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The travels of narrow boat Racundra

Birmingham to Coventry Canal

Tuesday 14th October
(0L 1540.58M)
Birmingham, National Indoor Arena

After seeing Ian and Penny off to their Camper Van show, getting the washing up-to-date, and  hosing the cabin top, we cast off, waved goodbye to our hosts at Lyons and repeated our trip up to Birmingham city centre. This time we moored at the top of the Farmer’s Bridge flight ready to descend in the morning. Couldn’t resist taking a few more pictures along the way!

Kings Norton Junction Bourneville The Mailbox City Centre National Indoor Arena The Malt House

Solid fuel stoveBefore setting off Glyn decided to light up our solid fuel stove. It needed burning off when we could have all the windows open so that we didn’t get overcome by fumes. So for the first time I was driving with our chimney up. It doesn’t add a lot of height but it did make me nervous passing under every bridge along the way. At least the fire was well established by the time we set off so I didn’t have to contend with the smoke as well.

Birmingham REPWe thought about taking the opportunity to go to the cinema but there was nothing we fancied. We are just getting too old. Then Glyn said what about the theatre. Well it turns out that Birmingham REP is almost on the canal and just 5 minutes walk away, and they have a production of “Of Mice and Men” at 7pm. We got online to book a couple of seats, failed, made a phone call and succeeded. Think we only paid twice!

So after dinner we put on our glad rags and trotted along. Excellent seats, excellent theatre, and excellent performance. Good call Glyn. On our way home we walked through the International Conference Centre and then back along the canal.

International Conference Centre

Brindley Place

You may have heard that Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Apparently there are 35 miles of canal in the city of Birmingham but only 26 miles in the city of Venice so in some sense it is true. However, to anyone who has visited both cities it is clearly untrue. Venice is much smaller and in the centre the waterways take the place of roads, where motor vehicles are prohibited. Still, what is true is that Birmingham is the physical and spiritual heart of the UK’s canal system and the city has already done a lot to recognise this fact. Long may it continue.

Wednesday 15th October
(32L 1559.55M)

We didn’t know where we were going to end up today but we did know that we needed to get going if we were going to clear the industrial area to the north of the Birmingham and find somewhere peaceful to moor. So another repeat performance as we descended the Farmer’s Bridge flight. We were short of two crew members but were surprised to pick up a volunteer who went ahead to ready each of the locks for us. We made very good progress and stopped at the bottom for a cuppa (no bacon rolls this time).

Aston Top Lock

Aston Flight Office development Looking back

At Aston Junction this time we went straight on – straight into Aston Top Lock, the first of 11, as we continued our descent. After 8 locks it flattens out for a stretch and the industrial heritage is interrupted by a smart office development. Then down 3 more and past Cuckoo Wharf on the way to Salford Junction.

Salford JunctionSubstationUnderfloor cruisingThe junction happens under a network of roads, including the M6, and brings together the Birmingham & Fazeley, the Tame Valley, and the Saltley canals. We turned right and headed off towards Erdington, initially under the motorway, then past a huge electricity substation, and later under a factory!

Back to the countryBy the time we reached Tyburn the industrial surroundings were starting to break up, and beyond Minworth we were definitely back in the country – phew! On the way to Curdworth I passed a man with his dog on the tow path who called out a hello, and then commented “at least the Rhine has held off”. I asked him to repeat himself twice, before saying “Rhine?”. “Yes, rhine, rain”. Oh, sorry! They do talk funny around here.

Anyway, that did for the weather and by the time we had passed through 5 of the Curdworth locks I was soaked and we stopped for the night.

Thursday 16th October
(6L 1571.78M)
Huddlesford Junction

Water parkBottom lockToday saw the return of the sun and very welcome it was too. As we finished the flight we passed the RSPB reserve at Middleton Lakes on the west and an extensive water park of flooded gravel pits to the east. Our borrowed Nicholson’s Guide has a handwritten annotation: Corncrake 28.10.93. If this refers to a sighting or hearing of a Corncrake I’m not surprised – it does seem the perfect habitat for these elusive birds.

Drayton ManorBefore reaching the end of the canal at Fazeley junction we passed Drayton Bassett and under a little folly footbridge. And then on the left is the Drayton Manor theme park. I remember taking the children here years ago but I’m not sure how well anyone else remembers! For me it was probably the first theme park I had ever been to.


The sun returns

At Fazeley we stopped at the junction to go shopping, finding a range of shops within easy walking distance including a Tesco Express. I find the “Express” versions of the supermarkets rather frustrating, they obviously cater for a particular market – it just isn’t mine. We got back on the boat and went through the junction, turning left onto the Coventry Canal, and stopped in a nice sunny spot for lunch. A little further on the left is the West Midlands Waterways office with services attached.

Lichfield TransmitterAs we continued towards Hopwas the eye is drawn to a huge transmitting mast on a hill to the left. This is the Lichfield Transmitter and until the digital changeover was a major transmitter of analogue TV signals. Apparently it no longer transmits TV, a role that has been taken over by the transmitter at Sutton Coldfield.

Steam powered?Having got cold last night, Glyn decided to light the stove again. This time while we were motoring. So now I not only had to worry about the chimney, but also about what was coming out of it. As we twisted and turned the smoke came and went but even so I got most of it. Unfortunately, as it wasn’t actually cold we passed a number of other boats with open windows and hatches who also got some of it – I passed on as quickly as I could.

At Huddlesford is the junction with the now derelict Wyrley and Essington Canal that once linked to the coalfield at Cannock Chase. We moored just beyond.

This morning I received an email from our BSS examiner with an updated certificate. Nearly there – I just need to get the expiry date put right now! I mailed him back, but in the meantime I decided to speak to the authorities and find out just how the system works.  Rob Maclean kindly returned my call. I explained the situation and asked him how, now that the database is the master record and certificates are no longer issued, a boat owner can demonstrate that his vessel meets the requirements of the Boat Safety Scheme. The answer is that the waterways agencies (CRT and Environment Agency) have access to the database directly. If any other party requires evidence then the pdf file that the examiner can produce should be adequate. At their discretion the BSS will supply a copy of this file. While I was speaking to him Rob updated the entry on the database to correct the date and has sent me a revised copy so now we are there.


  1. Sorry to disappoint you but Corncrake was the name of our boat and the cross shows where we moored that night back in 1993!

    • Thought that might be the case – particularly when I saw Ptarmigan recorded a few pages later! However, it was an ideal place to see them.

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