Saturday, 16 June 2018

Nearly to Birmingham and out again

Since our last posting we have climbed the Tardebigge Locks, all 30 of them, but we decided not then to cruise into Birmingham, but turned off down the North Stratford Canal, escaping the suburbs and heading south east.  So first last Wednesday when we climbed the Tardebigge Locks.  This is the longest lock flight in the country but as they are narrow locks and, apart from the last one, rise only 7 feet each they are not too difficult.
Because the lock flight winds back and forth as you climb you do not get the impression of a long line of locks ahead or behind you, unlike say the Caen Hill flight on the Kennet and Avon.  Here we are meeting a boat ("Our Elsa") coming down.

As you get up near the top the canal passes Tardebigge reservoir which supplies water for the canal.  In this picture you can see the canal and one lock just to the right and down below the reservoir.

Only one more lock to go at this point and to the right is the building which once housed a pumping engine to pump water up from the reservoir to the summit level of the canal.  It is now a private house.

There is a bit of a gap before the final lock which, unlike the others, rises 11 feet.  When built there was a boat lift here but it was soon converted to an ordinary lock.



We moored above the top lock and later walked up to the church on top of the hill.  It has a fine tall spire and is very open, light and spacious inside.
The church recognises its proximity to the canal too as this cushion shows.
After our exertions on Wednesday we had an easier day on Thursday going through two short tunnels and mooring at Hopwood:
Here is a view of Tardebigge Tunnel.  This is a mere 580 yards but is partly cut through solid rock and has some wet bits too!

We stopped in Alvechurch to do a little shopping.  It is a good half mile walk to the centre and the shops but it is an attractive village.

After mooring near Hopwood we went for a walk round the Upper Bittel Reservoir which is supposed to supply the canal with water.  The green field beyond the hedge is the reservoir.  We discovered they had drained it to fit a new valve.  There is a sailing club on the reservoir so they must be a bit peeved.  It looks as if it has been drained for months.  Perhaps this is why the canal is a bit low.  We tried to rescue a boat stuck fast under a bridge before our walk.  No luck with Ian and Helen power but an Anglo Welsh hire boat going the other way managed to pull the boat through.

This is the River Arrow passing through a lake.  This is the same river that brought us too much water where it joins the Avon but it looked pretty peaceful here.
Friday took us through the mile and a half long Wast Hills Tunnel and then we turned right onto the north end of the Stratford Canal:
Here is the last bridge before the Tunnel and in the distance you can make out a spot of light which is the headlight of an boat coming through the tunnel towards us.  We met and passed the boat in the tunnel which is always fun.

This is Kings Norton Junction where the Stratford Canal goes right and the Worcester and Birmingham carries on under the bridge towards Birmingham.  We went right.  It is an easy turn going this way but less easy turning onto the Stratford from Birmingham direction.

Here the photo is looking back as we make the turn.  The house is a toll house built with the canal.

A couple of hundred yards up the Stratford Canal the route goes through a narrow stop lock with guillotine gates at either end.  It is not used now as a lock and you just drive through but it was built to make sure that one canal company did not lose water to the other at the junction.

A further short (350 yards) tunnel follows.  This is the Brandwood tunnel.  The chap on the plaque is William Shakespeare who of course has connections with Stratford upon Avon where the canal is heading.

There are a number of lifting bridges on the North Stratford and this one is the first and called the Shirley Drawbridge.  There is quite a bit of traffic over the bridge and we even held up a bus.

Friday night we moored just beyond Dickens Heath near Shirley.  This seems to be a newly built village and has some fine architecture.  A lesson to developers and local councils how to undertake developments.  It has flats and houses but also has a school, a library, shops and a fine variety of styles of buildings.  We really liked it.  Also for the benefit of passing boaters it has a Tesco Express.

Today we carried on a few miles and moored above the Lapworth Lock flight.  On the way we passed through a couple of lifting bridges.  Here you can see Helen winding the bridge down after we had passed through.  Quite a lot of turns are needed to lift the bridge.

This afternoon we cycled a short way to visit Packwood House.  This Tudor house was saved from dereliction in the 1920's by Graham Baron Ash, heir to a steel fortune who gave the house to the National Trust in 1941.

There are some fine specimen yew trees in the garden.

And some lovely roses.  We liked this one with a mix of orange and pink colours.
So tomorrow is going to be another day of locks with the 19 locks of the Lapworth flight ahead of us.  Once down to Kingswood Junction we plan to swap onto the Grand Union Canal and head for Warwick and Leamington Spa.

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