Over the past couple of weeks we’ve bimbled back up the Stratford Canal in glorious weather stopping at Edstone, Preston Baggot, and Lowsonford. Sue & Dave came to be crew for a weekend
Gorgeous isn’t it?
We climbed up the 6 locks to Lapworth on the Saturday, then on Sunday we attacked the rest of 26 that make up the Lapworth flight. Almost as soon as we got going we caught up with NB Atlantic, single handed by Nick, who very kindly offered to pull over and let us go up in front. In return for the favour, when Karen, Andrew and the kids turned up, giving us a crew of 8, we sent a windlass wielding detachment back to lend a hand. Nice bloke, nice boat, nice dog, and another waterborne friend. Of course with this much crew there was lashings of tea and cake to provide sustenance throughout the day and Ann-Marie got to test her new 2 tier cake stand. At the top of the flight the Stratford attains the “Birmingham Level” of 453’ above sea level.
Back on our own again the following day, we drove from Hockley Heath into Birmingham to recce mooring/parking for the next couple of weeks - Tipton Green looks favourite for the most part; really good chip shop - and then went to have a look at Hawne Basin where Legend is being pulled out for blacking. We followed the sat-nav to the postcode, only to hear, at the end of a road in an industrial estate in Halesowen, those dreaded words “You have reached your destination.” when we quite clearly hadn’t. Big industrial units all around us, no sign of a bit of old rope, never mind a boat yard. We sat in the car for a while, pouring over the big OS map, then decided to turn round and have another go from a different direction. As we moved forward a set of gates appeared from behind a bush with “Coombswood Canal Trust. Visitors welcome.” written on it. Doh! We explained who we were to a very nice chap on the other side who opened up for us to drive in. Not for the first time we felt as if we’d passed through the back of the wardrobe; old canal places have that effect. One minute you’re in the harsh, fast, uncaring 21st century, the next you’re in this cosy, friendly haven. The bloke who runs the slipway was more than helpful and we now know exactly what’s going to happen when we turn up. It’s nice to know that plans you’ve made are going to come together.
The next morning, despite dire warnings and drizzle, and dressed up like Nanook of the North, Dave chose to crack on towards Kings Norton. He gave up half way at Shirley drawbridge. The inside of a Narrowboat feels even more warm and snug when you’re hugging a hot chocolate with your feet in warm slippers after standing on the back for 2 hours in the snow. Even when a plan doesn’t come together it’s still not the end of the world.
We left it till after the rush hour had calmed down the next morning, then did a beautifully co-ordinated pass through the drawbridge
In the morning, with our Easter Bunting flying in the wind, painted eggs and paper chains in the windows and tummies full of Hot Cross Buns, we turned right at Kings Norton Junction onto the Worcester & Birmingham.
In the evening we went for a walk down Farmers Bridge Locks. The feeling you get walking down the towpath at the side of them at night is both exciting and scary; they go right underneath a high-rise block and Snow Hill railway station, and again belong to another world.
We are incredibly impressed with Birmingham. The moorings are well kept and tidy, the service blocks are clean and functional, everything is really well signed and we feel totally safe here. We have no doubt that it’s not like it was in the old days - nothing ever is. Dave remembers coming here 20-odd years ago when the only way to get into Gas Street Basin was down these stairs