Atherstone (interesting locals and the Black Country festival)

Meeting up with Les, a fellow young boating friend

The last couple of days have been spent getting ready to downsize in a few weeks.  The new boat is 12 feet shorter than our current home so that means we will have to declutter further. Most of our land based belongings are in storage in Redditch and as we are not far from there we loaded up the car on Friday so we could visit the storage unit on Saturday to drop it all off.

There has been another boat moored next to us since we got here and we got chatting to the owner, Terry, who turned out to have been born in the area.  He’s a lovely guy and delights in recounting stories from his past; he has retired but still makes the odd boat hood or cratch cover.  Until he was 16 he lived with his parents and sister in a lock cottage next to where we are moored.  The cottage was demolished in 1963 and all that remains is the front path.

The front path - all that remains of Terry’s childhood home at lock number 8 on the Atherstone flight

An old photograph of Terry’s childhood home

Terry gave me a set of photographs relating to the Atherstone flight of locks and I have included these photographs at the end of this blog entry.

A comparison of the top lock from the 1950s, when the canal was still full of working boats, and when we came down on Thursday.

When we took Buddy for a walk on Saturday morning we got talking to a guy sitting reading outside his boat.  Once he realised that we were interested in canal history he asked if I minded if he picked my brains.  He had just come off the Birmingham and Fazeley canal and had noticed that the bridges all had doors in the sides and he wondered if we knew what they were.  I couldn’t help laughing as he had hit upon one of my favourite canal topics – stanking plank stores.  I explained what they are used for and that each canal has different methods of storing the planks.  When I get some time I’ll add a page to the blog explaining the different types of stores across the country.

Stanking planks store photos taken when we first visited the Birmingham & Fazeley canal

Later in the morning we went to the storage facility in Redditch.  We had to drop stuff off that we couldn’t keep on the new boat and also pick up a load of stuff that Jo wants in her new flat in Edinburgh.  That meant we had to take a lot of things out before we could find what she wanted. The first thing to take out was Buddy’s full size bed which we put down for him.

Buddy happy with his old full size bed in the corridor whilst we unpacked and repacked the unit

In the afternoon we went to a place called Bumblehole in Dudley for the annual Black Country boat festival.  We had planned to go in the boat this year but as Karen is working again at present it is too far to go for her to drive to work.  When we got there we soon met up with Les (picture at the top) and Nicola and spent a while wandering around the stalls together.  As they both have dogs we took all three of them for a walk in the local green space – old mine workings – apparently the coal seams were up to 30 feet thick in this area and useful lumps can still be scavenged from the remains of the slag heaps.

It’s great that there are still green places retained in the grimmer parts of Birmingham. 
We last came through here in our boat in February 2015 - click here for the blog entry from that visit - and hope to get here in the new boat for next year’s festival.

Part of the boat festival

We sampled a few of the local beers and bought a few things before making our way back home for the evening.  I was telling them about meeting up with Terry and coincidently Les knew him as he had made the cratch cover for Les’s boat.  As they are both good raconteurs I suspect they spent many hours talking about the past together.  As usual it was good to catch up with Les and Nicola and we parted knowing we would meet up again sometime soon.

As I said earlier here are the other photographs of the Atherstone flight that Terry gave me.

Transferring coal at the wharf

Terry's family home at lock 8

A later picture of Terry's home

Terry and his sister by the lock

Cottage at lock 5 - it is still inhabited

The top lock

The top lock frozen over

Wharf above the top lock

Coal boat above the top lock - the arm to the right no longer exists and is not present in some of these old photographs

A more up to date picture of waiting at the top lock

Another coal boat at the top lock

A postcard showing the top lock without traffic but the arm still present on the right

This now the Atherstone visitor moorings with modern houses to the right.  This photo shows crusing boats as opposed to mainly working boats in the other photos

One more picture of the top lock.  This time looking up to the wharf and what are now visitor moorings on the left under the bridge

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