Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Left Brum and locked out!

We have enjoyed our sojourn in Brum.  Another clean and tidy city centre with a vibrant cosmopolitan feel.  The whole environment feels and looks so clean and nonthreatening.  Manchester could do with learning a few lessons from both here and Liverpool. 

Anyway.  Up and off by 0825.  First priority was to water up at the excellent services above Farmers Bridge locks at Cambrian Wharf, very slowly though due to the water pressure.  Then we started down the thirteen locks which make up this flight of narrow locks.  We developed a system.  Ali opened the gates then made for the next lock to prepare it.  I motored in, closed the gate and opened the paddles.  By the time I was down, Ali was back to open the gates and drop the paddles.  And so we went down using this system.  Leaving the bottom lock we saw the only litter swirling in the water.  Mainly plastic bottles.  Cyclists can be a menace hereabouts, travelling at speed, so it paid to keep your eyes and ears open for the blighters.

The sun shone and all went well. We motored down and then turned onto the Digbeth branch.  Six more narrow locks and a short tunnel.  This caused us a slight problem as the water level was abnormally high and the tunnel was between locks.  Entering it was ok at first, but as it twisted slightly, the corner of the starboard handrail ground against the roof.  More work for Ali! 

At Bordesley junction we began the climb and onto the Grand Union canal proper.  I know not why, but we both envisaged that the five locks here would be broad, but they were narrow locks, so all the easier to tackle. As a boat had just left the flight, most of the locks were in our favour, but there was apparently a boat ahead of us.  Not that we saw it!  In fact, we saw no more than half a dozen boats moving all day.

It clouded up a little by late morning, but stayed dry. Leaving the locks behind us we passed through the rest of the urban area either on a tree lined embankment, or cutting. Very pleasant it was too, in fact we hardly saw a dwelling and the commercial area closer to the city centre had been largely re developed, so there was very little deriliction visable.

It took some time to leave the conurbation behind us, but by mid afternoon we reached bridge 78A, and urbania gave way to fields.  Reaching Catherine De Barnes, we sort of thought we would stop, but decided to press on as the moorings were full and shaded by trees.  The sun was out again so we carried on.

Passing under the M42 and then arriving at the top of the Knowle flight, we decided, what's five more locks!  These however are broad locks. Two boats were just exiting the top lock as we arrived, so most of them were in our favour as we descended.  These locks are somewhat open and the breeze certainly entertained me as I passed between the locks,  Using one gate and one paddle to empty did make life easier, but the the paddle gear was stiff and at the end of a strenous day, they told on Ali.

So we moored just before Kings Arms bridge.  And what did Ali do after a knackering day?  She got the paint brush out to touch up the war wounds!

Tomorrow we have to decide which way to go.....

Miles 14
Locks 29
Tunnels 103 yds


  1. The Ashted tunnel is notoriously tight, even if you get rid of some of the water through the next lock. I would always have someone on the towpath with the centre line, keeping the boat against the edge, otherwise you're guaranteed to leave some handrail paint behind!

  2. Manchester seems a lot better than Birmingham and Liverpool to us! Much better moorings and cleaner than both cities we find.... Each to their own

  3. Thanks for that Adam, we will know next time! This was our first trip on this section.
    As you say Doug & James, its as you find a place. Having been into Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester this year, nowhere was as grotty as the Rochdale 9 or the Ashton. In fact, Birmingham had brilliant moorings and was most civilised.


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