D3 Heading into Birmingham

Each time I’ve gone into or from Birmingham taking a southern route , I’ve always taken the Stratford Canal route, which although longer does mean safe moorings are available a short day’s cruise from the city centre. This time I opted to take the Grand Union Canal route in, because we’re moving bases so it may be a couple of years before I go down the GUC again. The accepted wisdom is to stop is that Catherine de Barnes as the last real place before the city centre, to moor, save for some designated safe mooring sites. As I had booked in to spend the evening at the Waterman for Mothers Day, it meant that I was setting off from Hatton Top for Day 3, which is an extra 10 miles and 5 locks away, so extended the day somewhat (I didn’t really want to do just a short day again). Was I mad in trying to get to Brum from Hatton, or maybe I would only make it as far as the Camp Hill locks pontoon (a “secure” mooring as it has no way on or off to the rest of the world except by boat). It was, after all, only March and not a long summer day of July or August.
As this trip was to go through Birmingham and on to the Shropshire Union, I didn’t necessarily have to go via the city centre, in deed I preferred to go along the Tame Valley Canal because my camera broke last time I did it and really wanted another go at capturing that route. That at least meant I didn’t need to go right into the centre and I could go only as far as Aston Science park, where I’ve moored previously, or ideally to Cuckoo Wharf near Salford Junction as that would put me straight on the Tame Valley the next morning. Although I’ve been past Cuckoo Wharf before and it looks like purely long term moorings only, I had read that its okay for overnight visitors. So my plan, was to set off early and play it by ear hoping to reach Cuckoo Wharf before dusk and youths come out from the shadows like a scene from a zombie movie.
We got up, had breakfast, and set off at 8am. It was a bright, sunny, but distinctly cool morning. The canal was quiet and the sun was still half asleep and hadn’t risen far. We soon reached Shrewley Tunnel which welcomed us with a cool embrace and showered us with several water drips before bidding farewell. If I wasn’t fully awake before, I was now. We said hello to some lively ducks and we reached Kingwood Junction at 9.30. Last chance to chicken out and turn up the Stratford … The canal from here was all new to me, as I’d not done this stretch before. By 10am the wind had picked up and by the time we reached Knowle Locks there was a strong crosswind – not very good for a long boat at slow speed. After dropping off a crew member I backed up a little behind the shelter of the shrubbery until the lock was ready and open, then went ahead straight into the lock. As we were going up the first lock, another boat was coming down the second – perfect timing as it means we should both easily pass each other, if we set off together, and be able to do so with enough speed so that the wind couldn’t blow off course. We managed it, though I think I was travelling a little bit faster than I needed. I stayed in the second lock until the third was ready and open, although this way meant more walking for the crew, it did mean I was less affected by the wind. We made it into the top lock by 11am, so about 10 minutes a lock. After clearing detritus that had been accumulated by the wind across the top gate we carried on and an hour later we were approaching Catherine-de-Barnes. Lunch was being prepared so time for to moor for a quick lunch once it was ready, so that we could then continue. Was noon too late to be setting off from Catherine-de-Barnes? Here’s the video for the morning’s cruise:
[youtube width=”598″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEPLpN7i8fg[/youtube]

One Response to “D3 Heading into Birmingham”

  1. Louise Says:

    Hi, Just watched your vid – not watched a timelapse before, but really enjoyed it. If only all the boring bits of the journey could be done that fast! BTW saw my Motor and Butty as u passed through Kingswood. Stop for a chat if we bump into each other around and about.