Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Back on home ground

Moored in the setting sun at Whittington
If there's anywhere you can call home when you spend your time cruising the inland waterways then we are home.
The stretch of Coventry Canal between Tamworth and Fradley is one that we know almost off by heart. I could probably almost drive it with my eyes shut.
It all started when we spent a winter at Streethay Wharf refitting parts of our last boat, Star. Then we disappeared for three or four years and re-appeared to discover a forlorn and burned-out wreck called Harry sitting at Streethay.
Cue another couple of winters fitting that out before we set off again.
And now we are on our way back once more, just to say hello before we set off on the familiar route up to Fradley and head west.
Tonight we are tied up in what is one of our favourite spots, the village of Whittington, an attractive, friendly, self-contained village with shops, pubs, doctor and school (not that we need this, but it is a marker for a thriving village). It's also a quick bus ride away from the town of Lichfield.
The unique Drayton footbridge, newly facelifted
Over the past couple of days we have meandered to the end of the Birmingham & Fazeley – relieving the no gas panic by picking up new bottles at Fazeley Mill Marina. It was good to see that re-development at Fazeley Junction where the canal tees into the Coventry has finally finished and the dilapidated canalside buildings have been turned into smart flats and houses.
Old canalside buildings at Fazeley finally revamped
Yesterday we stopped at Tamworth where the massive retail parks have grown even larger – a new Mini dealership is now much use to boaters but a new Toolstation depot could be. There's a choice of Sainsburys or a giant Asda plus everything else from John Lewis to M&S or B&Q.
No wonder that the centre of Tamworth has collapsed. It looks even shabbier than when we were last here, full of bargain stores and closed shops. The clientele are the sort of folk who can't make the out of town malls - the old, the disabled and the under-privileged. Every other person seems to be in a mobility buggy (and usually vastly overweight), walking with a crutch or just a pallid skinned smoker modelling leisure wear from JD Sports.
It's a sorry place. An object lesson in the way towns expand outwards to the suburbs, leaving the old centres to implode. A shame because Tamworth has history - the ancient capital of Mercia, it has a Norman castle, a former Prime Minister, Robert Peel (the man who established the police force) was its MP and raise your head from the Home Bargains and Cash Converters and the centre has the remains of some fine buildings.
We were glad to move on.

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