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Wanderer Vagabond

Is Birmingham going downhill as a destination?....

130 posts in this topic

Is Birmingham becoming a less than desireable destination for boaters?

The reason I ask the question is to see whether my current experiences are becoming more common, or have I just been unlucky? The first part of the story was as I passed through Kingswood Junction on the way to Birmingham and stopped to chat with another older boater. As is common he asked me where I was going and when I told him "Birmingham" his reply was, "God, I wouldn't go anywhere near there again. I've just come from there and have stones thrown at me several times all over, even at Cambrian Wharf".

Now I overwintered in Birmingham for 2014/2015 and, despite mooring in a number of locations that didn't seem ideal (above top lock at Walsall, Wolverhampton, Camp Hill top lock) I didn't have any real issues in the 5 months we were here. The only incidents were that I was cast off on the bows outsides of the Barclarycard Arena and, as we left Birmingham via Salford Junction got a few stones thrown at us near Salford Junction,so in 5 months only two minor events.

I have come up to Birmingham (disregarding the older boaters warnings) and, in the 2 weeks and 4 days we've been here we have been spat at and stoned at Digbeth Junction, we have been subject to some oik banging on the sides and windows of the boat at Bumblehole Country park at 9.15pm in the rain (and then cast adrift during the night) and now down at Merry Hill we have had another oik try to walk off with our bargepole (which he tried to do again later whilst the OH was on her own on the boat). I had a conversation with a passing dog walker who, it turned out was another continuous cruiser who had been moored where we were on the embankment above Merry Hill when she had been so terrorised by a group of youths that she had also previously encountered at Bumble Hole she had moved off the embankment back into Merry Hill basin. She also advised me that the broken window in the bow door of the boat moored in front of me had also happened at Bumble Hole recently, which was why the boat had been moved to where it was now. In fairness I should have seen the warning signs as Bumble Hole since last time we moored there, there were three or four other boats moored, this time we were alone.

Now I appreciate that these are all just anecdotes but they seem to be building up to a bigger picture. I know someone is going to say,"Make sure you tell the Police about these so that they can put on extra patrols" but back in the real world where they don't have the staff to deal with what they are obliged to deal with, 'nuisance youths' aren't going to get much of a response. I recently reported a car crashed and on its roof at the top of Foxton Locks and it was only after I pointed out to the call-taker that I neither knew whether the driver owned the crashed vehicle or whether he was as pissed as a cricket that she eventually deigned to send a patrol to check it out. We now need to realise that they no longer have the staff to do the job.

So is Birmingham going downhill, or have I been exceptionally unlucky. Don't however read this this as a 'Keep out of Birmingham' notice since if we abandon the canals to the little sh*ts we will lose out ourselves.

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Neither Bumble Hole or Merry Hill are anywhere near Birmingham - but give a dog a bad name.....

 

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I for one hope you have just been unlucky but fear this may be coming more normal behaviour than in days gone by. I have over the years had the odd run in with oiks here and there and have been cast adrift as it were several times, the last occasion being Banbury last year but all nothing much to worry about. You are like me probably more bothered when the missus is on her own when incidents occur because as we both know some of these oiks care not one jot what the sex is and call me a dinosaur but blokes picking on women in any shape or form does not cut it.  We have Brum on the radar for a quick trip next spring so I hope its not all downhill.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Slightly worrying as we are at bumblehole park (aka windmill end) tonight. I guess you were at Merry hill this afternoon when we stopped for shopping? There is another boat here, seemed to be unoccupied when we arrived at 6pm but the mikuni/eberspacher type heater was going so perhaps they were in the pub. Just listening to probably the 6th police/ambulance siren going past! Some kids were here when we arrived but they seemed friendly, but did say a boat had had its windows broken here recently.

I think it is worse out of season when there are few boats, once there are lots they become less visible due to ubiquity.

edited to say that if course 99.9% of the folk are fine, but it only takes one bad 'un to spoil your day.

And that I think antisocial behaviour has been less of an issue in say the past 5 years, but perhaps the pendulum is swinging the other way?

Edited by nicknorman
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16 minutes ago, pophops said:

Neither Bumble Hole or Merry Hill are anywhere near Birmingham - but give a dog a bad name.....

 

That's odd because in my book Dudley No 2 Canal always comes up under the BCN, have they moved it?

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On 18/03/2017 at 22:40, pophops said:

Neither Bumble Hole or Merry Hill are anywhere near Birmingham - but give a dog a bad name.....

 

 

I was thinking that too. 

But the OP also mentioned getting stoned at Cambrian Wharf....

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in answer to the OPs question in the title of this thread , no , it's always uphill .

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16 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

Slightly worrying as we are at bumblehole park (aka windmill end) tonight. I guess you were at Merry hill this afternoon when we stopped for shopping? There is another boat here, seemed to be unoccupied when we arrived at 6pm but the mikuni/eberspacher type heater was going so perhaps they were in the pub. Just listening to probably the 6th police/ambulance siren going past! Some kids were here when we arrived but they seemed friendly, but did say a boat had had its windows broken here recently.

I think it is worse out of season when there are few boats, once there are lots they become less visible due to ubiquity.

edited to say that if course 99.9% of the folk are fine, but it only takes one bad 'un to spoil your day.

And that I think antisocial behaviour has been less of an issue in say the past 5 years, but perhaps the pendulum is swinging the other way?

The incident related to me by the lady at Merry Hill apparently happened during the school holidays, which can always be a problematic time.

Just to advise you that in my opinion it may be connected to the area around the Visitor centre being a bit of a drugs pick up place. Purely circumstantial evidence but when we arrived there on Thursday two men aged about 30 approached from the direction of Netherton tunnel and met up with an 18 year old riding a mountain bike coming from Fox and Goose bridge. All three went round the back of the visitor centre for about 2 minutes then all returned in the directions from which they had come, I know that cycles are popular for drugs couriers since how often does one ever get stopped? Probably just an innocent family get-together overplayed by my nasty suspicious mind, or perhaps not.

I did ask the guys in the visitor centre when I left on Friday morning if there were problems there and they said that they weren't aware of any.

I hope you have a quiet and non cast-off, and yes I think I saw you come through Merry Hill this afternoon, did you moor on the bollard at the top of the steps?

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6 minutes ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

I was thinking that too. 

But the OP also mentioned getting stoned at Cambrian Wharf....

Slight confusion there, I didn't get stoned at Cambrian Wharf, the older boater I met at Kingswood Junction warned me that he had been stoned there. I got spat at and stoned down by Digbeth Junction, this wasn't teenagers, these were guys aged 25 to 30 who probably should have known better.

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1 minute ago, Wanderer Vagabond said:

The incident related to me by the lady at Merry Hill apparently happened during the school holidays, which can always be a problematic time.

Just to advise you that in my opinion it may be connected to the area around the Visitor centre being a bit of a drugs pick up place. Purely circumstantial evidence but when we arrived there on Thursday two men aged about 30 approached from the direction of Netherton tunnel and met up with an 18 year old riding a mountain bike coming from Fox and Goose bridge. All three went round the back of the visitor centre for about 2 minutes then all returned in the directions from which they had come, I know that cycles are popular for drugs couriers since how often does one ever get stopped? Probably just an innocent family get-together overplayed by my nasty suspicious mind, or perhaps not.

I did ask the guys in the visitor centre when I left on Friday morning if there were problems there and they said that they weren't aware of any.

I hope you have a quiet and non cast-off, and yes I think I saw you come through Merry Hill this afternoon, did you moor on the bollard at the top of the steps?

Yes we stopped at the bollards at the top of the steps, Jeff managed to drop his iPhone face down on a kerb yesterday, smashing the screen,  and got it repaired at Planet Mobile in MH, which is why we were there for a couple of hours.

On the drugs thing, my view is that drug dealers and couriers are only interested in doing their trade so whilst it might be a little insalubrious, generally they don't want to engage in mindless vandalism, that being the remit of bored kids with nothing to lose.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

11 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

Yes we stopped at the bollards at the top of the steps, Jeff managed to drop his iPhone face down on a kerb yesterday, smashing the screen,  and got it repaired at Planet Mobile in MH, which is why we were there for a couple of hours.

On the drugs thing, my view is that drug dealers and couriers are only interested in doing their trade so whilst it might be a little insalubrious, generally they don't want to engage in mindless vandalism, that being the remit of bored kids with nothing to lose.

Generally I tend to agree with you about the drugs thing, and now have the attitude of live and let live (or die should they so choose) since how many times a day do you pass someone smoking a joint under a canal bridge somewhere. If Windmill End/Bumble Hole is a regular pick up point however they are quite likely to slip a local 'yoof' a couple of quid to frighten off any boats appearing to regularly moor there. I was surprised at the number of people we heard walking along the towpath there, even after midnight. There's not much there so where were they all going, on a Thursday night, in the rain??:unsure:

ETA Just as an addition, when we overwintered in Birmimgham we stopped off a Windmill End/Bumble Hole on a few occasions without any problems and this was out of season. At that time however there were probably 2 or 3 boats moored on the offside bollards (who looked like they had made it their home) they have all gone now.

Edited by Wanderer Vagabond
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Never had any problems at Merry Hill, Birmingham, or Bumble Hole last summer. It did strike me as being a good idea though to moor on the offside at Bumble Hole if there was room, as it was quieter/safer away from the surprising amount of pedestrian traffic on the towpath.

1 hour ago, Wanderer Vagabond said:

did ask the guys in the visitor centre when I left on Friday morning if there were problems there and they said that they weren't aware of any.

...except in 2010 when the visitor centre was subjected to an arson attack!

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Birmingham always used to be bad I'd heard such good reports in the last few years I had almost decided to go back last visit 1990s. Maybe won't bother. In the 80s it was glue sniffers.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Does anyone really think that people manning a visitor centre are really going to answer, to the question "What is it like round here",

" Seriously crap and violent, Don't moor here if you value your boat"

of course they will not, their job is to encourage boaters to stop.

The worst places we have visited or stopped at btw are March and Banbury although I am fairly nervous by nature :-) we shall see what Walsall is like at Easter.

 

 

Edited by PaddingtonBear
Useless spelling
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9 hours ago, Wanderer Vagabond said:

That's odd because in my book Dudley No 2 Canal always comes up under the BCN, have they moved it?

Not all of the Coventry canal is in Coventry. Same thing here. 

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We moored at Merry Hill a couple of years ago, just for one night and we had no bother save couple of pissed anglers ranting at two in the morning about boats getting in their way.

We have also moored at Gas Street, again no bother.

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I don't think anybody should moor in Birmingham, I need to have a guaranteed spot there,

:)

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1 hour ago, PaddingtonBear said:

 

The worst places we have visited or stopped at btw are March and Banbury

 

 

I'm amazed. Knowing both places fairly well, I am very surprised that they came out "worst". In what way?

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Well another day dawns at Bumblehole and I'm please to report that Telemachus remains intact. We had a very peaceful night ... right up until the point where a police helicopter was orbiting overhead for about 20mins at 5am! Never mind, they obviously chased the crims away.

I'm sure the point is that you can be lucky or unlucky almost anywhere.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

20 minutes ago, Athy said:

I'm amazed. Knowing both places fairly well, I am very surprised that they came out "worst". In what way?

I think its just that some people ( Myself included ) prefer to be no where any vm's and well out in the countryside. We rarely moor in town/city centres. I know Banbury very well and especialy the usual town centre moorings above the lock and Spice ball become very busy especialy weekends in the summer with people on nights out. We had our ropes let go last year, its no big deal but its certainly a pain in the but. We have been through some of the supposed worst bits over the years but only been stoned in Knottingley ( not suprised realy ) and Thrupp on the posh Oxford.

Editted to add, average house price Knottingley 114k average house price Thrupp 405k

Edited by mrsmelly
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We got untied/ropes cut in Banbury, below the lock and near some travellers.  We won though as we tied up again I called the local force who came out after we set a wee trap, they ran into it and were nicked, section 5 PO and crim damage. Satisfying but I would have rather had a sleeping night rather than waiting for the inevitable.

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15 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

only been stoned in Knottingley ( not suprised realy ) and Thrupp on the posh Oxford.

Editted to add, average house price Knottingley 114k average house price Thrupp 405k

Well, there we are then.  I moored overnight in Knottingley last year. Very peaceful night.

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Just now, Mac of Cygnet said:

Well, there we are then.  I moored overnight in Knottingley last year. Very peaceful night.

Yes its usualy very nice especialy in the deep cutting bit. I was not suprised though at the once we were stoned in Knottla as I used to police the area and it is shall we say quite lively at times. Thrupp though is assumed by many I would think as rural Oxfordshire idylic but we have been stoned there twice.

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All very depressing.

We love Brum - even the half empty Library as it's a focal point / turn round destination for us.

Perhaps we'll stay on the Thames in future...

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2 hours ago, Dave_P said:

Not all of the Coventry canal is in Coventry. Same thing here. 

I think it might be a little bit of nit-picking here:unsure:. I could equally argue that there are no canals whatsoever in London, which is perfectly true since the only waterway that passes through the 'City of London' is the River Thames.

I should stress that I did say in the original post that I'm certainly not recommending avoiding Birmingham just to be aware that  we seem to be getting more annoying incidents in the few weeks that we've been here than we experienced in the 5 months that we stayed here in the winter of 2014/2015.

To perhaps go slightly political, I think it is possibly connected with the reduction in the Police Forces. If there aren't sufficient Police to deal with the niggling things (and there aren't) the little sh*ts will continue to push their luck onto bigger things. The 'argument' that because we had falling crime we didn't need many Police seemed to me as fallacious as an earlier argument that since we aren't at war with anyone we don't need much of a military, a thinking that led directly to the Falklands War. We've now cut back the Police forces and, what a surprise, crime is starting to rise again.

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