We’ve been cruising more new-to-us canals, firstly the North Stratford. The 19 locks of the Lapworth Flight would have been a real headache if it hadn’t been for a couple of CRT Volunteer Lock keepers, Pat and Roger. They were absolute diamonds, and made a wet afternoon’s trip up a real pleasure.
After turning right at King’s Norton onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal we moored for two days in Bournville, and so made a pilgrimage to Cadbury World. It would have been rude not to. I think it would have been a lot more fun with small people in tow, and was a bit disappointed that you don’t get to see inside the massive factory. It didn’t stop us leaving laden down with chocolate though. Next time I’ll just stop at the shop. Bournville itself was pleasant, although not as “manufactured” as some of the other Victorian factory towns built by philanthropic businessmen we’ve visited, like Titus Salt’s Saltaire. We did like the visitor moorings though, securely gated and right next to the railway line, which didn’t bother us in the slightest.
Then we pushed on into Birmingham, a trip I’ve been equally looking forward to and apprehensive about. One minute you’re chugging through Edgbaston and past the leafy University halls of residence and then all of a sudden you’re in the city itself, looking very Peaky Blinders around the Gas Street Basin area. No-one warned us about the narrows just outside a pub on the way in. There were plenty of people to judge our boat handling skills on a sunny bank holiday Sunday!
We moored up close to the National Sea Life Centre and spent a couple of days exploring the city. With apologies to all those who love it, we were a bit underwhelmed. There is plenty of shopping to be enjoyed, but not a lot of sightseeing to do when you get beyond the canalside, which to us was the highlight of the city. Sitting with a drink watching boats negotiating Old Turn Junction I felt like we were on holiday.
We visited the Bullring, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and found the bull from the Commonwealth Games. We noticed a lot of begging in the city. Someone even approached us while asking for money while we were drinking a cup of coffee in a Starbucks; that’s a first for me. A lot of the city centre seems to be undergoing redevelopment. Many of the 1960s concrete buildings have been or are being demolished and replaced with modern creations of glass and steel. It’ll be interesting to go back in a year or two and see what changes there have been. I’m sure we’ll visit again. I’d be happy to take recommendations of things to see and do on a future visit.
There are two main line canal routes through Birmingham and into the Black Country. Today we’ve been cruising Thomas Telford’s New Main Line (hardly new, it was completed in 1837) and enjoyed passing through the many junctions and peering down loops and arms. We could do without the extremely narrow and redundant gauging stations though. I can see why people get so fascinated by the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations), there’s an awful lot to explore.