#14 Worcester & Birmingham Canal – North / Birmingham & Fazeley Canal / Digbeth Branch Canal. August 2015

Friday 14th August 2015      The hour is pretty darn(ed) close to midday. Old Lister (1936) is fired up & Black Bart slowly cruises the last of our wonderful & interesting waterway, the Stratford Canal, including gliding through the open guillotine stop lock just short of the (wonky) ‘T’ junction. At Kings Norton Junction Bart turns into the waters of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal again.

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We enjoyed the first nine-ish miles at the southern end of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal whilst cruising the Mid-Worcestershire Ring (seems like) ages ago. We now face the almost torturous last five miles at the northern end of this canal. We will have to journey our way along the full 30 miles of this canal, on another occasion of our waterway world travelings. Anyway, Bart has successfully turned at the junction, passed under the thoughtfully named Junction Bridge & now struggling to moor due to lack of water depth with added concerns about extensive poop ground coverage (Canadian Geese are messy little sods). Bart is now reversing back to & thru ye olde J Bridge & manages to moor just past (backwards) the canal junction house.

Saturday 15th August      The weed hatch is investigated again, before we turn old Lister over. Miss Tiller has been misbehaving since we left the water collection depot yesterday. Mr. plastic bag & all his friends had been playing (unfairly) with old prop & his mate prop-shaft. It’s OK though, skip has dealt with those naughty blighters. Bart & crew are now ready. Lines slipped, we make hay, while the sun still shines. Not for much longer though. Clouds already rolling in. The ‘expansive’ (three boats long) CRT moorings local to the Bourneville Cadbury’s Choco factory are full. OH Well. Maybe another time. 

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We continue towards our second city, trogging along side the railway (as happens at times with our canals), passing through the 105yd Edgbaston tunnel (SIX !!)

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Finally entering Birmingham’s mix of modern & historic canal side architecture. We take the sharp left turn at The Mailbox (sure sure about that one either), mooring in the last (legal) position, just before Gas Street Basin. We is ‘ere. Time to relax & soak-in that Brummy air. Deep Breath. Off for a walk of the immediate parts of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN).

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Black Bart (built by the talented people at Orion Narrowboats in 2000) is a BCN replica. The BCN are an expansive network of waterways in Birmingham & surrounding areas. We may not be negotiating these famous waters at this particular visit to the Midlands. We will return One Day….

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Back to the now – After a tittle walk round we fall upon an appealing watering station. The aptly named Mad Goose (only 4%) goes down very easily. We return to our Bart for din-dins & a tittle later, a broken night’s sleep. Very rowdy revellers seen to be passing Bart well into the early ‘ers.

Sunday 16th August      Black Bart remains moored, just by Gas Street Basin, in the shadow of, amongst others, the (sum, might know) Hyatt Regency, aswell as others I cannot name. We slob for the day & play One for ‘is knob & Rummikub amongst others. Black Bart certainly is a much photographed boat. The lady getting into the cratch was sent packing, scared off by Roxy exercising her well practised guard dog routine. The man stepping onto the bow was put off by the double attack of Roxy barking & her favourite skip (she calls her mummy) using a few strong words. Message understood. People are very strange.

Monday 17th August      Our Guest, Lynn is off today. She is escorted off the premises & staff ensure she is finally on that train bound for Le Avenue di Chester de Ro. You may of heard of this delightful place. We have not. Crew return to Black Bart to sort the mess out. All the maps are now dusted off & opened out. Nowhere to sit now. Oh Well !! We ‘need’ to plan which way Black Bart will be turn when we all reach the ‘Old Junction’ at the centre of the Canal World. Probably only aboat a quarter of a mile ahead of our current (moored) position. The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal is the chosen one. Maps away again. We schedule an early start in ta morning. 2nd mate stays onboard to ward off any possible intruders, while the skips are off to check out the building site that Birmingham city centre is at the mo’. This old city has some Fantastic architecture.

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So much colour with all the vibrant flowers in abundance throughout the city & waterscape.

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We enjoy a foray into the Museum & Art Gallery to see just a few of their historic exhibits & Fantastic paintings. An Italian Brummy dinner for two finishes off the day perfectly.

Tuesday 18th August      As planned, we are off by 9 o’clock, passing by Gas Street Basin, through 83yd Broad Street Tunnel

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& our anticipated turn at said junction.

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After Water collection duties we efficiently descend the 13 Farmers Bridge Locks. Some of these locks pass under new & old buildings. Quite an experience. Cross winds, particularly at locks 10 & 11 are a wee bit awkward. Not as bad as can be though, by  evident war wounds on a building’s concrete legs, along side the lock pound.

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Oncoming narrowboat kindly ended up in difficult position to allow (our longer) Bart to pass straight between locks. short Pound & another concrete ‘leg’ not making for an ideal situation.

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Safely through all the locks with no nasty incidents, after less than two miles of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal we reach Ashton Junction, turning right (again), now swimming along the short Digbeth Branch Canal.

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Descending the six Ashted Locks & scraping our way through the very cosy 103yd Ashted Tunnel. Glad Bart’s roof is lower than most narrowboats. The tunnel profile is tight & suddenly narrowing partway through reshaped starboard bow chimney’s cooly hat. Minor damage, fortunately.

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Shortly after, passing through the wide Curzon Street Bridge we find ourselves approaching another junction. Typhoo Basin is ahead. A ‘dead end’. We decide to miss out on tea for the moment, turning left. 

We are now going to be travelling South on The Grand Union (formerly the Grand Junction Canal) (previous to that, many different named Canals, of which I currently cannot remember, luckily).

If you want, you can re-join Black Bart & her crew of three on the Grand Union, heading South. IF you don’t want to, then I’m sure you may find there are many many other very interesting & educational websites & pages available for you to peruse. There might even be other narrow boater’s blogs. Have a look. See if we care !!

Black Bart has cruised just a few miles of three different Canals descending 19 narrow locks. We will no doubt cruise both the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Birmingham & Fazeley Canals in their entireties during future Bart World Cruises.  

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