Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Down and Up to Droitwich and Back

You may wonder why it is a while since we last posted on this blog.  Well Ian spent a long weekend in Snowdonia on a walking challenge event and left Helen minding Leo in the basin in Droitwich.  So here is the tale of our descent down the Droitwich Junction Canal into the town and back up again yesterday.

We left the Worcester and Birmingham Canal turning off at Hanbury Junction.  The mile long canal down to Droitwich wins our prize for the most varied canal anywhere.  It starts with three narrow locks each of which have side ponds that are still in use to save half a lock of water in every use.  Then follows a double staircase of locks and a single one down to the River Salwarpe.  Boats join the little river to pass through its very low tunnel culvert under the M5.  Another single lock follows before you reach a wide stop lock into Vines Park in the town.  Going through Vines Park there are three swing bridges to operate too.  What fun!!
This is the view looking back up the first three locks

Below the three locks there is a curious tunnel under the road that leads into Droitwich Spa Marina.  The floats are there to make sure that you don't bump into the arch.



This shows Leo moving from the top to the bottom locks of the staircase.  In case you think the lock looks as is if it is made of concrete, it is!  This canal was only restored recently and opened in 2011 so it is made of modern materials.


As you join the little River Salwarpe below the single lock, there is a depth gauge which, as you can see, is well down on green.  If it were on red this is a signal not to try to go under the M5 as there will not be sufficient headroom.

Here is Leo waiting above the single lock.  You can see the double staircase lock behind.


Once down that lock we approached the M5 tunnel.  In fact we had plenty of clearance but we had taken the precaution of moving the plants down off the roof.

And we are now passing through the stop lock into the green surroundings of Vines Park.

At the far end of Vines Park through all the swing bridges you come to Netherwich Basin where there are secure visitor moorings on floating pontoons.  When we arrived we were the only visiting boat (there are also some permanent berths), but the basin filled up later.
Droitwich is an interesting place whose origins are based on salt (hence '-wich' as a suffix).  Brine has been pumped out of the ground here for centuries.  Over the weekend Ian went to Snowdonia.  His team,  London Rock, came 15th out of 49 teams so pretty good for a bunch of (mostly) old fogies!  Helen was left to explore the delights of the town.  When Ian returned we left the basin in the afternoon to go back up the locks the way we had come onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.
This is one of the swing bridges in Vines Park.  We were lucky that another boat crew were passing and opened the first one for us.  Helen commented that it was the first time she had boated through Vines Park.  Normally she walks and opens each of the bridges in turn.

The River Salwarpe was so low that we managed to open both ends of the stop lock at the same time to allow Leo to simply drive straight through.  You might notice that one of the swing bridges is over the lock.

After a few bends of the river there is a lock which you can see on the right.  The little River Salwarpe comes down to the left of the lock.  We were lucky that another boat was coming down and left the gate open for us.  This river section was however a bit too shallow and we went aground, going through the previous bridge at a tilt.

Here is the M5 Tunnel.  Once again we had plenty of clearance.

And here we are in the double staircase.

It really does stay light very late now and this picture of the silhouette of the vegetation opposite our mooring was taken about ten pm.  We moored below the Astwood Locks in a favourite spot.

We loved the silhouette of the grasses in particular.

Today we have come up the 12 locks of the Astwood and the Stoke flights and we are now moored at the foot of the Tardebigge Locks.
The second Astwood Lock has a cottage beside it and a wonderful flower garden on the other side of the lock.

The cottage itself is covered with climbing roses.

At Stoke Prior the Black Prince hire boat base was full of boats.  Close to the lock they were four deep, making it difficult to pass other boats using the canal.

These cottages are just below Stoke Top Lock.
One advantage of mooring here is the Queen's Head opposite.  We went there for lunch.  Our food was pretty good, though we heard from others that the pizzas are not worth eating.

So guess what tomorrow holds.  There are 30 locks in the Tardebigge flight taking boats up to the same level as the centre of Birmingham, though the city is about 13 level miles from the top.  We are not planning to go into the centre of Birmingham but intend to turn right at Kings Norton to cruise the top half of the Stratford Canal.  We travelled the bottom half of the Stratford last month.

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