Wednesday 28th September; Curdworth to Perry Barr top lock
I let Meg out first thing this morning (well, before 8) and there was the sun gloriously illuminating a great flock of swallows feeding over the stubble. Such a shame they don’t show up on the picture!
I haven’t seen a swallow for days. This must have been a northern group making their way down to Africa.
There was a bit of a pong from the sewage works this morning but nothing too dreadful. Even so we were on our way before 9. We stopped at Dickens’ Bridge to make a trolley trip to the big Asda. The roundabout you have to negotiate to get there is truly horrible; as well as us with a laden trolley there was a young mum with a buggy trying to get across the traffic. Not good.
We were behind a boat at the bottom of the Minworth locks, then a couple of CRT men were working at the second and kindly did most of the work for us.
We had anticipated being able to empty cassettes and get rid of rubbish at Minworth top lock, but the Elsan was out of order and the rubbish skip was gone. The boat we crossed with here was the last one we saw all day. We moored on the bollards at Butler’s Bridge for some lunch; we wouldn’t want to spend the night here though. On our way to Salford Junction we went through what appears to be a tunnel at first glance …
but the canal actually runs underneath a factory and is open on one side. But you don’t want to get too close to either side where strange things stick out of the water in the darkness.
Straight after this is the romantically named Troutpool bridge. Not romantic in the slightest, though as the river Tame runs not far away there must once have been some trout somewhere.
Soon we were on the delightful approach to Salford Junction. Beyond the electrical whatnots is the M6, and behind that is Star City which is on the Grand Union Canal which starts here, on its way up to Bordesley Junction.
You can’t see much at the junction apart from a load of concrete and this signpost. Oh, and some water.
We didn’t go to Bordesley or take the next turn towards the Aston locks (which I think is still the Birmingham and Fazeley, though I am not sure about that). Instead we continued onto the Tame Valley canal, new waters for us. Exciting - especially when all of a sudden, under the M6, a tropical vision appeared!
It was just under one of the openings in the M6 structure so had light streaming onto it, yet also managed to appear backlit. A stroke of genius by whoever painted it.
Back to reality and Spaghetti Junction. I do admire the folk who design these complicated motorway interchanges. As Dave said, you can’t just pick up those massive pillars and move them if you discover you’ve put one in the wrong place.
You can’t appreciate the complexity of the structure in a photo. We just gaped at it. Then suddenly we realised that Perry Barr bottom lock was beckoning, away in the green and sunny distance.
The sun had come out while we were in the canyons of the M6. To start with the locks were empty so we made speedy progress. We half expected that as we had met a boat at one of the Minworth locks who had come down this morning. We even had gongoozlers at the first three and some help with the gates too. There is a fair bit of industry and the M6 crosses the canal twice, but after a while it gets quieter. At lock 7 the rest of the locks are close together and are very attractive.
The towpath runs on both sides which is convenient for the crew. So when I realised that the pound between locks 6 and 5 was rather low – in fact empty – I didn’t have to cross lock gates to go back and forth letting water down.
The picture doesn't show it too well, but the main channel on the left is only about 3 inches deep, and the weeds on the right of the picture were sitting proud of the mud. It only took 2 lockfuls of water for Dave to get going again, but that meant the next pound was low …. I called CRT, even though we were getting up ok, as there was nothing to indicate why the pound had drained.
We made it to the top in about 3 hours, about half an hour longer than it should have taken. We stopped at the facilities block for the full works. While the water was filling I snapped this heron at the top lock.
There was a building with a strange sign on – ‘Caucing Weir House’. It was only later I realised it was actually the Gauging Weir House which would have been to do with assessing the laden weight of boats carrying cargo to calculate the toll due. But I don’t know where the ‘weir’ bit comes in.
We moored on the offside a little way past the top lock. The main Walsall road runs over the bridge but the mooring was very quiet, and being on the offside we could let Meg wander about without endangering her or indeed the cyclists and runners. We have some new mooring pin markers; one is a lurid yellow drinks bottle, which I retrieved from the Erewash canal on our last trip. I cut a slot in the side, as I had seen done by another boater a while ago. As well as that, I had an old reflective armband which I cut into two (one for each end of the boat) and sewed on press studs for easy fitting.
Later Dave took Meg off for a walk to hunt for the ball she had lost earlier this afternoon. He found it, but in her eagerness to get back to playing with it Meg missed her footing while crossing the top lock and made a spectacular back-flip dive into the canal. It didn’t seem to upset her though.
We had to spend a bit of time this evening adjusting our planned route; somehow I had missed the stoppage alert regarding the closure of the Rushall canal, where new gates are being fitted to some of the locks. So it looks like Birmingham tomorrow rather than Anglesea basin! Lets hope the doom-monger we met yesterday who decided to avoid the city centre was wrong – she reckoned there was ‘no mooring’ because of the Tory conference. The CRT alert says only 6 mooring spots are affected.
8 miles, 16 locks