Friday, October 15, 2010

The Black Country

A sharp left turn and a mile gets us to Dudley and the Black Country Museum with really secure moorings, boater facilities and the tunnel. The black country is a huge area of geological significance containing all the raw materials to set off the industrial revolution. Coal mining, iron and steel making, lime stone mines and lime kilns.
It was a very hard life for those who lived and worked during the 17 th. and 18 th. centuries.
Women were employed making chains all day long often using their children to help. They went on strike because they could not even afford to feed themselves. They were the white slaves of England.
We walked down into an 1850’s coal mine to experience the blackness and low ceilings. We were given hard hats and torches. A young boy was employed to open and shut ventilation doors but he was working in the dark because he was not worth a light. Ponies at this time were considered more valuable than children. If they were to fall into the canal it was the pony that got rescued first. When we were in that mine we thought about the trapped miners in Chilly. Thankfully they are now all rescued safely.
There was plenty to see in the completely reconstructed village with many shops and even a 1920’s cinema showing silent movies.
Then there was that tunnel with more than expected. It was the entrance to what was a huge underground mining industry digging out coal and lime.
There are caverns and tunnels in many directions. Many more unseen below are now flooded. We went in with our hard hats by boat on a round trip. It was an education by commentary and audio visual show seen and heard deep in the hillside. It was so good that we went in again the next day!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Going through Birmingham

At the end of the Stratford we turned right onto the Worcester and Birmingham canal.  This was a bit wider, lined with factories instead of trees and quite shallow in places.  A railway follows the canal all the way into Birmingham.  A mile further on we stopped at Bournville.
The ‘secure’ visitor mooring on the off side provide space for 2 boats and was already occupied.  So we were obliged to moor outside the security fence.  That night we felt quite vulnerable as youths gathered nearby at 2 am, talking loudly with the ‘f’ word in every sentence.
Even the train station is painted purple, for it is here that Cadburys chocolate is made.
We walked into Bournville in the morning to see some of the huge new factories and original buildings from the 1900’s.  All the fences and street lamps were painted purple.  We had the feeling that something was about to happen in the streets.  The evening news reported that the new owners are to keep the Bournville production going.  Good news indeed.
Back on the boat we set off for Birmingham and beyond.  We are not city people and regard them as ‘concrete jungles’ even though in reality there is more brick, steel and glass than concrete.
We took the direct route along the main line and were happy to find trees and grass once through the centre.
After 12 flat miles we arrived at Factory locks which climb up to the Wolverhampton level.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A short evening stroll then move the boat

It was sunny and calm so we took a stroll to get fish n chips at Hockley Heath.
We were soon sitting on a street bench watching the traffic while consuming the food from its paper wrapping.  Our plan is to move on through Birmingham but we wait for the political conference to finish.  The police are searching passing boats with dogs.
We set off on Thursday after using the facilities at the boat yard.  Ten miles of the northern Stratford canal seemed to take an age to Kings Norton.  Most of the canal is lined with trees on both sides and the prop kept getting clogged with the falling autumn leaves.
We had been told that we were heading into ‘bandit country’ so we did not stop on the way except with another boat at the water point.  Then we saw policemen patrolling the tow path!  After passing through the short Brandwood tunnel we found the curious guillotine lock which is now permanently open.
It was a ‘stop lock’ where private canal companies would charge working boaters for moving cargo.  Just like a road toll.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Family concerns

We have been off the boat while some changes are made to our galley.  We got a lift to Leamington Spa station and a train south.  Mother has moved to a Nursing Home and we have been helping her settle in.  Some furniture, pictures, TV and clothes transported from the house to the home.  We are much happier now knowing that she is being well looked after by the caring staff.
Now it is a case of facing up to ‘house clearance’ without loosing too much family stuff.  Luckily my brother is able to help with this endeavour.  The house has been valued and some furniture sorted for sale.  Various visits from other family members have been arranged so stuff will be redistributed.  The more we look the more we see and the task seems endless at this time.  It is unlikely that we will ever stop over at that family home again so now we stay with our grand children and their parents.  A very different lifestyle to that we are used to on the boat.
It was Josh’s birthday during our stay and we watched as he opened presents.  Our youngest grandson Ben had not been feeling well and was taken to hospital so we had a few late nights of anxiety.  Having stayed an extra day we were happy to return to the boat knowing that there was nothing seriously wrong.
 Our favourite boat fitter has done it again for us.  A separate hob and high level oven has been installed, replacing that cooker for sale.  The main gain is much better access to the oven and what was a corner cupboard.