Sunday 16 May 2021


 Today's Navigations - Droitwich Canal, River Severn

Although generally cloudy, it was fairly pleasant as we set off to drop down the remaining two Droitwich Canal locks onto the River Severn at Hawford.

The first was made easier by help from a passing cyclist and also a friendly CaRT person who was clearing weed from the bypass weirs.

The indicator board showed green - normal conditions - for the stretch above Hawford, although it was indicating that there were stronger flows further down, but reducing. We pulled out into the river stream without difficulty but immediately realised that, although we were pushing though the water quite fast, our speed over the ground as hardly up to 3 mph.

There are few permanent homes close to the river, with just the occasional small development such here at Hawford Wood.On the opposite bank the small village of Grimley can just be seen but is set well back from the river itself.

It took us just about an hour to reach Holt - the first sign that we are nearing the next lock is the view of Holt Castle in the centre of the village. The building, still a private residence, dates in part back to the fourteenth century as a fortified manor house. For some time it belonged to the Beauchamp family, at times the Earls of Warwick.

There are a couple of pubs on either side of the river at Holt Fleet Bridge, the main road between Droitwich and Kidderminster. One of them has installed these striking pods to help keep customers sheltered even in times when they are required to avoid COVID by eating outside. Neither pub seemed to have any custom today.

There was a very friendly keeper on duty at Holt Lock who gave us detailed instructions on how to position our boat to avoid currents from a leaking top gate. We also noticed that the lock cottage is due for sale by auction this coming week. We later discovered that it has a guide price of £160,000 but is in need of significant renovation. Dating back to the 1830'sand is Grade II Listed. The 'visual tour', on the auctioneer's web site indicates that that is an understatement even though it was still used by CaRT until 2010. It only has two bedrooms but looks as if, with a large dollop of TLC, it could become a very pleasant dwelling.

The next section up to Lincomb Lock is farther longer but thew flow of the water seem not as strong and we made better speed.

In the middle part of the stretch we had a very heavy shower which was less than pleasant but it eventually gave way to some brief glimpses of sunshine.

Hampstall Inn had a solitary customer sitting outside although we did see a couple of people surreptitiously make their way inside.

The weirs on the Severn, alongside each of the locks, are being modified to provide fish passes, especially to allow the twaite shad to re-colonise the upper parts of the river where historically they spawned before migration. The one at Holt seems to be still very much work in progress but at Lincombe only the restoration of the works compound seems left to be done. (see this article  for a detailed description of the engineering project)

Just before arriving at Stourport there is this terrace row of cottages, seemingly away from anything else. Looking maps later, the land close to the river here was at one time quite industrial dominated by a now demolished power station. On the late 19C OS map, one of the buildings is marked as an inn but that designation only lasted for a few years. However, it is possible that his explains the bow fronted windows in the middle.

Just on one o'clock we pulled onto the pontoon on the river below Stourport basin. In the past, even early in the season, we have struggled to find a mooring here but today as we arrived they were entirely empty!

We had lunch here and considered our options. It was now raining quite heavily again and forecast to be similar for most of the afternoon. Since this is a much pleasanter spot than the next moorings close to the main road in town, we decided to stay here for the night. Let's hope that the rain does not cause the river to rise too much overnight ...

Later there was time to wander around the basin area, including some parts we have not really looked closely at before. The Treasure Island fairground looked very forlorn wit4h more operator staff than customers, turning the rides with almost no-one on board just to create a sense of activity. Also, they do not seem to have taken advantage of the lockdown to do some extensive re-painting - much looks very rundown.

Also saw an extra basin that is no longer in use. It has an entry directly from the river - must have been quite a challenge when a real flow was on. This short article suggests that this was called Engine Basin (although it is the one basin not named on the present day information displays) and housed a steam pumpo to keep the basins topped up. No doubt in busy times, the use of the locks by trading boats exceeded that capacity of the canal to feed it.

Pity that no plan for its development seems to be in place. When there is, let's hope that better planning is done for water usage than the Lichfield Basin at the opposite side where moorings and pontoon, complete with electric points, have lain idle since it was part of the development of upmarket apartment blocks.

8.7 Miles - 4 Locks

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