Monday, April 21, 2014

Birmingham & The Black Country

We've spent the last couple of days in the concrete jungle of Birmingham and it's surroundings. Now that might not sound appealing to some, but we have to say that we actually enjoy the inner city area and what it has to offer. It can be hard work getting there, but the effort is more than worth it, especially when we had cracking company meeting us there too.

The weather forecast for Sunday was not great, so we made the early start about 7am. We were soon through the three locks at Minworth and onto Salford Junction and then started the 150 feet climb of Aston Locks and Farmers Bridge.
Salford Junction
Aston Locks are new to us, but they were in our favour and far more pleasant than we had expected. The paddles were well greased and some of the gates new with very little leakage at all. All we needed was the sun which had made a hasty retreat from yesterday.
Aston Locks
A brief respite before we continued the climb up the Farmers Bridge flight. Unfortunately we had to turn the bottom half of the flight, but when the locks are so close together it's easy enough to empty the lock ahead whilst the current one is filling. It is strange to be actually under buildings. We had quite a bit of interest from passers by which is always nice, especially when you can enlist the help of the younger ones watching to open and close the gates.
An unusual picture of James Brindley
Almost at the top of Farmers Bridge as the rain starts. 
As we were reaching the top of the flight we were joined by our youngest son Luke and his girlfriend who had travelled by train to join us for a couple of days. Great timing once all the work was almost done! We managed to moor opposite the NIA just as the heavens opened, so the early start was well worth it.
Our spot for the night. Plenty of boats here. 
Later we were joined by our very good friends Rob & Fiona, armed with wine and a freshly baked cake....oh welcome aboard. They live in Stourbridge and popped over to see us and join us for dinner which we had at The Malt House....very average at best. 

This morning we had a bit of time to spare and enjoyed an early morning amble around the area. It was so quiet with it being a bank holiday. Rob & Fiona joined us again about 10.30am before we headed off. They were aghast at where the canal travelled out of Birmingham on the New Main Line, and could identify so many landmarks having never realised that the canal was actually there at all.
Old Turn Junction
I've not quite worked this one out yet
Fiona & Rob taking the helm
We turned left and towards the Netherton Tunnel which we had never travelled through ourselves. We met several people walking through the tunnel which was a strange experience. The new tunnel light did a sterling job and about 40 minutes later we emerged into the sunshine at Windmill End where we had a brief stop for water and a leg stretch. Fiona soon realised where she was, as at the back of the Bumble Hole Conservation Area was a pub (now apartments) they used to visit each and every week twenty odd years ago and she never realised the canal was there.

Entering Netherton Tunnel
And out the other side into sunshine
Windmill End
The run up to Park Head Junction was pleasant and then the sharp left turn into Blowers Green Lock, our only one of the day. Tonight we have moored at The Waterfront at Dudley. Quite a nice mooring but what a shame nearly all the retail units are empty. The only two that are still in use are a Wetherspoons pub and The Brewers Wharf (2 for 1) pub which we decided to much better than last nights choice and we'll worth a visit. 
Blowers Green
The Waterfront, Dudley
Tomorrow we will drop down the 28 locks to the Staffs & Worcs. Rob & Fiona had such a great day today, they'll be back for more tomorrow. Ooh good, we never turn down some free lock monkey help....

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