Bumping Into The M5. 22nd February

New Inns Road Bridge to Titford Pools to New Inns Road Bridge

Langley High Street

From our mooring we walked to Langley High Street where a length of shops greeted us. A Londis and Post Office which both looked like convenience stores, we were after our Saturday newspaper and some longer dated blueberries. There were few papers in Londis and the smell of disinfectant a touch too much trying to mask the bad smell at the back of the shop! The Post Office had a sweeter aroma but only copies of The Sun to be had. So much for trying to support the local shops!

Lamp shades, dog beds, rollers
Art department

One of those stuffed full hardware shops caught our eye, here you squeezed between the stuff for sale, on the floor, shelves, walls and ducked the goods suspended above. Everything from paint rollers, felt tip pens, dog chews, to large tasseled lamp shades. There was only one thing missing, a collapsible bucket. We’ll have to wait for a chandlers.

A walk further up the canal to Asda and Aldi. Here there were three copies of our newspaper but none had the good bits making it worth buying. So we left empty handed and underwhelmed with Asda as usual, but glad Aldi are still selling stove top fans. Facebook boaters pages will be kept happy for weeks.

In Aldi now

The wind wasn’t too bad, but by now it was too late in the day to head very far. One thing we could do though was wind ready for departure in the morning.

Slow the only option

We’d been warned at how shallow the canal was and where to take extra care so as not to go aground. So we took it steady, managing to ride over the lumpy bottom of the canal on several occasions. After a very narrow bit Oleanna refused to be steered setting her own course, suggesting the depth was very very shallow, but shortly afterwards she responded.

The Rock Driller

Just after Jarvis Bridge the torso of a man high up on a precarious ladder signalled our arrival at Titford Pools.

The pools were constructed in 1773-4 by James Brindley, originally designed as a reservoir to help feed the Smethwick Summit Level of the Old Main Line. In the early 20th Century they became a place for leisure activities attracting fishermen and parties to enjoy one of the prettiest spots in the Midlands.

We could go that way, or that way

During the 1st WW it fell into disuse but come 1933 it was reopened as Titford Pleasure Park. The lakes were restocked with fish, a buffet built along with a bowling green, 18 hole putting green and a shooting range to go with boat hire. It proved a popular spot until the 2nd WW came along. Hard to think of it being a tranquil mecca, as now the M5 passes right over the top on concrete legs which dip into the pools. Yet birds flock here. We surprised a vast gaggle of geese and pigeons and gulls swirled over our heads.

Under the M5

There are two pools one on the far side of the M5. To reach there you need to hold your concentration as despite the pools having recently being dredged, under the motorway is very very narrow as we discovered! We headed to the far end before winding with ease in the large triangular pool to head back.

Spinning around

The pools had become so silted up from run off from the M5 that the Highways Agency has recently dredged them. A thin L shaped island gives you a route that once you had to back out of, but now with greater depth you can glide round in a full circle back into the large pool by the motorway.

Back under the M5

In 1889, 21 year old Joseph Harvey, a horse driver, and 20 year old Lizzie Bates committed suicide by drowning themselves in the pool. At the inquest, Lizzie’s sister explained that the pair had visited Stourbridge on the Sunday and returned that night, she’d left them both downstairs in the family house. The next morning Lizzie was missing and her father found a note which read

Lots of trees have been felled some carved into toadstools

‘Dear Father, you must not grieve over me, for I have done this with Joe, because he could not have me in life, so I thought he should have me in death. He said that he should never see me again in life when he left me, so I thought I would go with him; and, Father, when you find us, please bury us as close together as you can. Give my love to all my friends, and tell what has caused it, through having a miserable life at home, and for the one I love. So good night, and God bless you all. Be kind to the children.’

Turning off the thin long side of the L into the main pool

A second note to Joseph’s father was also read out. ‘July 21st, 1889. Dear Father, I leave you forever on earth, so now you will see what has been done by trying to keep me from Lizzie, the only one I could love, and I hope you will learn a lesson from this, and when you find my body you will find a glass pipe in my jacket pocket. Please give it to William James, my fellow workmate; and I wish to be buried me and Lizzie together, and I wish for my brother James to have all that belongs to me. You will find some money in the box upstairs – give it to Jim; and the pair of braces that Lizzie made me, give them to Joseph Stanfield. So I give you my best love, father and brothers, and all enquiring friends.’

Turning in

The couple had been courting for three years but Joseph’s father had objected to their marriage suggesting his son should find someone who would do him good. The lovers bodies were found tied together.

On a lighter theme in 1938 a tale of a monster in the pools was banded about, most probably a stunt for Oldbury Carnival. The scientist investigating the Loch Ness Monster was to fly down from Inverness to try to capture the monster and return with it to Scotland.

We didn’t manage 50 mph round the bend

The sculpture by Luke Perry (my how he gets about), The Rock Driller, depicts a miner drilling by hand at one of the thick seams. A hard gritty life stood on top of a ladder in pre-mechanised mining days. Down the side of the ladder there is an inscription.

Birdies

“The Devil made coal. Made it black like his heart and hid it in the deepest recesses of the earth that he would drive man mad in the finding of it.”

Towpath freedom

We returned to our mooring taking our time and once tied up the cat health and safety committee convened. Today being Saturday the car park alongside was deemed to be safe, so Tilly was granted a couple of hours shore leave to explore.

Free blueberry muffins

0 locks, 1.16ish miles, 0 magazine and food supplement, 0 newspaper, 1 hr 20 minutes pootle, 1 bump, 2 pools, 3562 birds, 3 toad stools, M5, 2 hours shore leave, 1 happy cat, 12 blueberry and yogurt muffins.

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