21st September 2016
We had a long day today as we were needing to tackle a number of locks along the Fazeley Canal which goes subterranean under the buildings of central Birmingham. Firstly, we did our routine of taking the pooches out for their morning ablutions on a bit of greenspace but what we did notice as we left the boat was that the canal had turned green overnight. It was definitely a blue/green algae bloom and it seemed to have come in so fast. We did not remember seeing any evidence of it yesterday when we first came into Birmingham. We needed to be very careful around the algae and especially for the dogs. Do not fancy another sick pooch.
It was farewell to Marlene this morning but we will see her in a week somewhere in Warwick. We were heading out of Birmingham along the Fazeley Canal which is probably one of the less salubrious canals. Di did this canal 23 years ago with her sister Helen and friend Barb Marshall and she was trying to recall lost file space most of the day. Her summation is that it is cleaner and the towpath is very well used by walkers and bikers which is great to see. They have done a lot of regeneration of the area and during our travels today it really wasn’t too bad. The first flight is called the Farmer’s Bridge Locks which consists of 13 single width locks. Wolfgang came with us and helped us set up the locks making the passage a lot quicker down the flight. If you follow the top blue line on the map, this is the Fazeley Canal.
When we say that Wolfgang set the locks it means that he filled the locks in advance whilst Di was taking the boat into the lock and Fraser closes the gates and empties the locks with Di in it. Once at the bottom, Di can then cruise straight into the next lock that Wolfgang had set up. He took us down to the bottom lock where we said our farewell with lots of hugs and he walked back up to catch up with Marlene. They were heading out to King’s Norton this afternoon and then down the Stratford Canal as they are slowly returning to their marina.
The pictures below show the area we went through to the bottom of the first flight of locks. There was not as much graffiti around as we thought there might be. It was quite funny as some of the locks looked right into offices with people at their daily jobs, eyes fixed on computer screens. We have to remember that in 10 days that will be us again so it is important that we enjoy these last few days.
Our next flight of locks is called the Aston Locks which consists of 11 locks but a little more spread out. We are now out from under the buildings but still in a very built up area of office buildings but more industrial environment.
At the end of these locks we then came to Salford Junction in canal terms but above us was the famous spaghetti junction.
We went over the River Tame which has been totally tamed by concrete culverts; massive layers of roadways including the M6 above us and train lines. As you could imagine, it was very noisy. This last section and the next hour was probably the worst part of the cruising today.
The weather forecast was for rain and we were really trying to avoid getting caught in it as it would make our day even more bleak. And until 5.00pm it worked in our favour.
At one stage we were under the flight path to the Birmingham airport. You might think, so what. Well, they were just above our heads and the Monarch flight which looked like it was a 737 lowered it’s undercarriage and Di could hear it. Can’t say have experienced that before.
At last we popped out into the countryside. It is quite different countryside from the Stratford Canal as it is a lot more open and reasonably flat. We had travelled about 10 miles from the center of Birmingham, so all things considered Birmingham has not got that large a footprint.
On our final lock for the day we were delayed due to maintenance. Having spoken to the workmen it appears that the cottage next to the lock was having a few seepage problems from the lock when it was being filled. They had long metal rods that were poked into the leaky bits and they were squirting this goo type stuff into them. They then removed the rods and filled up the last of the hole with what looked like horse hair. It was a very difficult and dirty job but a job that canal users have got to be very thankful for. After all, a lot of this infrastructure is over 200 years old and at 200 years old we reckon we would all leak a bit – some of us more than others.
We pulled up for the evening at Curdworth which is one of the oldest settlements in these areas. As it was 3.00pm we wandered up into town to the White Horse pub for a congratulatory drink. As we were sitting there the heavens opened so our timing was perfect. This time we kept a very close eye on our Miss Maples who has the pub kitchen nose!!
The photo we put on the blog last night of the quilt Marlene made us did not do it justice. This photo gives you a better idea of the detail involved and also the stitching on the bottom with information about our 2016 canal trip with Wolfgang and Marlene.