Worcester to Droitwich
7th July 2011
11 miles - 22 locks - 7 hours
Today's objective is to haul ourselves back up to Hanbury and then drop down the Droitwich Junction Canal into Netherwich Basin for another night in Droitwich.
Droitwich Junction canal - with audience
It all feels a bit like the Beatles "Helter Skelter" - was that on the Double White Album? I think it went along the lines of.... I get to the bottom, and go back to the top, of the ride, turn and go for a slide..... helter skelter, helter skelter.... Well, we enjoyed the ride down the first time so after two days we have got back to the top for another run on this aquatic flume.
Diglis gets mixed reviews. Some complain of noise, overcrowding, failed pump out machines and even eggs thrown from the adjacent flats. We have never encountered any of these problems and it remains one of my favourite moorings.
Cherry Plum picking in Worcester
Its a bit of a slog up out of Worcester - 14 locks to reach the Dunhampstead level and the junction with the Droitwich. But this bash up the hill was interrupted at the very start. We had only just left the lock at the Commandery when Belle spied a yellow cherry plum tree overhanging the canal, its branches literally groaning with ripe fruit. Chery Plums are Nirvana for foragers I am told so we pulled up beneath its branches, climbed onto the roof and accumulated about 7kg's in ten mins - Belle in her basket and me in my keep net! More jam, jelly and syrup coming up.
That moment of excitement aside, we ground on up the hill with intermittent showers hitting us every 30 mins or so. Finally, the climb ends with a flourish of six locks at Offerton where the canal passes under the M5. This location offers an automotive overture, with the steady drone of the motorway overlaid with the scream of cars and bikes pulling away from six ways down the hill and the high pitched tenor provided by the two stroke moto cross course on the hillside beyond the motorway. Against this cacophony the poor old bass line rumble of the narrowboats is all but lost.
But then, just as all the noise and bustle seems overwhelming, peace descends as you pass through the tree lined cutting into Tibberton. From here the canal acquires is distinctive reedy image - similar to the lower Droitwich. Long narrow stretches where opposing boaters play chicken to see who will dive into a slightly wider sections last. We passed Waterway Routes at Dunhampstead, probably waiting for the rain to stop before filming the Droitwich.
Then it was back to Hanbury and the start of the Droitwich. This time the heavens obliged and we were blessed with fine weather and we had the canal to ourselves.
A helping hand down the locks
Whilst the crowds have gone, all that draw on the water has taken its toll on the Worcester Birmingham. There is enough water, but the pounds are low all the way down. With the side ponds of the Droitwich Junction full we operated the locks in the conventional way, still under the watchful eye of the lock keeper.
The new bit
The emptiness of the canal allowed us to stop and get all the photos we missed 1st time round. This time the locals were out in force, still fascinated by the sight of boats moving up and down their canal. They continually engaged with us, asking us our opinion and seeking confirmation that the canal will be popular. They needn't worry, its a guaranteed hit!
Inside the M5 culvert at Droitwich
After the euphoria of the first run, the second descent into Droitwich allowed for a more objective view. The top end is functional rather than beautiful and my observations of the locks in practice are consistent with those I made a year ago. There are no wings to guide boats in so entering the new locks is an unforgiving exercise. Any error is rewarded by a huge bang and a visit from my Irish boating cousin Rick O Shea! This issue can be remedied by the installation of some timber guides to offer jaws for the less than perfect steerers among us.
Droitwich and one her favoured sons - Edward Winslow (Pilgrim Father)
Then it was back into Netherwich Basin and another night in Droitwich. What a great spot!