Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Stourport on Severn



But first, if you are located in Europe and have been reading this blog you might have noticed that dark grey message bar which appears across the top of the screen when you first load the blog.  The one that states

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It only appears if you are in an EU country.

It’s annoying the hell out of me and today I worked out how to remove it.  If you have a blog and want to remove the Google Cookie message these are the instructions.

  1. Load the Blogger Template for you blog
  2. Select the “Template” option
  3. In the Template option click on the “Edit HTML” button
  4. Look in the HTML code for the line commencing  <head> and then the line commencing </head>
  5. Insert the following code on its own line after <head> and before </head>. The code is <script>cookieChoices = {};</script>
  6. Save the Template

The message should no longer appear when you, or anyone in the EU loads your blog.  Those outside the EU have never seen the message!  I understand the EU made it a legal requirement for Google put this notice into Blogger. If you add the code into blogger and eliminate the cookie message you may be in breach of EU law. 

Stourport appears to have an interesting canal history.  It didn’t exist prior to the creation of the canal and I recall reading somewhere that the original route of the canal was to terminate further upstream on the River Severn.  There appear to be two different reasons for the change in location.  One is the citizens of the proposed terminal didn’t want a dirty canal in their town.  The other is the geography at the proposed location was found to be unsuitable.  It’s interesting to see how the canal “made” Stourport.  There are both wide and narrow locks from the river into the basin, however the canal is narrow.  It seems logical that wide beam vessels were used to convey produce from the basin down onto the Severn and then onwards to locations like Gloucester and Bristol whilst the narrow canal would have carried produce from the likes of the potteries.

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal was one of the first to be constructed pre-dating the opening of the BCN by approximately 4 months.  It’s a James Brindley designed contour canal.

We were on a hire boat the last time we reached Stourport and our visit was only long enough to fill the water tank before moving on.  This time we have an opportunity for a look around!  However, before writing more about Stourport you may recall I mentioned the River Severn being a mill pond in the last post.  I’ve found the phone photo.


The Severn looks very placid, but note the height of the support pole for the floating lock landing. The river level can obviously rise!

Access to Stourport Basin from the river is via two double locks or two sets of paired narrow locks.  We went up the narrow locks and were fortunate to have the assistance of a volunteer lock keeper who was very pleased to see us having not seen a boat the entire morning.


IMG_8235 Last lock to enter the basin

There are actually three connected basins.  The narrow locks lead to one and the wide locks to a second.  A third smaller basin is connected to the wide basin.  I’ll use the Waterway Routes map to explain.


The small third basin is at the right.  I didn’t remember this basin from our previous trip.  It’s now almost completely surrounded by modern residential apartments and when I noticed the date on the complex walls I realised the area had been redeveloped since our last visit.

IMG_8245  2011.  We were last here in 2007!

The basin is rather attractive with serviced floating finger moorings.

IMG_8240 But no moored boats??????????

By contrast the narrow and wide basins are full of moored boats.


It must have been our lucky day because we managed to get the mooring adjacent to the CRT services block.


I managed to get the last top coat onto the satellite dome mounting points before the boater behind us started to sand his gunwales.

Across the way is a large white building named “The Wharf”.  The VLK informed Jan this was the oldest original building in the basin.


Apparently it once housed a foundry. 

I managed to go for a walk around the town in the late afternoon sun.  The old town is to the north of the basins with a large Tesco to the south.  It’s interesting to read that by 1959 British Waterways had decided to close the canal and this link would have disappeared except for the efforts of a dedicated group of enthusiasts who created the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society.  They were able to reopen the canal for cruising by 1968.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Severn Cruise

Another misty and chilly start to the day. Jan was up at 5.30 and started the Hurricane to raise the temperature in the boat.


We were underway by 8am heading down the two Hawford locks to the junction onto the Severn.

IMG_8222 The river level was below the green marker and looked like a mill pond.  Waiouru appeared to enjoy having so much water underneath her as we made excellent speed going upstream.  Unlike our last time, we didn’t see a single moving boat during the entire cruise.


During the cruise we passed a number of static caravan parks which appear to be holiday homes rather than residential.

IMG_8224 Jan notice an attractive house on the east bank.  It was slightly obscured by surrounding trees which also overshadowed it.  My guess is it’s rather cold in winter.

IMG_8226 At one point we passed a serious restoration project. 


The person doing the restoration told us the boat had been sunk a little further upstream.  There will be several thousands of hours in this project!

The locks on the river are manned by CRT and whilst as big as those on the Thames they don’t look nearly as well maintained.


A single red light indicates the lock keeper hasn’t seen you.  When the red light flashes it means the keeper is aware of your presence and a green light is authorisation to enter the lock.  The lock keeper told us we were the first boat he had seen that day.  The summer cruising season is obviously over.

I remembered last time we came this way there were several large vessels moored just before Stourport.  They were still there. 


We reach Stourport at 11.30am mooring below the locks.  There are both wide and narrow locks here.  We will obviously be using the narrow locks.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Scooby Dooby Do & Gone Fishing

I must thank blog reader Peter Lee for leaving a comment on our post titled “To Droitwich”.  He included a link <here> which provided more detail on the history of that low culvert we passed through on our way into Droitwich.  I won’t replicate the information.  If you are interested then please click on the link.

Today we needed to make a decision on where to have lunch.  Droitwich has plenty of pubs to choose from but the two nearest were the Railway Inn


and The Gardeners Arms.


We chose the latter which may not have been the best decision we’ve made.  The staff were friendly but we were slightly put off when told on arrival at 12.30 that they may have finished serving food.  They did manage to produce a roast beef for Jan whilst I had the pork.  Neither of us were very impressed with the food.  More annoying was the live music. It was the same type of music that we heard in the Malt House at Birmingham. We call it scooby dooby do music because every tune seems to be the same.  But then neither of us particularly like jazz or country and western music.

Our route back to Waiouru took us through Vines Park and we were amused to observe two hire boats had chosen excellent moorings in the park.

20150927_13222120150927_132229Yes, they both chose to moor for the day on the bridge landings! Smile

Our 48 hours in Netherwich Basin had almost expired so we filled the water tank and headed toward Hawford Junction.  There was a rather attractive scene at Salwarpe Bridge with the sunlight streaming through the trees.


What didn’t go so well was the passage through the bridge hole. Something serious decided to attack the propeller and stall the engine.  With no ability to reverse the bow went into the trees on the bend.

I like the design of the Wilson-Tyler weed hatch.  It’s a separate compartment from the engine bay which eliminates the risk of a loose weed hatch cover flooding the engine bay and potentially sinking the boat.  However it does mean I have to get my head and shoulders down the hatch to reach the propeller.  Groping around in the murky water I could feel a hard ball of entwined plastic, nylon and rubber tread.  A combination of brute force and the use of the breadknife enabled me to removed a portion of the objects fouling the propeller.  The portion I removed included a waterproof jacket, nylon tracksuit trousers and part of a bike tyre.


I was in the process of attempting to pull the greater portion of the unwanted bundle through the weed hatch when I discovered it was too big to fit through the hatch.  Eventually my cold hands lost their grip and the bulk of the bundle slipped back into the murky depths where it may well attack another boater.

The canal banks are mostly reed beds lined along the length of the Droitwich and we couldn’t see anywhere to moor.  Eventually we reached Ladywood Top Lock, the first of six in the flight.  As we were leaving the lock a passing boater informed Jan there was a boat behind.  This seemed like a good opportunity to share the locks and we waited at the second lock for the ABC hire boat to catch up and share locking duties.  They were an experienced crew having hired on six previous occasions.


The day ended above Hawford Top Lock.  Jan is happy, we have a DTV signal.  I have applied 2 coats of primer, two undercoats and one top coat to the satellite dome mounts on the cabin roof. Another two top coats and I’ll be able to refit the dome.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Almost forgot

So engrossed in something I was doing I almost forgot to write tonight’s post!

This morning we went for a walk around Droitwich leaving Waiouru on her secure mooring in the Netherwich Basin (BW key required to gain access to the moorings).  It’s a small town with a marked contrast between old and new.  The first part of our walk took us around the new part of the town which is rather nondescript and somewhat boring.  It wasn’t until we reach High Street that things became interesting. 

The name of the town gives some clues about its past.  The ‘wich’ means salt and the town has some similarities with towns like Nantwich and Middlewich.  Salt was extracted here before the arrival of the Romans and it didn’t cease until the 20th Century.  Initially it was relatively easy to extract from naturally occurring ponds in what is now Vines Park.  Later bores were sunk and pumps used to extract the brine.  Much of the salt was carried down the Droitwich Canal to the River Severn and on to Gloucester using a vessel known as a Wich.  A replica can be found in Vines Park.

IMG_8215 The canal is broad from the River Severn to Driotwich and then narrow from the town to Hanbury Junction.

We discovered the site of one of the last brine bores that used to be powered by a steam pump.


The ‘spa’ part of the name gives a clue as to its other history.  The taking of brine baths. 

The first thing we noticed on the High Street was the state of the buildings.  Many of them appear to be subsiding!  We assume this is a consequence of the hundreds of years of brine extraction.


The ends of the street are high and the middle appears to have collapsed.  This has affected many of the buildings on either side of the street.


This building is tilting to the right.


Whilst a building at the other end of the street is leaning in the opposite direction.  All the buildings in the street were showing signs of subsidence and it’s probably fortunate they are terraced because this appears to be what is assisting them stand.

I’m grateful to blog reader, Ade who sent me a comment and link about the restoration of the canal.  Rather than write about it I’ll post the link.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

To Droitwich

Late yesterday Jan managed to convert all those scrumped plums and apples into a delicious plum and apple sponge dessert.  She doesn’t particularly like plum and apple sponge dessert so I guess it will be me who has to force all of it down.


It was an interesting night sky.


“Red sky at night, shepherds delight.  Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning!”

This morning we departed at 8.30 and gently moved down five locks to reach the Black Prince base at Stoke Prior. 


There appears to be another boatyard below Stoke Bottom Lock. 


Is this Pinder & Sons?  The yard is selling diesel (65ppl) and gas. 

It wasn’t until I noticed one of the lock capping stones beside a lock that I realised how big they are.  I assume the weight is required to keep the lock in the ground?


We made a right turn onto the Droitwich Canal at Hanbury Junction and descended the first three locks with the assistance of two CRT volunteer lock keepers.  Where were they when we came down the Tardebigge flight?

IMG_8189There was a plaque on the lower wing wall of the top lock.


Shortly thereafter we passed the entrance to Droitwich Spa Marina where Waiouru appeared to be caught by a strong current coming out of the marina entrance.  A little further on is a staircase lock where we met both a hire boat and CRT working boat coming up.  The CRT crew were able to tell Jan they only had a one foot clearance between the top of their cabin and the roof of the tunnel around the corner.  It was suggested we remove the satellite dome on Waiouru’s roof.  I’ve been meaning to remove the dome as small spots of rust have appeared where the feet on the dome meet the frame on the cabin roof.  So we stayed in the top lock whilst the dome was removed and placed in the cratch.

The middle staircase gates look huge from the bottom chamber.  These lock chambers are made from concrete and appear to be quite modern.


The tunnel is actually a large concrete box culvert under the M5 motorway.


My assumption is the culvert had been constructed prior to the restoration of the Droitwich Canal and the concrete locks have been designed to complement the culvert.  Headroom was in rather short supply and I don’t think the satellite dome would have made it if we’d left it on the roof.

From this point onwards the locks are doubles rather than narrow.  Despite being doubles the gates wouldn’t fully open.  Not that this prevents a narrowboat from using them.  After the two locks there are four locked pedestrian swing bridges to open and close.  Jan was relieved to find one permanently locked in the open position.


The swing bridges are all in Vines Park.  Just beyond them is Netherwich Basin where secure 48 hour floating ‘finger pontoon’ moorings can be found.


There was enough daylight left for me to sand down the satellite dome mounts and give them a first coat of primer.


A first undercoat tomorrow and then some time to explore Droitwich.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Relief and an unexpected meeting

It’s a relief to now know the Beta 43 emits less pollution than a VW <haha>

We had an interesting morning talking a long circular walk to reach the nearby Morrison’s supermarket.  I roughly remembered it’s location when we hired a boat from Stoke Prior about eight years ago.  However the years have affected my memory because I took Jan down the wrong footpath adding two kilometres to the walk.  Last time the footpath took me directly to the supermarket but today we ended up in somewhere completely foreign!  Fortunately (for me) whilst Jan finished at Morrison’s I did a quick reconnaissance of the supermarket area finding the correct path.

This evening we had dinner at the nearby Queens Head Pub.


We moored opposite it last time we passed this way and remember it being very noisy.  It would have been a Friday night and our last night on the hire boat.  The interior looked completely different.  Perhaps it is just our memories?  The staff were very friendly and the food was well presented and delicious.


We were served by the very friendly Shawn who asked us where our accents were from.  Then she told us she was from NZ doing her two year gap before returning to university.  Even more of a coincidence was her home town, Whangarei.  It’s where we lived before moving to Australia.  Then Shawn told us she had moved to Sydney with her family several years ago.  In all the excitement of the moment I muffed the photo.  She has only been in the UK 7 months but has already made several trips across the ditch.

20150924_182833 Sad smile

Waiouru has developed a list and after a quick look the water level in the pound has dropped by a couple of inches.  I have loosened the mooring ropes and we will keep an eye on the situation.

That 67ft hire boat from yesterday passed us just as I was starting to write this post.  The steerer told us they had done the 30 locks to the top of the Tardebigge Flight and winded, before returning down the flight.  It took them all day!  Obviously they decided that was preferable to reversing back through five locks to the winding hole at Stoke Prior.