I don't usually pass up the opportunity of a free trip to Birmingham and last Thursday was no exception, having been invited to a Network Rail conference in the city. The event was held at a conference centre in Cambridge Street - the street that crosses the Birmingham &Fazeley Canal above Farmer's Bridge locks at Tindal Bridge. The venue actually backs on to the canal at this point, so at lunchtime - forgoing the "networking opportunity" I sneaked off to see what was going on at heart of Britain's canal network!
It being December, the answer was "not a lot" but I was fortunate to see British Waterways' work boat "Aquarius" engaged on a mission bound from Cambrian Wharf towards Gas Street.
I couldn't resist the opportunity to visit Gas Street Basin myself and to take a look at the working boats of what I still think of as the Birmingham & Midland Canal Carrying Company - although its not called that anymore. Collingwood, Anson, Ash and Yeoford were all present.
I've been visiting Birmingham on and off since the 1960s, when the city fathers - perhaps in deference to the local motor industry - seemed intent on re-creating the M6 through the city centre; but its a much improved place these days, enlivened even more at this time of year by the Frankfurt Christmas Market that fills the city centre with stalls selling Christmas goodies including German food and, of course, beer. Which might be why when the obvious route from Cambridge Street to New Street Station passes right through the market, I left the conference at 4.45 but didn't get to the station until seven o'clock!