Bilford Locks

July 21, 2011

Another fairly early start: we pulled the boat back to take on water before heading down the two staircase locks leading from Stourport basin onto the River Severn. The bottom set of locks had been the scene of a dreadful tragedy a few weeks ago when a lad riding a bike across the iron footbridge fell off and died. It is one of the traditional slim bridges with iron edgings only a few inches high. The locks are next to a fairground and easily accessible from the river path. High scaffolding railings have now been erected on each side of the footbridge and the lock gates have been blocked off so no-one can cross them.

Off we went down the river, revelling again in the bliss of depth under the boat and the wide expanse of water. We do like rivers and the banks were so softly pretty with flowers and greenery. It was a real treat to have the three sets of lock gates open up for us as we approached and just to be able to sit in the boat as it descended. The two Diglis Canal Locks at Worcester are doubles and there was another boat for us to work up with and a lock keeper to help at the second lock which has very heavy paddles.

By the time we moored for lunch it was 1.30 and we tied up above bridge 2. Not the prettiest of moorings but we didn’t plan to stay the night. After lunch we walked briskly up to the High Street for some light shopping. I am very ambivalent about Worcester: there are some handsome buildings, especially the Town Hall, and the Cathedral, but there is so much traffic going over the sole bridge and it always seems rather dirty to me. In any event we didn’t feel like staying the night and left at 4.00.

We thought that we might get quite a few locks out of the way and stop on the outskirts but as we were about to go into lock 7 we were stopped by BW staff who said that the canal was closed for repairs to lock 8 and that we could go no further. We hadn’t seen any notices, nor had we been told by the lock keeper at the Diglis Locks. Apparently no one else knew either: they were supposed to have started work at 4.00, it was now 5.00 and they had squeezed through several other boats including one just in front of us. We have moored at the lock bollards and hope that the pound will keep its water level. One of the BW men walked back to lock 6 to stop a boat coming up and hopefully they will stop anyone else. The work will finish at midnight and we can go on in the morning, very early I guess given that we are blocking the lock access.

Sunset over Stourport

The River Severn

Neglect

Coming into Worcester

Today we did 15.82 Miles and 13 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2848.22 Miles, 1796 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 51 Tunnels

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Stourport

July 20, 2011

Mr Pearson says that it should take six hours from Stourton Junction to Stourport. Well, today it took us six hours from Cookley to Stourport. There were queues at several of the locks so there was a bit of waiting around. At Kidderminster Lock we met a couple on another Stowe Hill boat, built the year before ours; with a similar Josher style Reeves hull.

The canal is very pretty along this stretch, especially when it passes the red rock faces, and there are flowers everywhere. Even Kidderminster, which was somewhere we went through very speedily two years ago, was spick and span. We moored outside Sainsburys for lunch and a spot of shopping, and Alan had a very successful trip to Maplins, which is his equivalent of a T K Maxx fix for me.

We arrived in Stourport around 4.00 and managed to find a mooring in the basin, though we would quite happily have gone down to the river. We had a wander round the town and went for a drink. Just as we felt last time, this is a somewhat strange town to visit. In principle it should be a lovely place to spend time, in actuality it isn’t.

Cookley Tunnel

Steam train on Severn Valley Railway Viaduct

Today we did 8.27 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2832.40 Miles, 1783 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 51 Tunnels


Caunsall Bridge

July 19, 2011

It has seemed a long day today. We started off down the Bratch Locks at 8.30, the only boat moving on a dull morning. We moved briskly on taking turns to walk and operate the locks. There is some very pretty scenery once you get through Wombourne, and an amazingly stunning garden near Gothersley Lock. It’s an enormous garden bordering the canal and next to a nursery. It looked wonderful last time we passed in the winter: today the borders were perfection.

The wonderful thing about travelling along the Staffs and Worcs Canal is that it seems so unchanged from the days when the first boats travelled along it, more so than any of the waterways we have travelled. There are the circular by wash drains, the most fearsome looking things as the water powers down, the little tunnels and staircases at each lock and the slim bridges for lock operators to cross.

By the time we went through Stewponey Lock and Dunsley Tunnel it was after 1.00 and we were flagging so we moored for lunch in a favourite mooring place from the past, above Hyde Lock. There’s a good open stretch of field opposite and a wood on the towpath side. We were undecided about whether or not to go on, and spent some time listening to the Murdoch hearing. Around 4.00 we made up our minds and continued through Kinver to our mooring just short of Cookley.

Bratch Locks

Bottom of Bratch Locks

Towpath garden

Ornate footbridge

Today we did 10.59 Miles and 16 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2824.13 Miles, 1776 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 51 Tunnels


Goodbye Shroppie

July 18, 2011

We had a very leisurely weekend in Brewood. The weather wasn’t good but we had the pleasure of the company of Lynne and Paul of NB Piston Broke to make up for it. We had moored behind them on Friday afternoon in time for a quick catch up in the Boat, before we went for an excellent meal, with memorable naan bread, at The Curry Inn.

Because we had just arrived back from home on Friday we needed a good shopping stock-up and took ourselves into Brewood village in the morning. When we were last there in November 2009 some of the shopkeepers told us that they were suffering from the closure of the canal when the embankment burst earlier in the year. We were pleased to see that all the shops were still open and seemingly thriving. There were queues in the butcher/greengrocer where we bought a special deal of 3 lb of braising steak as well as vegetables. The butcher told us that there was well over 3lb in weight and that it was local beef reared at the Chillington Estate down the road. There’s an excellent baker and we picked up a little more fruit and some good ham at Coopers. The Co-op in Brewood is poor compared to most but perhaps that’s because there is a good choice of other shops.

In the afternoon we had a grand tour of Piston Broke, stretched since we were last aboard. We talked so long we suddenly realised it was nearly 6.00 and time to go off for a walk to the Admiral Rodney, a very attractive pub in a handsome street.

Alan had been looking forward to taking part in a six hour radio amateur competition on Sunday and had set up his aerial and his cramped little radio shack in the engine room. However on Sunday morning we discovered that our red warning light for the loo had failed and we were urgently in need of a pump out. Countrywide Cruisers opposite was shut and I called Napton Narrowboats at Autherley Junction, but they were also closed. Our emergency back up was to be used for the first time. For seven years we have been carrying a self pump out, which has been used so rarely that each pump out has cost about £100, and a plastic jerry can that could be used to empty part of the toilet tank. It finally came into its own and we emptied enough into the jerry can to last us until today, when we pumped out at Countrywide Cruisers. Alan managed 33 contacts which he thought a bit disappointing, but later in the evening managed three very good contacts with Greenland, the Cayman Islands and Nicaragua.

This morning we waved goodbye to Lynne and Paul and headed down to Autherley Junction and then onto the Staffs and Worcs. Alan was very pleased to be hailed from a moored boat at the boatyard just after the Junction. “Can you teach other boaters to travel past at your speed please?” Just before Compton we passed a group of several men in red aprons who were looking into the undergrowth and asked me if I had seen two lads running along with carrier bags. A lady at the lock told me that they were from a deli called Daisy’s chasing shoplifters.

We finally moored in late afternoon sunshine above Bratch Locks. We had both managed to fit in some walking and it was good to be on the move again.

Today we did 11.75 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2813.54 Miles, 1760 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 51 Tunnels


Brewood

July 15, 2011

We have had another few days at home and caught the 11.00 London Midland train back to Stafford. We were moored at Wheaton Aston and had thought that our best route would be a bus to Wolverhampton but it may be that the little green buses have ceased operation. In any event there was no available bus to Wolverhampton listed at the bus stop and we changed to the bus via Penkridge to Stafford. It’s a lovely route along the country lanes and through pretty little hamlets. Penkridge itself looks well worth exploring. The bus route runs alongside the canal for a time and there were lots of boats moving. We haven’t travelled along the Staffs & Worcs between Autherley Junction and Great Heywood as yet. We are on the point of deciding our route to Cropredy for the Fairpoint Convention festival and may decide to turn left at the Junction.

During the five days we were away the price of red diesel at Turners Garage had increased by 3p per litre as he had received a new and higher priced delivery. We filled up before moving on the short distance to Brewood. We had deliberated about whether or not to go on today but were very glad we had as we discovered Piston Broke moored just before The Boat (and discovered Lynne and Paul in The Boat itself!) We knew they were heading this way but had feared that we would miss them. In civilised fashion they never travel at the weekend and in fact it sounds as if this promises to be a weekend when it will be advisable to be tucked into the bank and sheltering from the rain and wind. Alan has a radio amateur competition on Sunday and we like Brewood and are happy to stay here for a couple of days. And even more importantly it’s great to see them and we are looking forward to a guided tour of the stretched Piston Broke tomorrow.

Today we did 2.94 Miles and 1 Lock

Statistics so far:-

2801.79 Miles, 1753 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 51 Tunnels


Wheaton Aston

July 10, 2011

We arrived back at Gnosell yesterday after a few days at home, including a happy family day at Alan’s brother David’s wedding to Rie. It’s always a joy to have the family together. This morning we moved along to the water point which was one of the lovely rarities, a tap with pressure! NB Ellie Mae was moored next to the waterpoint. We had had spent some days moored on the other side of a pontoon from them in Liverpool last year.

It was a splendid day for moving along with the sun shining brightly. The Shroppie is such a beautiful canal, hard to beat in our opinion, with the fields and views on either side and those wonderful high arching bridges. Just before Lord Talbots Wharf we passed the Napton Narrowboat Grace and a lady on the cruiser stern saw our name and called out “I read your blog!” Now isn’t that the most frustrating thing about narrowboating, you sometimes meet up with people so fleetingly when you would love to have a good chat.

We reached Wheaton Aston around 1.00 hoping that that the garage would be open so that we could fill up with diesel, which they are currently selling at 70.9p per litre. Unfortunately they are only open Mondays to Fridays and a half day on Saturday so we stopped here rather than going on to Brewood. A Sunday dinner at the Hartley Arms held great appeal. They do a £5.95 carvery and the roast dinner, while not the very best I have had, was quite acceptable and their beer was very well kept. After a short walk it was back for a Sunday afternoon nap and laze about. Despite our name it seems a rare treat!

Today we did 5.29 Miles and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:-

2798.85 Miles, 1752 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 51 Tunnels


Gnosall

July 4, 2011

Another hot day! Seems we should make the most of it because it won’t last. It was wonderful to wake up in the country in the sunshine. Alan was up on the air just after 6.00 (he says just after 5.00 but that’s GMT and some tricky dickery). We pottered and got underway around 10.00. On paper we had a 2 – 3 hour journey today but it felt longer with all the moored boats.

As it was indeed very hot it was rather refreshing to go through the Knighton and Grub Street cuttings. Between bridge 45 and the Knighton Wharf we met a convoy of boats travelling north just where there is a rock shelf that stretches almost to the centre of the canal so that made things tricky and it was a relief to get to the wider waters of Shebdon Embankment. We last came along here when the repair work to the breach was just being completed, now we couldn’t see where it had been as the off side bank was covered with undergrowth and wildflowers again.

After lunch at Norbury Junction I walked on towards Gnosall and encountered Ted from NB Innisfree, who we winter moored next to at Nantwich and met again this year at Great Haywood. He’s a lovely elderly gentleman, a WW II veteran and I gather a very popular member of the boating fraternity in this part of the world. He has written a book about his war time experiences that Alan and his Dad (a D Day veteran) really enjoyed.

Today we did 8.05 Miles

Statistics so far:-

2793.56 Miles, 1752 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 50 Tunnels