30 September 2012

(16/17) UK - Alvehurch Marina - Gas Street Basin - Narrow Boat trip

Our Home for 7 nights - "Castaway"

Yippee - the day has arrived when we set off on our canal boat adventure.
With the Anderton Canal being flooded, we were offered the choice of Alvechurch. This was only 1 hour from The Malverns so we arrived early to collect our boat.
It's name is Castaway and this will be our home for the next 7 days or so. With our supplies bought, we were shown the ropes and the staff at the Alvechurch Marine are first class - very helpful and informative. We are headed up to Birmingham and were told to either go there to moor tonight or to stop just a hour's cruising at Hopwood Inn. As we did not feel like rushing on our first day, we moored at Hopwood. The boat is very long, being a 2 berth but James says it's easier to steer than the 2 berth - time will tell! I walked alongside for some of the way as I don't enjoy standing for such long periods at the tiller.

The Hopwood was very busy and still serving Sunday lunch which I opted for - roast chicken, roast potatoes, peas, carrots and broccoli. James enjoyed Sticky Shredded Duck. My dessert was yummy - Melt-in-the Middle Chocolate with chocolate ice-cream. Gorgeous!
We took a short walk further up the canal to walk off some of this food and then turned back to our own boat. Horror of horrors - it was floating in the middle of the canal. So now what do we do? The water is mucky and brown and we cannot reach the boat. Luckily canal folk are very decent so James went charging back up the canal to borrow somebody's pole. We managed to get the boat back but cannot understand how both tow ropes came adrift and landing in the water unless somebody had a weird sense of humour and decided to cast away our home. Luckily both mooring spikes were handing in the water, still attached to the knots in the rope. We then decided to go further up the canal in the hope of staying tied up for the night!
Lets hope tomorrow does not bring any surprises!

We set off after a yoghurt for breakfast and have not gone very far when we meet a couple on the tow path. The lady is very concerned as the Wast Hill Tunnel is coming up and it is a very long and dark 2493 m! Hopefully, she changed her mind and stayed on the boat as her hubby is now following us through this tunnel. I have left James to do the honours while I sit in comfort in the cabin.
This tunnel is going on FOREVER ......... it's dark, the water keeps dripping down from the roof, the guys behind keep crashing into the side of the tunnel and we are counting down to the end. The expression "the light at the end of the tunnel" has never felt more real - may it get closer fast!
After the tunnel, which was not so bad - only one boat came towards us and we passed each other OK with no mishaps, the scenery changed. very industrial and run-down with graffitti on every available wall space. This seemed to go on forever, until we reached Birmingham University where there were students walking and cycling on the town path. We saw our first "bergie" who looked very scary, all hunched up, dressed in black with a grumpy face! I did not feel too comfortable walking this towpath so remained on the boat.

We saw a graceful heron sitting on the bank - very beautiful.
Entering Birmingham, James panicked and in so doing, broke my glass which was resting on the top of the boat. Grrrrr.......!
Birmingham at the Gas Street Basin is very upmarket with many architectural gems - the best of all called The Cube. This building is incredibly stunning and extremely modern. A sight to behold indeed. There is also a Marco Pierre White restaurant on the 25th floor - we abstained as we don't have the right clothes or the required cash funds! Whilst walking around Birmingham, the heavens opened and we got drenched. So much for the "sunshine" day that was predicted.

For supper we decided that a pizza would be a change so we went to the Pizza Kitchen. Again, incredibly modern with fantastic decor and just as modern clientele arriving for drinks after work. We felt decidedly scruffy in our jeans and t-shirts but we are on holiday after all. Unfortunately, my chicken Tikka Pizza was a case of spot the chicken. Why be so mean with this in this very up-market setting? Beats me. The prices were reasonable but that does not mean the chicken must be scarce? This must count as my worst meal in UK.
Taking a short walk after supper, we encountered a beggar asking for money. Same old, same old? This part of Birmingham seems very quiet but maybe that is because it's Monday and it's cold!
We were hoping to visit the Sea Life Centre but at 18 pounds each, it's a no-no.
An early night was called for but this was not to be. Although the area seemed quite quiet when we moored, we had people walking past the boat every 15 mins or so until approx. 01.00 hrs! What was open at that time, I have no idea as we were surrounded by restaurants rather than clubs. The clip-clop of high heels sounded like a horse going past at one stage! We now understand why we were told NOT to tie-up at the Gas Street Basin but it was OK. In summer, you would need to be a party animal if staying here - otherwise go further on for some peace and quiet.
We did eventually get some sleep!

© Judelle Drake

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