Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Last October we went on a canal holiday, cruising the Cheshire Ring.  It was the first time we'd tried a holiday like this and it was incredibly hard work, but we all loved it and decided to do the same again this year.

This time our starting point was Worcester (a city very special to me as it's where I spent my student years) and we had plans to set off northwards along the River Severn before joining the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.  However, due to the large amount of recent rain, we were told on arrival that this wouldn't be possible.  Pilots were being sent out to boats already on the river to guide them safely back to the marina so a complete change of plan was needed and we set off up the Worcester & Birmingham Canal instead.

This turned out to be a fascinating route, mostly involving travelling (slowly - max 4mph) through beautiful scenery, and also visiting Birmingham city centre.  I haven't been to Birmingham for many, many years, and I was delighted to see what a pleasant city centre it has become.  I used to work on New Street when it was choked with traffic but now it's a very pleasant pedestrianised area.  I kept thinking how Aberdeen could do with taking a leaf out of Birmingham's book.  It was great to see the redeveloped Bull Ring and I even visited the Rag Market and bought some fabric - so pleased to see it's still thriving.

Our 60 ft narrowboat, Magnus.  
Equipped with a small kitchen, 2 toilets, shower, seating area and plenty of sleeping accommodation. 

Lovely countryside - this was taken from the Tardebigge Reservoir.

Some of the winding mechanisms were a bit stiff!

We moored by canalside pubs overnight and ate out in the evenings - such a treat!

We went through several tunnels, the longest being Wasts Hill Tunnel (also known as King's Norton Tunnel) at a mile and a half in length!

We moored right beside the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham.

The city centre was a huge contrast with the mainly leafy rural canal.

Following lots of overnight rain, on our return journey many of the locks on the Tardebigge flight of 30 were very full.  Water was gushing over the top of the lock gates which made walking across impossible.

In 6 days we travelled through a total of 112 locks!  That's about ten more than last year, but they weren't so stiff and heavy as the nightmare locks we'd experienced in central Manchester (never again!).

So, where do we go next year...?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Fabulous Felt Exhibitions

On Sunday Kirsty and I enjoyed a fantastic day out in Perthshire visiting two exhibitions of stunning felt work and walking in the autumnal woodland.

Our first stop was 'The Dying of the Sun' at the Bield in Perth. This exhibition has been organised to co-incide with International Felt Day, which this year has the theme of 'Fire'.  It was great to see different interpretations of the theme by feltmakers from all around the world.  Here's a selection.

Katharine Huggett

Tracy Markey

Penny Dixon

Angela Barrow

Jackie Lunn

Tessa Mendez

Mattie van del Heuvel

Tessa Mendez

This shows part of a collaborative piece with contributions sent from individual felt makers 
including my bloggy friend, Ali.

This stone circle with the sun above it must have taken an awful lot of felting!

From Perth we drove to Birnam where we visited an exhibition called 'Felt Excited' which showcased work by the Scottish branch of the International Feltmakers Association. 

Heather Potten

Jenny Mackay

Jennifer Alexander

The venue, the Birnam Institute, is a beautiful building, community owned and largely run by volunteers.  It's really quite an incredible achievement, and there's a very impressive programme of events of all sorts going on throughout the year.

The building houses a permanent Beatrix Potter exhibition and the garden outside reflects this theme.
Here's Peter Rabbit and friends.

 Close by we came across the narrowest bridge we've ever seen!

We went in search of the famous Birnam Oak - all that remains of the ancient woodland made famous by the witches' prophecy in Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'.  Our walk took us alongside the wide River Tay.  

Here's the mighty oak.  
"Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until 
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
 Shall come against him."

 It has a girth of 7 metres and the first 3 metres inside are hollow.

Close by is this much younger, (approx 300 years old) but even bigger, sycamore.

What a fab day out - constant sunshine, autumnal colours, fabulous felt and lots of fresh air!  The 150 mile round trip was well worth it!