It was one of those wonderfully crisp and sunny mornings as we headed south past the University hall and campus where I was an undergrad so many years ago. Over a new aqueduct over a new dual carriageway road past Selly Oak and Bourneville, once a proud centre for chocolate manufacture, now a theme park. Gliding easily across an ebony marble surface. Why the water here has a blackened glassy look to it I do not really know. We used to call it a "smelly ditch" but now, with a re-furbished cycleway on the towpath it is a delightful cruising waterway.
So to the tightest of turns under the King's Norton junction footbridge to join the Stratford canal with its guillotine gated stop lock that would no longer stop anything judging by the gaps between the planks of the guillotines. After Brandwood Tunnel we had a brief stop to pump out, fill with diesel and buy a pair of cornettos. After Lyons Boatyard the canal is a winding delight. Often wooded on both sides and overhead the sunlight splashes through the leafy arch to dapple the mirror surface of the canal and the path beside it. An occasional leaf fell to make wavy circles in the way ahead. Three herons and two kingfishers were seen here too. There are many new waterside developments to accommodate an expanding population on the leafy edge of the Birmingham Solihull conurbation. One has a stairway waterfall which stops just short of the canalside on a mock wharfe. No boats would be allowed to moor there.
We continued apace with no time to stop at Wedge's Bakery and only a following timeshare nb Steelaway for company. They were not in quite sight when we had to close the Shirley Swing bridge to let the traffic flow again but we held the next lift bridge open for them. The Best Mate dawdled on to make sure they could not pass while I lowered it again as we did not want to lose any benefit of any locks that were set for us! We needn't have worried as they winded before the second and last lift bridge before the locks.
And anyway locks 2 and 3 were set against us so had to be filled. However, locks 4 and 5 were full and from then on we were on a good road. How that happened we were not sure but next to the Lapworth cricket field we saw three CRT blue shirts get into their lorry and scoot away. maybe they had been playing with the levels:we will never know.
|Shadows lengthen as sun sinks|
We left the 20 locks behind as the sun dipped below the hedgerows and we headed out into the Birmingham and Warwick canal, turning south toward Warwick. It got darker and darker until we entered Shrewley Tunnel. When I left it the light didn't get much brighter so I pulled over and we moored on the rings. We were short of our target and a long way short of Warwick Parkway station. We had moored here before and we knew the way up over the tunnel to Shrewley Common where there is a Post Office. I did not notice the 48hour restriction until I lit up the post with my torch. Oops! Near the PO, a kind gentleman suggested that we walk to the Durham Ox to ask after a taxi. This we did and were soon provided with the taxi company's number and a cab was in its way.
The driver suggested that he could take us home for not much more than the train fare so we accepted his offer and were home, exhausted but glad to get home before the train would have left Warwick Parkway.
Now all we need to do is find a time to move the boat the remaining distance to the top of Hatton locks.
Cambrian Wharf to Shrewley Tunnel SE portal:
22.5 miles, 20 locks. 3 moveable bridges, 3 tunnels 12.1/2 hours