Travels of Joanie M – Life as a Continuous Cruiser – Into Birmingham

As our cruising around Birmingham involves back and forth along several of the same bits, I thought that firstly I would split it into 3 or 4 sections and rather than an account of our daily activities it would be more like a travel guide with a few personal bits thrown in.

Travelling towards Birmingham is very familiar territory, having hired from Alvechurch many times since the 80s. Much has changed and yet it is still the same. On the Stratford Canal, there used to be a swing bridge at Tunnel Lane. There us no sign or Blue Plaque to say but this site was famous as where LTC Rolt insisted on the disused lift bridge being raised so he could navigate through, the canal not being officially abandoned. This the Great Western Railway duly did, using a force of gangers and the lift bridge was eventually replaced by a swing bridge. The swing bridge still operated in the 80s and at weekends usually had a gang of small boys who would open it for you in exchange for a handful of coins. When we passed this way a few years ago the bridge was left open and now has gone completely, just the narrows and mooring bollards to show where it was.

Kings Norton Junction looks a lovely spot to moor with its perfect junction house, complete with original toll charges on the board above the door but unfortunately it is not considered ‘safe’. The first time we passed there a boat called ‘Muskrat’ was moored there. Passing the other way about 10 days later there were 3 boys on the deck who ran off as we moored for lunch. Walking back I could see a broken window and paint sprayed over the paintwork. After lunch I noticed the boys were back so I called the Police and CRT. When we came back a few days later I was glad to see that ‘Muskrat’ had been towed to Lyons Boatyard.

The Worcester & Birmingham was originally built to take 14ft wide boats so there is no need to slow down through the bridge holes. At Bournville are some secure moorings to allow you to visit Cadbury World. I’ve not been but others have said how good it is. Besides, I don’t think either I or Jeannette could be treustyed with all that chocolate. Opposite Bournville station the housing lining the canal used to be Cadburys Wharf although it was already disused when I first passed it. The houses are now well established a look as if they have always been there.

The next location is Selly Oak. The site of the junction with the Dudley Canal can still be seen here. This area is called Battery Park after the Birmingham Battery Company whose large site is now occupied by Sainsburys. They are relocating the store to across the route of the canal. The original plans allowed for the restoration of the canal and then the idea was dropped. After many protestations the canal route will now be protected. You then come to the new aqueduct built to allow the Selly Oak bypass to go under the canal. This has been named the Aeriel Aqueduct after the old motorcycle works that stood nearby. Crossing the aqueduct gives one a good view of the unusual buildings of the QE hospital that is often in the news.

The canal runs parallel with the busy railway for all this stretch. As you near the city centre, there used to be the Davenport Brewery on the right. I recall this having a pipe about a foot above the water level that belched out blasts of steam across the canal. Housing now occupies the site as it does on the Granville Street Wharf next to the unusual Cube.

Opposite the Cube is Holliday Steet or Corporation Wharf. This has now been completely redeveloped but only the facade of the original building remains. There are three 14 day moorings here with a sanitary station in the middle. Unfortunately, a boat was moored s o as to obstruct the water point which meant if we had moored on the only other space, only short boats would have been able to use the facilities. The Birmingham Registrar Office is here and the moored boats are often used as a backdrop to the wedding photographs.

We moored around the corner, opposite the Premier Inn. We spent last winter cruising around the Black Country and had moored ,many times in the city centre. All very quiet. What a difference in the summer. People everywhere and, being the weekend, late into the evening. We were woken at 5.30am by raucous conversation. I went into the back end and was surprised to find these revellers were on our back deck. I am sure that the site of a 66 year old naked body rising through the hatch was a great shock but they had the grace to say sorry before they dispersed. That was the end of sleep however but at least we got to the shops and market before the rain came down.