Wednesday 30 June 2010

Humber Arm - Newport Canal

Humber Arm
Newport Canal
June 2010

Index of posts in this series:
1. Humber Arm - this post
2. Eyton Lock
3. Long Lane
4. Longdon upon Tern Aqueduct
5. Longdon to Rodington
6. Withington to Berwick Wharf
7. Berwick Tunnel
8. Berwick to Shrewsbury

I mentioned a plan to visit the Shrewsbury Canal, following on from our recent exploration of the Newport Canal, and this 23 mile epic took place last week. You can therefore expect a short series on this long lost waterway, but before I embark on that voyage of discovery I would like to make mention of the Humber Arm.

Humber Arm - Newport Canal

When we explored Kinnersley Junction we saw the trough of the Humber Arm heading arrow straight south for Telford and figured it was worth a look one day. On our drive to the start of the Shropshie Canal cycle ride we found ourselves passing the extreme southern end of the Humber Arm and paused to take a closer look.

Humber Arm Warehouse

The owners of the adjancent cottage are said to be canal enthusiasts so we had a poke around, keeping a low profile and doing no damage.

What we found was quite a surprise, Far from the dry bed one would imagine we found a water filled channel with the remains of a warehouse at one end and a cute little hump backed bridge at the other. The site is enchanting and has been earmarked for restoration just as soon as the main line reaches Wappenshall.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

When the camera lies

Or: the impact of framing
29th June 2010

One of the latest OU assignments was to find a subject matter which can be reframed to dramatically alter the meaning of what is seen.

This is a technique much used in photo journalism and carefully cropped photos can be very deceptive. The problem was I couldnt se any subject matter to use.

I was right up against the deadline when I clicked open the blog to check that the daily post was ok and there it was, staring me in the face.

That wedding I reported on the way down the Birmingham Worcester Canal. Cut out the bride and groom and you have a gaggle of papparazzi photographing a model girl.

Pan out the the scene is transformed!

Both images are true representations of the scene before me but my cropping choice can almost make the photo lie.

Maybe I will take a closer look at those news photos in future.

Monday 28 June 2010

Derbyshire Skies

Derbyshire skies
June 2010

We had to make a visit to Tilly's school last week and after all the boring business was concluded we had a picnic in a nearby hayfield.

Hay bailers were chugging away behind us, walkers were strolling down the lane and horses were being exercised - all very English summer!

A friend has lent me a very snazzy wide angle lens and this was my first chance to use it.

The location was random - just the fields and skies of Derbyshire, but I liked the results.
The vertical image was particularly interesting in that I was standing under the trees and what you see is like a 45 degree segment or querter sphere, capturing what was directly above as well as what was in front.

I am not sure exactly how to use the potential of this borrowed toy, but I will enjoy experimenting.

Sunday 27 June 2010

The Bratch Pack

Bratch to Calf Heath
3rd June 2010
Staffs and Worcester Canal

Last days of trips are rarely memorable, often covering familiar waters overlaid with a sense of sadness that it is all over. Well not this one!

The sun shone from a cloudless sky of cobalt blue, the birds sang and best of all, all those boats we came up behind had spent the evening working through the Bratch leaving just nb The Peer (also from Calf Heath) and Wand'ring Bark to wait for 30 mins or so, exchanging gossip and generally setting the world to rights - as you do.

Rising through the Bratch

Whilst a bit behind schedule, Jeff and I were in no hurry. Perhaps the only thing to trouble us was the rapidly dwindling supply of food as we neared journeys end.

We called at Limekiln Chandlers to pump out, top up the water tank and refill with diesel. Its amazing how many people only use 20% of their fuel for propulsion!

Then it was back along the summit pound, Jeff steering whilst I cleaned the boat. A successful end to a very pleasant six day trip. There was little new water travelled, but lots to see none the less.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Wolverley to The Bratch

Wolverley to The Bratch
2nd June 2010
Staffs and Worcester

11 miles - 15 locks - 8 hours

Today was as glorious as yesterday was wet. The clouds dissapated during the morning  till blue sky ruled supreme in the afternoon.

Between Wolverley and the Botterham Staircase pair the Staffs and Worcester runs through it's finest nine miles, usually acompanied by the River Stour and after Stourton Junction, the diminutive Smestow.

Hinksford Lock

All the way the canal runs along a narrow rocky shelf with the towering red sandstone cliffs arching overhead and the river lapping at the retaining wall. At times rocky outcrops blocked the route of the canal forcing Brindley to carve tunnels at Cookley and Dinsley.

We proceeded in glorious isolation as far as Whittington Lock where we virtualy bumped into a boat winding and then stumbled at its heels through Kinver as the canal traffic grew. Stourton Junction was passed in waves of Wild Garlic accompanied by a regiment of Herons.

The next four miles were spent playing tag with an old Dolphin cruiser with a tempremental outboard. When it ran it was faster than us but there were long perious when it cut out altogether. Not that it mattered much  because we were in a steady procession of boats moving up the cut.

Trouble hit us at Botterham. It seems that someone had left the paddle open overnight and drained the pound, causing a huge tailback. When we arrived there were eight boats backed up and a delay of about an hour and a half predicted. This log jam was exasserbated by the presence of the Northwich Cruising Club flotilla, which aded 15 boats to an already  busy canal.

Leaving Botterham

Perhaps the most alarming thing was the "canal rage" I witnessed. The rules are clear - at busy times it is one boat up and one boat down a Botterham, but if crews communicate a more time efficient two up two down method can be enployed. The long queue was waiting to go up, but there was one boater waiting to come down. He waited for two boats to rise and then said he was descendng. Oh the outcry and the childish names hurled at him. Some of the rising boaters from the club were outraged that he didn't let the ascending boats carry on for three, four or more. He quite reasonably pointed out that he had already been generous and as a rusult the childish other crews refused to help him. Personally, he had my sympathy so I helped him on his way and I was minded to moan about anti social implications of blocks of boats travelling together, but of course I didnt.

These enforced stops have a way of bringing people together and I was pleased to make the acquaintance of nb Lucky Dip. An unusal name, so I asked the obvious question.
It seems that a man won a £million on the Lucky Dip and bought his wife a narrowboat. This present was not welcomed and the craft was sold at a loss to the current owners. He was later interviewed in the press, citing his narrrowboat fiasco as his poorest investment. By way of a contrast, its new owners see it as the best investment they ever made. I know who I tend to side with.

Finally, two hours after we arrived, we cleared Botterham. Now well behind schedule, Mr Truth made a qick exit up the towpath to meet up with his wife leaving his gear on board. In the event she was delayed, he sank a couple of pints in the pub at Swindon and we rolled up just as his lift turned up.

The plan was to pass through The Bratch in the evening but when we rounded the bend another long queue faced us. Blow that for a game of monkies - we backed up, moored and wandered up to the locks for some evening photos before settling down to some fishing, a curry and a film. The queue can wait till tomorrow.

Friday 25 June 2010

Wonderful Wolverley

Wonderful Wolverley
1st June 2010
Staffs and Worcs Canal

The Wolverley most boaters know extends no further than the Lock Inn located, unsurprisingly enough, right beside Wolverley Lock. This is a shame because the village is well worth a visit.

Wolverley Church

The red brick church sitting on top of its very own sandstone outcrop was an obvious starting point which was reached after a brisk 10 minute walk past the village putting green - true, this village has its very own putting green down by the river.

The church is quite an imposing structure with foundations that seem much older than its more contemporary walls.The grandure of the place suggests significant wealth in the not to distant past, maybe connected to the coming of the canal? Local historians can no doubt shed some light on this. 

Wolverley rock houses

But the church is only the beginning of the unusual features of this little village, which raised more questions than answers. As we walked down from the church we realised that the road and houses were carved fron solid rock. Clearly this was a community of rock house dwellers like Kinver further up the valley. Futher exploration of the pub car park revealed yet more rock houses which we could enter and explore.

The village square was dominated by the old Court House with a construction date in the 1500's, which later became a school. These have left a legacy of lovely buildings which are now exclusive homes.

The Old Court House

We had a pint in the Queens Head whilst a band set up for the evening before wandering over to the Lock Inn for a final nightcap. We asked about the history of the village but the bar staff seemed to have little grasp of their surroundings.

The Lock at Wolverley

If you find yourself moored at Wolverley take a walk into the village and see it for yourself.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Stourport to Wolverley

Stourport to Wolverley
1st June 2010
Staffs and Worcester

We restocked in Stourport, finding four butchers but only one bakery which was a pain when we were mainly looking for bread. With the weather brightening we dicided to have a BBQ so stocked up on some home made beefburgers and sausages.

Stourport narrow locks and toll house

This bottom section of the Staffs and Worcester really is a delight, and even Kiddemenster has brushed itself doewn and made an effort. I was particularly impressed by the new mural in the bridge below Town Lock.

Part of the Kidderminster mural


The canal is notched into the red sandstone rock here and there making spectacular turns to avoid these obstacles.

Caldwell Lock

The evening was spent at Wolverley  where we christened the new boat BBQ and went  for a walk to sample the ale. The village is a complete delight and deserves a bit more exposure. I will run a proper post on this fabulous village tomorrow.

Mr Truth and Jeff set to with the barbie

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Severn Deadly Sins

Severn Deadly Sins
1st June 2010
River Severn

They say that there ar Seven Deadly Sins, but in my book there are eight. Curiosity may kill the cat but it it can also lead one into a whole lot of trouble, but more of that later.

Lincolmb Lock

Today takes out of the two big locks onto the mighty River Severn.

Mr Truth was feasting on red meat again last night which envigoarated him into seeking another early start. The problem was the rain - it was hammering down and even he was a tiny bit reluctant to venture forth. As for me, I was happily editing last nights photos and have been gradually adopting the "less is more" approach to cruising, content to wait for rain to stop and generally take things easy.

Swarms of Paddlers

He prowled round like a caged lion and eventually (quite rightly as it happened) persuaded me to cast off and get moving. It really takes two to work down out of Diglis, and Mr T took the helm. He has always had a healthy respect for the Severn and cautiously nosed WB out of the big bottom gates, feeling the tug of a major river for the first time.

The trip up the Severn was a wet affair, with us taking navigation in turns and warming by the fire when the cold seeped in.

The building next to theTontine Hotel Stourport (thanks Adam)

We were tempted to try and land at the bottom the Droitwich Barge Canal and take a look, but the barrier was in place and access looked very difficult so we left that for another day.

The rain dosn't impede the outdoor pursuits guys, and canoes / kayaks were much in evidence, huge rafts of then being penned down the locks only to released into the river like dozens of water skaters.

I always like  to a bit of new water on a trip and this week was no exception. There were few options open to me but there is always the Severn upstream of Stourport. Navigation appears to end at Stourport Bridge, just above the locks but that isn't strictly true. BW waters continue for another mile or so past some moorings and on out or town.

Stourport Bridge

But that wasn't enough to satisfy my hunger for new waters, I pressed on into a rapidly narrowing and shallowing channel leaving all other boats behind. We slowed to a tickover so the final grounding  wouldn't be too hard and progressed for another half mile, always wondering what was round the next bend. The answer was always the same - more tree lined river.

Stourport Barge Locks

You get more and more nervous in this sort of place and the final straw was a pedestrian staring a us in disbelief and us coming across another sign which paraphrased says "If you reach this sign what the heck are you doing? - turn round now"  We swung WB round in fairly shallow water and made our way back to Stourport.

Captain Ahab's limit of navigation

For all Mr Truth's get up and go spirit I am not completely sure he shares my enthusiasm for these dodgey excusrions "off piste". Curiosity may well kill the cat, but this feline lived to tell the tale.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Worcester by night

Worcester by night
Monday 31st May 2010

With Jeff and Mr Truth settled down to watch a film I decided to have a little prowl around with my camera to "see what I can see". One thing led to another and before long I had wandered beyond Diglis Basin and down to the River Severn and along to the Diglis Hotel.

Worcester Cathedral

Then I sped the Cathedral all lit up for the night and yet more photo opportunities in and around the surrounding streets.

Worcester Cathedral Close

Having got lost I decided to try and find the Commandery which I know is on the canal, but along the way stumbled across the old Worcester Porcelain Works, with its long curving facade.

Worcester Porcelain

Worcester - an interesting city and well worth a nocturnal vist.

Gate to Kings School

I eventually found my way to the Commandery, the last access point to the towpath and then back to Diglis Basin. I was worrying about waking Mr Truth when I got back in, but I shouldn't have worried. Even at 11.30pm the film was still running and they hadn't even noticed that I was missing.

Monday 21 June 2010

Cannock Chase

Walking on Cannock Chase
June 2010

Following our day of theory we embarked on a 15 km hike over Cannock Chase, traversing the featureless sections to test our navigation skills.

Beaudesert Campsite

Walkers and Mountain Bikers vie for space.

I now have renewed respect for the Chase, both for its beauty and its complexity of terrain. The rolling landscape is heavily forested with sharp little valleys here and there containing threads of lakes which sit like little strings of pearls around a lady's neck, each lake in a rolling ocean of green - all very pretty.

Lake near Beaudesert

Our route took us towards Slitting Mill, but sadly our rapid progress meant that the pub wasn't open, and the party were not inclined to wait. We pressed on beside Rising Brook passing a row of terraced houses with gardens backing right onto the stream, one including a quite surreal statue.

Inhabitant of Slitting Mill

Then is was deep into the park passing yet more lakes which are heavily used by fishermen, before rising up to the Visitor Centre for a well earned break. This was the site of the old Army base, all long since demolished but still the outline remains on the ground and was playing host to an MG rally at the time of our visit.

The return to Beaudesert was rather more direct and shorter than the outward leg - following Marquis's Drive most of the way. The puzzling thing was that our group set off 30 mins before the others, we walked very fast with few stops but by some miracle were the last back - in one case being beaten by a group that came in a full 2 hours before us. A little bit of cheating was going on I suspect.

Self portrait

No matter, it was the first time I have really had a chance to explore the Chase and my dedicated camera carrying was rewarded with a number of interesting photos.

Sunday 20 June 2010


Beaudesert - Duke of Edinburgh training
June 2010

I think I may have mentioned that I am training to be a Duke of Edinburgh Award Expedition Supervisor. This is a great thing to do but is rather time consuming - about 8 weekends between Easter and the summer which equates to about one on and one off.

Evening sunsine
Actually, the training isn't DofE specific, and is a general Basic Expedition Leadership NVQ qualification. It's also not that hard, if fact it is largely navigation and walking which is anything but a chore, but it is time away from the family. The bad bit is having to sleep out in tents, an activity which I had mentally put behind me when we bought Wand'ring Bark.

Ornate chimneys

Hey ho - last weekend it was Beaudesert on Cannock Chase plus tent selection, expedition food and group leadership. Whilst everyone else was watching the pre match build up (England vs USA) I went for a photographic wander.

Scouting ampetheatre

Open fires are encouraged

An amazing display of rhododendrons