Waiting at Lapworth Locks

1Having left Bluebell bridge this morning we stopped at  bridge 22 as Pearson’s Guide was most emphatic that Wedge’s Bakery was not to be missed, they were absolutely right, we came away loaded with bread, rolls, cakes, pasties and milk. Hockley Heath was soon behind us and we tackled bridges 26 & 28 which are both hydraulically operated by windlass and surprisingly difficult to use.

Look Mum, we've found a raft!
The start of the Lapworth flight was reached and we followed a Black Prince boat through helping each other as we went, all went well and we met some more Swedish crewed Alvechurch boats coming up which should have made things easier but after we had done just two more locks, we found that someone had ‘dropped a paddle’ [as opposed to winding it down] and a pin had sheared and the paddle floated off!!

BW staff at their best
This was well timed for a lunch break so we moored up in the side pond (first time I’ve found a use for lock bollards) and enjoyed our fresh rolls from the bakery and waited for the BW maintenance crew to arrive, fair play, they were there within the hour and my ace photographic reporter has gone off to record the situation… and here is the evidence, both paddles replaced and we were on our way again once the knot of boats had untangled themselves.

DSCF2247We dropped down the rest of the flight, only meeting boats coming up as we neared Lapworth Junction, after the last lock we moored up, on the arm which leads to the Grand Union junction, a bit too near the railway bridge, but hey-ho we should sleep well tonight.


Chocolate & Cider

DSCF2192This morning was spent at Cadbury World actually learning quite a bit about how chocolate is produced and where the raw materials come from. There were very impressive hi-tech presentations and the opportunity to see the packaging line and, of course we were given some of their products to try, a glass and a half of milk in every bar, don’t you know.

DSCF2195Just to allow myself a ‘Maffi’ moment….  Returning to our ‘secure’ mooring I noticed how serious BW were about security; their gate padlock, was secured by a chain, which was in turn secured to the gate by a PLASTIC CABLE TIE!



DSCF2197They were also at pains to re-assure their customers about the secure moorings by advising them to take their valuables with them. In fact we felt very secure here, our only disturbance being the train line across the canal, which with its nice, quiet electric trains was a marked contrast for anybody who has ever moored at Heyford.



DSCF2209This afternoon we pressed on to Kings Norton Junction which took us by surprise by its proximity to Bridge 72, requiring us to reverse back through the bridge in order to correct our line to turn into the North Stratford canal and through the famous, though disused guillotine stop-lock.



DSCF2214At least we lost the graffiti at this point, although much of it was good quality graffiti, and apart from the Brandwood tunnel with its bust of Shakespeare on the portal there was little of great interest until Shirley Drawbridge which is not windlass operated as our Pearson’s guide advised us, but has been mechanised and is operated by a BW key from a shiny stainless steel control panel.   Much of this part of the canal is tree lined and so were are few views to take in other than back gardens in the more built-up areas.

DSCF2231At Dickens Heath there is much new housing bordering the canal including this water feature among the apartments. Lady Lane Wharf was reached and Earlswood Motor Yacht Club with it’s extensive moorings both on line and on the feeder arm which was being dredged.


Our moorings for tonight were at Blue Bell bridge opposite some permanent on line moorings also selling diesel & water next to the bridge. Just through the bridge is the Blue Bell Cider House, which is described by Nicholsons as a ‘drinkers pub’ and indeed it was with 70s decor and a good range of ciders (including Black Rat & Thatcher’s Heritage which we sampled), real ales and that other fizzy stuff. Their website did promise meals too but when we arrived we found that they didn’t serve food on Mondays or Tuesdays , never mind, it was back to the boat for Macaroni Cheese and I had to forgo my pint of Butty Bach with my meal.

and so to Bournville

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Having had a couple more days at Cambrian Wharf, in Birmingham city centre, we went to church at Birmingham Christian Centre on Sunday morning with the crews of nb Rosie and nb Florella and had [repeat] visitors Sunday afternoon, in the form of Esther & Jos and arranged for the former to join us today while Jos revises for his finals.

DSCF2176We readied ourselves this morning and set off intending do some shopping at Tesco Express, we made the 90° turn at The Mailbox and saw a boat ahead of us making a dogs dinner of mooring up, as we attempted to do the same we came alongside the moorings perfectly, only for the wind to nearly push us broadside across the canal too, thinking about it, every time we walked up here it has felt like we are in a wind tunnel, so we decided to abandon the attempt and press on. The city soon turned into the leafy suburb of Edgebaston which was a pleasant surprise and through the Edgebaston Tunnel, the railway following the canal most of the way, we had passed Birmingham University when we had a call from Esther saying she was in the city centre, so we reversed back to the uni to wait for her to walk down and catch us up.

DSCF2173After the compulsory stint at the elum [helm] for our self-styled goddaughter we crossed the new Selly Oak Aquaduct [Feb 2011]   when the rain & hail started so it seemed a good plan to stop for lunch. Fortunately the rain soon stopped and the girls went off to get provisions from the nearby Sainsburys whilst I was left to do the washing up.


DSCF2189Our target of Bournville was soon reached and we got the last ‘secure’ mooring there behind the BW gates opposite Cadbury’s factory. We changed our mode of transport here to the busses and saw our young visitor back home where we had a cuppa before returning to the boat for dinner. Whilst eating our meal we were surprised to see not one, but four of Alvechurch’s boats pass by each flying a Swedish flag.

Julia BradburyBy the strangest of co-incidences we have just watched Julia Bradbury’s Canal Walks on BBC 4 the first bit covered our trip today, watch it here on iPlayer

Cadbury’s World awaits us tomorrow and then onwards towards Kings Norton & the Stratford Canal.

Wren-Nest’s crew goes back to the 30s …………… and underground

DSCF2125Our visit to the Black Country Living Museum was excellent, the shops & exhibits were on a 1930s theme, and the staff, in period costume were very knowledgeable and played their parts ‘in character’. We chatted with several of the ‘demonstrators’ including the motorbike shop man and the boatman on a Fellows, Morton & DSCF2132Clayton ‘motor’ who explained the mystery of the clean canal water hereabouts, apparently whilst the Chasewater reservoir is under repair, water is being pumped from a disused coal mine; this water is rich in nutrients and encourages plant growth, so I watered our herb pot with it! We were fascinated with what looked like lovely piece of lace work which was actually made of samples of steel tube.

We had a pint of mild & a glass of scrumpy in the Glass & Bottle pub and roe & chips at Hobb’s chippy, not at 1930s prices though!

DSCF2142We spent a good five hours in the museum and there was still more to see so we can thoroughly recommend it. We just had time to take the electric trip boat into the Dudley Tunnel and were entertained by our guide whose stories were not always quite believable but very amusing none-the-less. DSCF2146There was a big screen video inside the first cavern which told some of the history of the place, they even used to have musical recitals down there and we were treated to a rendition of an example. Apparently you can even get married in there nowadays! We were shown the entrance to the Wren’s Nest Tunnel, where they were doing some work which involved taking in several loads of scalpings [stone] which were loaded opposite our mooring at about 7.30am then towed in by an electric tug. If they reopen Wren’s Nest Tunnel we will have to go again given our boat’s name, which although purely co-incidental doesn’t stop us being asked ‘Am yow from Dudley?’

DSCF2156Today we made our way back to Birmingham and I continue to be fascinated by the way that canal crosses canal which is in turn crossed by railway and all of it crossed by the elevated section of the M5 whose supports straddle the canal and here are actually in the middle of the New Main Line.





Valencia Wharf  (sounds so much more romantic than it’s old name of Chemical Arm) was found to be an excellent breakfast stop; Full English for £3.95. Mooring was available on pontoons although the pedestrian entrance was blocked by some of the garden centre’s goods.


As we were going into Gas Street Basin I noticed a guy I kind of recognised outside a pub, now although I don’t know many people with red Mohicans and face studs I thought I was maybe mistaken but as I passed he yelled ‘Hey! Chris!’ It was Lee Carter who used to have the tattoo shop back home in Dursley, small place this world we boaters inhabit!

We bought diesel at Sherborne Wharf and used their launderette, then moored nearby at the end of Oozel Street loop but soon the aircon plant for the adjacent Brindey Place started up and was so annoying we moved off to Cambrian Wharf again where the revelry at the Flapper pub was preferable. It’s a testament to the strength of Birmingham’s TV signal that Joy was able to continue watching Eastenders all that short journey



Shopping in the Bullring, getting addicted to Tapas & getting lost on the way to Dudley

DSCF2066Cambrian Wharf made a good base for us to explore Brum visited the BBC and discovered tapas at Bar Estilo by Gas Street Basin which we enjoyed so much we went there twice.

We located Broad Street, New Street and The Bullring with its multitude of markets. Primark was plundered, vegetables and cheese were purchased, Catty-proof Superbolts for the back doors were found as was a 6 foot bungee to hold our mattress folded over, oh and an extending key ring to clip on my belt so our BWB key can always be to hand.

DSCF2091Today we decided to continue our journey to Dudley and visit the Black Country Living Museum. Having left the city centre we took the Old Main Line and wended our way beneath the M5, all went well until we reached Oldbury Junction



DSCF2107[I blame the Nicholsons guide which had a page turn right on the junction and Joy says I should have listened to her] suffice it to say that we made a detour down the Titford Canal up six locks, past a burnt out ‘Maltings’ through the plastic bag and rubbish infested canal to DSCF2110Titford Ponds where we turned with great difficulty in the shallow muddy waters and fought our way back, losing count of the number of times we had to stop and remove bags, old clothes and heaven knows what else, not to mention going back down the six locks! Nice engine house at the top though.  DSCF2116Once back on the right canal, it was remarkably clean with water lilies growing and clear enough to see the fish.

Reaching Tipton Junction we made very sure we turned the correct way and soon the mouth of Dudley Tunnel came into view, and there was even a mooring for us, a water DSCF2120point and BW pump out machine which actually worked. We will spend the next couple of nights here and visit the Museum and maybe the Dudley Tunnel, well the complex of limestone workings does include the Wrens Nest Tunnel; we shall report tomorrow.

Completed in 1815 the [Wrens Nest] tunnel served a
series of limestone mines 7/8th’s of a mile
away. The tunnel may be made navigable
once more in the future.


…and now we’re in Birmingham

DSCF1983aFriday morning was spent, like most of the nation, watching the Royal Wedding and at lunchtime we set off to tackle  Atherstone Locks with a refreshment stop halfway at The White Horse, again we had an early finish stopping in open countryside before Polesworth cunningly putting a small hill between ourselves and the railway line.

DSCF2002Saturday we made our way through Alvecote where we bought fuel at Narrowcraft and saw Steam Narrowboat Tixall up the Curdworth flight and through the tunnel to the Visitor Moorings where we met up with our young friends Esther & Jos who hail from Wotton-under-Edge but are currently living in Birmingham. They cleverly met us at The White Horse, avoiding having to help with the locks, then we returned to the boat for a meal; as they are Vegans this exercised our brains for a while but managed to concoct a Vegetable Thai Curry, which they were polite enough to say they enjoyed.

DSCF2013This morning started at 8am and had an easy first part of the journey, apart from encountering a fishing competition, we continued to Salford Junction, which is overshadowed by the motorway as it converges on Spaghetti Junction. We had gritted our teeth at the thought of the 26 locks we had to climb today, but in the event they were not too bad.


DSCF2012Most of the Aston flight were for us after meeting a boat coming down, and all of the Farmers Bridge flight were against us, but we soon developed a system of emptying the next lock as we were filling the one we were in, and as our friend Andy (nb Nutwood) had told us they are really something as they wend their way through, and sometimes under the heartlands of Birmingham you see such a mix of architecture with side ponds often now tucked under the buildings too.

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There is quite a brisk wind today which caused a few problems entering locks accurately and on arriving at Cambrian Wharf I feared I would make a fool of myself reversing into the finger pontoon moorings, fortunately the wind dropped long enough for me to make a fair fist of it and so after several long drinks and a sandwich I am collapsed in front of the computer anticipating a pint at The Flapper later and exploring Brum tomorrow.