Before our initial six-month narrow boating adventure in April 2009, Barry spent months voraciously reading waterways related blogs. One of the main ones he relished was Andrew Denny’s ‘Granny Buttons’. We were understandably thrilled to meet him in person on our second venture from NZ to UK, in May 2010, when we fortuitously moored next to his boat one evening, and, after phoning him, despite not being on board, he got in his car and drove to see us.

Andrew hasn’t written his intriguing and incredibly popular blog for over two years now, mainly due to time constraints since he became Assistant Editor at Waterways World. His snippets of on-line wisdom are missed, but his contribution to the publication are many fold, and we enjoy hearing his tales of the latest news ‘on the cut’.

You’ll have gathered that we hold him in high esteem, and have been fortunate enough to meet up with him a few times since returning ‘indefinitely’ in 2013.

Last week we were delighted to discover him in Birmingham at the same time as us, and we enjoyed a couple of evenings together.


Enjoying a drink and a catch up on board Areandare with Andrew


An autumnal evening in Birmingham, snuggled up next to nb Granny Buttons

On Thursday evening we met Andrew at a ‘Wine Merchant and Tasting House’ in Birmingham, called Loki’s. With over 900 fine wines available to purchase, all way out of our price range, we got to sample one of their 24 in-house ‘tasting’ wines. I had a rather delicious Pinot Noir from New Zealand, my favourite.

I may be biased, but the wine Barry makes on the boat comes a very close second to it, and for a fraction of the price, but it was lovely to be out drinking fine wine—thank you Andrew.


Andrew and Barry walking through Great Western Arcade after our little tipple at Loki’s (the arms around each other was for the camera—I think!

The Bond – first and last festivals of 2014

Shortly after we had set up The Home Brew Boat earlier this year, we received an unexpected email from Jenny, one the organisers of The Bond, Digbeth’s ‘Seasonal Markets’, inviting us to come in April 2014 to The Bond Spring Market. We were honoured to be one of only two boats at the event, our companion being Sarah Henshaw on The Book Barge, during her book launch tour for the laugh-out-loud funny and extremely well-written ‘The Book Shop that Floated Away‘.

The Spring Markey was my first foray into Facepainting, and The Home Brew Boat’s inaugural event.

What a long way we’ve travelled since then!

We didn’t get to their summer market, but as we were going to be in the area we contacted Jenny to see if they had a space for us at their autumn market. Fortunately they had. It’s quite a different atmosphere to a canal festival with only two boats visiting and trading.


The sun shone intermittently to keep the crowds coming

And guess who showed up for a chat?

Yes, Richard Parry, CEO or CaRT! We are incredulous that he’s been at every single festival we’ve traded at this year. Whatever some people may think about CaRT, and what’s going well or needs improvement, I challenge anyone who doesn’t believe in Richard’s commitment to the waterways of the UK. We love him, thank you for your support and we hope to chat again soon.


Richard Parry chats with Alison Tuck, from Da Vinci Crafts


A great location, Barry was kept busy talking about his favourite subject all day!

Yesterday we travelled back up the 19 locks to Birmingham, and today Barry will be heading to Wolverhampton where he’ll be descending the 21 locks alone, and heading to Oxley Marina. I’m off to Malpas on grandma duty until Saturday.

My hope is that by the time I return, there will have been a multi-fuel stove fitted in our living area, as well as a part of the wall dividing that area and the kitchen cut away so I’m not so cut off from guests when they’re on board.

I suspect the most likely scenario will be a boat full of work-in-progress, we shall see!


Here’s the second part of Barry’s Birmingham images from a few weeks ago, while I was away at my parents, including some spectacular shots – not least of which are of my lovely friend Alison and her husband Paul. They met serendipitously for the second time this year, and enjoyed a drink or two together. Paul apparently remarked that he’s wondering if Barry’s keeping me in a cupboard somewhere, as every time they see him I’m nowhere to be found!


Paul and Alison soaking up the sunshine

This was also the first time Barry’s ventured inside The Cube, an imposing and unusual building towering above Gas Street Basin and The Mailbox in Birmingham. He’s really captured some of it’s magnificence I believe …


Barry’s first visit inside The Cube … looking up


Looking down …


Looking out …


and there’s Areandare! The view from Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar and Grill on the top floor


The three-point roundabout – Old Turn – taking you either to Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin, Farmer’s Locks or the Birmingham Main Line


Why are there seagulls in Birmingham? Obviously for the plentitude of fish!


It may be in the middle of Britain’s second city, but it’s still a splendid spot – and the brand new Birmingham Library is in the background looking stunning



Gas Street Basin and Broad Street Tunnel


A colourful collection of narrowboats


An iconic canal-side pub


Look at the rudder on that! Actually, it’s called an ‘elm of a nutty, Barry thinks, please feel free to correct him/us (revised after comments – the ‘ellum of a butty, don’t you just love the automatic spell changer! …



Mathew Bolton, James Watt and William Murdoch founders of the Industrial Revolution, now overshadowed by the magnificent library …


… the statue is a memorial to the ‘Lunar Society‘, “… a dinner club and informal learned society of prominent figures in the Midlands Enlightenment, including industrialists, natural philosophers and intellectuals who met regularly between 1765 and 1813 in Birmingham, England” – they met monthly on the night of the full moon, so they could see their way home!


Brindley Place


Leaving Birmingham again, the Engine Arm Aqueduct


Smethwick Galton Bridge – Sandra’s been over this numerous times by train this year!


The M5 crosses the new Main Line canal, with the Old Main Line crossing by aqueduct

We’ll be leaving Birmingham today, with 18 locks to descend to get to Digbeth for The Bond Autumn Market on Saturday. We’ve caught up with Andrew Denney, aka Granny Buttons, a couple of times – and yes even remembered to take a photo! I’ll keep that and a few snippets about our time in Birmingham this time, for our next post.

This one is for savouring the shots …


These photos are way overdue to be published! Barry’s been so caught up with The Home Brew Boat that I have to keep nagging (me, nag?!) him to give me some of his fabulous photos!

It’s always worthwhile though, and these are no exception.

I’ve divided them into two posts for your delectation and delight …


Ray Oakhill, from NB Stronghold, who’s been an amazing support to us both since we began our narrow boating adventures in 2009. I finally met him in person in Stone recently


Love this shot of you Ray, looking pensive ;-)


We’ll catch up again, don’t know where, don’t know when …


Great Haywood Junction


Tixall Wide


Tixall Wide from the other side!


Looking back around halfway up the Wolverhampton 21


BCN Old Line, cruising along under the madness of vehicles above on the motorway


Hoping the sheer volume of traffic isn’t going to collapse the structure …


Old and new, small and massive – which do you prefer? We’ll stick with the slow lane ;-)


It’s unlikely you’ve spotted these locks to the new main line from the motorway!


Such a stark contrast all the way along this section


Four different bridge arches all lined up


Shutting the gate at one of the Smethwick locks


Now that’s a sight we’ve not seen before – speed boating on the cut!


Industrialisation around Soho, coming into Birmingham


Colourful graffiti


Approaching the city centre – the centre of an old bridge is all that’s left


The other side of the bridge centre – and is that a tram we can see?


Barry wonders if this is the only four-way cross road/canal on the system? It’s Icknield Port Loop and Soho Loop cross the Main line of the BCN


Approaching the thriving and beating heart of the canal network – Sherbourne Wharf to the right


Gas Street Basin on a buzzing Saturday evening – hen parties passing as they sing and dance frivolously

It’s fitting that this evening we’re moored up in the centre of Birmingham once again, some weeks after these shots …


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