Sunday 7 July 2013


At Birmingham university in the 60s, I passed the university clock tower every day, but I was never aware of the canal network running so close – and perhaps it has changed out of all recognition since then. I certainly have! This view conjures up the mixed feelings I have in relation to my time at uni. Nobody had yet shown me how to understand the sort of person I was, how my mind and personality worked, and how to engage profitably in the learning opportunity I'd been given.

As you move on towards the city centre you're likely to see some amazing sights.

The area around the basin has been thoroughly energised by the interface with the canal(s).

Soon you have to choose which way to go.

Turning right up here would have sent us North East towards Fazeley and the Coventry canal, but that's just too long a detour for where we have to be in a week's time. So we carried on along what's known as the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) main line, which cuts a swathe through industrial areas towards Wolverhampton. Sometimes the banks are low enough to see the surroundings, but for long stretches it's in a green cutting. It's a wide canal with various obstructions occurring regularly in mid-stream.

A lock has failed in the Wolverhampton flight, so we're having to take a longer route to the Staffs and Worcs canal, through the Netherton tunnel. It's 3027 yards long, so takes at least half an hour going at a good lick, but we're getting blasé about such things now. You can see one end from the other, it's wide enough to pass other boats, and there's a tow path down both sides, so there's much less sense of being closed in.

We emerged unexpectedly on to a grassy area where we've decided to spend the night.

It looks much more agreeable than where we thought we might be, and leaves us with only a couple of extra miles to catch up. We've met some chatty people in the park, the sun is shining, and Murray is Wimbledon champion. Hope tomorrow continues in the same vein.


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