After a good night’s rest we were raring to go by 9.30 so it was just a couple of miles to Minworth Locks passing the empty Cincinnati works en route (those of an engineering inclination will recognise the name of a once world famous machine tool manufacturer) the locks passed uneventfully except that we picked up an old coat on the prop at the top lock which necessitated opening the weed hatch to remove it. As I went to dispose of it at the rubbish skip I fell into conversation with a gent attired in dressing gown & slippers who told me that he used to work for British Waterways and once looked after this stretch and would have been “Bloody ashamed” for it to be in this state!
Another couple of miles on and we were at Factory Tunnel where it’s not so much a tunnel but part of a factory built over the canal. This was apparently once the Birlec Electric Furnace Works. Emerging from this Stygian gloom we approached Salford Junction (South) under ‘Spaghetti Junction’ where we took a dogleg turn to the left onto the Grand Union Canal (Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal) and took the opportunity of a lunch break at The Harvester at Star City which has free, secure 24 hour pontoon moorings for canal visitors. It was a surprisingly good meal at a very reasonable cost, but don’t expect real ale with your meal, in fact don’t expect anything but lager. I opted for soda and lime as it has more flavour!
To stay or to carry on through the next 25 locks into Birmingham? We carried on, past heavy canal-side industry, scrap metal mostly. Our introduction to Garrison Locks was not auspicious, as the lock cottage looked as if had suffered an arson attack as there were remains of burnt tyres which had even charred the lock beam.
All went reasonably well except that we were following a hire boat which meant all the locks were against us, except one (were they being kind to us???) however we paid the price as the pound above was so low we were ‘on the bottom’ and I had to let a couple of lockfuls of water down to float us again. Surprise, surprise another trip down the weed hatch to remove rubbish!
The area from the top of the locks has had some regeneration, Bordesley Village I believe. Right at Bordesley Junction, past Warwick Bar and right again at Proof House Junction and onto the Birmingham Canal Navigations (Birmingham and Fazeley Canal – Digbeth Branch) and Ashted Locks, looking behind us there was the once famous Typhoo Basin (Yes, of tea fame!).
The first of Ashted Locks has a huge building project going on next to it, as does most of the area, however lock 2 presented a puzzle, something seemed to be blocking the gate, investigation found a large floating work-platform in the way, which I dragged back to the lock moorings. We developed a strategy of working the locks, bring the boat in and whilst leaving that one filling prepare the next lock to go straight into. This was successful especially as there were no other boats about. Before the last lock is Ashted Tunnel, boy is that tight! I expected us to scrape the cabin sides but they seem to be unscathed.
Onwards to Aston Junction and the final stretch, just another 13 locks to go. People often comment about unsociable behaviour from young people along the canal and at the bottom lock I felt I had walked into an American B movie, there were two lads and a girl sat on the lock beam swigging wine from a bottle inside a paper bag. However the older chap told me how he used to walk miles along the canal as a kid and offered to demonstrate how he could leap across a lock, I declined his offer advising him that it’s safer to do it when they are full and the girl was keen to attempt to open the lock gate for us, although I did have to explain it’s generally easier when the water level is the same both sides! As they left she wished me a ‘Nice romantic trip with the missus’ and waved us off. You never can tell!
We continued our ascent of the locks using our previous method marvelling at how the office blocks had been built around the locks incorporating the pounds actually underneath the buildings and still providing passing places at most locks, not to mention some interesting decoration of one block of flats.
At the second lock from the top I found another group of lads, one of whom was practicing what I now assume to be the West Midlands favourite sport of lock leaping, he cleared the lock beautifully but stepped back in triumph, up to his knees in the fortunately silted up and reed filled side pond. His mates were on the floor creased up with laughter and when asked, regretted that they hadn’t had their phones ready for the photo opportunity.
Eventually, just before 8pm we emerged triumphant at the top lock, unsurprisingly Cambrian Wharf moorings were full, but another boater kindly directed us to a mooring just tucked beside the Sea Life Centre. This kindly gesture was a two edged sword because we found it was next to Sea Life’s air-conditioning plant and the noisiest footbridge in Birmingham.
We should have slept the sleep of the just but at 1am we heard running water from the footbridge, was someone taking a leak? Well if they were they must have had a prodigious capacity, so peeping out from behind the curtains we found the flowers planters on the bridge being watered by night staff, as if that wasn’t enough, a black cat tried to come through the cat flap and was seen off by Jadey, and it sounded like someone giving a ‘call to prayer’ at some other unearthly hour! We seriously considered forgoing our planned day off and heading back to the country!!!