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March 11th 2010 - Kings Norton Junction

We left our mooring outside the Black Country Living Museum around 10am on Wednesday morning and headed back to the Tipton Junction, this time we took the right turn to Birmingham!  I have to say the cruise that followed was not the most memorable journeys we've taken!  The canal itself continued to be full of rubbish and passed through some pretty run down areas.  Clive did have a bit of a giggle at one point though.  I was below decks for the first part of the journey and at one point we were passing right underneath the M5, which followed the same course as the canal!  It towered above us on huge pillars, a bit surreal really!  Anyway at one point Clive saw three young Asian girls walking along the towpath looking frozen and trying desperately to avoid the muddy puddles in the towpath.  As he was passing them by one of them looked at the boat, looked at Clive and asked "is this a ferry?" !!!  Clive was highly amused as you can imagine - the girls looked very disappointed when he said no!


Eventually we arrived at a flight of three locks.  Again it took me by surprise and I wasn't ready!  (He'll be sacking me at this rate!).  I quickly got my boots and togs on and shot up on deck with my trusty windlass ready to do battle.  It turned out to be quite a battle too, these locks were very stiff and full of rubbish.  Whereas most locks have a single gate at one end and double gates at the other, these locks had a single gate at each end - very heavy ones!  However I managed and it didn't take long to get down all three.  I had a little chuckle to myself as the last lock was filling - amongst all the debris floating about in the lock were another two coconuts!  Where on Earth are they coming from?


Soon after the lock flight we could see Birmingham's high rise buildings in the distance.  There are many canals in Birmingham, in fact it is known as England's Venice!  As we were cruising down towards the city centre we spotted something ahead - what on Earth is that?!



Panic!


At first we thought it was a floating bed of reeds, however as we got closer we realised that it was an actual structure in the middle of the canal with narrow channels on either side - how bizarre!



Tight squeeze!


We were still totally at a loss to explain this strange aberration, however once we were through the narrows we realised what was going on - it was traffic calming, canal style!  Just after this "island" there was a turning into one of the many loops of the canal which used to wend there way around the many factories and warehouses that used to be here many years ago.  At that time this canal would have been bustling with working boats carrying coal and steel and other commodoties and so there had to be some way to slow down the boats on the main line to allow access and egress from the side loops.  So there you are!



Traffic calming, canal style!


We didn't have much further to go and a few minutes later we saw our destination up ahead.  The Symphony Hall visitor moorings.  Wow, right in the heart of the city!



Symphony Hall Moorings


We moored up on the left, just in front of the boat you can see up ahead.  It was a very odd place to be moored, overlooked by all the modern apartment buildings.  Surprisingly though it was very quite and peaceful.  We were completely undisturbed all night.


This morning we left around 10.00am and headed off towards Gas Street Basin.  Clive particularly wanted to see this part of Birmingham - he has been here several times in the past  during his former life when he was working!  He often used to attend Biotechnology Conferences and Exhibitions and had told me about it and how nice it was.  He has really been looking forward to coming back by boat.  It was quite amazing cruising past all the modern office blocks and the miriad of cafes and restaurants of every type which flanked the canal.  Just ahead of where we were moored is the Birmingham Sea Life Centre - I would really like to go there!  However, not today, we had somewhere else to go today!



Gas Street Basin


We were heading to Kings Norton.  Clive's Auntie Joan lives here and we have kept in touch with her over the years and she has always sent us Christmas and birthday cards so we really couldn't come to Birmingham without making a slight detour to pay her a visit. 


It was quite an interesting cruise.  We passed by the University and then we saw something which might not look the same in the not too distant future - the Cadbury's plant!  We were at Bourneville - the home of Cadbury's chocolate, which of course may have a new sign soon - Kraft's!!!



The Cadbury Plant


There is even a railway station called Bourneville and its all painted purple, the Cadbury's Dairy Milk colour!!


We continued on our cruise and I popped inside to make us a cup of coffee.  I had just got back on deck, juggling two cups of coffee and a box of biscuits, when Clive said "what on Earth is that up ahead!"  - I turned to look and got quite a shock - the canal appeared to stop!  However, on closer inspection we realised that there was a very narrow channel wending its way through this huge construction site!  Phew that's a relief!



Narrow passage!


It was quite a tight squeeze negotiating this channel, there was about six inches to spare on either side, that's all!  The guys working on the site were all waving and saying hello - I told one chap that they had made a bit of a mess of the canal - what on Earth were they doing!  He informed me that they were actually tunnelling underneath it for a new railway line - wow!  Sure enough we soon passed over it and you can see what a huge job it is!



Tunnelling under the canal!


We finally made it through the construction site and back onto the main channel again.  All the way along this bit of canal we were joined by the railway line, so there were trains whizzing back and forth right beside us!  Then all of a sudden we left it all behind and came out into what appeared to be rural countryside.  In actual fact it was a park and this meant that our moorings were just up ahead!  Sure enough a few minutes later we saw a bridge up ahead and Junction House. 



Junction House


Immediately under this bridge there was a left turn going off the main channel but up ahead were the visitor moorings, just beyond Junction House.  So Clive turned the boat down the left channel then reversed down the main channel (I jumped off and hauled her backwards with the stern rope!) so that we could moor up.  We had to do it this way as there is nowhere to turn the boat further down the channel without going through a very long, dark tunnel!  No thank you!  Anyway, once we were moored up we had a quite lunch and a cuppa then packed up the laptop and the camera and headed off to find a bus!


We managed to get to Auntie Joan's withough any bother at all.  We had phoned her yesterday to let her know we were coming so she was expecting us.  She was absolutely delighted to see us and we were just as pleased to see her - its been a long time!  We had taken the laptop with us in order to show her all the family photos and she really enjoyed looking at them.  She was most impressed with the laptop, having never seen one before and she was absolutely blown away by the digital camera!  I took a few photographs to remind us of our visit and she was thrilled to bits to be able to look at them on the camera straight away!



Clive and Auntie Joan sharing a joke!


She showed us her "friends" - a teddy bear she had received for Christmas from her niece and a knitted doll, which her late sister had sent her a few years ago after she said she had nobody to talk to!  We had a cuppa and a bun then it was time for us to say goodbye.  I think Auntie Joan would have liked us to stay longer as she doesn't get many visitors, but we really had to get back to the boat.  So we gave her a cuddle and said goodbye - we are really glad we went to see her, she's lovely.


The boat was still here and in one piece when we got back thankfully.  We are going to stay here overnight then head back into Birmingham again tomorrow.  On our way out through Gas Street Basin we spotted a Thai Restaurant - mmmmm nom nom nom!  I think we will try it out tomorrow evening!




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