Friday 18 March 2022

Back to the Marina

Today's Canals - Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich

The day started not as chilly as the past few days but with a thin cloud layer. we cast off and continued our way north back towards the marina.

We mentioned yesterday the streets of tightly built terraces - they seem to have been built around the end of the 19C and the first decade of the 20C.

Next along is a slightly later group of more upmarket houses, in fours named villas - the set on the left are called Crescent Villas and those on the right Welbeck Villas. Perhaps these were meant to appeal to the supervisors or foremen in the factories where the rest of the residents lived.

This bridge just below the first of the Gregory's Mill locks, looks as if it was once intended for rather more than the pedestrian traffic it carries today. Gregory's (to the right of the picture) was a Corn Mill which has long been demolished and is now a low grade industrial estate. On the left was once a Brick and Tile Works, now a housing estate. It appears from old maps that this pr3idge originally carried industrial traffic between the two sites

By the time we came up the lock the sun had started to' burn' off the thin cloud and frequent blue patches were already shining through. The rest of the day was pleasantly warm - a real spring day, just right for cruising a canal!

We may have mentioned this next site before but just in case, dear reader, you would like a refresher: It is said to be known locally as the Cadburys site but during both the 1914-1918  and the 1939-1945 conflicts. The factory produced small arms ammunition in large quantities. Once peace time returned it reverted to cake making. However in 1974 its owners now called Cadburys Schweppes, closed and sold the site.

The first pound (a longer one) was rather low but we managed to scrape along without running extras water down. We did come aground near the entrance to the next lock but eventually found a way in. However, the one we had a problem on the way down was full today.

Alongside the top lock is a splendid farm house.We have not found out much about it - it certainly was not the local manor house which was at HIndlip. Several buildings have been coerted into offices and also there is a day nursery which specialises in giving children, as far as possible, an outdoor experience. However, its style and approach have not found favour with OFSTED and it has recently had to make changes to satisfy the inspectors.

Shortly after leaving the flight of locks we moored up for lunch. Before setting off again Mike had a couple of tasks. The first to sweep the chimney, was easily completed but the second (which he thought would be the easier) was to check the prop. There had been slight signs pof something around it but he was surprised to discover the remains of what we think was an anglers net. It certainly was reluctant to be torn apart to get it off and although there was not a large volume it took a long time before Mike was satisfied that the prop was now clear.

We eventually decided to make it back to the marina tonight so that we have time for a few more tasks tomorrow before we need to set off back home.

This building in Shernal Green has intrigued us for a while, with its distinctive mix of architectural styles. However, our researches so far have not taken us anywhere so if anyone knows more . . . 

The three Hanbury Locks felt quite a challenge - the side ponds mean that one lock is almost as much work as two normal locks. They were also all empty so that meant even more work as filling them also involved using the side ponds. Alas, where were the vollie lockies when you need them? At the bottom a boat was inconsiderately moored on the lock landing - there is no room to come in other than for one boat so we had to use the lock steps. In addition, the boat was not properly tied up so it swung out into our path and had to be encourage back towards the bank.

Back in the marina we could see that the swans had made good progress in the past four days with their next and the mother was sitting comfortably. Her mate was nowhere to be seen! With little wind to blow us off course, we soon made it back onto our pontoon.

9.1 Miles - 15 Locks

Thursday 17 March 2022

Shrub Hill via Diglis Basin

 Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

In complete contrast to yesterday, we awoke to an almost cloudless blue sky which remained until mid afternoon, by which time we had moored up for the day.

Everything was very cold to touch but the increasingly warm sun soon made it very pleasant to be out and cruising.

Very shortly after setting off we arrived at the two Bilford Locks.

Cruising between the two . . .

There is a notice on the top gate at Gregory's Mill asking boaters not to let swans enter the lock. Presumably there is a history of them becoming distressed once caught in an empty lock with all gates closed.

Alas, no-one seemed have told this pair about the problem as they did their best to outwit us and we had to do some rather loud shoo-ing to get them to retreat. They were not happy! They retaliated by refusing to pose properly.

A slightly longer pound followed which takes the canal through one of the older areas of dense worker terrace houses. The railway viaduct carrying the line out of Worcester Foregate is always impressive but never better than with a blue sky as a backdrop.

We continued down Blockhouse and Commandery locks to reach the service point at the start of the Diglis basin. Here we filled and emptied as usual - the water tank took a while to fill as we inadvertently left a tap running for a time yesterday.

Once the services were complete we turned the boat in the basin and set off back the way we had come.

Shortly after passing through Blockhouse Lock we pulled in to moor on a favoured spot for accessing he main shops. But first it was time for lunch .

Mid afternoon we walked into the city centre - the main aim was to find a replacement for the very well worn pair that have been Mike's firm favourites for a good time. (The other one was still wearable but that is not much use!) Christine also persuaded him to buy a waterproof jacket. The Body Shop followed and by then our bag was too full to allow us to pick up items from Asda. So, we returned to the boat to drop off the goodies and then back across the the supermarket.

3.1 Miles - 8 Locks 

Wednesday 16 March 2022


Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

We set off in good time as we planned to get through the six Offerton Locks in time for Christine to join the wedding of her cousin which was being held almost entirely on Zoom (other than the minimum number needed to be physically present) It was being held in St Neots at 11 am.

As we set off the weather was overcast but not too chilly. But we knew this would not last . . . 

We arrived at the top of the flight by 9.45 but as we immediately saw that the pound below the top was almost empty. This was strange as the top lock was full (and indeed were all the others). However, one bottom gate was open which may have helped to pound to loose water.

Mike set the next lock to fill whilst Christine brought the boat into the top lock which we then emptied. This was not sufficient to allow our boat to cross so we ran water down, taking nearly half an hour before we could close up the top lock and continue down the flight. 

This photo shows the situation after we had been running for several minutes.

The rest of the flight was more than full of water - these locks do not have a separate bywash to let surplus water into the next pound but run it through the lock itself. This meant in some cases there was extra turbulence for the boat in the lock!

Nearing the end of the flight a slight drizzle arrived and we at the time for the wedding! Christine logged in and saw the start whilst Mike completed the final lock. Alas, as we moored up below the lock the phone signal disappeared so we continued on a little further until the pictures where once again viewable. 

By now the drizzle had turned to real rain so we were in no hurry to restart after the Zoom had ended by just after noon, Mike braved the conditions with the aim of being able to moor at our favourite spot for shopping in Worcester.

It was far too wet for photos so that is why there are none for this part of our journey. In any case, this is a familiar section so it was not easy to find something new to capture.

Christine popped out just enough to help take the boat into and out of both Tolladine and Blackpole locks. Mike then took us on to another spot we have used several times before, alongside the sports fields at Perdiswell.

This was supposed to be just a lunch break but the rain persisted even longer than forecast and we could not bring ourselves to soak another set of clothes so this was it for the night. Shops will have to wait.

4.0 Miles - 8 Locks

Tuesday 15 March 2022

First trip of the season

Today's Canals - Droitwich, Worcester and Birmingham

Our last report was some while ago. We did not spend Christmas and New Year on the boat this time, the first for about ten years.

We did make a very short visit in January but, although we did a few checks and small items of maintenance, it was not the weather to tackle the outside items, especially the paintwork.

But at last we are able to start our cruising year and came over from Devizes this morning. We had been led to believe that we would not be able to get out of our estate after 8 am as the final road works are starting. So we planned around that and were all prepared for a very early start. However, late yesterday afternoon we discovered that the letter we had received only on Saturday was over pessimistic and we would be able to leave whenever we wanted today. So, we still set off early but not quite as early as it might have been. As a result we were at the boat soon after 10 am!

All seemed well and - unlike the past two years - the central heating came on as requested without any need for a series of false starts.

By the time we had unloaded the car, sorted out stowing everything away (even though we only brought enough for the five days planned trip) filled with water etc it was time for a slightly early lunch. Just after 1 o'clock we unplugged the shore line and set ourselves free. 

As we crossed the marina we could see that the pair of swans on the island were just making a start on building this year's nest. Only a few strips of weed had been collected thus far but they looked all set for the Big Build.

We called at the fuel point to fill up. We probably had plenty in the tank for this trip but with fuel prices already at an extortionate level they seem only likely to go even higher.

Time to venture forth and we turned left out of the marina towards the three Hanbury locks. A hire boat from Worcester had just passed on its way up so we had to turn all three and the short middle pounds were very low. Our boat only crept between the locks. 

By the time we reached the top we were well aware of he extent to which boating muscles had atrophied over the winter (despite Mike's intensive garden preparation this last week - more about that another time perhaps). Fortunately we only planned these locks for today.

Just after the locks comes Hanbury Junction where we turned right towards Worcester. This is only a 'shake-down' cruise (us as much as the boat) so we will probably turn around at half time and come back the same way.

It was a pleasant afternoon and for a while quite mild. By the time we arrived at our favoured first overnight stop at Oddingley the temperature was falling quickly and we were glad of the excuse to light the stove. We have even brought our meal from the home freezer so time for taking it easy!

3.3 Miles - 3 Locks