Friday, 30 December 2016

A Water Coal Man!

Today's walk was along the Coventry Canal, on one of my favourite routes, from The Glascote Road Bridge to the Fazeley Aqueduct, where you can stand by the canal and look down at the River Tame, which always intrigues me. It was mid-afternoon when I set out, accompanied by the Man of the House, and we'd only gone a yard or two along the towpath when our attention was caught by the sign on this boat:

Aha, we thought, a waterborne coal man - how apt is that when you remember that coal was one of the cargoes carried on the waterway when it was first built! Indeed, according to some sources the canal was created specifically to transport coal from the midlands coalfields to the city of Coventry where it fuelled homes and industry.

Work on the waterway began in December 1768, after the Coventry Canal Company was established earlier in the year. The scheme had to be approved by an Act of Parliament, and the great engineer James Brindley was taken on to oversee the project. But the following year he was replaced by Thomas Yeoman because there was no money left to take the waterway beyond Atherstone - less than halfway to the planned destination at Fradley (near Lichfield), where it was to join the Trent and Mersey Canal.

I love looking at the boats moored by Tamworth Cruising Club.
Financial problems continued, and it was seven years before work got under way again, and the canal reached Fazeley and linked up with the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal - but it was still a long way before the proposed finishing point.

I couldn't resist trying to snap a picture of a bridge
and the bank reflected in the water.
Eventually, in 1789 the whole 39 miles was completed in after Parliament let the Trent and Mersey company, and the Birmingham and Fazeley company build the missing section. This gave boats easy access to Birmingham and Liverpool, opening up trade with a huge part of the country.

And another reflection. Isn't this beautiful? Scenes like this always lift my spirits.
Links with the Oxford Canal and the Ashby Canal followed and, for a time, Midlands canals were the motorways of their day, carrying manufactured goods all over the country, as well as things like coal.

This is the aqueduct at Fazeley, where the canal crosses the River Tame. It always feels a little unsafe perched up there on the towpath which runs alongside the canal, looking down at the river through the the old iron railings, and it seems very bizarre, to be standing by water, and looking down at water. 
In the 19th Century, of course, canals lost out to the railways which provide fast, cheap freight transport, and in the 29th Century trains were supersededby road haulage.

We were going to walk a little further, but as the viaduct ended the light began
to fade (it was mid-afternoon when we set out) so we turned and headed for home.

The heyday of the waterways may have long since gone, but the Coventry Canal has remained navigable for its entire length (some commercial boats were still using it in 1970). It's become immensely popular with leisure boaters, and the towpath is well used by walkers, cyclists, joggers and fishermen. And it's a haven for wildlife - not just waterfowl and fish, but all kinds of insects, birds, small mammals, and wild flowers. It really is life in the slow lane, a place where you can stroll along, gaze at butterflies and ducks, wave at the boaters, smile at other amblers, so you return home feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Frosty Day!

Well, it's an awfully long time since I've posted anything on this blog, but I thought I'd have a go at resurrecting it, since I'm currently full of post-Christmas enthusiasm for eating more healthily, taking more exercise, attempting to keep the house tidier, and generally trying to be happier/more positive!

Woke this morning to find a hard frost had transformed the world into a glittering wonderland, made more magical by the mist which softened and blurred everything slightly, so I donned my warmest clothes, and set off for a walk - it was much too nice to be cooped up inside, and I am trying to get back into the routine of walking somewhere every day, even if it is only a short distance. I went down the main road that leads into town, over the canal, through the park, through the Castle Grounds alongside the River Anker, over the bridge, and into town, then back over the river (different bridge this time) and back up the hill to home. Everything looked so beautiful, so I took lots of photos.

The Coventry Canal on a frosty, misty morning, looking towards Amington
from the Glascote Road Bridge (also known as Bridge No 73, or the Anchor
Bridge, after a pub which used to stand nearby.

On the other side of the road the bridge over the canal was festooned with frost-rimed cobwebs.


View along the canal, from the Glascote Road Bridge, towards Kettlebrook.
There's a boat moored by the towpath, and can you see bits of ice floating
in the water.

MacGregor Park, given to Tamworth 'in perpetuity' by Victorian vicar and philanthropist
William MacGregor. It looked lovely, with the frost glittering in the sunshine, and trees
outlined against the blue sky.

This photo doesn't really show it all that well, but the fallen leaves and the grass were all edged
with frost, like sugar around the rim of a glass. But underneath each tree was a frost-free area -
perhaps the branches protect those areas, or perhaps the roots make the ground warmer.
I shall have to find out!

The Arches (there are 19 of them, carrying the railway line across the Anker Valley) looked
positively picturesque (they don't always!)

A magnificent heron, in a tree on a little island bit in the River Anker as it
runs through the Castle Grounds. There are lots of herons in and around Tamworth,
and I'm always amazed at how close they come to built-up areas and human
habitation - this one is right beside a busy carpark.
A  view in the Castle Grounds. I thought this looked so beautiful, I couldn't resist trying
 to capture it on camera. 

And another nice scene! I think this is a storm channel rather than a stream, but it attracts lots of
wildlife, and on a bright sunny winter day, with frost on the ground, and a slight mist, it looks
almost like a fairy tale landscape. By the time I got this far the sun had melted some of the frost,
and drops of ater water were dripping through the trees like rain!
AI love this shot of the bare trees against the sky. They always look quite dramatic, especially
 at this time of year hen they've shed their leaves. I think they're poplars, but I don't know a lot
about trees.

The silver birches have lost most of their old bark, and the new white 'skin' really gleamed in
the sunshine, looking even brighter against the small patches of old greenish brown bark.

Tamworth is very urban, but we are very lucky to have some lovely little green spaces, and the
Castle Grounds is just about the best. I love it here - the beauty, and the sense of history, and the
air of peace. Sadly, structures like the Snowdome, the Ankerside Shopping Centre and the
  multi-storey flats all intrude on the views, especially in winter when most of the trees are
bare, so it takes a bit of ingenuity trying to find spots where you can take photos that don't show
modern buildings.

Another frozen cobweb! Bridges, railings, benches and all kinds of plants were
festooned with them. If cobwebs looked like this throughout the year I'm sure
it would make us see spiders in a different light. I wish I could 'pick' these and keep them!

This yellow mahonia makes me feel happy on the dullest days, but it was amazing today -
really glowing in the sunshine.

The Castle and the Bandstand. They're not lopsided - I didn't hold  the camera straight!
The Castle dates back to Norman times, and I take lots of pictures of it because it looks
different at different times of day, and in different weather, and I love that. Today it was
very pink, which is the best I think. Sometimes it looks greyer.