28th July 2020
Catherine de Barnes is famous for its isolation hospital which was built in 1910 to isolate patients suffering from contagious diseases. When these became less prevalent the hospital was converted into a maternity hospital in 1953. However in 1966 it became the national isolation hospital and was kept on permanent standby, ready to accept patients within an hours notice. This happened in 1978, when Janet Parker a 40 year old local medical photographer contracted smallpox. Janet was the last known patient to die of smallpox in this country when scientists believed that the virus had been totally eradicated. It is thought that she contracted the disease from a lab at Birmingham University and her sad story makes compelling reading.
Leaving Catherine de Barnes we enter a long deep cutting that creates an illusion of peace and made for a surprisingly pleasant cruise. Soon we are into the suburbs of Birmingham and housing estates and disused wharves surrounds the canal along with Birminghams industry. Opened in 1799 and initially known as the Warwick and Birmingham Canal before being integrated into The Grand Union Canal in 1927, the canal was built to relieve congestion into Birmingham.
We arrive at Camp Hill Locks where we fill our water tank before making our descent. The six Camp Hill Locks provide a fall of 41ft 8 inches (12.7 m). The area became known as Camp Hill in 1643 when Prince Rupert, the then Duke of Cumberland set up camp there prior to the Battle of Birmingham during the first English Civil war.
We lost out here as just as we finished filling our water tank a boat came up the locks, but before we had a chance to move off the water point another boat that was moored behind us at Catherine de Barnes arrived. This meant that the locks would be in their favour whereas we would be going down behind them so every lock would be against us. Oh well you have to learn to deal with life little knock backs! LOL
We descend the Camp Hill locks, our first narrow locks for some time, before making a right turn at Bordesley Junction. We pass under several bridges and descend the five Garrison Locks where we pass a collection of old wharf buildings. These locks also were set against us, so in all of the ten locks we passed through today, only one was in our favour. This added quite a bit of time on our journey, and as Pat did not feel very well we had already made the decision to stay overnight at Star City. As it transpired, nothing at Star city was open so we had a pretty quiet night. There were a couple of boats moored on the tow path side here but I must admit too feeling a little safer on our pontoon on the opposite side of the tow path.
Today we had travelled 9 miles and did 10 locks in 6 hours.