Sunday 24 July 2011

Droitwich Double 7 - Droitwich to Wolverley

Droitwich Double  7
Droitwich to Wolverley
8th July 2011

14 miles - 18 locks - 10 hours

Yet another night of torrential rain, but there is something reassuring about being tucked away in the boat all warm and dry.

Octavia on the Droitwich Barge Canal

Belles foraging last night has left her with a chronic shortage of jars so she was off at 7.45 to be ready for Wilkinsons opening at 8.00. She duly returned with assorted jars and bottles by which time the rain had come to an end and offering the prospect a pleasant trip down the Barge Canal.

Canal Balls - Treasure from the Droitwich Canal

On our last trip on these waters I saw a very nice football bobbing in the reds near the sports grounds and knowing Jeff's passion for canal balls I prepared the keep net for a drive by scoop. Much to my pleasure (and the footballers angst) I found not one but two perfectly inflated balls - enough for Tilly as well.

Boats came up explaining that there was bad weed ahead, and that the gates were stiff - I didn't have the heart to explain that I already knew, and that they are exaggerating more than a little.

Salwarpe Cutting

Last time we descended we skirted Salwarpe with only a snatched photo of the church on the hill to mark our passing. This time I determined to undertake a more comprehensive recce but the  shallow margins made this a challenge. After a few attempts in the cutting I managed to pull over just west of the bridge, the bows jutting out into the canal and the boat held by its centre rope on a single pin.

That dodgey mooring at Salwarpe

A scramble up the bank took me to a very pretty churchyard with an attractive lytch gate. There is not a lot up there, but what there is is worth a look.

St Michaels, Salwarpe

By the time I did a round trip and returned to the boat nb Octavia had emerged into the cutting and offered a locking companion for the 8 locks down to the river, which was extremely good news.

The lock landings are both shallow and short and are not really adequate for a pair of boats. In the end us lads worked the locks and the girls steered the boats, travelling slowly to give us time to get them set and have the gates open, ready to receive them. In a couple of sites other boaters had decided to use the limited lock landings as impromptu mooring spots - very inconvenient. One moored at Ladywood top lock was rewarded with a hearty clunk as I came alongside and then stepped across their stern to reach shore.

The old gentleman at Ladywood Top Lock came out to say hello and express his delight at seeing boats pass his living room window. This gentleman almost single handedly maintained a navigable channel between the locks and the town, spending two weeks a year cutting the reeds back. He is a delightful man - do say hello if you are passing.

Goodbye to Octavia

Octavia made an excellent companion for the journey but as she led the way she highlighted a notable feature of the waterway - methane. She was a deep drafted boat and pressed on at a good crack - stirring the silt as she went. We trailed in her wake with a roiling maelstrom of black water swirling around us interspersed with bubbles of gas rising from the decaying vegetation below. Lets say it introduced an added texture to the experience.

Out on the river things speeded up and we hustled through Holt Lock and then Lincomb, neither who seemed to be listening out for VHF so the set remains untested.

Lesley and Joe (nb Caxton)

Then it was up the two staircase pairs at Stourport, with one walkway bridge taped off where a lad died recently. I am truly sorry about the boy and the tragedy his family have suffered, but I cant see the point of blocking the bridge off. Its like dozens of others up he canal and there is no way it can be made safer - these little iron foot bridges are just a feature of this canal, and shouldn't be ridden over on a bike.

We stopped for water and a pump out in the basin and were delighted to see Jo and Leslie from nb Caxton wander over. I knew that they had been in Stourport for a while, but I didn't realise that they would be staying put for six months whilst their new boat is being built. A lovely bonus.


Our plan was to reach Wolverley for the night so we presses on, pausing under a bridge at Caldwell Lock for 20 mins whilst the heavens opened. Eventually the thunderstorm rumbled on and left us with a perfect evening, perfect for photographing Kidderminster Church whose picturesqueness belies a less than lovely town.

Tilly's Catch

We made it to Wolverley and indulged in a spot of fishing. I seem to have lost my touch, first I am thrashed by Jeff and this time Tilly lands a lovely roach. An excellent end to a grand day's boating.

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