Wednesday 25 October 2017


Today's Canals - Worcs and Birmingham, Droitwich

It was a wonderfully bright and clear sky as we awoke and took the boat across from one side of the canal to the service point at the CaRT maintenance base opposite. It was also unseasonably warm - a passer-by at one stage remarked that it felt as good as summer!

The sun was still not showing over the horizon, down at canal-level but was catching the church steeple at the village on the hill above.

The view across the plain to Welsh hills was marvellous - pity about the telephone pole and wire across the middle but our journalistic principles (aka insufficient commitment to effort!) prevent us from PaintShopping it out!

As we waited for the water to fill we looked around, seeing this preserved boat that once operated from Tardebigge to pull unpowered boats through the tunnels between here and Birmingham Worcester Bar.

The dry dock is again in use with what appears to be a new tenant (their main base is where we later stopped for lunch). They were already at work jet washing a narrowboat ready for blacking - it made an incredible noise, let's hope he was wearing ear defenders!

There is really one one word to describe today: locks! (and plenty of them, 50 in all). So we began at the beginning with Tardebigge Top Lock.

A waterside garden had not only Flowerpot Men but also this welded metal hippo (catch it at the right angle and honestly it does look like a hippo ought to look)

A few locks down and we passed Tardebigge Reservoir.

We had help from several lock keepers as we passed down the flight but they usually only stayed with us for a few locks at a time.

One of the lock keepers was accompanying a three person film crew making a video for CaRT about holidays on the canals. They were using a 360 camera so had to hide when filming. Mind you, they never asked our permission!

At a couple of locks, a local volunteer work party was clearing undergrowth from around the bypass weirs.

By mid morning a lot of high level cloud arrived with a slightly fresher breeze but it still felt balmy.

There was plenty of water coming down the flight and at a few locks it ran over the top of the gates. This made it difficult to cross the top foot boards as they were under water!

And here we are, just tree minutes under three hours and out the other end of the 29 lock flight.

However, no respite as immediately (it does not really feel like a different flight) comes the six locks of the Stoke Flight.

Christine noticed that some of the blue bricks used to edge the lock chambers have their makers details imprinted into them Here are three. The last one is dated 1893 so they do last well!

By now the cloud largely passed on and we were back to really warm, almost hot, weather.

Just above the last lock is a large Black Prince hire base. Several new boats were being fitted out ready no doubt for next season. We saw one with a later registration number than ours which had obviously had quite a few trips already, comparing our well-worn blacking (was it only just before Middlewich that we re-painted?) with this one.

We pulled in for lunch below the final Stoke lock and debated our options. At the rate of progress so far today we could possible get as far as Hawford, via Droitwich which would leave us with a feasible trip via Worcester tomorrow.

After a short rural run we arrived at the next flight, the six locks at Astwood.

A dead tree makes a beautiful if stark image against the blue sky.

After our earlier debate we turned right at Hanbury Junction, joining the Droitwich Canal. The upper part of this canal is narrow whilst the lower part is a broad beamed barge canal from the town to the Severn.

The top three locks, where a volunteer was assisting boats through and actually asked if we would like his help (of course!), all have working side ponds.

After passing the marina where we will return shortly for our winter berth, we passed through the two lock staircase that was a completely new construction when  the canal was restored.

One of the challenges for the restorers was than whilst the canal was closed the M6 was built leaving only a culvert for the River Salwarpe. As a result there is a very low headroom at this point but (even through we had failed to check our official air draft!) we made it easily although the radio aerial did just tickle the underneath of the tunnel roof.

We continued the short distance to the town where the canal leaves the river via the Barge Lock, At normal river levels there is barely any change in level but the catch is that the swing bridge across the middle still has to be opened. Leaving the lock was a but trickier than usual as neither gate wanted to open fully so we had to use both.

The canal runs for a short distance through the well used Vines Park - but it does have several swing bridges just when you might think about having a rest!

The locks down the Droitwich all took very much longer to negotiate than those earlier so by the time we arrived at the moorings in the town there was no time left to go any further, This canal offers few places to moor as the edges are mostly kept as reed beds for environmental reasons. (One of the issues when restoring a canal is that in the period of disuse all sorts of wildlife and flora take up residence with groups wanting to protect them). The upshot was that we ended up staying here for the night with yet another debate to be had about what next!

8.4 Miles - 50 Locks

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