Birmingham to London in 4½ Minutes by Hilary Rhodes We’re going down to London from up Foxton Staircase Flight And its paddles Red before the White, you’ve got to get it right Another flight at Watford and we’re starting our descent That lockie makes us hurry up for speed is his intent It’s there at Norton Junction that we leave the Leicester Line For when you’ve locked down Buckby, you’ll know you’re doing fine And then you’re now at Whilton, the railway comes in sight To keep you noisy company after the Buckby Flight Through city and through countryside, from Leicester or from Brum We’re travelling the only way on the Grand Union From Weedon then past Bugbrooke is a lock free gentle ride Straight on through Gayton Junction, it’s Northampton to the side And once you’re through old Blisworth better put your headlight on Then for five and thirty minutes you’ll be travelling underground Through Blisworth’s mighty tunnel, one of the longest in the land Of ghosts galore, of leggers yore and boaters’ contraband And coming into daylight the sky seems awful bright And into famous Stoke Bruerne where the boats and pubs unite Then down the heavy Stoke locks and to Cosgrove as we steer We look right down from such a height it makes us all feel queer Upon the Iron Trunk Aqueduct that’s eighteen metres high O’er the River Great Ouse where the bright kingfishers fly And into Wolverton we go, past rail yards and old sites We see some slick new yuppie flats and a history of bikes Now Milton Keynes is not as bad as many people say There’s flowers, trees and open fields to speed you on your way Then Bletchley marks the outskirts of the town of Milton Keynes Where geeks and cypher punks of old can tell their secret dreams And Fenny Compton’s little lock is there to stop a night To find out why those engineers can’t get those levels right The next lock’s at Stoke Hammond and then it’s up the Soulbury Three Then Linslade, Leighton Buzzard, then we have a cup of tea It’s Grove, Church, Slapton, Horton locks will make your backs all sore And then two locks at Seabrook rising 20 feet and more And there’s Seabrook swing bridge it’s an obstacle of sorts Past the rail and road bridge when we see the Pitstone ports It’s then we come by Maffas locks as boatmen called them, nine Passing Aylesbury Junction Arm where boats got stuck in line We’re now on the Tring Summit on the way to Bulbourne shops Leaving Wendover Junction for the place they once made locks It’s three short miles to Cowroast lock and we start locking down Its another ten to Berko Port and hard when on your own The next stop is at Hemel after another thirteen locks Where paper mills are now all gone there’s naught but flats and shops Now leaving Watford town we say “Hello M25”; We wave at all the cars parked there whilst underneath we dive A few more locks are still to go ‘til we’re at Grove Bridge Mill With four sharp bends we have to take without any a spill And then it’s down to Cassio along the leafy glade Through Croxley Green and Common Moor beside the River Gade With water all around us we get to Batchworth Lake To Ricky’s little village for another tea and cake We travel past the houseboats and boats like houses too And then its past the Sewage farm that smells just like a loo Near Uxbridge and at last the town comes into view Where Denham lock’s the deepest lock at near eleven two At Cowley Peachey go straight on, don’t take the right for Slough For as Betjeman once said, “it isn’t fit for humans now” If you’re going down to Brentford to the Thames when tide is high It’s straight at Bulls Bridge Junction and then down Hanwell you’ll fly Its left at Bulls Bridge Junction if to London town you go Leaving Heathrow all behind you and past the Old Jam ‘Ole The boats at Little Venice are a lovely sight to see There’s no more locks to set until the Camden Three Past Islington and Vicky Park, past Mile End or the Lea, We end up in the Limehouse Dock and Thames down to the sea! Through city and through countryside, from Leicester or from Brum We’re travelling the only way on the Grand Union Dr Hilary Rhodes, who lives in Australia but who has continuously cruised the UK waterways for six months in each of the last two years, was kind enough to supply supply the above song. It was inspired by Buzz Collins' 'London to Birmingham in 4½ Minutes' though Hilary on NB Willow did the journey rather differently. She says : I wanted to sing London to Brum, but wanted to tailor it to our experiences this year. We went to down to London and then the Thames from Foxton Locks, and had been to Leicester before that. So we went down the opposite way, starting from Foxton Locks which is so widely known. Here is my version of going the other way. It would not have worked reversing the verses, and of course, left becomes right etc. I hope you can use it, and publish it alongside the original. I have a few of the original lines left in, but it is a 95% rewrite, as it would not have made sense otherwise. I added the London Ring in, changed the chorus end to 'from Leicester or from Brum' and left out the journey to Brum.
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