks, a boat was just coming down the bottom one.IMG_9359

With no-one directly ahead the top one was still empty as well. We timed it well, two boats arrived above as we were going in.

Following the untimely death of Steve Hudson 18 months ago, his yard at the top of the locks has been taken over by Norton Canes Boatbuilders. At the moment they’re just using the basin for moorings.

The route out of the built up area above the locks seems to drag. Plenty of bridges, overhanging willow and lots of moored boats on the offside reduce progress to tick-over.

But the canal opens out past Bridge 63, heading for Alvecote Marina.

Alvecote Marina
There’s usually several interesting boats knocking around here.

BCN tug Laplander.
Built around 1830, she’s an oil-fired steamer.

It’s an oft quoted statistic that there are more boats registered on the waterways now than during the canals’ commercial heyday. It’s been busy on the water today, but I’m sure that it’s quieter than in an April in 1810, say. What you’ve got to remember is that commercial boats spent 90% of their time on the move. Not to do so would be to waste money. Leisure boats, on the other hand, spend 90% of their time tied up in marinas!

IMG_9376Leaving Alvecote the canal meanders through a wooded landscape with a good towpath alongside.

It’s hard to imagine now, but this was the site of the extensive Pooley Hall Colliery, opened in the late 19th century. By 1951 it had joined up with workings from Alvecote and Amington and became the North Warwickshire Colliery. Company records for the Pooley Hall Colliery from 1940 show that it produced 350, 000 tons of coal and employed around 1000 people, both above and below ground. The combined pits closed in 1965.

One large spoil heap, near the M45 bridge, carries an artwork called The Golden Tower of Leaves.IMG_9382
Erected in 2011, the column is made from aluminium strips shaped like birch leaves and representing regeneration, as the site has been heavily colonised by birch trees. The column also represents the production of coal, formed from compressed vegetable matter, and the gold colour indicates the wealth derived from extraction of “Black Gold”.

The canal runs into the village of Polesworth, once the home of many mining families. It’s a handy stopping point, with moorings at both ends of the settlement. We tend to moor at the eastern end, now, adjacent to large playing fields for Meg. And so we did today.

We’d got tied up by 2 o’clock, so, after a late lunch, I sat outside in the sun and mended the puncture in John Sage’s rear tyre. Then he got re-mounted where he belongs, on the rack over the counter.
I also got the left cabin side washed and polished.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading up the first half of Atherstone Locks. I’ve got a duff alternator to drop in at Cox’s for them to have a look at.

Hi Carol, yes, looking forward to catching up with you too. It’s been a while.

Les, Jaq. It’d be great to finally meet up! We’ll keep an eye on where you are and come up with suggestions as we get nearer, OK?

Locks 2, miles 9½

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