Tuesday 31 May 2011

Motorbikes on the towpath

On the last stretch of the Tame Valley Canal, between Rushall Junction and Tame Valley (or Doe Bank) Junction we began to see motorbikes being illegally ridden along the towpath.

And we heard them during the night, when we were moored in the Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch.

Monday 30 May 2011

On the straight and narrow

It wasn't just the Romans who built communication links in straight lines! Here's Jan steering along the Tame Valley Canal on 6th April 2011. I'm using flash to light her face against the bright background.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Shoring up the sandstone on the Tame Valley Canal

I wonder when it was decided to insert columns of brick to prevent the natural sandstone sides of the cutting from collapsing.

Some today news now: We're joining my brother for a few days on Shadow, joining the boat at Crick on Monday. If anyone's still at the Crick Show on Monday afternoon we might see you there...

Saturday 28 May 2011

Wild flowers and horses

Today we walked with our walking group from Shotesham to Tasburgh along Boudica's Way in Norfolk. I promised to put some of my photos on this blog, so here they are.

We had gone less than a mile when we came upon this amazing wildflower meadow.

No-one knew what the yellow flower was...

... but the orchid was easier to identify.

The ruins of St. Mary's Church near Saxlingham Nethergate provided a photo opportunity.

I put the camera on self-timer so I could get in the photo below - you can tell me by my hat. And no, I'm not the one on the left of the picture.

The poppies are out - this one has a cross in it.

A rather less than useful sign stood at a track crossing ...

... especially as there was some discussion as to the correct route to take.

Towards the end of the 7.1 mile walk we passed through the Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which claims to be the largest horse sanctuary in the UK, "caring for over 1,100 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules every day". It certainly covers a vast area, with neat, well-maintained fencing and neat, well-maintained horses.

Or so they seemed to me.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Perry Barr Gauging Weir House

I always try to use the showers provided at certain places on the canal system, and I did so at the facilities at Perry Barr Top Lock.

I see I've managed to include the Gauging Weir House in the photo. I wonder if this is connected to the Grid House at the bottom of the flight.

I did enjoy this flight of locks, partly, I think, because we had it to ourselves. Oh, there were a few dog walkers, but no other boats. And all the locks were in our favour!

Mystery photo - revealed in full

I have enjoyed reading your guesses. Now I shall put you out of your misery.

Neil of Herbie, you were indeed very warm with your attempt on day one, but Andy, aka Captain Ahab, you nailed it. It is the pattern made in the grease on the rack while it is being wound up.

The offset teeth on the rack make it rock slightly from side to side as the pinion rotates; a wheel on the other side to the teeth presses into the rack to keep it in position - the zigzag line is the result.

It seemed to me to be especially clear on the Perry Barr locks on the Tame Valley Canal, which is where I took the photo. You should be able to make out the curved top of the lock ladder, and the bollard, of course.


Today in Norfolk it RAINED! A proper heavy shower. I know, because I cycled home through it. At least I won't have to water the vegetables this evening - the first time for weeks, two months, perhaps.

Edited to add: Sorry, Andy, there's no physical prize, only the satisfaction of being the first to get it!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Mystery photo - more revealed

As promised, here is a little more of the photograph revealed. There have been some interesting guesses - I wonder if this will help. In case you missed yesterday's post, this is something I saw on the Tame Valley Canal recently.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Mystery photo - can you tell what it is?

The only clue I'll give (at this stage) is that I saw it on the Tame Valley Canal. Tomorrow I'll reveal a little more. Make your guesses via the comments!

Top Thirty, 2011 Week 21

After a break of a couple of weeks (the site was giving Tony problems) here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1200 on Tuesday 24th May 2011. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

Movements are relative to the way things stood on 8th May 2011.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Pennine Waterways (=)

5 JustCanals.com - Forums (=)

6 CanalCuttings.co.uk (=)

7 Granny Buttons (=)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Water Explorer (+9)

10 Towpath Treks (-1)

11 ExOwnerships (+1)

12 Google Earth Canal Maps (+8)

13 UKCanals Network (+1)

14 Waterway Routes (-4)

15 boatshare (-2)

16 Canal Shop Company (-5)

17 nb Epiphany (+4)

18 Jannock Website (-3)

19 Trafalgar Marine Services (=)

20 Derwent6 (+5)

21 Narrowboat.co.uk (=)

22 Seyella's Journey (+8)

23 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-1)

24 Contented Souls (-)

25 Narrowboat Bones (-2)

26 nb Lucky Duck (-2)

27 CanalBoatingHolidays (-)

28 nb Piston Broke (-)

29 boats and cruising (-)

30 Warwickshire Fly Boat Company (-2)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the top thirty; (=) denotes no change.

Halfie is at number 32.

There are 127 entries altogether (on 8th May there were 151). One popular site, Takey Tezey, at number 17 two weeks ago, has disappeared altogether from the rankings.

Monday 23 May 2011

Invasion of the baby spiders

If you're squeamish about eight-legged crawly things then you probably won't have clicked on the link. For everyone else, this is what Jan suddenly noticed in our sitting room yesterday evening.

Hundreds - well, dozens - of baby spiders, which looked like black specks until I used a magnifying glass, were on a web we'd not noticed before. They were mostly motionless, but some of them ran around a bit when I got a bit close with my camera.

The flash has revealed them to be not black at all. As soon as I'd got a photo or two we vacuumed them up, and then I put the vacuum cleaner in the conservatory. Oh dear - did they crawl out in the night?

But where did they - or their parents - come from? I suspect the logs for the woodburner.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Perry Barr Locks and Grid House

We were now on new waters, as we hadn't done the Tame Valley Canal before. In less than two miles from Salford Junction we arrived at the bottom of the Perry Barr lock flight. Here was a curious roofless brick building bearing the name Grid House (on the left in the top photo). Any ideas as to what it was for?

Photographer Keith Berry doesn't know either, and he appears to doubt its existence.

Friday 20 May 2011

DC Michael Swindells

Just past Salford Junction on the Tame Valley Canal is a memorial on the towpath to an officer of the West Midlands Police. The inscription reads "Here fell DC Michael Swindells 21 May 2004". The name was vaguely familiar, but I had to look it up. The Police Roll of Honour Trust website has some photos from the unveiling ceremony in 2008 and a brief explanation: he was stabbed to death attempting to arrest a violent suspect armed with a knife.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Salford Junction

We approached Salford Junction along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal from the east. It looks as though the canal continues straight on, with two other canals joining from the south, but if we had wanted to stay on the B&F we'd have had to turn left at the second canal. As it was, we needed to take the Tame Valley Canal, so we kept straight on.

This junction is famously under the M6 and its Spaghetti Junction. Despite the concrete jungle in the sky there is a surprising amount of greenery down here. Just before the junction were these two fishermen. Did they come here for a bit of peace and quiet?

The first canal on the left (at Salford Junction South) is the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal, aka the Grand Union.

The contrast between the cast iron towpath bridge and the precast concrete slab carrying the motorway is stark. It must have been an interesting problem for the motorway builders to preserve the canal and, presumably, not hinder traffic on it. Now the later bridge provides a canopy for the graffiti mongers as they carry out their clandestine spraying.

Between Salford Junction South and Salford Junction North is a signpost. It appears that some misguided person had the distances cast in kilometres. Now numbers have been stuck over the top, covering the "k" (in most instances), to make the sign read in miles.

Then comes the B&F (Digbeth Branch), with the site of Nechells Shallow Lock just the other side of the bridge.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Erdington warehouse

At least, I assume it's a warehouse. It straddles the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal between Erdington Hall Bridge and Troutpool Bridge, but I can't remember seeing how or where boats would have loaded/unloaded underneath.

The supporting concrete columns on the south side are squarer versions of what we'd see a little further along - pillars holding up motorways.

It was underneath here, in the relative gloom, that we met the only other boat on the move today (6th April 2011).

Tuesday 17 May 2011

The Drome Café keeps me going

According to Nicholson's entry for Minworth on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal reads as follows:

Minworth Warwicks. PO, tel, stores. A mainly residential area on the city outskirts, totally dominated by roads. There is a handy transport café close to Hansons Bridge.

Handy transport café, eh? We were passing mid-morning on 6th April. Well, I say "passing", but I had to stop to check out the breakfast situation.

The Drome Café unusually combines a standard transport caff with a fried chicken takeaway. At 1015 it was almost empty, the regulars, no doubt, having filled their stomachs hours earlier.

Two great things about a fry-up breakfast are that it's rare to get a duff one as the important bits are cooked to order (bacon, eggs, mushrooms, sausages, toast or fried bread - the baked beans can be kept warm, I suppose); and it's usually very quick. We were on our way again only half-an-hour after stopping (Jan declining the opportunity to stoke up).

Monday 16 May 2011


Immediately to the west of Wiggins Hill Bridge on the Birmingham and Fazeley is a very strange wharf.

The first thing you notice is the array of what looks like six vertically mounted cannon.

Are these mooring bollards? And for what craft? The wharf is barely long enough for a single narrowboat, so why all the mooring rings and cross-channel ferry bollards?

Sunday 15 May 2011

Curdworth it, and Brahms (but no Liszt)

Continuing south along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal on 5th April we ascended the Curdworth locks (this is Curdworth Shop Lock and Marston Lane Bridge) ...

... through the Curdworth Tunnel ...

... to tie up just beyond. Convenient for the White Horse, where we ate (gammon, egg and chips for me; Hunter's Chicken for Jan). I had a pint of very tasty Ubu.

The next morning I walked round the village and saw this lovely old timber and brick barn.

And here's the church.


Fast forward to yesterday: we both sang in Brahm's Requiem in a concert at the parish church. It was a challenging work, especially for our smallish choir (27 singers), but I think we got away with it. We were very fortunate to have David Dunnett, the organist of Norwich Cathedral, to accompany us, together with two fine soloists: soprano June Harrison and baritone Ed Ballard. Neil Ricketts conducted.

I took the photo on a 10 second delay - I just had enough time to get to my position in the basses (back row on the left).

edited to correct a spelling

Saturday 14 May 2011

A tame aqueduct in Tamworth

No, sorry, that should read "A Tame aqueduct". We crossed the Tame Aqueduct on the Coventry Canal on April 5th. Shortly afterwards we turned left onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

The junction is dominated by Fazeley Mill, which is, I believe, being converted into flats.

Opposite the mill is this old chapel.

Then we tied up alongside Kew to visit David and Mary. Mary had baked us some delicious flapjacks, which were still warm when they came aboard for a coffee. It was good at last to be able to invite them on board after so often having been guests on Kew.