Monday, October 12, 2015

The Jewellery Quarter (cont) and Hockley Port

Among my observations walking around the Jewellery Quarter was the large number of residents who were ethnically Indian.  Then I remembered gold plays an important part in Indian culture.  I was only reminded of this latter point when I walked past the office of the Indian Consulate in the Jewellery Quarter.  I’d already walked past a Sikh Temple and I then noticed the tulip shape of another temple further to the north.

P1010927However the building I found most interesting was this one which from a distance I thought might be a church.  It was the roof to the tower that made me curious.



The building is adjacent to Hockley Circus.  As I got closer it was apparent the building was not a church.  Walking around to the far side I found a large sign.


It’s a Hindu Temple.  Obviously it wasn’t built as a temple but searching on Bhagwan Valmik Ashram didn’t provide any information about the building history.  By then using the street name and school (a guess) I was able to find out it’s the former Icknield Street School.  Designed by J Chamberlain (that name again) of Birmingham in 1883 as a school for girls.  Chamberlain designed schools that were airy, plenty of natural light and beauty.  The interesting tower is above the central staircase and was designed to draw air up through the building.  It’s Grade II listed and on the “at risk” register.

From here I walked to Hockley Port which is a branch off the Soho Loop.  There are some 48 moorings here along with CRT boater facilities.  We actually used them last year.  This time my arrival was via the road which is actually a run down lane with derelict buildings on both sides.  Most of the moorings are residential and there is also a dry dock.


The port is mentioned in the history of the Jewellery Quarter.  Looking back you can see the derelict looking buildings.


There is a sign beside one of the doors.


I backtracked and found a footpath that would take me to the junction of the Hockley Port basin and the Soho Loop.


The junction looking north

I followed the very well maintained towpath to the north and happened to notice another interesting looking building across the park.


Another school?  Well I got that wrong!  The rapid increase in Birmingham’s population during the first half of the 19th century also resulted in a significant increase in the number of people with mental illness.The Birmingham Lunatic Asylum Committee approved the construction of an institution to house 300 pauper lunatics.  The result was All Saints Mental Asylum which was build in 1847 adjacent to Winson Green Gaol.

Walk along the towpath and you reach Asylum Bridge.


To the right of the towpath are the high walls of Birmingham Gaol (formerly Winson Green Gaol)


The towpath had one of those hump backed brick arch bridges adjacent to the prison wall and I could see what must have once been an arm to the canal had been filled in.


Whilst attempting to find more information about the canal’s connection to the prison I came upon this piece of information

“Winson Green Gaol was brought into use in 1849, and extended in the mid 1850s. The first governor was dismissed after complaints of lack of discipline within the prison. His replacement was imprisoned after a Home Office Commission confirmed complaints of brutality.”

Unfortunately the only information I could find mentioned a prison canal basin.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Generous Boaters, Sunday Lunch and the Jewellery Quarter

The two of us were awake and up before 6am so it was a very lazy start to the day.  Around 9am Jan heard a boat winding above the Farmers Bridge Flight.  It was nb Chuffed with Dave at the tiller.  I wandered across to dispose of our rubbish in the CRT area and also say goodbye to Dave & Debby who are heading back to their home mooring.


Debby generously gave Jan some apples which will no doubt come in very useful.

|It Is interesting how you can read other blogs and know the people, yet rarely meet.  When you do it seems like you’ve known them for ages.

The location for our Sunday lunch was The Pitcher & Piano beside the canal In Brindley Place.  An excellent choice (9/10) with a very attentive waitress and delicious food.  Jan opted for the beef whilst I had the roast pork belly.  The crackling was crisp and flavoursome.  Neither of us had room for a dessert.


After lunch I went for an interesting walk around the Jewellery Quarter.  I wont cover much of the history as it can be found here.  Suffice to say it has an interesting past with a canal connection.  I hadn’t realised it has the largest collection of jewellery related businesses in Europe.  There are far fewer than a couple of hundred years ago but many of the buildings appear to still be related to the industry.


The first thing I noticed was this large padlock beside the BMW distributors premises.


It marks the start of the Charm Bracelet Trail.  From this point onwards there are bronze plaques in the pavement marking important points on the trail.


The Pen Museum is in the Argent Centre on Fredrick St.   Back in the 1800’s 75% of everything written in the world was done with a pen made in Birmingham.  The industry only declined in the 1950’s with the general use of the fountain pen and then the biro.  I guess I’m showing my age when I remember being at school and dipping the steel nib of my pen into the inkwell on my desk.  How I hated those pens!


There is a clock tower on the junction of Fredrick St and Warstone Lane.


This is the Chamberlain Clock which was erected in 1903 to mark the visit of Joseph Chamberlain to South Africa.  I’d never heard of Joseph, only Neville.  He was a well known Birmingham businessman who subsequently entered parliament as a liberal.   After reading the Wikipedia link I now know he was the father of Neville Chamberlain.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Let them eat cake!

There we were minding our own business when fellow bloggers James & Debbie (nb Lois-Jane) appeared not bearing gifts.  Actually there were three bloggers as Les & Jaq (nb Valerie) were also present.


L-R Jaq, James, Debbie, Jan & Les.

Later blogger Debby from nb Chuffed stopped and introduced herself and then even later Barry (nb Areandare) called in to say hello.

Back to James & Debbie.  They were able to pass on some valuable information.  There is a bakery outlet in the University College Birmingham.  The right arrow points to it in the map below.  The left arrow is our mooring in Cambrian Wharf.


If you time your visit for around 11am the outlet has a good range of fresh bread and cakes at a very reasonable price.  For example some of the bread was being sold at 10p per loaf.  All the produce is baked on site by the students and then sold in the bakery outlet on the ground floor. 

James & Debbie provided directions.

  1. Enter the building through one of the two revolving doors
  2. Go straight ahead up the short flight of stairs.
  3. Around the corner to the left is a security guard and a turnstile.
  4. Tell the guard you want to go to the bakery and he/she will let you through the turnstile.
  5. The small bakery outlet is a short distance straight ahead.

Don’t go too early as the students won’t have finished baking.  Don’t go after 1145 as the other students are frantically buying all the produce for their lunch.

The crews of Valerie and Waiouru made the walk and were very pleased with their purchases.


Our lunch

It’s a short blog post tonight because Wales is playing Australia.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Quiet day in Birmingham

First I must acknowledge the comments from readers Pip & Mick and Halfie who correctly pointed out the error in our last post.  Netherton Tunnel is below the level of Dudley Tunnel rather than higher.  Of course I knew that because I’d walked up the three Parkhead Locks to the southern entrance.  I’m claiming a seniors moment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve used the New Main Line to reach the centre of Birmingham.  Much of it either has the railway on one side or goes through deep cuttings.    We took the obligatory photo of the M5 motorway cross the canal high above us.


On the other side is the aqueduct that carries the Old Main Line parallel to; and below; the M5.

P1010899 Boring straights until we reached Summit Tunnel which is made from concrete and obviously rather modern.

P1010901 The aqueduct that carries the Engine Arm Canal over the New Main Line is rather interesting.  Designed by Thomas Telford and made of cast iron, it’s a combination of arch and through girder with a suspended trough.  The engine arm supplied water from Edgbaston Reservoir to the Old Main Line. 


There is an interesting structure on the north bank opposite the former Cape Junction.  I first noticed it last year.  A large temporary sheet steel roof has been constructed over a some sort of old complex made of brick.  I assume the complex is being renovated.

P1010904There is a recycling plant between the canal and the complex.  After looking in Google Earth this complex appears to be on the site of a rail yard.

Just around the bend was another example of Birmingham’s industrial past.


This last part of the cruise is very familiar.  We quietly slipped through the moorings around Old Turn Junction and went down to Cambrian Wharf where our luck held and we managed to get the last vacant 14 day mooring.  Opposite is a very well known boat.


Got to cut it here as a well known rugby team is playing tonight. Smile

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Another great day

What a contrast to yesterday.  One of us awoke to a clear blue sky (the other had risen before dawn!).  The question was “Do we make the most of the day and cruise or do we relax in the sunshine beside the boat?”  Cruising won the day and we prepared Waiouru to move across the canal to the water point adjacent to the Bumble Hole tea rooms.

P1010889Jan started conversing with one of the friendly ladies from the tea rooms and during the conversation was informed the grassed area on the opposite side of the canal (where we had moored the night) had been cut up and left a mess several weeks ago when “Travellers” smashed through the park gate and set up a community.  Apparently they refused to move on when requested by the police and only left after the council obtained a court order.  It was only then that they left, but not before cutting up the grass with their vehicles and leaving all their rubbish behind.  It has cost the council several thousands to restore the area.

Good water pressure here and we filled the tank yesterday so we weren’t delayed very long. It was only a short cruise to the entrance to Netherton Tunnel. 

P1010891 This was the last English canal tunnel built during the age of canals.  It’s obvious that canal builders had improved their methods since their first tunnels.  It’s wide, high and as straight as an arrow.  It also has a towpath on both sides.  It took almost 3 years to complete and was finished in 1858.  The tunnel is almost 3km long and was constructed to reduce the congestion created by the adjacent older and very narrow Dudley Tunnel.  Netherton Tunnel is higher than the Dudley Tunnel.  It links to the New Main Line whilst the Dudley links to the lower Old Main Line.  I have to continually remind myself the area of park and woodland around and over the tunnel wouldn’t have existed back in 1858.  The area would have been riddled with mines.  Horse drawn boats would have been conveying the extracted coal and other products around an extensive local canal network.  Obviously why it is known as “The Black Country”.

We counted six air shafts whilst passing through the tunnel.  Only two of them were dry and that wasn’t surprising seeing the area is known for water seepage.  Remember that steam pump at Cobbs Engine House!  Jan was going to take a photo up one of the air shafts but decided a face full of water wasn’t worth the effort.


Last time we came this way we passed two cyclists in the tunnel.  Today we had it all to ourselves.

Shortly after exiting the tunnel the canal passes under the Old Main Line.  There is a wide island around the central pier of the aqueduct which I assume would have been one of the many gauging stations on the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN).  No doubt there was a significant volume of short haul canal traffic between various canal arms and the canal company would have constructed numerous gauging stations to ensure there was no revenue leakage.

The Netherton Tunnel Branch joins the New Main Line at Dudley Port Junction.  We needed to make a decision.  Left to Tipton and Wolverhampton or right to Birmingham.  We decided to turn right!   Along the way we couldn’t but help it be amused by the clothing two fishermen were wearing.


All it needed was green paint on their faces and the fish would never have seen them! Smile

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Your jacket has been found & Return to Bumble Hole

Yesterday Jan had a rummage through the freezer in the late afternoon extracting a large quantity of frozen cherries and strawberries.  I assisted by escorting her down to Sainsbury’s this morning where she bought some madeira cake. 


Apparently a trifle is going to be made later today.  What a shame that Jan doesn’t like trifle and we’re not expecting guests! Smile

We waited for most of the showers to pass before departing our mooring.  The interim stop was to be the CRT facilities at Blowers Green.  A couple of hundred metres short of Blowers Green Lock we found some ones missing heavy black waterproof jacket.  I needed to use the new breadknife to extract it.  However the good news it is now suitable for a trip to the Vatican.

IMG_8299 There is nothing like stripping off the top half and going down the weed hatch in the rain to put you in a good mood.  There was a “Yellow Peril” moored on the water point above the lock.  The crew had hired the boat from Worcester and had it for a week.  I asked them if they were doing the ring and was told they didn’t have sufficient time.  I did point out they had reached the canal summit and there were roughly the same number of locks in each direction but that seemed to go over their heads.

It took almost an hour to fill the water tank and we used the time to catch up on a few tasks (eg, making trifle).  On our arrival at Bumble Hole we found two moored boats.  We’d seen both of them at Merry Hill. 

After dinner I wandered down to the junction and then decided to follow the route of Netherton Tunnel by walking over the hill.



The feature that first caught my eye was the chimney of Cobbs Engine House.  There is a path leading up to it from the junction.


The area around here was a warren of coal mines and the extracted coal was (of course) transported via the canal.  The pump house was actually used to remove water from the mines. The shaft was 525 feet deep, removing over 1,600,000 litres of water into the canal every day.  The pump house was built around 1831 and was steam driven.  It ceased working in 1928 and the engine now resides in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.  There are a few short canal arms here which are all that remains of what was once a busy canal terminal.

Autumn has obviously arrived.  The leaves are going brown and gold.  They are also drifting into the canal and fouling the propeller!


There isn’t a footpath directly above the alignment of the tunnel which meant I had to zig-zag across the tops of the hills looking for signs.  Eventually I found one airshaft hidden in a small copse.


There were some good views to the west as dusk fell.


Turners Hill was slightly to the east of my position.  At 271 metres it’s the highest feature in the West Midlands.  The two towers on top can be seen for miles.We noticed them whilst moored at Kinver.  Both towers are radio transmitters.  It was my initial error in pointing our TV aerial that led to us not getting a signal.   


Turners Hill 1 is a steel lattice structure whilst Turners Hill 2 has a concrete base.