Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Winter Cruise - Day Four

We had a great evening last night.  Lesley and Joe, and Jill and Graham came round for a drink, and we were even joined by Paul from Waterway Routes, but he had to go and get a train home.  Then we all went for a meal.  We chose the Slug and Lettuce at Brindleyplace (fifty per cent off all food on Mondays).

This morning, we were looking forward to a fast run down the Farmer's Bridge Locks, as we'd roped in Lesley and Joe as lock crew!  We were off before 8, but it turned out we weren't quite early enough.  As we arrived at the top lock, another boat, Avington, was just going into the second one (they'd also been in front of us when we came up the Wolverhampton flight).  It didn't really matter, because the extra pairs of hands meant we could turn each lock as soon as Avington left it.  We got into a good rhythm of going ahead to set the locks, so we probably wouldn't have been any quicker even without a boat in front.  Halfway down the flight, Joe too over the helm.

Farmer's Bridge is probably my favourite flight of urban locks.  There are great views everywhere, and always something to look at.

We got to the bottom in an hour and ten minutes, and stopped to put the kettle on and make tea for our crew, before saying goodbye to Lesley and Joe (and Fletcher and Floyd).  It's been great spending time with them, and we really appreciated the help this morning.

With a boat in front of us (even though they'd be well ahead because of our tea stop), we decided on a change of plan.  We'd been going to head down the Aston flight and as far along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal as we could.  But we decided to turn right as Aston Juntion and go down the Ashted Locks instead, followed by the Garrison Locks, which we'd never done before.

Ashed Tunnel is narrow and uneven, and starts directly after the top Ashted Lock.  There was plenty of water in the flight.  Halfway down the flight, there's a great view of the Bullring.

At the end of the Digbeth Branch, we turned left left through Warwick Bar.  Then it was just a short distance to Bordesley Junction, where we went under the elegant bridge onto the Saltley Cut.

It starts straight and wide, with lots of bridges into the distance.  The Garrison Locks turned out to be much nicer than we'd been expecting (although the sunny day may have helped).

As we're not short of time on this trip, we decided to stop at the pontoon moorings at Star City.  Lesley and Joe have stayed here, and said it was fine.  It was about 12.30 when we arrived, and I knew we had something round the prop.  Opening the weed hatch, I was surprised to see how clear the water was; it was probably the best view I've had of the prop, and I could clearly see the plastic bag causing the problem.

As we were moored next to a cinema, it seemed the idea time to go and see a film.  So we checked the times, and after a quick lunch went and saw The Social Network.  We were the only people in the cinema.  The moorings here are much better than we were expecting; there's access to Star City via a gate locked with a BW key, and I'm sure the vast majority of people who go to Star City don't even know the moorings are here.  Spaghetti Junction isn't far away, so there's a certain amount of traffic noise, but even that isn't as bad as we thought it might be.  All in all, it's been a thoroughly enjoyable day.

5 miles, 24 locks (37 miles, 50 locks)


Captain Ahab said...

The back route through Garrison Locks is my favourite by far - so much so I cant remember the last time I descended the Aston Locks.
Watch out for the weather on Friday night - minus 5 is forecast rising to a balmy plus 2 degrees in the day. Maybe a bit of ice crunching at the weekend.

Halfie said...

Hmm. Plenty of water in the flight, eh? That's just what we didn't want when going through Ashted Tunnel a couple of years ago. Shadow was scraping along the side of the tunnel. What really didn't help was a following boat emptying a lockful of water into the tunnel! Perhaps we didn't have enough ballast (people) on board. Next time I'll make sure at least we have a full water tank.

Halfie said...

By coincidence, Jim on Starcross has just posted a photo of the same view of Ashted Tunnel taken nearly 40 years ago.


Adam said...

Halfie, we avoided scraping the side of the Ashted Tunnel as walked along the tow path with the centre rope, keeping the boat to the towpath side. I can't remember who suggested the idea, but it was a good piece of advice, and works.

Jill and Graham said...

Thanks for a lovely evening, sorry didn't make the early morning start, but you were probably down the Aston flight before we even snorted ourselves awake, have a great cruise guys

Halfie said...

We did that as well, but still scraped!