Category Archives: Graffiti

Flake Aroma. 17th February

BUMingham to Bridge 68, Worcester and Birmingham Canal, most definitely not BUMingham!

Pushing off

I’d made a promise to Tilly that today we would move the outside just for her, so that is what we did. There was a touch of rain in the air, and the air was still moving quite a lot at times but we kept my promise and moved.

That’s new

An earlyish start for us saw us going right at Old Turn Junction at around 9:30am. Passing under Broad Street Tunnel I noticed a new looking sign, ‘Black Sabbath Bridge’. Last summer a bench was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath on the bridge/tunnel. We’ll have to have a look at the information board by the canal when we’re back again. As we approached The Mailbox the wind whipped up, blowing a right hoolie it was, we were glad we’d dressed suitably.

Worcester Bar
Edgbaston Tunnel

Onwards we forged along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Through Edgbaston Tunnel. Past the hydrogen boat where someone is having a go at developing zero carbon emission propulsion, pedal power.

Pedal power, future proof propulsion

The new footbridge by Selly Oak Sainsburys now has large columns of concrete on either side of the cut, wonder how long before the bridge spans the water?

New bridge coming along nicely

Then the smell of childhood. Cocoa. My childhood in York was filled with the smell of Matchmakers, a slightly minty chocolate smell. Today the air smelt of Flakes, Cadburys Flakes. It soon blew away as we neared the secure moorings on the off side. Plenty of boats here, one jolly chap said hello from the comfort of his pram cover as we passed on by.

Graffiti Tree

Behind the covers of the Toll House at Kings Norton we could hear people at work as we carried on straight past towards Wast Hill Tunnel.

Keeping close to us

We were being followed. Now most Herons you see on the canals get all upperty as you approach them and as you get close they fly off a hundred yards ahead to fish, only having to do the same again and again. Well today we met a Heron who had very different ideas. He obviously knows something that the others don’t as he followed us time and time again, waiting for us to pass and churn up any fish.

What’s going on here?

Approaching the water point there was a lady in a lot of high-vis yellow, she made a phone call and then walked towards us. The Policewoman asked us to pull in as they had a crime scene ahead, a length of police tape closed off the towpath.

Being right by a water point we would quite happily tie up and replenish the water tank as the washing machine had been put into use since we filled up yesterday. She explained that if we carried on we might compromise the crime scene. Mick replied, ‘We watch Vera, we know all about such things!’ She laughed.

Entering the crime scene

She knew what to do with pedestrians but hadn’t thought she’d have any boats coming past. Just as we stepped off to tie up she had a call back, we were good to go. Up ahead on Friday night a man had been assaulted, he had ‘significant facial injuries’ and then had been thrown into the canal where a passerby spotted his body on Saturday morning.

A tent with flood lights
More tape

Another Policewoman stood by a tent a touch further on and by Kings Norton Bridge there was a chap with some apparatus on a tripod, it could have been a 360 degree camera. The towpath slope up over the tunnel was being searched by a team of officers whilst plain clothed police stood by the canal. As we passed we were asked how long the tunnel was, ‘2493m’. I wonder if they were considering if the poor chap might have been pushed in at the other end of the tunnel?

Few boats moving for days and we have to meet one in a tunnel!

Once in the tunnel we pootled along, hang on, someone was coming! Just after half way we pulled right over and just about stopped, their tunnel light quite bright. The chap at the helm asked if we were alright as we’d stopped, we were and carried onwards as soon as they’d passed.

That’s a better view

No Police presence on the other side of the tunnel. We carried on a short distance and pulled in where Mick and Tilly had spent a night whilst I was in Vienna. Just as we were sorting out ropes the heavens opened and gusts of wind sent it sideways at us.

Inside, Tilly had already been surveying the outside and was sat waiting for me in the bathroom, SHOUTING!!!!!!

Four and a half hours!!! Bloomin brilliant!! But hang on. I’m not going out in that! Not for all the Dreamies in the world! The door closed, then opened again. It hadn’t changed! Several more attempts and eventually the outside was dry. See you!

STOP RAINING!!!

Today the C&RT National Council Elections results have been announced. Only one of the people we voted for has been elected, the others came very close, but at least we voted. Out of around 34,000 boats on the network only 2040 people voted in the elections, that is 6%. Congratulations to those who got elected, please report back in some form for those of us who are interested .

0 locks, 8.47 miles, 2 straights, 1 right, 3 tunnels, 12 police, 1 graffiti tree, 1 load washing, 1 keen heron, 4.5 hours spent well, 1 white card finished, 1 set of costume designs finished, 2 panto award nominations, 1 photo from Frank, Thank you.

The Other Side Of Outside. 16th February

BUMingham to the other BUMingham

For days, weeks, years, a lifetime, we have been in BUMingham. Some days I’m allowed to come and go as I like, which isn’t very much now, and others I am confined to quarters. They aren’t though!

Only biscuits for me this morning!

This morning Tom popped out to get them extra yummy things for their morning DingDing despite it still being blowy. He didn’t bother getting me anything special did he! No smoked salmon, or any of that smelly stinky yummy stuff She came home with. Then they just sat around not letting me out.

Then they sat around some more, but I could go out. Then they sat around even more and said I couldn’t go out! Can’t they make their minds up!!

When I went out though it hadn’t changed so there was next to no point.

Last nights catchings around our tyre fender

A flurry of activity. They were getting ready to untie this blustery BUMingham outside. About bloomin time. Dennis had left us lots of stuff, but they didn’t want any of it. As soon as the ropes were undone the outside made a bid for freedom. They soon caught another and pulled it in, this one has a fast tap so they filled the tank.

Bye bye BUMingham

With the tank full again, they let the outside go again. Woho!!! What would we catch next?

Turn around

Tom span the outside round and for a little while I thought we’d be heading back to the outside we’d come from, passing Paul’s boat and bipping the horn before pulling back in. But no, not today. This was exciting

Lots of bicycles

She soon hopped off and caught the outside. Hurry Uppp!! But as they were securing the outside another boat came by, they looked at each other and deceided to nudge up the outside. This boat has form, they run their engine for hours and hours and hours, quite often stopping it when we all go to bed, so we didn’t want to be too close to them.

NO stopping me!

Once all was secure the back doors were opened. At last!!!! This outside was on the otherside, I’d already sussed this out. I jumped off…..

Hangon…..

Here hang on. Now wait a minute!

This side used to be
this side!

This was just the same outside except they’d swung it round! We are still in BUMingham. She says they’ll move the outside just for me tomorrow if Dennis has gone, but you know what I don’t believe her.

Sort it out will you!

0 locks, 0.8 miles, 1 wind, 2 straights, 2 waves to Paul, 4 sausages, 2 poached eggs, 4 tomatoes, 7 painted costumes, 1 patch of blue sky, 3 moving boats, 1 tap open, 1 water tank full, 1 pesky boat, 1 new roast chicken recipe, 2 lemons, 5 tsp oregano, 2 full tummies, 1 confused and disappointed cat.

First costumes coloured in

Keeping A Handle On The Dead. 13th February

BUMingham

Yoghurt descending Farmers Bridge

A walk down a few of the Farmers Bridge locks this morning and then across the arched footbridge. A familiar cruiser Yoghurt was making it’s way down the flight. We’ve seen the boat in Droitwich before and such a good name cannot be forgotten.

Newman Brothers

Just a couple of doors up the hill is Newman Brothers, a place more commonly known as The Coffin Works. This is another museum based around a factory where the workers laid down their equipment on the last day of employment and today it still lies there for visitors to see, a time capsule.

Ornate handles

Alfred and Edwin Newman established the works in 1882, originally brass founders they predominantly made cabinet furniture. In 1894 they moved to Fleet Street and started to specialise in the production of coffin furniture, there was more money in dead people than furniture. Edwin left the company leaving Alfred to be the sole owner in 1895. The company was doing well, the fashionable dead liked having ornately decorated coffins, even the poor would do their best for the deceased.

Stamped out
A stamp

Alfred left the business to his two sons, George and Horace. Shares were sold and handed out to employees. When Horace, the last surviving son died in 1952 the last direct link to the Newman family was cut. The company was then run by a small group of shareholder directors.

Wrapped and ready to go

Joyce Green started work as a secretary in 1949, she rose quickly to company secretary during the 50’s. As employees left or died she would buy up their shares until in 1989 she became the major shareholder of the company. Her association with the company had been for 50 years and when it was finally dissolved in 1999 she turned her attentions to saving the building with the hope that one day it would become a museum.

The office

The prime location was held onto for five years by Joyce, tower blocks now surrounding the three story building. In 2003 she sold the premises on the basis that the building would not be used for residential use for five years, hopefully giving enough time for funds to be raised for it to become a museum. Birmingham Conservation Trust then came on board, it took some time to raise the £1.5 million needed to transform the building, things were looking up.

David demonstrating one of the four stamps

Birmingham City Council put money into the kitty and by 2012 a new professional team were brought on board to manage the project. During 2013 and 2014 teams of conservationists moved in, photographed the collection and the building was restored and made safe for visitors. On the 24th October 2014, launch day, Joyce’s dream finally became a reality.

Locking up after us
Flywheel press

The old foundry no longer stands in the courtyard, a newer building takes it’s place, this now houses businesses that lease parts of the old factory taking advantage of a rather good address ‘The Coffin Works, Fleet Street’. David our guide showed us into the Stamp Room, here decorative panels where stamped out of tin. Then flywheel presses, bigger than those at the Jewelry Museum would cut out the shapes. These would then be polished up and passed up to the packing room ready for orders from Funeral Directors.

Shelves of handles and embelishments

The demise of the company was partly down to foreign imports, but also more people were getting cremated. Cremation brought with it a ban on using metal, wooden handles or plastic were used instead. Newman Brothers invested in machinery to be able to make plastic versions of all it’s metal coffin furniture, but they couldn’t compete with prices from abroad.

Boxes of plastic

The office was revamped in the 1950’s, a cupboard high up held the beer and cigars to help woo the funeral directors into placing large orders. Then David took us up more steep stairs to the Shroud room.

Worthington E or a sherry with your Castella?

Here 14 sewing machines were kept busy creating shrouds for people to be buried in. There was a big market in such things until it became the fashion to be buried or burnt in your best suit or favourite dress.

The Shroud Room

When we’d arrived we clocked in and as we left we were encouraged to clock back out. Another museum well worth a visit in Birmingham.

A safe place to have your tea made

Handy hint if you plan on visiting one or more of The Jewelry Quarter Museum, Coffin Works or Pen Museum, it’s worth trying to do them with a couple of days as you can get money off if you keep your tickets.

0 locks, 6 walked down, 0 miles, 1 yoghurt pot, 6.53 clocked in, 8.03 clocked out, 100 years of coffin handles, 1 undertaker, 8 on the tour, 1 determined Joyce, 1980 Joey Tempest Lion.

Next door the lead singer of Europe

Back To Backs. 6th February

BUMingham

The other day we made a call to the National Trust to see if we could get on a tour around the Back to Backs in Birmingham. This is another thing we’ve been meaning to do for a while. Ringing them meant that we could slot onto a tour this week when space was available.

The Back to Backs

Walking through Birmingham can be problematical at the moment with underpasses closed and not being able to walk along some of the tram tracks. So we took the usual route past the library and then joined Hill Street, walking through China Town onto Hurst Street. Modern buildings gave way to reveal a corner of red brick, an enticing sweet shop on the corner.

Our tour was for 2:30pm and we’d arrived in plenty of time to check in at reception and have a look around the exhibition upstairs. There is an amount of being able to be nimble at the National Trust property as there are plenty of steps involved on narrow winding staircases.

In Court 15

The exhibition gives you some of the back ground of the houses on the tour . In 1789 the land was leased by Sir Thomas Gooch to builder John Wilmore. By 1802 the first house was completed and during the 1820’s more houses were built and by 1831 court 15 was completed. Birmingham’s back to back houses were unique as they were all built around a courtyard which housed all the services for the houses on that court. Court 15 was possibly one of the smallest in the area.

The last shop

By the end of the 19th Century all the front facing houses on Hurst Street had become shops on their ground floors, the occupiers living on the top two floors. In 1966 the last family to live in the houses moved out after the courtyard was condemned for domestic use. Some shops continued to be run for some time, George Saunders tailors being the last to leave in 2002.

Court 15 with bay windows

The court became Grade 2 listed in the 80’s but the properties deteriorated rapidly. Restoration work began in 2003 and in 2004 they were handed over to the National Trust and opened to the public.

Tours are kept to a maximum of eight people and the route through the houses is tight. We were lucky as there were only six in our group so we could see a bit more in each room. Starting off in the street we were given the history of the houses and then we passed through a gate across the alleyway into the court.

The two wash houses

Court 15 had 11 houses and in 1851 there were 60 people living there. Three toilets and two wash houses between them, the nearest tap was across Hurst Street.

A Large scullery with one window and a candle for light mid afternoon

The first house we were shown into was the largest and laid out in the earliest period, 1840. A scullery added onto the front of the house, the main room all lit by candle light. The fire in the hearth just keeping the chill off.

Landlords had to redecorate between tenants, so they kept it as simple as possible

Our tour wound up the narrow flight of stairs into the main bedroom, where two beds and a wash stand filled the room, up another floor and three beds squashed together. A door led to the property at the front. This has been left so that you can see what the houses were like before being restored. Colour wash on the walls, the plaster barely hanging onto the ceilings. Torches were needed to look at photographs of the houses through the ages.

Wash stand
Very pretty lace bedspread

Down into the next house where a family with nine kids once lived. The children sleeping four to a bed, topping and tailing, a blanket hung between beds for some privacy. Next floor also two beds and a work bench. The chap who lived here made clock hands and many of the tools he’d have used would have been similar to those we’d seen in the Jewelry Quarter Museum the other day.

Old doors and frames kept in the top rooms

A bigger stove in the groundfloor room with two ovens. This house had gas lighting, but our guide said that this type of house in 1870 wouldn’t have had it, by the 1930’s then maybe.

A fancy range with two ovens

Back into the court and into the third house, 1930’s. Kitchen utensils more familiar to us all. Here a chap lived who made glass eyes, some for people but the majority for taxidermy. He wouldn’t have worked from home as the glass needed high temperatures to melt it. This house is laid out with electric light, our guide poo pood this also.

Eye eye!

Up more stairs and into the tailors house. This is where George Saunders worked through the 70’s and into 2002. Quite a few of his possessions, machines, off cuts of fabric and patterns are on show.

Great cowboy wallpaper

When he first came to the country he applied for tailoring jobs, one he was invited for an interview with the job being made for him. On arrival he was turned away, being told that the job had gone. George was very well qualified for the job, the colour of his skin his main problem!

Teddy coat

He worked in factories until he set up his own shop here. His firm prospered, he had regular clients and didn’t need to advertise. A Teddy coat with all the tailors stitches sat on a stand for all to see his craftmanship.

Back out into the court we were shown a wash house. When you moved into a house on the court you would be told which day was your wash day. Originally water was brought from across the street to be heated up, then a tap was brought into the yard and in later years each house was provided with a cold tap.

The toilets started off being just earth closets, these were upgraded to buckets which the night soil man would take away and then upgraded further to flush toilets.

Sweeties

What an interesting hour and a half. We had to finish it off in the 1930s sweet shop on the corner. But what to choose? 1/4lb bag of sweets but so much choice. Many I remembered from the School Shop when I was a kid, but the shelves here were much longer, so much more variety.

Pompom my Grandad would have been happy with some Frys Chocolate Cream. I opted for Raspberry and Blackcurrant chews, Mick a bag of dark chocolate ginger. Marvelous.

Fry’s Chocolate Cream, Pompom’s favourite

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 aborted smiley lady, 11 back to backs, 60 people, 3 toilets, 2 wash houses, 4 to a bed, 8 to a tour, 1 nimble tour guide, 80 eye balls, 1 fascinating afternoon, 1 tap on the roof, 1 visit from Paul.

Bowie now with eye bandages

Smith And Pepper. 4th February

BUMingham

Breaky!

The Museum of the Jewelry Quarter has been on our list of things to do whilst around Birmingham for some time and finally today we walked down the first couple of locks of the Farmers Bridge flight then headed off northwards. Gradually the buildings turned from light industry and flats to small Victorian factories and then to houses. The houses are mostly shops, jewellers, bullion dealers, we’d entered the Jewelry Quarter.

The Jewelry Quarter

Here is where the FA cup was designed, whistles for the Titanic were made amongst many other things boasted about on brass plaques laid into the brickwork below your feet as you walk along.

Information plaques on the floor

The Chamberlain Clock stands proud as a roundabout, erected in 1903 to commemorate Joseph Chamberlain’s tour of South Africa in 1902/03 after the end of the Second Boer War.

Chamberlain Clock

A small group of people were stood taking photos by the bridge over the railway, a Council street cleaner was busy too. It took a couple of seconds to realise why. This is where about two weeks before last Christmas some graffiti appeared overnight right next to benches where the homeless tend to sleep. Banksy had been at work. (Link to footage from Banksy’s Instagram page). The artwork made it into a lot of the papers.

Cleaned up, but who added the red noses?

The two reindeer are now covered with sheets of perspex which un-skilled graffiti artists now leave their marks on most days. The council chap was busy removing the latest offering as he chatted away to us, I think he rather enjoys his job now. As the pink squiggles were wiped away we chatted about similar artworks in Birmingham, especially David Bowie by the Bull Ring.

The museum wasn’t too far away and we managed to get onto the next tour round the factory. Smith and Peppers was established in 1899 by Charles Smith and Edwin Pepper (his Uncle) at 77-78 Vyse Street, Charles and his wife lived at 77. By 1914 the business was doing well and they expanded, houses were demolished and a factory built at the back.

The admin office with a paper trail back to when the company was founded

In the twenties Eric and Olive Smith (son and daughter of Charles) both joined the company and by the time Charles retired in the 30’s another of his sons, Tom, had joined. Eric and Tom then ran the business with Olive as company secretary. The factory continued until the 70’s when the recession hit them. People had little if any money spare so luxuries like jewelry.

Post corner
Safe electrics!

In 1981, Eric, Olive and Tom were 81, 78 and 74 they decided to retire. With no heirs between them they tried to sell the company, but there were no takers. So after the factory summer holidays the staff were gathered on the Monday morning and told to finish off what work they were busy with and at the end of Friday the doors would be closed for the final time.

Hung where they’d been left in 1981

They tried to get Avoncroft Museum interested but they weren’t. So on that Friday afternoon when the last pieces were finished the workers downed tools and left for the last time, the doors closed behind them everything left just as they left it.

The engravers bench

It took quite some time before the Council (who owned the building) to realise what they had and what they could do with it. In the 1990’s someone came up with the idea to open it as a museum. Detailed photographs were taken of everything, the building was emptied so that work could be done to make it safe for the public. Once this was completed everything was returned to the exact position it had been left in in 1981 when the doors closed for the final time. A real snapshot frozen in time.

Audrey at the jewellers bench

Today Audrey, a volunteer showed us round. From Eric’s office where orders were taken for wholesale trade, into the main office. Here box files contain every receipt the company ever had. Orders would be recorded and sent down in the dumbwaiter to the factory floor. Eric would have his breakfast, toast with homemade Blackcurrant jam or Marmite. Finished orders would return here by dumbwaiter and be boxed up, reusing packaging, then taken by the young office girl up to the Post Office in a string bag. The Jewelry Quarter was a safe place then, everyone was carrying high value goods about the place. The Post Office here was the busiest in the country outside London.

Line of cast iron patterns bow the shelves

Down below in the factory we were shown where the days gold was weighed into tin boxes for each worker, at the end of the day these would be returned and weighed, finished items accounted for and a 2% loss was allowed. Each day the floors were hoovered, each day the overalls were washed out, each day all the waste and water was drained through tanks of sawdust, the feet of the wooden stools would be cut back every now and then and below in the cellar this would all be burnt to recoup any gold. Over a period of two years this would amount to quite a chunk of gold.

Flame sat ready to have air added from a pipe that would sit in the jewellers mouth all day

We were shown round where engraving happened, walls covered in iron dyes for stamping out patterns into sheet gold.

Tools at the ready

A bench where nine jewellers sat soldering bracelets together had an army of angle poises illuminating the benches where soldering flames burnt at the ready, tools looped over string for easy access and leather pinnies fixed to the benches to catch any gold before it reached the floor.

Sqezy washing up liquid ( my mothers choice for many years)

3D relief shapes were stamped into sheets of gold. One chap who worked on this was quite elderly and was pulling almost his whole body weight each time he used the machines, so a motor was added to assist him, but being proud of his skill he refused to use the mechanised assistance.

Hand held sheets of gold
One stamped out Scottie dog

Other hand operated machines cut shapes out of sheet gold. Then a bank of polishing machines would be wurring round constantly with the ladies bringing the shine back to all the pieces.

Would you like sugar or something more sinister in your tea?

In a room to one side, tea making facilities sat next to the electroplating. Here the lady would make your tea, whilst handling deadly chemicals and putting items into a cabinet where the fumes would rise out of the factory, a form of health and safety.

Health and safety at it’s best, the cabinet to take fumes away with close fitting doors!

What a wonderful place, a must see.

White tiles on the building next door to reflect light into the factory

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 cooked breakfast, 2 reindeer, 1 sheet perspex, £7 twice, 2 floors of displays, 1981 stood still, 1 scottie on the floor, 2 adaptors, 1 toaster, 1 dumbwaiter, 3 siblings, 7 shades of overalls, 1 person to befriend, 1 tram, 1 package of post.

Post

Wading Through Trolleys. 2nd February

Lower Ocker Hill Branch to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham

Heading back out onto the canal

We popped back out onto the canal shortly before 11am, heading eastwards towards Birmingham. The hope was to get up Ryders Green Locks before too many people were about, the area has a reputation.

At the bottom of the locks

Below the locks had far less rubbish than I remembered when we came through in June 2018, it being earlier in the day might have had something to do with it. The bottom lock was empty waiting for us, a good sign, maybe.

The first pound on the flight is longer than the rest and goes under several bridges before reaching the next lock. Mick took it steady under them. The middle bridge is a foot bridge leading across to Poundland and Asda. Asda may have a shortage of trolleys at the moment as most of them seemed to be in the canal! A few more stood close to the bridge awaiting their turn.

Here we go!

Wheels and legs of trolleys appeared just below the surface a couple just rising far enough to grasp a gasp of air. The sedimental trolley layers seemed thicker towards Asda, deeper water could be found towards the centre. However the depth wasn’t quite enough for us to just glide over the tops with the occasional bump or scraping.

A few attempts of forwards and reverse were needed to help settle the metal wheeled cages below to give us just enough depth to pass on wards. It took a little while but we made it. C&RT will be well aware of what lies below the surface here, but we’ll double check with them when the office is open.

At the next lock I walked through the boat to reach the bow to get off, not wanting to risk getting stuck on more trolleys. Here the local drinking club had already convened. As I walked up I said a jolly ‘Morning!’ to them. One chap congratulated us for having got through the last pound, but wanted to show me something. He walked me to the top of the lock and pointed across to a low wall by Poundland. Here a fence had been broken and part of it was floating just above the lock. ‘When we left last night it was dark, but the fence was still there’. ‘I’ve tried to get the wood out of the canal, but not managed yet’.

The drinkers

He was very familiar from when we came through last time. Chatty, helpful and on at least his second can of Scrumpy Jack of the morning! As I opened the gate he and his two mates managed to pull the fencing to the side and lifted it out. ‘I’ve looked for the rest of it, but it’s nowhere. Just be careful’ as he put his rubbish in a bin bag by the bridge.

Back in 2018 the locks were locked by C&RT over night and we’d arrived at this lock heading downhill just as it was about to be padlocked. The boys in blue helped us down, they were playing an everlasting game with the local youths of cat and mouse. Lock beams being lifted, pounds drained, trolleys, general vandalism, so none of what we were encountering was unexpected.

The chaps insisted on closing the gates behind us, meaning I could walk on ahead to the next lock. Here I found some more of the fence, now burnt by the bottom gate. At least it hadn’t been used to try to burn a lock beam, a foot thick of oak beam takes a lot of fire to get it going thank goodness.

That’ll have been some of the fence

As I started to fill the lock I found more of the fence, sitting by our bow. Once the level rose we lifted it out. No doubt tomorrow it’ll be back in the cut, we just didn’t have enough space on the roof for so much fence.

There’s some more

Each lock now was empty, apart from the very top one. I signalled to Mick that I needed to empty it, a touch hard when there’s a bridge right over the bottom gates. He pulled back a touch and I lifted the one paddle I could unlocked. The surge of water was doing it’s best to drag Oleanna towards the gate, but Mick would engage reverse and keep her away…. wouldn’t he….?!

The flight behind us

I could hear the engine doing it’s best, but still Oleanna kept coming. I dropped the paddle as quickly as I could, but she’d got momentum behind her now. Luckily there was only a slight biff to the bottom gate, no damage done.

Oleanna had picked something up around her prop again, hence the prop not doing what was asked of it. Luckily the wind wasn’t going to affect us today as we were in a bridge hole. I held onto the centre rope to stop her from drifting back and forth too much whilst Mick got down and at one with the weed hatch.

Stopping her from drifting back to the lock below

The prop mate did it’s job, thankfully removing a length of twisted razor wire, the pond gloves would not have survived this. Plenty more came away from the prop and filled the stern deck. This was all put on the roof to dispose of later in a bin, if we’d just left it on the towpath it would only end up back on someone’s prop and they might not have a prop mate!

Rusty razor wire and a couple of shirts

Now with power restored I could empty the lock safely.

To Pudding Green Please

At the junction we resisted the temptation to go down the arm, we’ll save that for another day if we feel brave enough. On to Pudding Green Junction where we turned towards Birmingham City Centre.

There was work to be done and as all Mick had to do was continue in a straight line I bobbed down below to bake some sundried tomato bread and finish off my costume reference for The Garden.

You’ve just got to love some of the names round here

Familiar landmarks went past. Three central reservations and the round pillars holding the M5 above our heads. Then the Soho Loop and Oozells Street Loop, time to have a break and help moor up. We winded and returned to where we’d been a couple of weeks ago with the hatch on the towpath for Tilly to make a hasty return to the boat should she need to.

The bridges were full of people, plenty of youngsters all heading to the Arena to see Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live! Blimey they were a rowdy bunch, buying checker flags and horns. Think we preferred the Strictly Come Dancing Audience of a couple of weeks ago.

8 locks, 7.37 miles, 7 straights, 1 right, 1 left, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 2 times under, 2 layers of trolleys, 2.3m razor wire, 2nd Scrumpy Jack by 11am, 1 coconut, 1 broken fence, 8 actors with reference, £20 over budget, 1 sundried tomato bread loaf, 1 pair socks finished.

Elongated Arms. 1st February

Riddian Bridge to Lower Ocker Hill Branch, BCN

Sun straight ahead a touch blinding

With winds forecast to be over 40mph later today we aimed to get going, hopefully to miss the worst of it. Despite our aim we didn’t push off till 10am, would this give us enough time to moor up before the worst hit?

To the South
To the North

The sun was out, blue skies overhead as we pootled our way to the top of Rushall Locks. We could have moored above the locks last night but that wouldn’t have been half as good for Tilly. Signs on the outside of a building here tell you cruising times to both north and south. I think we’ve got plenty of time to get to York by mid July, via a lot of other places on the way.

Back to double gates

The bottom gates on the Rushall Flight are doubles, not singles as is common on most of the BCN. The top lock had a nice wide walkway over the top gate and a handy bridge at the bottom, but this wasn’t the case all the way down.

Eerrrk!

The top two locks are closish together and then only just visible in the distance was lock 3 over a straight mile away. The first stretch of the long pound was filled with reddened dead scum, a slight aroma wafting from it as we parted it around Oleanna’s hull.

I hopped off at Moat Bridge and walked to the next, Sutton Road Bridge, where I joined the road to visit the handy Co-op. Quite a few things I wanted had sad gits labels , so loaves of bread and tomatoes joined our Saturday newspaper in my basket.

Handy long bridge hole so you can go shopping

When I got back to the canal, Oleanna was taking shelter under the wide bridge. No other boat traffic so it didn’t matter that we were blocking the navigation.

Heading down, the rest of the flight through the bridge

Then the flight was upon us, some locks full others empty. We soon got into our rythmn I’d open up, then walk ahead to set the next lock whilst Mick brought Oleanna in above, closed the lock and lifted a bottom paddle. I’d be back in time to lift the second paddle and open the gates.

Mick bringing Oleanna down the lock above

I tried my usual trick of kicking the gates open, but decided that the gates looked too chunky, so reverted to walking round instead. If I remembered to drop the off side paddle then Mick could close it from below using the boat hook saving me crossing the gates again.

No anti vandal lock on the bottom paddle

Each paddle, bar one on the very bottom gate is locked with an anti-vandal mechanism which you get very used to around these parts, you just have to remember which pocket you put your handcuff key in to be able to unlock them!

The roofing felt may be new, but the wood underneath is showing that it’s been there 24 years

The lower down the flight we got the more and more spongy the walkways got on the gates. Underfelt is used as anti slip across these, but the surface below some of it was very rotten and decidedly wobbly, I made sure I always had hold of the hand rail should anything fail. One of the gates was allowing water to bubble up from the bottom cill, guaranteeing a quick descent.

At the bottom lock, new gates sealed both ends and with new walkways I was able to cross with confidence once again.

Urban Snake waiting to catch a prop

Straight on to Rushall Junction, well at a slight angle now, the wind was building. A very long urban snake sat waiting to catch us out where the stern needed to swing. If it hadn’t been so windy we’d most probably have stopped to pick it up, but instead the engine was taken out of gear at the last moment to let us glide past, then engaged again to force the bow round to the west. Time to cling onto possessions and boat hooks!

High on an embankment

The Tame Valley Canal sits high on an embankment and runs along the side of the M6 for a while to where the M5 joins it.

Loads of concrete

Roads intertwining high on concrete stilts, the River Tame curling it’s way slowly beneath.

Magnet fishing

Then once over the railway you are surrounded, the canal now in a cutting. A group were magnet fishing at one bridge, several items had been pulled out or just to the side. The chap said he was looking for mobile phones, so he’d most probably leave the trolleys where they had got dragged to.

Blimey it was windy, a touch more revs needed to keep us on our course, good job there are only a couple of moored boats about.

A rope swing distracted Mick at a bridge just for a second or two too long, the engine tone changed. A blast of reverse, still the same. Damn something round the prop. He managed to pull us almost in to the side and hopped off with a centre line. A spike was hammered in to help me keep hold of Oleanna against the wind whilst Mick delved into the murky waters of the weed hatch.

Quite Ghostly

The wind was tunneling it’s way along the canal and Oleanna’s bow was being forced across the cut. The spike was pulling out, should I just let go. No I clung on, forced the spike back into the ground. In a two second lull of wind I rearranged myself to stand on the rope once it was through the spike loop, then I could lean back remembering my windsurfing days when I was just a teenager. I lent back thinking of heavy things like lardy cakes all the time my arms gradually getting that little bit longer. Surely Mick must have finished by now!!!

A large wet something hit the deck, hopefully that was all there was going to be. My arms were now stinging like Alan’s in A Regular Little Houdini, then they burned, at least if I let go I wouldn’t end up feet first in a tunnel of mud with the tide coming in!

As soon as Mick stood up I called out to him and Oleanna was just pulled in enough for us to get back on again with a jump. Blimey my arms throbbed. We now just hoped that the mooring we were aiming for was free and sheltered enough to be able to moor up with an amount of ease.

Still a while to go before we got to Tame Valley Junction, we’d most certainly had enough by now. We turned left and I could see round through the hedge that there was space. Reversing in would be easier we hopped than winding as the entrance to the arm was at an acute angle.

Luck was with us, the wind had dropped. Mick brought us round and started to reverse and as he did so a gentle little breeze pushed the bow round to the right angle to clear the bridge at the entrance of the arm.

Now who can I find here?

Once tied up we could both breath again. A quick check round and the mooring was deemed suitable for Tilly. A late lunch was followed by a hair cut for Mick which was just interesting enough to bring Tilly out from the sideways trees to be picked up and returned inside just before dusk.

9 locks, 6.79 miles, 1 straight, 1 right, 1 left, 1 reverse, 1 newspaper, 2 sad gits loaves, 1 giant snake, 1 padded coat, M6, M5, 1 battle with the wind, 2 inches longer, 2 relieved boaters, grade 3, 1 key, 1.5 hours shore leave, 2 coconuts.

Thank you to Paul (Waterway Routes) we now know how many times the A5, Watling Street, crosses the navigable canal network. Fifteen times, more if you include the disused canals.