02 October 2012

(18) UK - Birmingham to Stratford Canal

Waking up refreshed to the normal grey skies, we set of to turn the boat round to head back towards Kings Norton junction. Turning the boat near the permanent moorings went swimmingly but a few yards further down when we tried to tie up for water, the boat caught the wind and it nearly went adrift in the canal again! James managed to jump on and then rescue me from the shore. The wind was so strong that we abandoned the idea! James also had to contend with some canoeists who just did not give way despite the fact that the narrow boat is much bigger than they are. We reckoned they were Uni students out practicing. Trying to avoid a small object like a canoe when steering a very long narrow boat is not an easy task but thankfully, James did manage to avoid them otherwise we could have been locked up in Birmingham! The students are not at all friendly, they all avoid one's gaze and look away or down but there are no friendly Hello's. The only chap who greeted me was over 60 and riding a bicycle.

A little further down I hopped off to walk the tow path which is my favourite part of the day. The section from the Gas Street Basin to Bourne (Cadbury's Chocolate) is fine for walking as the tow path is well used by students of Birmingham University. It is nice and wide and is very pretty with many trees. There are moorings at Bourne, plus a burnt out boat, but there is also a warning sign that thieves operate in the area so take your belongings with you if you intend to visit the chocolate factory. It's rather sad that one can't be safe anywhere these days. And we think South Africa is bad?
The graffiti along the next part of the canal continues to astound me - ever inch of space is covered in weird markings that only the "artists" must understand - the meaning is beyond my little brain! However, it makes for a bad vibe and an area that one just needs to get through. One supposes that a city as big as Birmingham has plenty of louts who thrive on making their stupid mark for whatever rocks their boats.

We have now turned into the Stratford Canal and will only be doing a small portion of this before heading back to Alvechurch. Already this feels more peaceful and we have moored up for a welcome lunch break and a short walk. The weather is not being kind so we got wet while walking through a lovely park called Kings Norton Park. Some of the trees are sporting their glorious autumn colours and this perhaps makes up for the awful weather? Just a tad - a brief moment only!

 Carrying on we passed more graffiti - do these folk have NO LIFE???? I think not. It's a shame that this happens in a 1st World Country. Greece was bad but then so are there economics! The canal here is much narrower than the one up to Birmingham but it has been very quiet. Brandwood Tunnel was fairly short at 322 m but I forgot to switch on the lights inside the cabin so I had to remain on "deck" as I could not see the steps down and didn't want to fall! The tunnels are very dark and horrid but at least this one was short.

The trees and ferns along the banks are gorgeous but the water is dirty and full of rubbish.
We passed a large number of boats moored at Lyons Boatyard so had to go very slowly and luckily did not meet another boat coming up. One boat even had a baby on board! I could not imagine living on something like this - it's great for a holiday but full-time? One would need to be very minimalistic and that's one thing just cannot get right. Even the luggage is just about always overweight when leaving home. After the boatyard, we enjoyed lovely forest like surroundings until we came to homes on the canal banks. These homes have gardens right onto the canal banks - some are so cute with lovely flowers, others are full of rubbish. A number have lovely wooden decks and just about every home has some sort of patio furniture - from the very basic plastic chair to very smart black woven furniture. Many also have heaters!!
By now the rain had set in and James was getting soaked so we hoped for mooring soon.......it seemed to take forever but the Shirley Drawbridge with moorings suddenly appeared as we rounded the bend. Horray! We have now moored and will have soup and Melba Toast for supper as walking in the rain does not appeal at all.

After awhile, the rain seemed to ease off so we decided a warm pub was a more welcome break from the boat. Luckily, the Drawbridge Pub was just a few yards away (very original name seeing as it is right next door to the drawbridge which we still have to go through!)
The pub was lovely and warm and we found a cosy corner table away from the loud chatter at the bar. The food was good and the waitress friendly. The couple next to us also started chatting to us and we discovered that the elderly gent was born in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham! Having just come from Birmingham this was quite a coincidence.
After some good, hot food we felt more human again and set off back to the boat for an early night.
Tucked under two duvets, it's the best place to be when it gets dark with our Kindles.

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