We’re in Birmingham!

  We started our return journey  from Napton Junction and left Calcutt locks on Friday 31st Jan, cruising the short distance to the top of Stockton flight – 2 miles and 3 locks. On Saturday, 1st Feb, we did the 8 locks of the Stockton flight plus the 2 at the bottom a little bit further on and through the lock that was due to be shut for works. We moored at the Two Boats Inn. We availed ourselves of an excellent Sunday roast lunch, enjoying the interesting canal memorabilia adorning the walls of the pub, before travelling a short distance and “knocking off” the staircase lock and 3 others before mooring in a nice rural spot on Sunday night.

We cruised a couple of miles on Monday 3rd, including another 5 locks, and moored in the centre of Leamington Spa. We had a wander round part of the town to find a shop to buy some milk and Sal got a bit “excited” at the traffic (for that read bouncing about and barking at the buses!) so we didn’t stick around for too long!

It was good to have her bouncing about, though, as she had been decidedly under the weather over the previous two days – she was sick during the night on the Saturday, and several other times on Sunday. She must have eaten something on a walk, being the dreadful scavenger that she is. We buy very good quality food for her but she’d apparently much rather have someone’s discarded take away or some other equally disgusting morsel! Ho hum! Happily, she was soon back to her usual self again.

I’m not a great fan of graffiti – I appreciate that it is often a work of art, but it is mostly a little too cartoonish for my taste; where we were moored in Leamington Spa, however, there was an excellent example of some fantastic street art – photo below.

I managed to get an appointment at a hairdresser in the morning on Tuesday 4th in Leamington Spa, so after my cut ‘n’ blow, we went a short distance and moored outside Lidl again and did a quick restock shop. We met up with Mark and Debbie again (Well Deck Diaries) as we’d agreed it would be a good plan to tackle the Hatton flight together, so we both moved from Lidl to the bottom of the flight on Wednesday 5th in readiness.

We set off at 9.00 a.m the next morning and worked the first 8 or 9 locks before we stopped for a quick break and a coffee. We completed the rest of the locks and were at the top and moored by 1.30 p.m – not bad going! 4.5 hours to do 21 locks – same as when we went down. We all agreed that it wasn’t really any easier to share the locks with another boat – you still have to open the same number of paddles and gates – but it’s certainly quicker and definitely a lot more sociable!

We had a quick stroll in the afternoon – not as long a walk as we’d normally go with Sal, but we had just done 4.5 hours of hard labour – I’m sure she forgave us! We stopped in at the cafĂŠ and had afternoon tea, albeit a savoury one – cheese scone with cream cheese and red onion marmalade. A bit different and very welcome! Sal did quite well, too – the nice ladies slipped her several doggie biscuits!

We moved on Friday 7th and moored just short of Kingswood Junction. This meant that we had completed the section of the Grand Union from Kingswood Junction to Napton Junction and back – just under 22 miles, but 46 locks – each way, so in just over two weeks, we had cruised just short of 44 miles, working 92 locks along the way!! Phew!

We got up on Saturday and, despite the forecast being not too good, found it was sunny, clear and not windy, so we decided to move round onto the Stratford Canal and do the bottom 6 locks of the Lapworth flight.  Before we moved, we spotted some otters in the canal!! We took a bit of video through the boat window, so the quality is not great, but they stayed playing for a good couple of  minutes more! What a treat!  

After we’d done the 6 locks, we found an excellent mooring in front of a row of houses so tied everything down, put the storm straps on the back canopy and waited for the Storm Ciara to hit. Luckily, when it did, the wind was coming from behind the houses, so we were nicely sheltered. It was still pretty noisy, with a couple of really heavy downpours and a few strong gusts ( = Sal on the bed all night) but we survived with minimal disruption – only a little lost sleep due to the 21kg hound taking up more than her fair share of the bed! 

We waited for a Tesco delivery on Monday 10th Feb (pub nearby so delivery to the car park organised) then moved in the afternoon (dodging the rain – nearly successfully!) and completed the rest of the Lapworth flight, bar the top two locks. 

We had an “interesting” day for Tony’s birthday! It was quite windy, with strong gusts, and we were in two minds as to whether to move, but the lure of the Fish & Chips that Tony decided he’d like for his birthday dinner was strong! We decided to do the two locks and see how we got on. It was actually OK, the locks were quite sheltered, so we carried on and weren’t bothered by the wind at all. We were bothered, however, by an hydraulic lift bridge! You had to cross it to operate it (weird – makes it really difficult for single handed boaters as you can’t cross the bridge again when it’s open to move the boat through), so I crossed and started winding (you raise it by using your windlass). I wound and I wound and I wound!! For every 20 turns, the bridge rose by about an inch!!!! Tony tied up the boat and came to see what was taking me so long but he could do nothing to help as he was on the wrong side, so I was winding for England and eventually, it did go up enough for Tony to steer the boat through. An email to CRT to report an issue was duly logged! We moored up in Hockley Heath and got our fish and chips – and very nice they were, too!

On Wednesday morning, we walked up into the village, bought a few bits from the new Co-Op and posted a couple of cards, then cruised 8 miles and moored near King’s Norton junction in a surprisingly quiet spot near a “nature reserve” (scrubland!!).

On Thursday 13th Feb, we cruised for only about 3 miles, turning from the Stratford on Avon Canal onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal northwards, heading into Birmingham city centre. We arrived at the Bournville visitor moorings only to find that they were all designated as winter moorings! We were aiming for there as we’d seen on YouTube that they are good, secure moorings. They are on the non-towpath side, needing a CRT key to access them – they’ve also got an enclosed garden area, nice for doggies, so it’s a shame they’d converted them all to winter moorings! There was one space, though, outside of the secure bit but still on the non-towpath side and we decided to stay there as it seemed more secure than the towpath. We also still had the benefit of the enclosed garden area so Sal could have a run round off lead.

 We enjoyed our stay at Bournville – the Village is lovely and we had some very pleasant dog walks around the area. Sal enjoyed the enclosed gardens at the moorings and we had several short visits so that she could have zoomies! We visited Cadbury World and, although we didn’t go into the actual attraction, we did avail ourselves of the shop and treated ourselves to some Cadbury goodies! Of course, we weathered Storm Dennis whilst there, without too much of a problem; the folding bike on the roof nearly went for a swim after a roly-poly along the roof but Tony dashed out and hauled it down before a rescue attempt from the canal became necessary! We also saw Rhys and Ash for Rhys’s birthday, of course, and had a very nice meal in the local pub with drinks back at the boat afterwards. Rhys also brought with him the several parcels we had had delivered to him, and are now in possession of a very nice, shiny, stainless steel travel chimney, so no more bridge approaches wondering whether we’d get under without knocking the chimney off!

We arrived in Gas Street Basin yesterday afternoon, Monday 17th, after spending four nights at Bournville. We cruised about 4 miles to get here and had a quick walk round the area once moored. We love it! It’s clean, virtually litter free, vibrant, well designed with an interesting mix of old canalside properties and modern development – and mud free!! There are lots of canal side paths to explore as this is a bit of a hub, so we will be having some lovely walks whilst here. The only bad thing about being in the city centre is that we had a couple of idiots bang loudly – real hard thumps – on the boat as they walked past after dark. Made me jump and why they think it’s acceptable to do that is beyond me – would they be happy if I thumped their car as I walked past? We thought about moving to the other side of the Basin as there isn’t the same volume of footfall but it’s right outside a pub and we are getting some lovely solar in this spot. We’ll see how we fare.

Here are the links to the Well Deck Diaries videos (with guest appearances) 😁😁 https://youtu.be/sbvDk7uC8Ns