We leave Bournville and the rather mundane surroundings confirm my thoughts that the Worcester & Birmingham becomes less rural with distance from the city centre. It all becomes very mundane, and at one point we watch as a suspicious and nervous youth hides a bag in the bushes then waits by a footpath? Waits for what? Or whom?
We approach the beautiful Kings Norton Junction where the toll cottage belies the rather dangerous nature of the green surroundings, according to the guidebooks. We turn the sharp angle, noting the profusion of scars on the inner edge of the bridge.
A family sit in the sunshine to watch us turn; fortunately we put on a splendid display, leisurely and effortlessly spinning the boat through 160 degrees. We quickly pass the site of the infamous Factory Lane liftbridge, which Tom Rolt successfully used as a campaign tool to effectively re-open the North Stratford. A grim-faced angler rather spoils the moment for me though. An inglorious angler.
The North Stratford has an utterly different character from the Worcester & Birmingham. It is very narrow, for a start, but more significantly, the North Stratford is never knowingly straight for more than a few metres at a time. Willows, ash and alder push in on boats and heavy shrubbery and reed beds hide small flocks of yet more anglers. Most cheerfully smile, nod or say Hello; a few don't, studiously ignoring you and actively trying not to catch your eye.
Other than two boats belonging to Birmingham University, we have seen no resident boats since leaving Gas Street and even along the Stratford, we don't see many until we reach Lyons Boatyard.
We are aiming for The Drawbridge at Shirley, which we reach just as the heavens open again with a brief but fierce storm. We negotiate the famous lift-bridge and moor up just beyond, where three other boats have also tied up for the night.
10.4 miles, no locks
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