We stayed in Birmingham a little longer than planned – it’s such a buzzing city and we do enjoy our visits there.
Yesterday we moved the short distance to our next Boating Festival at Netherton, near Tipton in the West Midlands. We were pleasantly surprised to find the event’s location in a setting one wouldn’t imagine existed in the heart of what was once one of the most industrialised parts of England.
Surrounded by nature, the canal nestles comfortably amongst the conurbation of the outskirts of the city, sitting on an embankment overlooking well-kept residences.
Actually it’s in The Black Country, which is north and west of Birmingham. Now don’t get confused – Birmingham is NOT in The Black Country and people here don’t associate with Birmingham. Just as folks from ‘Brum’ are offended to be associated with the Black Country. It’s all very confusing!
We discovered that lesser known fact once again last night, when a local regaled us with tales of the past and present in the very famous Ma Pardoes, aka The Old Swan.
Meeting up with friends from previous festivals and making new ones is one of the highlights of our new personas as roving canal traders.
The Fudge Boat folks we’ve known since Middlewich, and we had the pleasure of their company again at Hebden Bridge. Our newly found fellow traders run ‘All Things Spanish’ – which belies the fact that they sell ice cream, cakes, flapjacks, milk shakes, stainless steel chimney pots, and all manner of things! You’ll see a photo further down ..
Back to ‘The Old Swan’. It’s been licensed since 1835, and the current pub and brewery were built in 1863. What an incredible place, we find it so encouraging to see a real old English pub that hasn’t been taken over by a restaurant chain.
Today we’ve all been setting up in anticipation of a wonderful weekend’s trading. The weather forecast is promising which bodes well for heaps of visitors. It’s the largest festival we’ve been to this year, extending across the canal into a field of stands and stalls, then around the corner is a huge funfair.
There’s even a ‘Bumble Hole Conservation Group with a small museum alongside the canal. Here’s a fascinating fact for you all …
This evening has brought more dear friends to the festival – Helen and Andy with their narrowboat Wand’ring Bark and The Jam Butty, to sell their Wild Side jams and chutneys. This adorable couple have recently been filming with Prunella Scales and Timothy West for the next ‘Great Canal Journeys‘ series to be shown in 2015, and have a feature in the October Waterways World magazine .
There’s no stopping their notoriety now!
We’ve been invited for an evening of curry and cards tonight with Helen and Andy, so I’d better get this posted and get ready!
Do come and visit us over the next couple of days if you’re anywhere nearby – it’s going to a spectacular event.