Monday, 30 June 2014

Completing the Droitwich Ring

In the last few days we've come round the Droitwich Ring of canals and are heading back to Worcester again.

Last Thursday we set off up the Severn:

There is one lock upstream before reaching the Droitwich Canal.  This is Bevere Lock.  Back to huge locks and with a friendly lock keeper to do all the hard work.

Half a mile after Bevere Lock you come to the first lock on the Droitwich Barge Canal.  In the picture below you can see Victoria preparing the lock while our boats wait on a pontoon mooring below.

After a couple of locks the canal goes under the A449.  This new bridge was the most expensive element of restoring this canal, costing £1.6 million.

There are not really any places to moor but the scenery is pleasantly rural as you climb up 8 locks from the Severn following the valley of the River Salwarpe.

Here is Leo following Pas Mèche through the village of Salwarpe.  The village would certainly benefit from some visitor moorings.

At Salwarpe the canal makes a sharp left turn and then goes through this solid looking bridge.

And eventually you come into Droitwich Spa and enjoy the secure visitor moorings in Netherwich basin. For hundreds of years Droitwich was famous for salt.  Brine was pumped from underground and evaporated to produce salt in huge quantities.  This had some unfortunate effects on the town:

Salt extraction caused significant subsidence and the High Street which used to be level now falls about ten feet in the middle.  These two buildings are leaning against each other and a brick buttress has been built to hold up the right hand one.
 Look at the windows, lintels and the shopfront on this fish and chip shop.

After a couple of days in Droitwich including a swim in the magnificent outdoor Lido we cruised through Vines Park and came up the Droitwich Junction Canal which is a narrow canal and contrasts with the broad Barge Canal coming into the town from the South.  The Junction Canal is only just over a mile long but has a little of everything for the canal buff - Three swing bridges, a river navigation, a low tunnel (under the M5), a staircase lock and a series of three deep locks with functioning side ponds.  What more could you want?

This is Netherwich Basin with the visitor moorings towards the right and permanent moorings on the left.  It is a lovely secure mooring with a lockable gate to protect the boats.

Vines Park is a lovely mature park in the town with the canal going right through it.  There are three swing bridges, two of which have to be swung to navigate this section.

The last of the wide locks forms a stop lock coming out of the park as you go onto the River Salwarpe.  This a small river but goes up and down quickly after rain.   Soon you come to the first of the narrow locks.  You can see Pas Mèche in the lock with Victoria and Helen ready to close the gates.
This is the tunnel under the M5.  We had 6-8 inches to spare but with more rain it would be very different.

Next comes a single lock followed by a double staircase lock.  In the picture Leo is in the lower of the two locks in the staircase.

Above the staircase a road crosses the canal to provide access to the new Droitwich Spa Marina.  This is the bridge and the floating bollards are to keep the sides of the boat from scraping the sloping roof of the bridge/mini tunnel.
After the marina there are three deep locks taking the canal up to the junction with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.  Each of these has a side pond.  When going down you first empty the lock into the side pond so that water is ready to part fill the lock for the next boat. This makes locking more complicated but saves half a lock full of water each time.

And below you can see us back on the Worcester and Birmingham outside the Eagle and Sun which does cheap but good food and beer.  Guess where we ate that day?
So we certainly enjoyed our ascent of the Droitwich canals.  To make them perfect needs more suitable moorings and a toilet emptying facility at Droitwich.  There is water and rubbish disposal there.

There will be a gap in the postings on this blog for a few days now as we are going home to watch the Tour de France in Yorkshire.  When we return I'll describe our plans for the rest of the summer, so watch this space.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

It's downhill all the way to Worcester

The sign coming out of Birmingham towards Worcester says it is 33 miles and 58 locks.  We've now done all of the locks including the infamous 30 locks of the Tardebigge flight.

Pas Mèche did not in fact have her rudder bearing renewed at Alvechurch; the job turns out to be more complicated than expected.  We did however move the boats just a few miles to the top of the Tardebigge locks.  This entailed passage through two short tunnels which covered the roof in drips which dried to leave calcite rings which have been difficult to remove.  And on Saturday we descended the 30 locks of the flight.

This is Shortwood Tunnel.  If you look closely you can see the other end of the tunnel and, below that, the light of a boat coming the other way.  The two tunnels are wide enough to pass, but only just.

Here is Leo moored close to the top of the Tardebigge flight.  The noticeboard behind us is the one for Tardebigge Tunnel.

On Friday evening we walked a little way down the flight and then back over the hill on footpaths.  The reservoir shown here feeds the canal which you can see to the left stepping down locks beside it.

 This photo is taken from the reservoir and you can see the canal disappearing downwards.  In the distance you can see the Malvern Hills.  The walk back over the top was magnificent for views of Malverns, Clee Hills, Cotswolds, Bredon Hill and even the Black Mountains in Wales.

And here we are descending those many locks.  The surroundings are lovely so it was not a chore, though 30 locks in a day is hard work.

And eventually you see this welcome sign.  We moored just below this bottom lock and retired to the pub for pizzas and beer.

 On Sunday we had a well earned day off boating.  Helen and Ian visited the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings a short bike ride away.  30 or more buildings or parts of buildings that were scheduled for demolition have been moved to the museum.  We found it fascinating.  Even old roofs have been moved and re-erected on new buildings for the purpose.

The museum houses an extensive collection of old phone boxes from the earliest days to the present.  You can also see an AA box in the background.

An old threshing barn has been moved here.  It dates from the 15th century and has cruck timbers holding up the roof and split oak wattle for the walls.

An old Post Mill is included.  The wooden part of the post mill is rotated on the stone base to face into the wind.

Here you can see how it is rotated.  The steps are lifted by the lever and then the wheel pushed round to turn the mill.

 These barleytwist chimneys were saved from a building and brought to the museum.  It is fun to see things like this close up.

This is the inside of a lavish showman's wagon dating from 1904 and occupied until the 1970s.  It cost £1,000 which must have been a lot of money in those days.  The ceiling is beautifully painted.

On Monday it was back to boating and we came down 12 locks in two flights of six to Hanbury Junction where the 'new' Droitwich Canal turns off.  This is new in the sense that it was only opened in 2011 following years of restoration.

This duck house was in Stoke Prior.  You probably can't see the title on it but it was called 'Duckingham Palace'.  Well it amused me!

 This old lock cottage was covered in roses and there was a wonderful garden opposite.

I'm saving the pictures of the Droitwich Canal which we walked down in the evening.  We will be taking Leo along that canal in a few days time.  However I thought these cygnets hiding from the hot sun in a bywash were worth including now.

Yesterday and today we've come down the last few miles and locks into Worcester.

Oddingley Church and Farm set off this lovely rural scene.

Leo is approaching Offerton Top Lock.  You really feel at the top of a hill - you can see distant hills beyond.  And our petunias on the roof give a good show of colour.

Once you get down to the Diglis Basins in the city you have just two deep locks down into the River Severn.  These are barge locks (in fact 18 feet wide) so our boats can share these.

Here we are looking back towards the lower of the two Diglis Locks from the River.  We wanted to moor just downstream where there are floating pontoons for mooring.  However these were full so we are moored back by the Racecourse where we last moored on 19 May.

Here you can see Pas Mèche cruising up the River towards the Cathedral.

Our luck was in as it proved to be race day and we managed to walk just a short distance to catch the last race of the day.  It made an unusual and fine ending to today's journey.

In the next few days we plan to cruise up the Severn and the Droitwich Barge Canal to Droitwich and then repeat the last few miles of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal back to Worcester so that we will have done the 'Droitwich Ring'.  Having walked part of the route we are really looking forward to this.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Into Birmingham and out again

We've now travelled up the Grand Union Canal into Birmingham and today we set off out of Birmingham on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.  We are presently moored in Alvechurch back in Worcestershire.

Monday was a shortish day going up the five wide Knowle Locks and as far as Catherine de Barnes which is reckoned to be the last safe place to moor before Birmingham.

Leo is sharing with Pas Mèche in the bottom lock of the five.  There were lots of boats here both going up and coming down.

And this is taken from the top lock looking down:

 We set off from Catherine de Barnes on Tuesday morning at 7 am and soon came into the black water strewn with rubbish bags that characterised the journey into Birmingham.  This was our longest day ever on the canals being nearly 35 lock-miles with two flights of six locks each and one of 13.

There are warnings about leaving your boat around Solihull and this one shows what might happen.  It had clearly been burned out and then sunk.

Here we are getting a bit closer to the city with the BT Tower visible in the distance.

After 7 miles we came to the six locks of the Camp Hill flight and we are waiting here while Pas Mèche descends the first lock.

Graffiti like this is common here.  The photo is taken at the bottom of the Camp Hill flight at Bordesley Junction where the canal to the right under the bridge goes to Salford Junction under the motorways at Spaghetti Junction.

This is art work rather  than graffiti and rather good it is too.  This sparked some discussion as to where graffiti becomes art.

A right turn here shows our way towards Birmingham.  Left there is just a short branch that ends in Typhoo Basin.  Presumably they used to load or unload tea there.

Beware the Ashted Tunnel on the Digbeth Branch seen here just below the top lock of the Ashted flight of six.  The towpath is so wide that this forces the boat over to the low side of the arch and we scratched the side rails of Leo going through.

And finally you come to the Farmers Bridge flight of 13 locks into the city.  This photo is taken near the bottom of the flight.

This is further up the flight with the canal slotted in between modern buildings.

After all the hard work it was good to find some comfortable moorings on the Oozells Street Loop close to the centre but not too noisy and with fewer people walking past us.  You can see Leo close to and Pas Mèche moored two boats in front.

We stayed a couple of nights in the city and found some different sights to see than last time we were here.

Perrott's Tower was built by Mr Perrott in 1758 supposedly to enable him to see his wife's grave some ten miles away!

And a little further from the canal basin is Edgbaston Reservoir which is a large stretch of water to find so near the middle of a large city.  It was built to supply water to the Birmingham Canal Network.

And how about this Land Rover merged with a boat to form the wheelhouse for a narrowboat.  This strange vessel was in Gas Street Basin.

We even managed a theatre trip while we were in Birmingham.  We went to the Crescent Theatre which was only a few yards from our mooring to see The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca.  A bit batty was Ian's view but perhaps the play would repay further study to understand it better.

Today we've left the city behind following the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to Alvechurch.

The route through the city is a delight.  Here we are passing the Waterbus and heading for the bridge under Gas Street.
 This is the basin at Gas Street with Worcester Bar just under the bridge.  When the Worcester and Birmingham Canal was built it was not allowed to connect with the rest of the network in Birmingham but goods were transhipped. This nonsensical arrangement was changed by Act of Parliament to allow a stop lock between the two.

The tower is the prominent campanile of Birmingham University.

Wast Hills Tunnel is a long and a pretty wet one!  It is about a mile and a half long.  You go in one side in the city and come out the other in the countryside.

Tomorrow Pas Mèche is booked in to a boatyard here to have a new rudder bearing fitted and we plan to look round Alvechurch.  We have the Tardebigge Flight of locks ahead of us, one of the longest on the system, so we'll probably leave that delight until Saturday.  The next few days will see us descending back towards the Severn Valley and ultimately to Worcester which we visited on the Severn in mid May.