Brum, Brum, Brum
So, my first day back after a far-too relaxing fortnight’s summer holiday. For the first week, we hired a narrowboat and explored a loop of canals through the centre of Birmingham and then a rural leg south of the city. Brum was in full Commonwealth Games mania and we had a rather larger audience than we would’ve liked navigating our first set of locks bang in the city centre. In the event, we didn’t humiliate ourselves and the tourists seemed satisfied with our efforts.
With the summer’s second heatwave in full blast, we heard quite a lot about canals on the news during the trip as they do require a surprising amount of water. Ours were running low (we ran aground twice in supposedly navigable areas), a canal further north had been closed due to lack of water, and there was talk of banning pleasure boating like ours to conserve water across the country. Conversely, it was announced that the Grand Union Canal, a section of which formed one side of our roughly triangular route, could be utilised to shift water from the rainy North West to the frazzled South East (it would take plenty of treatment!).
It wasn’t the most low carbon trip either, running a diesel engine much of every day to travel a distance in a week that I could cycle in a day. The canals played a historical part in environmental degradation as, when they were built, they effectively halved the cost of coal (as one horse could pull now 30 tonnes, as opposed to 2 or 3 tonnes in a cart), helping to kick off the industrial revolution. They don’t call the wider Birmingham region the Black Country for nothing.
Looking forward, we were told the next generation of boats would be electric, which would be great for everyone – I grew a bit tired of whole days being soundtracked by a deep throbbing below my feet.
The second half of the holiday was spent in a farm cottage (house, really) in Devon. The first few days we felt the full force of the heat, then after a tumultuous rainstorm, it reverted to something more akin to normal UK August weather. However that rain gave most of the south coast of England a big dose of raw sewage, so we kept away from the beaches and hiked on the moors.
Now back at the desk, compiling a somewhat endless to do list!