Saturday, 12 May 2018

Cruising towards Birmingham

After a lovely weekend in Bristol seeing friends and then a day with our son, David, we came back to Leo on Tuesday. On Wednesday Ian drove the car back home and came back by train.  Finally on Thursday we set off for the summer as proper boaters without having to go back each day for the car.

Before going on to describe our travels, one feature this week has been the baby birds we've seen.  So here they are:
Greylag Goose goslings seen near Burton on Trent

Lots of Mallard ducklings seen at Whittington

Moorhen chicks near Drayton Bassett
Our last posting was from Burton so here are some photos for the couple of days before the Bank Holiday weekend:
Branston Lock is remote but is only a short distance out of Burton

After a less attractive few miles alongside the busy A38 the canal turns away from the road and uses a short section of the River Trent.  The photo shows the barrier to prevent boats being swept over the weir seen beyond.  Alrewas Lock follows to lift the boat off the river.  Given the heavy rain on Wednesday morning we were glad to get off the river and not get trapped by floods.

Here we have just turned left at Fradley Junction onto the Coventry Canal.  The white building is the Swan the famous and popular pub at the Junction.

We left Leo for the weekend at Huddlesford where the Wyrley and Essington used to branch off the Coventry.  Straight ahead in the picture was the Wyrley and Essington which is now just a short branch used for private moorings.

After our enjoyable non-boating weekend, Thursday took us south down the Coventry Canal (or what is commonly called the Coventry Canal - see below) turning right at Fazeley Junction onto the Birmingham and Fazeley to moor at Drayton Bassett:
 The oddity about the waterway between Fradley and Fazeley Junctions is that the section from Fazeley north to Whittington was built by the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal company and the section from there to Fradley was built by the Trent and Mersey Canal company but later sold to the Coventry Canal company.  This waterway was to have been built by the Coventry but they ran out of money.  The stone photographed above near Whittington marks the division between the two sections.  The difference is still marked in that north of the divide canal bridges have numbers and south they have names!
Here is Fazeley Junction looking under the bridge to the Birmingham and Fazeley canal.  Beyond is Fazeley Mill.  Much of the industry round here was developed by Robert Peel the father of the famous prime minister of the same name.

This is Drayton Turret Bridge, a rather novel footbridge over the canal.  No-one seems to know why it was built in this style.
From our mooring we had a walk to the village of Drayton Bassett. On our return, Ian painted the gunwhale on the port side and Helen made rhubarb crumble with fruit from home.

On Friday we ascended the 11 Curdworth Locks, our first significant flight of locks this year.  We've found the Birmingham and Fazeley has few boats moving and we only met a couple of boats coming down:
Here Leo waits below Curdworth Bottom Lock for Helen to empty the lock

With 11 locks and some fair sized gaps between them, it was well worth getting a bike out so here is Helen cycling from one lock to the next while Ian pootles on Leo across the lock pound.

Locks 4 and 5 are pretty close together as this shows.

We moored at the top of the locks and walked into the village.  St Nicholas Church is a fine Norman building with a few windows unchanged from the 1100's and this photo shows the fine decorations painted 900 years ago.

Today we've come up the 3 Minworth Locks and turned left at Salford Junction onto a little known and little cruised section of the Grand Union:
Our first tunnel of 2018 was Curdworth Tunnel.  Only 50 metres long but last time we came through here we managed to bump the side tearing our cratch.  It is very narrow because of the towpath running through, but we got through unscathed this time.

Just before Salford Junction a factory has been built over the canal forming another and rather longer tunnel, though this one has windows at the side.

Salford Junction is just a few yards ahead with the Grand Union going left under the sloping bridge below the elevated M6 motorway.

It is a very tight turn onto the Grand Union but we managed it without any prangs.  Just after the turn the canal crosses the River Tame on an aqueduct underneath the pillars of the M6.  Straight on under the grey bridge is the blue building of Star City where there is a secure 24 hour mooring.  That is where we are spending the night.

Tomorrow we will press on out of Birmingham to Catherine de Barnes.  We will be visiting Birmingham properly later in the summer.

And finally we have been trying out a paint restorer called Polytrol.  Here is a before and after:

Left is the starboard side which is yet to be treated.  You can see the fading and streaking caused by sun and weather. The lettering is also faded, especially the red bits.

Right is the port side which Ian treated this afternoon.  it really looks much better.  Previously we have used a polish that needs heaps of elbow grease and takes off a layer of oxidised paint each time.  The Polytrol is simply painted on and then rubbed off after 10-15 minutes before it sets.  It is said to soak in and rehydrate the paint.  So far we are pleased with the results and aim to do the rest of the boat.

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