Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Alvechurch Beer and Boat Festival

Alvechurch Beer and Boat festival
May 2015

This was phase two of the Worcester Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Societie's marathon bicentenary celebration of the Canal's completion.

Trading at what is essentially a beer festival is breaking new ground for us. Sure there were several boats in attendance, most of which were known to us, but by far the bulk of the customers were there for the beer and were not looking for preserves.

 Traders in full swing

But we were not there alone. We were a select little bunch of traders including Sue and Aide on The Cheese Boat, Sandra and Barry on The Homebrew Boat / Funtastic Facepainting, Wicked Wood and ourselves.

Saturday was a slow start but come the afternoon the sun shone, the crowds flocked in and the real ale bar sold 50% more beer than last year. The crowds thronged the site and the patch of grass in front of the boats was smothered in people soaking up sun and beer in equal measure. Suddenly sales took off and we did a whole day's trade in four hours.

As a surprise bonus, BBC radio Hereford and Worcester were there with and OB unit and Helen was duly interviewed and Sticky Toffee Pudding jam sampled live on air.

The word on the street was that the Beer Festival, itself over 10 years old and run by The Weighbridge Pub, was significantly enhanced by the boating dimension with a huge selection of bands performing from noon till 11.00pm. For my part the act of the show came on Friday evening in the shape of The Reflections - a cover band who poured energy and enthusiasm into an electrifying set.

The alternative Morris Men

All in all it was a very enjoyable show which offered an opportunity to sample a wide range of excellent ales from a menu of over 60, plus the ciders and perrys. Perhaps the hidden stars were the ABC team who toiled in the background to run an busy boatyard around the festival, turning round the hire fleet in the mornings before the crowds arrived.

Sadly work impinged again and the boats were handed over to our relief crew for their run back to the new moorings in Aldridge.

Wet work at tardebigge

Droitwich to Tardebigge
May 2015

After several days of glorious weather we awoke on Thursday to forecasts of high winds and driving rain - perfect conditions for an ascent of the Tardebigge flight of locks,  the longest flight on the system.

On any other day I would have moved up to the Queens Head at the foot of the flight and waited for better conditions but be were on a timetable.  We are trading at the Alvechurch Beer and Boat Festival Saturday to Sunday and with Bally and Sandra waiting for us at the top lock we really wanted to make the climb on Thursday.

As it turned out Barry was at a loose end and very generously offered to cycle down and help us up, rain not withstanding.

His offer was a Godsend particularly when Helen started to flag after 15 locks so Barry and I pressed on. Whilst the weather was not at its best we were blessed by a complete flight of empty locks which helped us on our way and in the end we emerged from the top lock exactly 3.5 hours after the entered the bottom one.

No photos I am afraid - far too wet!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

And so the Droitwich show closes

Dog days of spring
May 2015

Yes, yes, I know its the dog days of summer but in Droitwich the Bank Holiday Monday is dog day. The day of the dog show when hounds of every size and hue congregate in Vines Park, mingling with the organised walks and bike rides.

Fortunately the weather took a turn for the better, with blue skies replacing grey, the wind veering to a light southerly and the temperature picked up a good 10 degrees C. As a result the parkas were replaced by tee shirts and shorts and the crowds were out in force, making this the best day of the three for attendees and traders alike.

There was little time for photography as the preserve reserves ran low and we ended the day with a much lightened Jam Butty. If I take a purely commercial view of the event across its three days it was pretty much the same as 2014.

After a promptish take down to the beat of the end of event bash in the beer tent we headed upstream at 6.00pm, making out way up five locks to Droitwich Spa Marina, the boats temporary home for the next ten days as we wait for the Alvechurch Beer and Boat Festival.

And so normal life resumes back at home but kick started with a visit to Longwood Boat Club where we juggled a couple of mooring spots to squeeze both boats into the arm in preparation for our arrival in a couple of weeks time.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

St Richards Festival, Droitwich

St Richards Festival, Droitwich
May 2015

Having arrived in Droitwich on Thursday we have seen the festival site in Vines Park being built and then the event get into full swing as part of the Worcester Birmingham 200th anniversary celebrations.

Saturday is generally that main day of this town event, with a farmers market, an Italian market, a craft market, over 200 classic cars plus the canalside events in Vines Park. In the past the weather has favoured this event, with long hot days encouraging the visitors out in droves. Sadly the run of luck ran out this year for the Saturday with temperatures way  down in the single figures which kept the numbers well down.

Sunday dawned much warmer but there was always a threat of a downpour, but with the sun shining on the site the general mood rose and people thronged the beer tent all day, listening to the various acts performing and drinking some very acceptable Ma Pardoes real ale.

Of course, its not all about visitor numbers. Its the season's kick off event where we meet up with old friends, chew the cud and make plans for the forthcoming boating season.

Sunday was boosted by a visit from Dan who was with us for most of the afternoon and there was plenty of scope for Dad and son time, including a pint of Entire as we sampled the contrasting delights of a heavy metal thrash band and the Worcestershire Ukulele Band!

And so we move into the third and final day of the festival, and one which promises the best weather. After that the boats will be laid up in Droitwich Spa Marina for 10 days before the Alvechurch Beer and Boat Festival, also run by the Worcerster Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Society.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Breasted Pair

Stourport to Worcester
April 2015

Today was a big day for us. This was the first time we got to try out the pair of boats on moving water - the River Severn in this case. 

Getting out of Stourport was one long series of delays, wait for water to heat, wait for showers, wait for the slow water tap, wait for and finally wait for the locks and finally wait for C&RT to replace the paddles on one of the narrow locks. In the end one of C&RT staff let us down the Barge Locks, consuming an estimated 95,000 gallons of water and visibly reducing the level of water in the basin as a result.

Stourbridge Basin

This change of plans had an upside in that we were able to assemble the pair abreast configuration before we reached the river. I had been warned to expect the abreast pair to "handle like a pig" but in the event it was a surprisingly benign pairing.

We set the butty at the stern of Wand'ring Bark and there was none of the innate slew I had expected. Sure the speed was down a bit for river travel - a trace over 4 mph with a nominal current in our favour, but we made good time and found ourselves in Worcester just over four hours out of Stourbridge.

Stourbridge Barge Lock

Another day which confounded the forecast with loads of sweun but a biting wind in the shade. The weather for the weekend isnt looking great but hopefully with the gazebo up we will be fine.

Tomorrow we head north back to the start of the Droitwich Barge Canal and on to the festival ground in Vines Park.