Saturday, 28 September 2013

Canal Flood Prevention - Saturday 28th September 2013

As we left this morning the sun began to burn off the mist and we soon had a lovely sunny day. Our first port of call was to moor just before the Curdworth Tunnel so that we could take the short walk to the village store and post office which opens at 8.00am on a Saturday to collect the weekend papers.
As we came out of the tunnel there is some timber shoring along the towpath bank to act as a Tunnel Waiting Area, on the southern side there are proper mooring Bollards.
Just after Curdworth Top Lock the canal goes under the M6 Toll road and then under Dunton Wharf Bridge over which we have travelled many times and always look down to the canal to see if there are any boats moving. The canal is very rural here and despite the noise from the M42 is very peaceful.
2 Dunton Wharf Bridge
Next came the Marston Farm Hotel followed by the Dog and Doublet where a grandmother and grand daughter had come to watch the boats. They loved watching us and then Autumn Years negotiate the lock and even helped with the lock gate.
3 Pubs
This unusual designed narrow boat was moored at the Dog and Doublet.
We decided to fill with water at the Bodymoor Heath services. They have recently been upgraded and were very good with two new water stanchions so that we could both fill up at the same time. We were slightly dismayed to read on a notice that the water stanchions were to be replaced by the new stainless steel variety due to the existing ones not complying with the latest regulations. This is regulation gone made, no wonder C&RT have not got any money to do the  essential maintenance work.
Having visited the Aston Villa Football Club Ground in Aston on Thursday we now passed their Training Ground in the distance and could see people training in the grounds.
At the Curdworth Bottom Lock there is the now defunct Kingsbury Swivel Bridge next to the top gates. The bottom gate was particularly heavy to open and close.
The Floods of 2007 meant that the bottom lock cottages were flooded and the flood water spilled over the earth embankment into the canal causing potential damage as far away as Fazeley. The Environment Agency are thus building a wall around the cottages to protect them from the rising water and this extends a short distance down the towpath. They have then built an earth embankment all the way to Fazely to stop the River Tame flooding the new housing developments there.
4 Flood barrier
The trees seem to be loaded with berries this year hopefully that does not signify that we are to have a hard winter.
The flood prevention work has meant that the Kingsbury Water Park cannot be accessed from Curdworth Bottom Lock to Fazeley until the construction work is finished and the only way in is to walk back up between locks 10 and 11 where there is access around the Caravan Park.
6 Water Park
I walked up the canal to the old Conveyor Bridge which is now being used for access of the plant and equipment the EA are using and the loads of earth necessary for the flood defences construction. The canal here is very pretty with nice stretches of reed and tree lined banks.
7 Canal

Friday, 27 September 2013

Farmers Flight - Friday 27th September 2013

This morning we made an early start as we had 26 locks and 8 miles to do get to a nice mooring just beyond Minworth. June was at the helm down the Farmers Flight as we locked down under tower blocks and offices.
Farmers flight
We soon reached Aston Junction where the Digbeth Branch goes off to the right to join the Grand Union just passed Typhoo Basin at Bordesley Junction. We however turned left and went down the Aston Flight of locks towards Cuckoo Wharf. At one point we had to help some contractors, who were replacing the electric cables which run below the towpath, to retrieve their plastic barriers and signs which had been thrown into the canal as they kept floating out of their reach.
2 Cuckoo Wharf
At Aston Bottom lock we passed close to Aston Hall which we visited yesterday but were too low down to be able to see it. Then the M6 came into view at Salford Junction  where the canal goes over the River Tame and under the motorway. We turned right immediately passing the start of the Grand Union where in meets the Birmingham and Fazeley.3 M6 Junction
The canal then takes you under a factory built over the canal at Troutpool Bridge with the one side of the tunnel like feature open to the green shrubbery.
4 Factory bridge
Although we are travelling next to industrial and commercial areas the canal still has the feel and appearance of being in a rural area and passes directly under the flight path of planes landing at Birmingham Airport.
5 Flight path
We met our first boats of the day just passed Bromford, an old boat being towed and later another working boat on its way to the Dudley gathering.
6 Tow
A little later, on this long pound we passed the new Ambulance Depot, a raft made up plastic barrels and a heron who would not move as we passed.
7 Interesting sights
The three Minworth locks all have handcuffed paddles top and bottom and we had to explain to a hire boat crew who we met at the last lock how to operate them. The bridge adjacent to the Boat Inn has lovely plants and flowers in pots underneath it on the off side.
8 Minworth
We moored up for the day near to the Wiggins Hill Bridge with lovely views across the open countryside and later we spotted this chap set up a hide and lewers for pigeons and then he proceeded to shoot them all afternoon. He seemed to bag quite a few as can be seen on one of his collection runs.
9 Pigeon Shoot
Neil popped in on his way home from work near Minworth and stayed for dinner. As we drank our after dinner coffee we watched the sun go down and a lovely red sky appear.
9a Sunset

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hidden Gem of Birmingham – Thursday 26th September 2013

This morning we set off for Aston Hall walking to Livery Street next to Snow Hill Station to catch the No. 7 bus to the Trinity Road/ Witton Lane bus stop. The buses run every 10 minutes and it is about a 15 minute ride. We walked down Trinity Road to the Aston Villa Football Ground which has at its entrance a statue of William McGregor who founded the Football league in 1888. I would think that the ground is unique in that one of the stands is actually built across Trinity Road.
Aston Villa
We walked up the hill opposite through the park which was once part of the grounds of the estate and came to the very impressive Aston Hall. Either side of the central clock tower is an exact copy of the other and inside a model is set up with a mirror so that you can see how accurate it is.
Sir Thomas Holte enclosed Aston Park around 1620, consisting of approximately 300 acres of woods and scrub land mainly to be used for deer hunting. The house was started in 1618 and he took up residence in 1634. It was built to show off his great wealth. After a loss of fortune the house had to be sold some 200 years later and was leased by James Watt Junior. During his time here he even had a road specially built to take him to the works in Soho.
When he died in 1848 the house was offered to Birmingham Corporation but they were unwilling to buy it so portions of the 300 acres were sold off for housing development. Later in 1864 the Corporation eventually bought the house with 43 acres of parkland. The northern part was made into pleasure gardens and a fairground in 1873 and towards the end of the century was taken over by Aston Villa Football Club.
The house and immediate grounds have been looked after by the Corporation and it is a tribute to them how good they are today. Below are a few examples of the rooms open to the public.
Aston Hall Rooms
Here is the Butlers room on the left and the maids quarters in the attic on the right. What a difference position made.
Butlers and servants Rooms
In the kitchen is the usual work tables and a fire place with spit which is turned by a gear mechanism driven from a fan in the chimney.
I have included these pictures to show how the newel post on the stairs was splintered when hit by a canon ball during the Civil War and a sedan chair used in the early days.
Staairs and Sedan
Overall it was an excellent visit and worth while taking time to travel out the short distance from the centre and the £3 entrance fee.
The night brings the new Library to life adding anew dimension to the area. Here on the left is the front view, on the right it is looking at the Symphony Hall and Rep with the star lights under the Library canopy. Below are the rear views of the library.

1 Library at night
There were some very late travellers up the Farmers flight tonight with the last arriving in the dark at 9.00 pm. Fortunately the lights in Cambrian Wharf and around onto the main line helped him find a mooring.
2 Late night arrival

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

City of Flowers - Wednesday 25th September 2013

I must say that Birmingham has really made an effort with its floral decorations. They line bridges, lamp posts, traffic islands, streets and entrances to gardens making a wonderfully colourful city. Here are just a few examples.
In the grounds of the Cathedral there is a floral tribute to the Lunar Society. The Society was a dinner club and informal learned society of prominent figures in the Midlands Enlightenment, including industrialists, natural philosophers and intellectuals, who met regularly between 1765 and 1813 in Birmingham. At first called the Lunar Circle, "Lunar Society" became the formal name by 1775. The name arose because the society would meet during the full moon, as the extra light made the journey home easier and safer in the absence of street lighting. .
We are moored just behind the new Library in Cambrian Wharf which is also at the top of the Farmers Flight of Locks and opposite the C&RT offices.
The three striking buildings of different ages. In the distance, Baskerville House built in 1936, in the foreground the Repertory Theatre built in 1971 and the new Library opened in 2013 whilst they are all different architecture they some how manage to compliment one another.
On the other side of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal is Brindley Place with is water feature and central cafe.
This morning we took the Metro tram to the Jewellery Quarter to visit the Jewellery Museum as June had never been there. For more than 80 years Smith and Pepper produced jewellery from this workshop, which was founded in 1899. It closed down in 1981 and was found 9 years later just as it was left when it closed. It looked as though they had just walked out for the night and left paperwork on the desk and tools on the benches.
Even the electric fire with the multi plugs in one socket were left in place. Any company doing this today would be shot.Image0577
In the workshop there were 1000’s of dies and tools for stamping out the bracelets and jewellery they made.
Equip 1
Even the Jewellers work bench where 7 men worked was left in tact.
Jewellers bench
These Drop Stamping presses were used by one man lifting heavy weights by rope to let them drop and stamp the gold until the owners mechanised them with an overhead belt drive.
The polishing machines were operated by women and the air and gold burnishing were sucked down into the basement where the gold was filtered and recovered.  Gold was too expensive to let any go to waste. Male workers were not allowed to have turn ups or wear Brillcream to avoid any gold being taken out of the premises.
The guided tour lasted an hour and we spent another 45 minutes exploring the galleries on the 1st and 2nd floors.
The bull in the Bull Ring Centre is celebrating its 10th Birthday and has been given a special bow.
Today is the day when the Canal Floating Market Boats are arriving and by this evening most of them had arrived with products ranging from rope fenders to decorative canal art items.IMG_3978
Even the Hotel Boats, Snipe and Taurus had come into town so everywhere is getting busy for the weekend, lets hope the weather remains dry for them.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Birmingham here we come– Tuesday 24th September 2013

This morning we had a leisurely start and filled up with water at thetwo fast taps outside the Canal Cottage which seems to be taking an age to renovate but is now starting to look quite good.
1 Canal Cottage
We filled up with diesel at Lyons Boatyard and had a pump out having to queue to get served as there was a boat already on the service point. Diesel was 96p/ltr. self declare and the pump out was £15. We tried to moor opposite the boatyard whilst we waited for Autumn Years to be serviced but the canal was too shallow to get into the bank. So we gently motored on through the Brandwood Tunnel and waited at the junction for the to catch us up.
2 Brandwood Tunnel
To reach the Junction with the Birmingham Worcester Canal it is necessary to go through the King’s Norton Stop Lock which is unusual in having two wooden guillotine gates at either end. It was recently restored but has already been vandalised which is a great pity and reflects badly on the area it is in.
4 Guilletine Lock
The junction is quite wide and the signpost gives the distances to Worcester, Birmingham, Stratford, and Warwick, all requiring a lot of locking.
5 Kings Norton Junction
On the wall of the old Toll House opposite the Junction is a list of Mileages and Tolls to be paid per mile, eg Lime was 1/2d per mile per Ton.
6 Junction Tolls
The next stretch of canal is blighted by the graffiti artists work along great lengths of wall, but there are some lovely areas such as this winding hole and Bournville Garden Village and Cadbury’s Factory.
7 Bournevullie
What a place to sit whilst on the phone, it looks as though Carolann is doing something else.
7a On the phone
At Selly Oak is the filled in entrance to the old Lapal or Dudley No.2 Canal. The Restoration Group are having a few problems with Sainsbury’s who are developing the Battery Park site and seem reluctant to make suitable provision for the canal to be restored through the area.
9a Lapal Junction
Soon the Old and new buildings of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital come into view. This is famous for treating our wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and has a wonderful reputation as a hospital.
8 QE Hospitals
Almost opposite is the campus of Birmingham University with it famous Clock Tower and moored outside is Nb Ross Barlow. This is a unique boat in that it is Hydrogen powered.
9 Bhaam Uni and boat
The railway line follows the canal to the Edgbaston Tunnel where the two separate to reach the city centre. It is quite a busy line with expresses and commuter trains whizzing by.
9b Edgebaston tunnel
On route we passed the C&RT Dredger fishing out all sorts of materials including bicycles and shopping trolleys and the even lamp posts. On the other hand we passed Nb Vistoria with a party enjoying the sunshine and a picnic lunch on board.
9c Dredger and victoria
Soon the well known land mark of the Post Office Tower (or BT Tower as they like to call) it came into view followed by the Cube and Mailbox before we turned sharp left into Gas Street basin and another Stop Lock which divided the BCN from the Birmingham and Worcester Canal
9d Gas street basin
To get out of Gas Street the canal goes under Broad Street which now with Brindley Place is the hub of Birmingham’s night life. The Symphony Hall is on the right and ahead lies the NIA which appears to under going some major structural changes.
A Floating market is due to take place on Saturday and Sunday and much of the Oozell Loop and the Main Line had notices stating that the Trading boats would be arriving tomorrow and therefore we would be restricted to only one nights mooring. In fairness the Organiser was very helpful and said we would be able to breast up with any of the trading boats if we wished to stay longer.
We moored up on the main line for the night and went off to explore Birmingham’s new Library and Repertory Theatre. I was a bit sceptical at the city spending some £189m on the project but having made the visit I think it will be a major tourist attraction for the city as well as providing it with a superb library embracing both hard copy and digital media. Here are some views of the library and views of the city from its two viewing level gardens. Our boats could clearly be seen on the main line as well as those moored in Cambrian Wharf.
9f Library views
Some more views of the below ground Amphitheatre, the roof top gardens with herbs and fruit trees growing as well as the golden statues of famous city fathers Bolton, Watt, and Murdoch.
9g library views
In the Golden Cylinder on the top of the Library is housed the Shakespeare Memorial Room which was created in 1882 as a Shakespeare Library and was saved when the old library was demolished in 1979. It has been  rebuilt like a giant jigsaw and is a delightful place to visit. Down in the Amphitheatre are some fabulous acoustic chairs which we could not resist trying out. They certainly work and will enable people to read quietly whilst enjoying the sun which streams into this sunken area.
9h Shakespear room and aucustic chairs

9K library details
After our visit we had a coffee in the cafe on the ground floor and like the rest of the Library is designed on an eco friendly basis. They even have wooden spoons as they don’t have to waste energy on putting through a dish washer and they are resourced from renewable sources.
On our way back to the boats we walked by Cambrian Wharf and noticed that there were 2 spaces still available. A quick chat to one of the residents confirmed this and we were off to fetch the boats and moor up in the wharf where we could remain for up to 14 days, so we would not have to move again until we wished to leave Birmingham.