Sunday, 21 June 2009

An evening on the Birmingham & Fazeley

We slip the moorings by the Boat Inn. Two rather annoying ten-year old boys accompany us down the towpath. Initially we had answered their questions, but the questions keep on coming; very large numbers of them and they are phrased without any due regard to the answer to previous questions.
"Where do you come from?"
"We live near London, but we are bringing the boat from Nottingham"
"Where have you started?"
"You have come from London?!"
"Are you Polish? Who do you support? Is it your boat?" and so on and on and on and on.....

At Minworth bottom lock, they want to wind the paddles up. T shows them how.

"Where do you get one of these?"
"From a shop"
"How much do they cost?"
Seeing where this is going and mindful of what happened at Saltley last night, I reply "Two hundred pounds"
"You were ripped off, mister"

We left them swinging off the beams and motored on into the bright evening sunshine. The evening light lit the dusty, misty waters ahead and we could see the flies hovering and the fish breaking the surface. But quickly the light started to dim, and it all felt a little gloomy.

A suspicious couple lurk under a bridge. As we approach, a man disappears up a bank, leaving a woman in the shadows on the towpath; curious and sinister. She smiles at us, but it is a weak, wan smile. I feel sorry for her without even knowing why. As we motor away, the man reappears.

At Minworth Middle Lock, we meet a friendly Yorkshireman with his equally friendly dog. He's down from Scarborough to visit his daughter's family. It was a refreshing change from the banal conversations of much of the afternoon and evening.

Just a short distance up the canal we come to Minworth Top Lock, and thereafter the canal feels quiet and isolated. The light is low and the water is like a mirror: either side, there is much desolation. It is difficult to tell what industry lay there before - but there is none now.

The towpath becomes a concrete path, and even if you want to moor, it's just not possible as there are no mooring rings: the pub on Tyburn Road, recommended in several canal guides, has not one. It is simply not feasible to visit - what do you do, just leave the boat floating about?

The evening feels slightly grey as we approach the last few bridges before Salford Junction: no walkers anymore, no joggers, no-one. For its finale, the Birmingham & Fazeley plunges under a factory for several hundred yards, which is really creepy.

With maybe ten minutes light left, we arrive at Salford Junction and turn slowly onto the Saltley Arm - I can't remember what the official name is: the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal? The name seems as long as the canal.

We pass the old stop lock or was this maybe a shallow lock, and moor up at Star City's visitor moorings as darkness falls.

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