Sunday, 10 August 2014

Going over the top in Brum

Flying Solo across Birmingham
August 2014

Boaters, more than most, appreciate that Birmingham sits on a whacking great hill.  Whichever way you approach the city you are faced with a long flight of locks and if you want to cross to the other side one follows in the footsteps of the grand old Duke of York who marched up - and then down again.

Digbeth to Calf Heath is peppered with locks, 22 up to the Wolverhampton Level and then 21 down to the Staffs and Worcester summit pound, and they all stood in my path home. Fortunately I had a bit of help!

 Mick - who fabricated the bows of The Jam Butty

We climbed the Ashted six in Saturday evening after The Bond event in the company of Sue and Ade of The Cheese Boat, spending the night in Aston Science Park. I can vouch for the area immediately above the top lock as the area is actively monitored by Science Park security guards / CCTV. In fact Ade and myself spotted what appeared to be some disconnected sensor boxes and so opened one up, only to discover it was live and in no time a guard hove into view to check us out! 

The next morning Charley of Felonious Mongoose and fellow BCNS member came to help us up the Farmers Bridge flight where we encountered Tawny Owl in one of the short pounds. Seeing it was Tawny Owl we were a bit surprised to see them dithering but it transpired that Richard had lent his boat to friends who were new to boating.

Spring Vale - probable operating base for the Day Boat which became Montgomery's bows / hold

Helen, needing to be elsewhere on Monday, got a taxi home leaving me chatting to The Cheese Boat and The Lollipop Boat who were trading opposite The Sea Life Centre. There was a suggestion that I put out a display of jam so we could claim to be a "Mini Market" but with all the preserves carefully boxed for Blisworth I left well alone. This stop did introduce me to Mick on the Lollipop Boat who had done much of the steel fabrication work on Montgomery, Its a small world!.

I was then off on my own to Tipton. It was strange being out there afloat in a big city entirely on my own. My inclination was to follow the New Main Line to Brades and then the Old Main Line to the Black Country Living Museum but I remembered a Mirabelle Plum tree on the NML near Dudley Port so pressed on and picked about 4kg of yellow and red little plums - enough for nine jars of jam and about 15 jars of chutney.

Helen then made an unexpected call at the BCLM whereupon we sampled the board of fayre offered by Mad O'Rourke. Lumphammer Gold is to be recommended.

Charley lock wheeling me down the 21

Helen departed on Monday morning leaving yours truly to bring both boats back to base. Regrettably No 1 son did a "no show" but the day was saved by Charley who arrived on the train with his bike and windlass, and in no time we were zipping down the 21. Everywhere we go The Jam Butty is recognised and as I pulled into Wolverhampton Basin a delighted cry of "look, its the Jam Butty" went up. It was the crew of Warrior who follow the blog. Sorry I didn't get a photo guys - the two boats are making on the move photography a bit tricky.

We fairly sped down the 21, fortified by sandwiches containing - you guessed it - jam! I had run out of everything else and Charley found it all rather fitting.

The final 2.5 hour blast to Calf Heath was interrupted by one of my occasional jack knife crises. As I was approaching a left hand bend under the railway bridge at Coven another boat was approaching at pace, indicating that they couldn't stop because they had another boat hard on their heels. The looming bows of a working boat appeared over the skippers shoulder emphasising the point. However, an emergency stop when towing and turning left can only end one way - with me jack knifed across the canal! 

Barney Ball and Hampstead

In the end the working boat backed off out of the bridge hole and I pirouetted round the first boat. It was then I recognised the skipper of the working boat - none other than Barney Ball on Hampstead who built Montgomery. He had seen the butty side on through the bridge hole and was delighted to see how it had worked out now the paint job has been applied.

And so ends that particular saga. Montgomery's work done till the Black Country Boating Festival in September.

No comments: