The Shady Winding Weedy Route, Or The Straight Sunny One? 13th June

Wolverhampton Off side mooring to Sheepcote Street Bridge Moorings, BCN Main Line

Mick woke early and was getting dressed at 6am, Tilly and I stayed in bed hoping we’d be able to sleep a little longer. We managed about twenty minutes more but were aware all the time of the covers being rolled up and the bow being pushed out. We were on our way just before 6:30am.

Passing iconic buildings on our way

Time to get on with work, we’d be stopping for breakfast at some point. Research first, what should THE clock look like? Would there be Grecian statues in a Colombian garden? Would it matter, it is panto after all? I remembered to have the lights on for going through the tunnels today, nothing worse than getting so far drawing something out and having to stop and wait for the sun to come back out. I’d rather the sun didn’t go out in the first place! Where’s it going out to?

Today’s studio along with the usual assistant

The smell of fresh morning came through the hatch. Then the sound of the engine finding it harder to move Oleanna. We’d reached the narrows by the house where weed always seems to collect. No point in clearing the fowled prop until we were through it all. Mick struggled on until we’d cleared the worst of it then pulled us almost to the side, turned the engine off to see how much was round the prop.

Time to replace the floor in my model box. I’ve been using the one from last year to mark positions of things, but I’d grown bored of looking at cobbles, I’m still undecided as to quite what the floor should look like this year, having it white will help.

Factory Junction

At Factory Junction Mick made the discission to go right, so far his plan was to follow the Old Main Line which is more wiggly, but likely to be more weedy. In Tipton we pulled in to the water point and refilled our tank whilst having breakfast, hopefully no-one would arrive wanting to top up as we ate our cereal. Mick cleared the prop again just as a chap walked by saying ‘Welcome to Tipton’.

Left as the temperatures started to rise, it was 10am now. Mick would see how the weed was before making his final decision on the route into Birmingham. If it was bad he’d drop down Brades Hall Locks, if not he’d stay on the flat. A peek out the hatch suggested the weed situation had improved, we’d be staying on the flat.

Changing the floor to white card also means the steps into the auditorium needed to go white. I could remake them, or just recover them, they got recovered.

Staying on the flat meant a slower pace but a good stretch of the canal sits directly under the M5 meaning there was a good stretch of shady canal to cruise. A beep on the horn as we neared Oldbury Locks Junction, just in case someone was about to pull out.

An old bridge under the M5

At about 11:30 we saw the first moving boat, zooming along in the shade towards us. Tilly and I held onto my model box as Oleanna tilted over. Over the top of the New Main Line, right at Spon Lane Junction, staying in the shade for a while longer.

Just gone midday we were back out in the sunshine only to duck into the dark for the summit tunnel. Time to get a handcuff key out and be ready for action.

Plenty more geese down the flight

The three Smethwick Locks were just about in our favour a touch of topping up required but not much. I walked ahead to open gates at the next lock whilst Mick lifted a paddle to start emptying the lock above. By the bottom pound was a large creche of geese, the youngsters all different ages. I ended up walking past the hissing guards three times. No matter how many times I told them I didn’t want to hurt their babies, they still hissed at me!

On the bottom lock the top gate says No 10, on the bottom gate No 3 ?

Left at the junction and then straight on, past loops to the north and south. My steps were now dry, time to get on with thickening up arches and making the clock.

Where is everybody?

In the centre of Birmingham the mooring time limits are soon to be altered for a trial period. The majority of moorings right in the centre are currently 2 days with a few 14 days and an ambiguous stretch which suggested it was both. After a consultation they will be trying out new 4 day moorings, Cambrian Wharf will be Leisure Moorings (so no visitors), the not so central moorings will all be 14 days. This all sounds rather good to us. Our visit this time will be for three days, some shade would be nice so that we’d not be cooking inside all day. We pulled in opposite The Roundhouse, a 14 day mooring and shade by 1:30pm.

Lunch, then time to head off to the art shop Cass Art for some card. The walk got a touch confusing when I spotted that the hoardings in the city centre had moved yet again and now Victoria Square, the large area in front of the Art Gallery and Museum was cordoned of and being repaved. Thre was also a horse playing a keyboard. Just after I’d put my camera away it reached for a bottle of water and started to drink, a better photo opportunity missed.

Card, at last there is card!

I found my way to where I wanted to be and a rack of mountboard sat waiting. Time to find the least damaged sheets in the rack, I hate dinted corners! I also purchased some new drawing pens and a set of very fine paint brushes. The shades of green paint didn’t quite say rainforest to me or they were really quite expensive, I didn’t need them just yet so they can wait.

Few boats on the usual moorings

My walk back to Oleanna took me up the last few locks on the Farmers Bridge flight, one boat going down another moored on the lock landing one lock from the top. Cambrian Wharf was just about empty and only three boats sat outside the Sealife Centre, not one boat moored on Oozells Street Loop. Is there something we don’t know? Why is Birmingham soo empty of boats?

The view from Barajee

Today we’d reached Bumingham a day ahead of schedule, this is our forth destination met so we decided to head out for something to eat to celebrate. Everywhere with outside seating was bustling. We headed to Barajee the Indian Restaurant that straddles Broad Street Tunnel. With only being one chap eating we were given the best table in the house, overlooking Gas Street Basin. How different this whole area must have looked before it was opened up to the outside world and redeveloped. One gate used to open into Gas Street and most of the bridges near the Sealife Centre didn’t exist, neither did the Sea Life Centre or the Lego giraffe! We thought about Manchester Castlefield Basin, what a shame it doesn’t have a similar feel, open to visitors, places to moor, numerous cafes etc. It used to be better but now mooring there is hard for visitors.

3 locks, 14.1 miles, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 9 straight ons, 2 overs, 1 full water tank, 2 weed hatch visits, 1 new floor, 1 white set of treads, 1 clock, 2 sheets card, 6 brushes, 6 pens, 2 poppadums, 2 mains, 1 side, 2 rice, 2 glasses wine, 4th destination achieved, 1 resigned cat.