This morning we were up and away by quarter past nine, and we had an easy hours cruise to Falling Sands Lock. As we headed towards Kidderminster we were so busy looking at the new Hoobrook Link Bridge that we almost missed seeing the Severn Valley Railway steam loco hauling a train over Falling Sands Viaduct, in fact, as you see, I missed the loco, but the timetable suggests it was No. 7802 Bradley Manor
Ex-Great Western Railway.
We had been following a hire boat at a distance and thus had to empty the locks before we could go through and on reaching Caldwell Lock I did the same but one of the bottom gates wouldn’t open fully so I fetched our long handled rake (or keb) to try to move the obstruction, unfortunately our rake’s handle is not as long as it was and was no where near long enough to reach so I poked around with our boat pole also to no avail.
At this point we were joined by another boater who produced a grappling hook, which he had made but never used before, and with that and the the rake tied to a rope a sunken log was finally retrieved from behind the gate. By this time there was quite a crowd around the lock as other boats had arrived. All the while we had been ringing the Canal & River Trust to report the problem in case we were unsuccessful, but they still hadn’t picked up the phone after 20minutes… How do you alert them of a real emergency?
Wolverley Court Lock was in our favour and a kind lady boater opened the gates for us but the next four locks had to be turned as it transpired that we were following another hire boat.
At Wolverley Lock Joy brought the boat in through the road bridge and was surprised to see a crowd of people as she rose up in the lock as it is right next to ‘The Lock’ pub and there were tables either side of us, plus some kids having a canoeing lesson.
Then it was through Cookley Tunnel, this next section of canal is cut through sandstone outcrops in places and makes for some interesting boating.
We were in front of a canal trader who makes fenders and sells rope and other boaty essentials and I persuaded Joy to buy me a present, but more of that later in the week.
Saturday 23rd July
So delayed by a day we left the docks on Saturday, we asked the lock-keeper if we could leave about 9am but there seemed to be so many boats entering the lock that we decided to wait for the next batch. So as soon as the keeper had emptied the lock and given us the green light to enter, we started across the basin only for him to close the gates and put the red light back on. He came over and shouted his apologies as he had just heard that The Edward Elgar was headed for the lock and we really wouldn’t want to meet that, so we didn’t get away until 11am in the end.
We passed a number of boats in the “narrows” but after that it was a quiet trip up to Worcester and despite the promise of an incoming tide we really didn’t notice any effect from it. The huge Upper Lode lock which marks the of the tidal section was negotiated on our own.
At Upton on Severn we caught up with nb Marieke (which I remembered used to moor at Heyford Wharf) and joined them for the next two locks and finally we reached Worcester Racecourse moorings by 7:30pm. A journey of 30 miles taking eight and a half hours.
After a busy day we treated ourselves to a takeaway from Ashleys Indian Restaurant, which they happily delivered to the boat. Joy enjoyed Salmon La Jawab while I had Green Lamb (Tender pieces of lamb cooked with fresh coriander, mint, fresh green chilli, lemon juice and garlic) which despite it’s khaki colour was absolutely delicious.
Sunday 24th July
On Sunday we visited All Saints Church for their contemporary morning worship and had a quiet afternoon as I think I had caught a little to much sun on Saturday and felt a bit under-the-weather.
Photo: Philip Halling [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Monday 25th July
In the morning we walked down to have look around the cathedral before returning to the boat. A few days ago Halfie mentioned in his blog seeing a telephone box converted to a cash point in Chester, guess what, we saw one too on the way back. Joy got a photo, but not with such an attractive person using it as Halfie did. [Go on, click here to satisfy your curiosity] As soon as we got back to the boat we headed off about 11:30am.
Just three Severn locks today and just after 3pm we were ready to climb the double staircase into the basin. After seeing a hire boat down to the river the volunteer lock-keeper asked if we had done the locks before and then disappeared when I told him we had! We needed to fill up with water before tackling York Street Lock, but as we were fourth in the queue that was no problem and when we finally got through we were lucky to find a space exactly the right size for us (and I mean with just inches to spare) at the first set of moorings.
And so, dear reader, you find us where we cruelly abandoned you, at the historic Gloucester Docks. Many years ago when we had Reuben, a Spanish exchange student staying with us we suggested we might take him to see The Docks, a puzzled look came over his face and he replied, “Dogs? I have seen dogs!”
So… for the last few weeks we have been down the length of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and back staying for 2 weeks at Slimbridge where we were able to meet up with lots of friends and family from the area where we lived for more than 35 years. (How long sir? – Does anyone else remember that as a Round the Horne/Beyond our Ken catchphrase?) 1
- J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock – the walking slum (played by Kenneth Williams). This dilapidated wreck started his radio career in Beyond Our Ken as the man who had been doing everything for 35 years, and developed into the sometimes King of Peasemoldia – a kingdom somewhere just off the Balls Pond Road.
Solved thanks to Laughterlog.com
Just a few highlights, but the photos give a taste of our time there:
- Discovering a fab new restaurant Greek on the Docks which had only been open 3 days on our first visit.
- Catching up with friends, especially some we hadn’t seen for 10 to 20 years!
- Catty surviving another swim (she must be using up those lives)
- A visit to 25th Lister Tyndale Vintage Rally (meeting more old friends & customers)
- A visit to The Purton Hulks an intentional beaching of semi-redundant timber lighters starting in the winter of 1909, to strengthen the nearby eroding canal bank, eventually numbering some 81 vessels.
- Visiting the entrance to Sharpness Docks and seeing the remains of the The Severn & Wye Railway Bridge (demolished in 1967 following a disaster in 1960 – The remains of the two barges Arkendale H and Wastdale H still visible at low water at Purton)
- Experiencing the hottest day of the year so far causing some of the swing bridges to jam.
- Joy losing her phone in the dock and a day out in Cheltenham to collect a replacement ordered from John Lewis, Hooray for bus passes!
We would have been on our way to Worcester today but today’s engine check revealed a semi shredded domestic alternator belt (and my spare was the wrong size) so a trip back down the canal to moor up outside a bemused GSF Car Parts at Riga Wharf saw us supplied with spares at a very reasonable price. The delay meant that we would have been late leaving anyway but we were also advised by the lock-keeper that a 8.5 metre tide was due and advised not leaving before 1pm.
So a chance for another lunch at Greek on the Docks then, ah well, such is life.
Saturday 25th June
As we entered the basin we spotted nb Avon which used to be moored at Lower Heyford and I believe was used in filming a 1981 episode of Worzel Gummage.
We wound our way through to the Lower Basin and joined the queue to descend to the Severn.
I guess we had to wait about an hour while two boats went down and one came up, but when it was our turn it took about 20 minutes to transit the two double staircases of locks with the help of our cheerful chappys.
Once out on the Severn we were soon at our first Severn Lock, Lincomb Lock, they look HUGE after our little narrow canal locks.
Holt Lock and Bevere Lock negotiated as well we arrived in Worcester to a welcoming party of Dragon Boats who were racing. Their safety boat asked us to wait until they started to race then basically chase them down the course so we would be out of the way for the next race.
Once past the rowing club we found a mooring under the railway bridge, which we had to pay for by buying a £4 ticket at the nearby car park.
After we had settled in we had a visitor who we hadn’t seen for about 25 years; Phillipa was a member of the Cornerstone youth group which we used to run when we were much younger and we have re-connected through Facebook.
Sunday 26th June
The weather forecast today bode well until late afternoon so we decided to try to make it to Gloucester non-stop. There was only Diglis and Upper Lode locks to go through and we made good time covering the 30 miles in 6 hours 40 minutes. We wasn’t speeding, honest, although we did almost reach 6 mph at one point the down stream speed limit is 8 mph.
Finally we reached Gloucester Docks lock just before 3 pm and went up into the docks with nb May Pink, and whilst they successfully reversed onto a pontoon we were blown out of line by the wind and eventually conceded defeat and went in forwards. We are moored up right outside the Dr Foster’s pub and thought that it might be noisy, however as soon as we were settled it started to pelt with rain and as I write this there’s not a soul sitting at the outdoor tables.
We plan to spend a couple of nights here and then head down towards Slimbridge and no doubt meet up with lots of local friends.
Just an hour into our journey we were hailed from nb October “Are you Jeremy’s parents?” we replied that we were and were assured that he was a Nice Guy.
The four locks were accomplished quite easily, Debdale Lock has an interesting cave beside it and apart from meeting some poorly supervised child canoeists right on a bend shortly afterwards had an uneventful trip into Kidderminster.
We moored up right next to the retail park had some lunch and soon we had a phone call to say we had visitors. Our friends Hazel & Edward were travelling back to Gloucestershire and had arranged to meet us.
We enjoyed catching up with their news and after they had left did a shop at Sainsbury’s.
It had started raining so we decided to cook ourselves some tea and maybe stay overnight. About quarter to eight it cleared up and against Joy’s better judgement I persuaded her to move on, away for the town and about nine I could see the evening sun lighting up the trees on the hills and later a magnificent rainbow appeared.
At 20 minutes to ten, just before Stourport, at Upper Mitton we moored up for the night behind nb Recalcitrant which we last saw at Hillmorton on our way up to Atherstone.
The latest boating we have done for a long time!
This morning passing joggers and dog walkers had us awake at 5:30am, and despite our best efforts, further sleep evaded us and we were ready to leave before eight. We thought we might miss the rush, which we did, but nearly every lock was against us!
Before we left we bottled some elderflower cordial which Joy made yesterday.
It was a pleasant morning though, our first lock was the quaintly named Bumblehole Lock and the second was Botterham Staircase, where one lock leads straight into the next, dropping us down over 20 feet. From there it was a steady progression of ten more locks to Kinver, our destination for today.
At Bridge 36 is a beautiful private garden belonging to the owner of the adjacent Ashwood Nurseries, however a party of ladies was being shown around.
Near Rocky Lock we kept an eye out for Devil’s Den, but as it’s rather overgrown at the moment this 2002 photo shows it in a less overgrown state.
This photograph is copyright Stephen Atty and is from CanalPlanAC. It is Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence
No one seems to really know why it’s there, carved out of the soft sandstone, although our Pearson’s Guide suggests it may have been once used as a boathouse.
We passed through Stewponey with it’s toll house by the lock and C&RT workshops alongside. The name Stewponey is apparently a corruption of a long gone pub called The Estepona Tavern named after the landlady’s home town in Spain. Rev Sabine Baring-Gould in chapter 2 of his 1898 novel Bladys of the Stewponey gives a succinct account:
“An old soldier in the wars of Queen Anne, a native of the place, settled there when her wars were over, and, as was customary with old soldiers, set up an inn near the bridge, at the cross roads. He had been quartered at Estepona, in the south of Spain, and thence he had brought a Spanish wife. Partly in honour of her, chiefly in reminiscence of his old military days, he entitled his inn, ‘The Estepona Tavern.’ The Spanish name in English mouths became rapidly transformed into Stewponey. The spot was happily selected, and as the landlord had a managing wife, and provided excellent Spanish wine, which he imported himself, and with which he could supply the cellars of the gentry round, the inn grew in favour, and established its reputation as one of the best inns in Staffordshire.”
Read more at http://www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk/stewponey-got/story-28472973-detail/story.html#TgRcGd3kylREHo9F.99
On arrival at Kinver we were fortunate to find a mooring and promptly decamped to The Vine and enjoyed a light lunch of battered mushrooms & brie wedges along with a shandy for Joy while I was tempted to a pint of Orchard Pig cider, a heady 6% brew with an equally heady £4.20 price tag!
Returning from the pub we found a guy measuring up a boat for a cratch cover so Joy asked if he had a piece of material to patch a couple of pin holes in our cover caused by sparks from our chimney (oops). He kindly went and found us a bit and only charged £ 2 and if only we’d had the foresight to ask which company he was from would have given them a plug. [Will try to find out tomorrow]
Our generator arrived back safely by TNT courier, it arrived strapped to a pallet and while I went to get a knife to remove it, the driver had carried it to the boat pallet & all!
This signalled our departure form the Fox & Anchor, and off we went towards Autherley Junction where last year we turned off and explored the Shropshire Union, but this year it was straight on towards Stourport after a stop for lunch. I noticed the clearness of the water hereabouts and just a bit further I noticed a strong flow of clear water from a culvert, I later discovered this was Autherley Sewage Works Outfall … Oh well!
Just half a mile away is Aldersley Junction, what an opportunity to get confused! Some serious dredging work was going on along this stretch and we had to pass the dredger carefully.
We had heard that our son, Jer was headed this way and at Dimmingsdale Wharf we met him coming in the opposite direction and stopped to chat for a few minutes. He was on a mission moving a friend’s boat so Joy sent him off with a home made takeaway, Spetsofai (Greek sausage casserole)
There are some interesting features at Awbridge Lock but there seems to be some conflict between ‘Elf & Safety and the listed status of the lock resulting in an awful looking temporary/permanent handrail made of scaffolding being put in place, next to the attractive cast iron walkway.
We intended to stop before Bratch Locks but on arrival the Lock Keeper was still in attendance and saw us down the flight and we moored at the bottom.
I know, it will be a shock to you, but somehow we find ourselves moored outside a pub! Just before we set off on our cruise our 15 month old Hyundai Generator failed, to cut a long story short, it had to go back to Genpower, because the dealer from whom we bought it, so we would have a local service agent, told us they didn’t really know much about them and it would be about 3 weeks before they could look at it. Anyway I had an email yesterday afternoon to say it was ready and had to give them an address to deliver to, so The Fox & Anchor was ideal.
Apparently it was necessary because the view northwards along the canal was obscured from the lock-side by Gailey Bridge.
At Calf Heath the canal passes through the SI Group, Inc. chemical works (parent company based in Schenectady, NY U.S.A. hence Schenectady Works Bridge) I digress however.
I’ve always been puzzled by their sign saying no mooring or stopping for 200 meters (sic) when the signs must be about 1000 metres apart. I know our American cousins don’t ‘do’ metres but that’s a big difference.
Just past Hatherton Junction we spotted a familiar boat moored, Nene Pilot which used to be owned by a boater from Banbury.
We were almost at the pub when we spotted another familiar boat nb Timewarp, and stopped to chat with Tony & Jaquie who used to work at Oxfordshire Narrowboats with me and they now sell brass tiller pins from their boat.
So here we are until we get our generator delivered, let’s hope it comes tomorrow.
The weather forecasters were right because it rained all morning and we stayed warm and dry aboard the boat, but by noon brave souls were starting to leave the mooring above Haywood Lock so we thought we should make a move too. We motored up to the water point where I filled our tank while Joy crossed over the road to the Farm Shop returning with veg and cake :0)
Jobs accomplished, we reversed to make the turn onto the Staffs & Worcs Canal, past the Anglo Welsh hire boat base and on through Tixall Wide, by this time the drizzle had stopped but it was by no means warm!
We reached the old junction with the Stafford Branch, which it is hoped will be restored one day as The Stafford Riverway Link, and paused for a bit to escape more rain.
It was then on through Acton Trussell and a couple more locks to pause at Midland Chandlers and purchase some more fenders as my brilliant idea to fit quick release clips caused the loss of one already, so it’s back to stainless steel shackles to attach them.
Another boater tipped us off that there were moorings available just before Penkridge Lock and by 6:15 pm we were moored in exactly the spot recommended, alongside this magnificent carving.
We enjoyed our meal at The Swan last night, we had a burger apiece, simple well-cooked pub grub and more than either of us could eat!
This morning we were up with the lark (well almost) Joy walked up and opened the swing bridge and we swung left onto the Trent & Mersey Canal and almost immediately were at the first lock, where we were helped through by a volunteer lock-keeper and likewise at the second lock. At Wood End lock another volunteer was recording usage and once through that was the end of the locks for the next ten miles.
The next familiar landmark was the Armitage Shanks ‘sanitary ware’ factory and the following ‘tunnel’ which required Joy to walk ahead to ensure nobody was coming the other way. As it happened I think all the boats had passed us previously as there seemed to be a convoy coming the other way before we reached there.
We passed Spode House moorings with the house partly hidden behind the trees, once owned by the Spode family of pottery fame.
We breezed on through Rudgeley, then crossed the Brindley Bank Aqueduct over the Trent and on to our next objective the fuel boat Dexta at Taft Wharf where we replenished our diesel tank and wished we had waited to buy our gas there too as their prices are so good.
At Wolseley Bridge we stopped for tea and cake and to let Jade out for a while, we decided not to stay overnight as the TV signal was poor so pressed onwards to Great Haywood despite the threat of rain. The forecast was right and we got a bit damp but managed to get the last free mooring just above Haywood Lock where we spent a peaceful night despite the rain and adjacent railway line.