James’s Christmas present from me was a pair of tickets to see the fantastic Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, prompting us to spend a couple of days in the city.
Naturally, James having just passed his test, we drove, stopping at the Hatton flight on the way for tea.
Sadly we didn’t see any boats passing through but it was a nice spot, and we’d not been since we took Lucky Duck that way in 2008!
Our hotel was a Travelodge in central Birmingham, and was just £35 for the night (parking an extra £5). I’d chosen it partly for the price but also for its proximity to the Farmer’s Bridge flight, and it turned out that our window overlooked the locks, once you looked beyond the rough ground which will shortly be a further wing of the hotel.
Once we’d checked in we went for a stroll around the city. We wanted to visit Houben’s newly opened Library of Birmingham, and it didn’t disappoint. What an amazing building.
We had dinner at a place called Urban Pie, close to the Bullring, where we filled up on pie, mash and gravy. It was excellent, and good value. Then it was back to our hotel to get changed for the evening show.
The Ukulele Orchestra were brilliant, performing their own uniquely witty take on classical and popular music. The highlight was their hilarious version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, and we enjoyed every minute!
The next day, once we’d checked out and left our bags in the car we headed over towards Gas Street Basin for a cooked breakfast on narrowboat George.
Suitably fortified, we walked to Snow Hill station where we got a tram and a train out to Langley Green. We wanted to go for a walk along a bit of the BCN we’d not done before, and so armed with our Pearson’s Canal Companion we set off up to Titford Pools and then down the flight (known as “The Crow”). It’s been suggested that we may struggle to get up these locks in Willow, an additional reason to visit by foot.
Our walk started off on glorious sunshine, as we explored this lesser known part of the BCN. Despite its proximity to industrial estates and the M5, this is a really lovely canal, lined with trees and populated with herons and geese. At the bottom of the flight the cut winds its way dramatically under the M5, making for an interesting walk past old and new feats of engineering.
At Spon Lane we had the choice to double back to Sandwell and Dudley station or continue on to Smethwick Rolfe Street, where we arrived on a rainy day nearly 6 yeau ago to view a little boat called Lucky Duck. We decided on the latter. Our route took us along the stretch we’d taken the Duck out on a test cruise, so we reminisced about that day and how far we’ve come since then as we walked along the Old Main Line.
At Smethwick Pump House it was time to leave the cut and get the train back to New Street and collect our car for the journey back. A great couple of days.