Birmingham to Lapworth

Saturday 20th February 2010

Zulu going round Sherbourne Wharf, Birmingham
Zulu going round Sherbourne Wharf, Birmingham, in search of coal

Woke up to a very cold Birmingham and all thoughts of a dawn departure vanished into duvet land.

Good old Zulu’s 37 year old engine was good enough to start first time after two weeks resting and we set off to Cambrian Wharf for water, and then to Sherbourne Wharf for coal, to replace the two bags which were stolen while I was away.  Unfortunately they don’t sell it, so back to Gas Street Basin where Away 2 Service supplied a couple of bags of Taybrite for £9.00 each while I was passing through the Worcester Bar.

Other bloggers had recently noted the odd temporary bridge at Selly Oak where a new road is being built under the canal and adjoining railway line.  The canal will be closed here from Monday 22nd until 26th while a temporary canal diversion is built alongside, which to me sounds much more than 5 days work.  Meanwhile a chap turned up to raise the temporary bridge without asking, and called out to give it some power as other boats were going aground here.  Zulu doesn’t exactly do extra power, but I gave it all we had and rode up and over the mudbank without quite coming to a halt.

Turning left at Kings Norton and through the unique stop lock with its guillotine gates, open at each end for several decades I guess.  the surroundings become less industrial and at Shirley there’s a total transformation into open countryside.  This is certainly where people who want big houses live – there are some very attractive country houses and very nice places to moor after the grungy urban stopping points outside Birmingham itself.

Onwards towards Lapworth on a lovely sunny day, but the closer to Lapworth, the thicker the ice and the more snow on the ground.  I thought I was following another boat, but it must have been the one oncoming boat which I passed, as the broken channel I was following ended, leaving poor old Zulu an ever harder course through the ice.  The two lift bridges 26 and 28 near Lapworth are certainly fun single handed without snow and ice to contend with too! I ended up pulling the boat through and catching it as it went past under the bridges – well it seemed to work this time but theres something disconcerting about your boat sailing past without anyone on board, and no direct means of catching it unless the boat hook can reach it!

At the top of Lapworth at 5pm I was obviously the only boat of the day – the ice was getting thicker by the minute, so with less than an hour of daylight I decided to go down the first four locks and call it a day.  Which has worked out OK so far despite having to break fairly thick ice in places.

However as I tied up below lock 5 the ropes were freezing in my hands, and the temperature had already dropped to minus 4 and with a clear sky it seems perfect  conditions to become even colder.  If the ice permits in the morning I can look forward to another 15 locks in close succession, and if it doesn’t I can look forward to a lovely lie in.

Todays total : 17 miles and 4 locks.  Brrrrrhhhhhh.

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