Thursday 10 September 2020

Back to the Marina

 Today's Canals - Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich

We had just 15 locks to go before our marina, two flights of 6 and then the three at Hanbury just after joining the Droitwich Canal. Our aim was to complete these by lunch time, leaving us sufficient time to do some boat cleaning, inside and out.

At the second lock, Christine drew Mike's attention to several coping bricks with makers marks on them. One, Joseph Hamblet was one of the larger brick producers in the very late 19C and we have written about him before. There were also two others that we have not previously recorded.

The first is Wood and Ivery with a mark that uses the distinctive Staffordshire Knot. Their site was next door to Hamblet's and it seems likely that George Wood was a brickmaker all his life, ending up with running this works in West Bromwich. The history of the family is complicated as George had 9 sons and 7 followed him into the trade. By the time of the partnership with John William Ivery he had retired and some of his sons were left to run the business. There is also a suggestion that the sons quickly lost a large fortune that their father bequeathed to them.

The second is less well recorded. The Earl of Dudley had many business interests in and around the town. One of these was a coal mine at Coneygre, remains of one of its shafts has now been incorporated into the Black Country Living Museum. It seem probable that the brickworks was on the same site but much less important.

As we neared the next lock we could just see a film crew at work, so we held back gto avoid spoiling their scenery! They were taking a boat down the lock but were not entirely happy that the two cameras had captured enough shots so they wanted to do it over again!

The director came go sweet talk us into waiting just a little longer, which we were quite content to do.As var as we could glean, they were making a programme for CBBC but we could not fathom how shots of a canal holiday fitted into a story about astronomy. Perhaps we missed something . . . Even the fairly straightforward scene took a crew of at least 20 people, most of whom seemed to do very little most of the time.

Still, we did persuade two of the stars who had earlier been filmed operating the lock, to close up after we had later descended whilst the director and her assistants debated how to shoot the next lock. The person on the left came from the company who supplied the boat and was quite expert at it but the chap on the right had absolutely no idea about how locks work or are operated!

At Stoke Bottom Lock we spotted this delightfully painted pebble hat someone had left propped up against one of the wooden bollards.

We continued on, through the Astwood locks until arriving at Hanbury Junction. As we turned the corner three volunteers rushed out of their cabin to help us down the flight of three. Help? Actually they were most insistent that we could stay on the boat and that they would do all the operation! Who are we to complain?

This was the last lock of the day and this trip. we returned to the marina somewhat reluctantly and not knowing when we will be able to return. There is rather a lot to sort out - COVID Fallout - and we may not be able to spare the time to go boating, alas. On the other hand, if things fall one way we may end up having to come back sooner rather than later and make Alchemy our home whilst we sort our where we will live next, but it is fairly certain that we will be leaving Cornwall in the not too distant future. However, if things fall another way, we may be there for a lot longer . . . No one ever said that life was easy!

We turned into the marina just after 1 o'clock and soon were tied up, back on our berth. The afternoon was spent cleaning - Christine sorted the inside, including what seasonal change of clothes need to go home, whilst Mike tackled the roof and the front and rear decks, all badly in need of a wash. The cabin sides could well have benefited from a proper shampoo and polish but time meant that they had to make do with a quick wash over. The attempt at the windows on the non-pontoon side was visibly less successful. A proper spruce up of the sides really needs the time to be able to turn the boat around to have access to both from the pontoon - and a day with no wind, as pushing out, turning and coming back, only to reverse the process an hour later, is not simple otherwise.

4.7 Miles - 15 Locks

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