Big days from Birmingham to Burton Floating Market 

We had our seven-year-old grandson for a sleep-over while in Birmingham last weekend. I’d taken the train to Shrewsbury on Saturday to meet him and Lisa and bring him back – and the opposite on the Sunday.

We walked to the ThinkTank Science Museum in the afternoon and had tremendous fun in their Science Garden – and it’s free from 3pm to 5pm daily. They even had a model canal lock to play with.

Barry displayed his cards on Saturday, but sadly had no takers – so we had a rest day on Sunday and moved to Sherborne Wharf. Moored near the Cube and Mailbox was rather noisier than normal. Continue reading


BCN Photos Part Two – Descending Farmers Bridge Locks

I promised a part two of Barry’s photos last week, then got a little caught up with travelling and sorting for our first, full-on working weekend from Areandare.

As you read this pre-scheduled post, I’ll be safely ensconced in Malpas with my daughter and two gorgeous giggling grandsons. Barry will be on the boat, having travelled back up the Farmer’s Bridge Locks. I’m hopeful someone will be there to assist him. I put the word out to my nephew, and Jim Shead, waterways photographer extraordinaire. He’s an ex-boater, now lovely lock helper living in Birmingham, who we had the good fortune to meet last year when Barry’s sister Jenny, from Australia, was with us. If neither of those options work out, and for a reason I’m unable to fathom (mainly because I can’t imagine doing it myself), he’s perfectly happy and capable of locking alone.

Below are some superb shots from a professional photographer’s perspective, of the 13 Farmer’s Bridge Locks descending from Birmingham (aka the REAL Middle Earth, it wasn’t originally in New Zealand, in case you weren’t aware – it’s a city sitting on a plateau don’t you know) …

Cambrian Wharf as we leave the soul of this vibrant and thriving city centre

Cambrian Wharf as we leave the soul of this vibrant and thriving city centre

The first of a series  of 13 locks

The first of a series of 13 locks


Sandra keeps up the social media marketing from the locks – focus woman, focus! Watched by a couple of gongoozlers and the BT Tower


The majority of people visiting, living and/or working in Birmingham city centre, would have no idea they have a canal running underneath buildings


The BT Tower (formerly the Post Office Tower) easily achieves the title ‘tallest building in the city’ at 150 metres high


Looking spookily as you’d imagine Venice may in places …


The red wooden doors are where the fire hoses used to reach into the canals to source water, but we wonder why they needed four doors per bridge?


Graffiti is prolific around the Birmingham canals – rather than viewing it as unsightly, our perspective is it’s a comfortable and often colourful part of the urbanisation


This could be a scene from times past …


About half way down the thirteen locks – we think!


The brickwork of bridges always amazes us. This one sits majestically under the railway lines to Snow Hill Station


The brickwork’s also a little eclectic and claustrophobic at times


The ancient and modern nestle harmoniously together at Aston Junction


Looks like another Toll Island by Typhoo Basin


One lot of locks completed, arriving at the Junction of the Tame Valley and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and on the left our mooring for the Spring Market (I know, we were out of order but time restricted and left with little choice)

Barry will try a spot of towpath trading in Birmingham over the weekend while I’m away, so if you’re around do pay him a visit.

On Monday we’ll continue the journey to Droitwich for our next three days trading over the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend. We’re very excited to be doing so alongside our dear friends Andy and Helen from Wild Side Handmade Preserves – the hedgerow’s finest don’t you know!

Step away from your comfort zone …

A young male in his early twenties recently confided to me how much he yearns to travel to the other side of the world. While he has some sketchy plans for 2015, he’s wary of what may happen if he steps too far from his comfort zone.


I had no idea what such a concept even was at that age. Actually, looking back, there was little that could be described as ‘comfortable’ during that period of my life. I’d married, divorced and re-married (!), completed my Registered General Nurse training, was living in married quarters in Bundë, West Germany, in a third floor flat, with a husband in the forces generously sharing extremely unpredictable mood swings, pregnant with my younger daughter, and  blessed with a beautiful and very adaptable five-year old.

You’ll be getting the picture that I’m no stranger to seizing the day and taking life by the bootstraps – in fact change could be my middle name!

Fast forward over 30 years and I can now recognise a comfort zone when I see one, along with its benefits and drawbacks. Life is short. When I die, I have no desire to be thankful I spent years living a ‘safe’ life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love temporary comfort zones – but I personally choose NOT to stay in them for long. I’m aware of the challenges of leaving them if I waver, hesitate and wait for the ‘right’ time and circumstances to come along. I have years of mostly fine-tuned practice in plucking up the courage to do scary things.

Leaving Birmingham

Nothing scary about this bit of course. Sad though, as yesterday we said goodbye to Kim and Sean, who’d been on board for a couple of nights.

We’ve moored in Birmingham in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013 – the second city with more miles of canals than Venice.  And a place I know well as it’s my old ‘home’ town (well, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield a few miles away actually).

Sean, Kim and Barry by the New library Birmingham

Sean, Kim and Barry by the New library Birmingham

Topping up with water this morning after mooring next to the NIA

Topping up with water this morning after mooring next to the NIA

Descending the 13 Farmers Bridge Locks

Descending the 13 Farmers Bridge Locks

Hoping to receive our 'Saturday wage' tomorrow!

Hoping to receive our ‘Saturday wage’ tomorrow!

A little nervous about tomorrow

Tomorrow we’re doing our first ever trading event at The Spring Market.

It’s taken three and a half years of extensive dreaming and planning to get to this point. So we won’t consider ourselves an ‘overnight success’, even if/when it all goes wonderfully well!

During the past twelve months or so, we’ve relocated from New Zealand, travelled the canals of the midlands and north west, spent quality time with my family, had loads of fun times with friends on board, Barry’s been back to NZ for 10 weeks to apply for the first stage of his UK residency visa, we mooched around the marina over winter enjoying frequent visits to my eldest daughter and grandson, and we’ve done the ground-work of setting up some of our future income streams.

We’ve spent an inordinate (and frightening) amount of our savings to get The Home Brew Boat set up, and my face painting training and resources together. We know the time has now arrived to turn the tide so the waves (money) wash up on the shore for us to bank, rather than drifting out into the vast ocean.

And here we are! All ship-shape and raring to go – though also rather nervous about our first trading event. We’re stepping well out of our comfort zone.

Yes, it’s scary not following the crowd, choosing to dare to be different, leaving what you know and taking risks.

But we would’t have it any other way.

Colourful mural opposite The Bond

Colourful mural opposite The Bond

Our mooring spot at The Bond, Digbeth, Bimringham

Our mooring & trading spot at The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham

Practicing a spot of face painting in readiness ...

Practicing a spot of face painting in readiness …

Handpicked with ‘The Book Barge’

We hadn’t appreciated until this evening that were one of just two ‘hand-picked’ narrowboats trading tomorrow.

We’re honoured to be trading alongside Sarah Henshaw and The Book Barge – and she’s recently published a book called ‘The Book Shop That Floated  Away‘ which of course will be on sale tomorrow. Andy Tidy, aka Captain Ahab, has read and given the book a rave review in his latest blog so do check it out.

We may just buy a copy ourselves.

Wish us luck! We’ll let you know how we get on as soon as possible after the event …