Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for May 29th, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 21 and 22

Posted by indigodream on 29 May, 2009

Lapworth Top Lock to Hawne Basin

Moving off from Lapworth Top Lock

Moving off from Lapworth Top Lock

Well, we’re in Birmingham and all ready for tomorrow’s BCN Marathon Challenge. If you’ve nothing better to do we’re going to try for a ‘real time’ blog tomorrow with updates every 6 hours or so – connections permitting. We’ve been told that there are 40 boats taking part – how fantastic.

But that’s tomorrow’s excitement – here are a few highlights from the last couple of days.

Thursday 28th May

We got to the boat after a tedious drive up from London. We’re back to last year’s routine of stopping at the Junction 10 (Cherwell Valley) services on the M40 – Costa coffee and the best dog walking of any motorway services anywhere (room for off-lead rummaging and an accessible stream for them to have a splosh!).

Could be a picture from a holiday brochure - the richly wooded Stratford Canal

Could be a picture from a holiday brochure - the richly wooded Stratford Canal

It was gone 2pm by the time we got to Indigo Dream. She’d been fine on the moorings though she was completely alone. When we left her she was surrounded by moored boats – where have they all gone??

Note: Liftbridge 26 is well fenced and gated from the road so it’s good place for dogs to rummage with the shore crew.

We had an uneventful cruise up, passing lots of moored hire boats enjoying the last of the glorious weather before their mad dash back to their respective hire bases at the weekend. There was relatively little movement on the water though – just enough boats to be sociable but not so many as to make it a slog.

On the subject of boats, we met an old friend in the shape of nb Fulbourne, with whom we’ve shared a couple of trips down to the Royal Docks. The last time we cruised with them we were breaking through the ice, it couldn’t have been more different today. Sadly, though, they were definitely missing the sheer volume of water available on the vast tidal Thames – we caught with them when they’d managed to get grounded in mid-channel just beyond Bridge 14. A lot of

Busy moorings at Lady Lane Wharf - there's a public water point here

Busy moorings at Lady Lane Wharf - there's a public water point here

shoving and tugging by Fulbourne’s doughty crew plus extra manpower from a hire boat coming down tugged her over enough for us to get past, attach a tow rope and pull her off the obstruction.

Fulbourne’s an old working boat with a 3ft draught (unloaded!). The restoration of commercial traffic is a fine idea but this incident gave us an idea of just how much dredging would be needed to enable that to happen.

We did a rough calculation that Indigo dream’s draft at the heavy end (engine and toilet tank) is around 1ft 9 inches – perfect for the canals but when I look back there wasn’t actually a lot to hold us steady on the tidal Thames 🙂

We stopped for the night just after the Shirley Drawbridge (Bridge 8) by the aptly named ‘Drawbridge’ pub. It’s a good place to moor – there were useful mooring rings and it proved to be quiet and secure. The pub itself is very popular

Shallow canal:deep boat - Fulbourne aground mid-channel

Shallow canal:deep boat - Fulbourne aground mid-channel

and we, or rather, Blue and Lou, made lots of new friends there – the locals were very congenial. The food’s plain pub grub but exceptionally cheap so we’d certainly recommend a stop here. The only unfriendly local was a nasty little dog who was barking viciously at all and sundry and topped off the performance by biting Richard as he passed on the way to the bar – hole in trousers, hole in leg! You’ll be glad to know that it’s not serious, but we did have a word with the owners (who were very reasonable about it) about the advisability of a muzzle or possible a course of training. We hate it when people tell us off about our dogs (we never agree with them!) but there were a lot of children in the pub garden and it could have been a very nasty incident.

Fulbourne caught up with us here and got grounded again coming through the channel to the liftbridge. The sight of a long line of children from the pub towing her through is one I’ll never forget! We will publish photos later when we get over a minor technical hitch with one camera.

Bosom buddies - this train gave us a beep, so he should, it looks as if he's going to run right over us!

Bosom buddies - this train gave us a beep, so he should, it looks as if he's going to run right over us!

Friday 29th May

We had a surprisingly quiet night on the moorings considered how close it is to the pub, but we had no bother at all. So I have to conclude that what makes a safe mooring isn’t the absence of youth but their attitude.

We carried on into Birmingham today, enjoying the neat back gardens of Kings Norton and the robust industry of the Worcester and Birmingham. I really like the stretch up to Birmingham – it’s dynamic and interesting, and even picturesque in places; it’s also the top spot for waving at trains (and getting the drivers to wave back and beep their horns).

I know that Bourneville is not a good place to moor, but what about up by the university – it’s such a nice stretch, even though it is so close to the railway line. I’ve asked myself this all the way through Birmingham – surely BW, the council and the police could band together to create and enhance the moorings along these stretches and make them more attractive to boaters. We’re absolutely sure that there can’t be vandals along each and every inch of the Worcester and Birmingham between Kings Norton and Gas Street.

Invasive Rhododendron on the embankment - pretty though!

Invasive Rhododendron on the embankment - pretty though!

It’s such a shame that Bourneville has such an unsavoury reputation – Mr Cadbury would surely turn in his grave if he knew that his great social experiment had ended in a stretch of canal where it’s unsafe to leave a boat unattended.

There’s useful mooring with bollards just before Bridge 80 with access to a huge retail park including a handy Homebase and Sainsbury’s. We stocked up with food  for the marathon and set off happy.

We took the fast route through Birmingham on Telford’s magnificent main line. If you haven’t done this before then do come – it’s a truly remarkable waterway, a real testament to the industry that made the canals live.

Today’s revelation was the Dudley No 2 Canal down to Hawne Basin – what a great waterway. We cruised, and loved, the Dudley No 2 canal last year, but we hadn’t done this branch. We stopped off at the Bumblehole for dogs to have a

The picturesque Windmill End Junction

The picturesque Windmill End Junction

rummage (top rummaging here) before turning down the branch. The scenery around the turn is as pretty as any you could name. The canal then catches up with its industrial heritage and become surrounded by businesses; not that you’d notice. The canal’s perched high on the side of the hill and what you mostly see is rooftops and glimpses of the Malvern Hills in the far distance – brilliant.

The Gosty Hill tunnel is fascinating – at either end, the tunnel feels like a vaulted cathedral, high and narrow, with that echoing emptiness that encourages whispers and contemplation. But in the centre there’s an abrupt change – the tunnel roof sinks and suddenly you’re in the catacombs with barely a few inches above your head and it’s so so cold – marvellous!

We reached Hawne Basin towards late evening and found the inhabitants to be exceptionally friendly. We filled with water, and though we could have moored in the basin itself, opted to moor on the towpath just outside, having been assured that we’d be perfectly safe here. That meant that we had access to some top dog-walking – over the footbridge and up the hill, where the dogs rummaged in the undergrowth to their hearts content.

After all this activity we’re all up for an early night – big day tomorrow!

Note on the guide to moorings

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to update our ‘guide to moorings’ and the ‘2009 index’ pages – I’m having trouble importing tables from Word – it’s never been a problem before so I assume it’s just a glitch. Normal service will hopefully be resumed soon…..

Note on Photos

We use the blog as a sort of camera album but one camera has lost charge so our photos are a bit out of synch. We will add photos when we get back home.

Still impressive - I wonder what it was like when the works were still open

Still impressive - I wonder what it was like when the works were still open

Photoblog:

Gas Street Basin looks good

Gas Street Basin looks good

Buzzing Brindley Place

Buzzing Brindley Place

The sign tells a story - I wish all canalside industries, alive and dead, would identify themselves like this.

The sign tells a story - I wish all canalside industries, alive and dead, would identify themselves like this.

Dudley No 2 Canal: You'd never believe that this was part of the 'Black' Country...

Dudley No 2 Canal: You'd never believe that this was part of the 'Black' Country...

A thriving flock of goslings and their watchful parents

A thriving flock of goslings and their watchful parents

Zoom in to see a portrait of Dracula in Gosty Hill Tunnel....

Zoom in to see a portrait of Dracula in Gosty Hill Tunnel....

Says it all really.....

Says it all really.....

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