Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fazeley to Birmingham

38 locks and about 16 miles since leaving Fazeley this morning we've arrived at Holliday Wharf in central Birmingham. As we set off I made the mistake of not being able to remember just how many locks there were. I must have mentioned the number 13 at one point because Jan was not pleased when she discovered that there were rather more than 13 locks to do! (I don't know what her beef was, as she did the steering, while I covered the ground between locks three times over on my bike - setting locks ahead and closing gates/paddles behind.

As we approached Curdworth Bottom Lock, the first lock of the day, a hire boat pulled out in front of us and proceeded up the flight very slowly. I ended up lock wheeling for them as well as us, to speed things up a bit! It was a very nice Swedish couple on board, but they seemed to have left any Swedish efficiency at home.

Just below Minworth Top Lock they stopped for water - hooray! - and readied the lock for us. We whizzed along to Salford Junction, took the second left to stay on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and soon entered the Aston flight.

This is a delightful lock flight, in a more industrial setting than the remote Curdworth Locks. The flight was well maintained with lots of engineering brick lock surrounds and freshly mown grass. And no other boats. Nearly all the locks were in our favour, but two separate ones were full for no reason that I could see. Compared with the earlier part of the day we flew up the Aston locks.

And then we came to the Farmer's Bridge flight. Every lock was against us, until we passed a boat coming down. But then they were against us again. We were obviously following another boat. We made short work of the flight, though, even if it was hard work (for me). Lock wheeling makes all the difference: we were averaging 12 locks per hour.

So we arrived at Farmer's Bridge Top Lock and Cambrian Wharf. The noise hit us. Saturday early evening revellers filled every bar's balcony. I stayed on the towpath scouting for a mooring while Jan steered left towards Gas Street Basin. She said that she couldn't hear what the engine was doing above the merrymaking. I found a space facing the Mailbox, but it was on an angled bit of towpath and we stuck out a bit. We decided to move round the corner to Holliday Wharf where, incidentally, it was a lot quieter if a little more breezy.

Our original plan was to have a barbecue, but the wind would have played havoc with outdoor cooking, and we were both ravenous. Jan grilled lamb steaks which we had with potatoes, broccoli and onions/mushrooms which went down a treat (as did my cold beer which I had been looking forward to for some time!)

The weather today has been very sunny and warm. I think my arms have got a little sunburnt.

Ally was at a friend's hen night in the Mailbox - she took a few minutes out to come to see us (all of 200 yards away) and showed a couple of friends round the boat. They made all the right "impressed" noises.

Again, apologies for the lack of photos in this post. No time! I'll make up for it soon.

And, yes, the engine started fine this morning, as I had predicted.


Anonymous said...

Please would you explain what you mean by lock wheeling.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you deserved that beer!

No Direction said...

So you almost had a mutiny on board when you reached the 14th lock.

Halfie said...

H.S., lock wheeling is using a bicycle to get ahead of the boat in order to prepare the next lock for the boat to enter with the minimum of delay. When I was lock wheeling yesterday I cycled on ahead, opened the bottom gate ready for Jan to go in, cycled back to the previous lock to open the top gate and lower the paddles, then shut the gate after Jan had exited; then cycled up to the next lock to close the bottom gate after Jan had entered; then drew the paddles to fill the lock; then cycled ahead to set the next lock - and so on. It's hot work in weather like this, but it's the quickest way to get through a flight.

Jim, I did!

Ray, it came close!