Wood & Ivory, Albion Ironworks West Bromwich.
I found another one of those tough blue engineering bricks set into the lock-side. Catherine de Barnes was to be our next place to moor. As we were near to where my cousin lives we phoned to say that we had arrived. They came to visit early one evening bringing some lovely flowers and suggested we go back to their house to join them for an evening meal. The evening passed all too quickly looking at family photos and chattering over glasses of wine. What a wonderful surprise that was for us.The Boat Inn at Catherine de Barnes is a fairly large busy place which we didn’t venture into. There was a small Spar shop opposite it which sold basic food items. It was a nice place, but unfortunately spoilt by being under a noisy flight-path.
Using our bus passes we popped into Solihull, with it’s Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s and huge variety of shops there. Many were specialist shops and there was a posh indoor shopping arcade too. Even the toilets were posh, can you spot the washbasins here? Neither could I immediately as the taps protrude from the wall over a long sort of gulley, very easy to keep clean I imagine. Anyway we liked the town very much, even the bus was luxurious and comfy! We descended Knowle Locks sharing with another boat and stopped by The Black Boy which they recommended to us for lunch. Then we went on to moor at Kingswood Junction, or Lapworth Bowl as it is known locally. There are many nice areas to walk all around here.
This is the approach to Shrewley Tunnel with the towpath tunnel to the right where the horses went to rejoin the boat they were pulling on the other end. It was very wet inside the tunnel and unfortunately the oncoming boat got the worst of it.
If only cyclists could comprehend this sign! I wandered up to Hatton Farm Village where there was something for everyone, even a Peacock on patrol! The farmyard buildings are now all small individual shops, there is an antique centre, two eateries, farm animals and a wide variety of children’s activities. Oh, a camping field and special seasonal themed weekends. There was an interesting vintage car gathering in one of the small fields that I walked through.
After a fairly restful weekend building up our energy levels we set off to tackle Hatton’s 21 double locks. Luckily we met some boats coming up which made things easier. The paddle gearing was the ‘bevelled worm type’ where after 20 ish heavy turns of the windlass the lock fills quite quickly. You have to do the whole flight in one go too. Because of the leaky gates it was hard work to get them moving. You had to wait for just the right moment before starting to push. Rather like giving birth really!