We actually traveled the length of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal over two days last week. We went up to Fazeley by car and into Birmingham by bus on Thursday evening. Getting off in Broad Street at dinner time meant an almost obligatory visit to Barajee, our favorite Brum curry house. We finished the meal this time! We then had an evening chat with our next door neighbours on NB Sola Gratia.
On Thursday morning we set off early, well before 10 o'clock! The Farmers Bridge Locks were the first flight we ever navigated back in 1999 and we have a special attraction to them. At lock 4 we were joined by a CRT Volunteer. He was helpful and gave me the opportunity of going ahead to open the next lock top gate. A CRT tug and hopper came up lock 6 and from then on all was set fair.
Aston locks were not such a smooth operation. At the first lock two CRT men were helping another boat up. It was in lock 2 so we had a bit of a wait. They were real black country folk. One had been an "Oss Boatman" and the other I describe as a black country comic. He had great wit. He quipped that we should have a fair flight until lock 9. Levels were a bit low there. Low!?! Sonflower bottomed in the lock. I refilled and floated her up again and rang CRT. The pound was long and water too low for navigation. I was not going to take responsibility for emptying the pound above to fill the pound below. The team who had been at lock 1 came down quite quickly and one went back up the flight to open paddles and one monitored what was happening below as they fed water through. It took about 90 minutes before he was satisfied that we had enough to get to lock 10. We had a great time with his black country conversation.
At lock 10 we found the problem! The top gate would not shut and the lock would not empty. I tried fishing with a boat hook but to no avail. I phoned CRT again and our comical friend appeared again, this time armed with a long rake. A lot of raking found the problem: a car silencer jammed against the seal. With this removed, normal operation was restored.
We had lost over two hours of boating. It was a nice day and we made good progress to the start of Minworth Locks. After this the canal cleans up a bit and we started to look for somewhere to moor for the night and to have dinner. We passed a few pubs on the waterside that looked as if they had seen better days. Traditional Inn means that no money has been spent on it for quite a few years in this part of the country.
On approaching the Cuttle Bridge (Wiggins Hill Bridge) we noticed that the Old Kingsley pub had been totally re-vamped and was now the Cuttle Inn and Hotel, with a nice looking outdoor seating and dining area. Why were there no other moorers here at 6pm on a Friday? I can't tell you. We had a very nice meal and good wine too. We also noted that they serve a buffet breakfast for £6.50 so we returned in the morning for that. The only downside is that the moorings are floodlit all night. Good for security and for reducing load on the leisure batteries. But next time I might move away for a bit of darkness.
So on Saturday morning we gently completed our passage of Curdworth locks. A sign here tells boaters that there is no longer rubbish disposal at the locks but at Bodymoor Heath. A sign at Bodymoor Heath yard says there is no longer rubbish disposal there but at Fazeley Junction. At Fazeley Mill Marina we stopped for water and here there was a sign telling us that there was no longer rubbish disposal at the Peel's Wharf but it was in the marina (on behalf of CRT). We disposed of our rubbish. We would have been miffed of we had gone on to the junction and found no rubbish disposal there either. No wonder the inhabitants of Birmingham use the canal rather than a bin.
So to Tolson's footbridge where we moored on piling clips.
15miles 38 locks 14hours
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