Saturday 31 March 2018

Stoke Prior

Today's Canals - Droitwich, Worcester and Birmingham

Time at last to leave the marina at Droitwich was has been home to nb Alchemy for this winter - and a good home it has been.

Alas, Christine discovered last night that we had left behind at the hotel her iPad charging lead. So she persuaded Andrew to drive her into town to track down a replacement as well as pick up a paper. There had been some debate about whether it was better to do this before setting off or to wait until later in the morning when we passed through on the canal. However, last night a gas bottle ran out and we wanted to buy a replacement before leaving as, with our plan being to go down the River Severn, supplies are less frequent.

So they went into town leaving Mike to mover the boat around to the service point, replace the gas bottle and empty the elsan. By the time he had just about finished the other two returned. On the way back they stopped off to take a look at the canal under the M5 as well as the short river section. They could see that the marker showing the head room through the tunnel was not enough and also that the river looked in angry mode. Mike had also received a similar message from the marina office but with the extra that the locks were chained up to prevent anyone trying unwisely to pass under the motorway and the getting stuck.

So, we now knew that we would have to turn left out of the marina instead of the planned right. Whilst we knew that the River Severn might also be a problem, we had planned to go at least down that far just to see, even if it meant going upstream to Stourport instead of down to Gloucester, which is what we - or at least Mike - had planned to do.

Immediately we came to the three Hanbury locks where a couple of lock keepers were on duty to help boaters through - and to make sure that they operated the side ponds (Mike forgot on the first one as he was really thinking about alternative routes as was duly reprimanded!) What we did learn, however, was that by now Diglis locks at Worcester were now closed. This reduced our options from at least four down to one. How easy does that make the choice? We also had to break the bad news to a hire boat that was on their way down the Droitwich to complete the short ring on a four day hire from Worcester.

The morning was tolerably cool and dry but by the time we turned left at Hanbury Junction rain arrived and the temperature dropped markedly for the rest of the day, although the rain was at least intermittent.

It was not long before we arrive at the bottom f the long rise of locks from here to the Birmingham level - although officially they are divided into the Astwood, Stoke and Tardebigge flights. The pounds between the flights are barely different from those in the middle.

At least there was plenty of water coming down the overflows.

Above the Astwood locks we moored up to a new section of bank to have our lunch. Christine was pleased that she had taken time last evening to prepare  hearty soup which went some way to warming us up again.

At the bottom end of the Stoke Locks is where the Salt Works once stood. The land has been derelict for a while but a new and large housing development project is underway with considerable works being done to prepare the land. No doubt treatment of the adverse effects of long chemical working will not be straightforward.

We were disappointed to see that the Stoke Works Pump House (which we featured in our blog in 2014) appears to have been completely demolished. We had understood that this was the last remaining building from the once substantial Salt Works and was being preserved.

It was clear that we would not attempt the Tardebigge flight tonight and so we tied up for the night in the pound below Stoke top lock - to avoid being outside the popular pub just above that lock. Even so we had to be careful about the boat leaning at an angle if too many lockfuls of water were taken out.

It was still only just after 3.30 when we were tied up and fire lit so Mike and Christine opted to walk to the nearby Stoke Prior parish church to check out what time there might be a service tomorrow, Easter Day. (All our previous investigations around where we had hoped to be were now irrelevant!) Alas, when we arrived at 4.05 the church was already locked (it is normally open between 10 and 4) and we eventually discovered that tomorrow's service is not until 6 in the evening! Not much help for us.

In the porch is an old wooden cross which is inscribed in memory of Charles steer who was the first chairman of the newly merged company of GKN, having previously been in charge of Nettlefolds which was the last of the companies to join this giant engineering and manufacturing company. Charles Steer established a 'rest home' in Stoke Prior for former employees. A timely reminder given that GKN has only just fallen to a predatory takeover from a firm that specialises in breaking up old established businesses in order to make more profit from them. Ironically,  when GKN was originally formed it was the result of various mergers and takeovers during which many workers either lost their jobs or had to move.

4.3 Miles - 14 Locks

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