Our original plan had been to spend the weekend at Stourport and include a bus trip to Kidderminster on the Saturday. We spent the Friday afternoon walking around the town in the heat with a bit of respite while we shopped in the air conditioned Tesco store. A bit of research on Kidderminster made us think that it mightn’t be worth the effort to visit after all. Not that there was anything to put us off, rather that there was nothing to draw us there. After a bit of a discussion about how we might spend our time in Stourport, we decided to get up early and set off in the morning.
There was a light, although temporary as it turned out, cloud covering when we cast off on Saturday morning. After four weeks on the rivers, the Staffs and Worcestershire canal seemed very narrow and twisty and it was a bit like turning off a motorway and going straight into the streets of a medieval village. No other boats were on the move and as we left Stourport behind, the canal got straighter and wider for us. The cloud dispersed and the air started to warm up even though it was still before nine o’clock. There were quite a few joggers and walkers around as we approached Kidderminster and as Sue walked towards the viaduct that carries the Severn Valley Railway over the canal, she was lucky enough to see a steam train pass over it.
Once through central Kidderminster we passed through parkland and waterside housing estates before reaching the village of Wolverley where we found a space on the visitor moorings above the lock.
Our walk to the village was mostly uphill and in all honesty there’s not a lot there but we found the village shop where we bought a couple of ice creams before returning to the canal via the local church. The church of St John the Baptist is unusual in that is built in a classic style and from a distance looks like many others. It is actually built from brick suggesting that it is fairly modern but it was completed in 1772 after the previous structure was pulled down in 1769. Three years to build a large church in the 18th century is good going, maybe because bricklaying is quicker than building from stone.
Back on the canal bank there is more going on. The lock is flanked by a pub, The Lock Inn, and a tea room, both have gardens and were very busy as you might imagine with it being a sunny weekend. Next to the tearoom is a putting green or mini golf as it is described. We thought that it was a bit expensive at £7.95 per person but it didn’t deter the dozens of players already using the course.
When we got back to the tearoom, the cooling effect of the ice creams from the shop had worn off so we had to rejuvenate ourselves with more ice cream. The tea room sells luxurious ice cream from a farm in Devon and it was delicious!
The following day, Sunday, we stayed put but other than a mid morning coffee in the tearoom garden, we didn’t venture far.
The final leg of our journey on the Severn would take us through three locks and end at Stourport on Severn. The locks are all manned so there is very little work to do but they don’t open until 8am so we decided to set off at half past seven and give the first lock keeper time to get settled before we arrived. As with the previous stretches, the river is fairly featureless if you ignore the lush greenery that lines the banks but with the locks spaced out as they are, it made the trip quite interesting.
When we reached the lock at Holt Fleet, we were entertained by the lock keeper. Now I have to say that all of the lock keepers that we encountered were very friendly and helpful but this lockie was in a class of his own. As we approached, the gates opened and the traffic light turned green as usual. Unusually, the lock keeper signalled that he wanted us over to the side that he was standing on and of course that is what we did. Once in the lock, he started to explain to us that there was a fault with the lock and that we needed to listen very carefully to him. As he spoke in a very clear Northern Irish accent, Caxton’s bow was drifting to the other side of the chamber but his explanation cleared that up for us. There was a leak below the gate on his side of the lock which was creating the current pushing us away from him. His first instruction had been for us not to attempt to attach our ropes to the vertical cables as we would not be able to hold the boat. He then went on to say that as the water filled the lock, the stern would move over to his side followed by the bow but that I would need to use throttle, gearbox and rudder to soften the inevitable collision with the wall. When he was satisfied that we fully understood what was about to happen, he operated the hydraulics and away we went. It all went according to plan and as we rose in the lock, he told us of the problems that he had been having with other boats. He said that the main issue was with holidaymakers who didn’t fully understand how locks work and then they stopped listening to his instruction. It had been clear enough to us but he told us that he had been a boat instructor for eighteen years beforehand.
Now that the chamber was full and his new pupils had passed his course with flying colours, he told us some more stories. We had no choice but to listen, with all the gates closed we literally were a captive audience. Still, his delivery was good; he was quite animated and a good orator so it was quite amusing. We heard about the Dutchman who entered the lock, didn’t slow down and looked like he was going to crash into the bottom gate. There was the hire boat crew who didn’t listen to instructions and almost capsized their boat in the lock. Finally, like all good stand-up acts he saved his big story until the end and regaled us with the tale of the narrowboater with Tourette Syndrome. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have known about the person’s condition but with the leaking gate, a two way conversation had taken place with some difficulty. He had then noticed a bugle lying on the boat roof and so asked the steerer, an ex-paratrooper as it turned out, if he could play it. The ex-soldier had then stood to attention, saluted the lock keeper and played the last post as the boat rose in the lock.
Our entertainer, once finished, released us from his one man show and waved us goodbye. We had been his first audience of the day but undoubtedly not his last. As the day went on, the stories would likely continue to change and to be embellished but we will never know.
We carried on to Stourport, the final Severn lock being a more straightforward affair than the previous one. There were no spaces on the river pontoons so we ascended the two staircase locks before weaving our way through the Stourport basins to the service point.
Other boats were either taking on water or waiting to do so but it all worked out and eventually we completed our services before moving up through the lock and on to the York Street moorings where there was plenty of space for us to choose from.
After wandering around the town, we settled down for the night and listened to some music before going to bed. We had visited the funfair but were surprised to see that there was virtually no one there, strange for a fine Friday evening in August.
We were up and on our way for half past seven, dropping down through the lock into the basin where we carried out all of the services. By the time we had moved on to the narrow staircase locks, a volunteer lock keeper had arrived and helped our passage down and out on to the Severn.
The sun was shining as we pulled out on to the wide river and headed south, it was a magnificent feeling as Caxton found the deep water, exactly the same as when we took our first boat, Phoenix III out on the Soar and then the Trent.
The locks on the Severn are huge and being manned, all that was required from us was to put a stern line around a vertical wire and wait for the lock to empty and the gates to open. We passed through three such locks on our journey down to Worcester and since there is no need to slow for bends, bridges or moored boats, we completed the trip in just four and a half hours (including the thirty minutes on the services at Stourport).
We found a good mooring by the racecourse, paid our mooring fee (£4.00) and walked into town where we had lunch and did some shopping before returning to the boat. Since then we have just been sitting in the cratch, enjoying the sunshine, watching boats passing and being cooled by the breeze from the river.
Sue is happy, Leicester City are top of the league!
Well, we made it to Stourport on Severn, also known as Birmingham on Sea. After a week afloat, mostly through they county of Staffordshire, we crossed into Worcestershire and tied up near the Black Star pub.
Our day began with us setting off just before seven o’clock and It was another hour before we encountered another boat on the move, at a bridge of course. We carried on and eventually reached Cookley tunnel where the canal passes under a row of houses. Next up was Debdale lock which has a sort of cave cut Into the rock next to it, an old stable apparently. There’s something wrong with the levels here and one of the ground paddles is jammed open. With the lock still draining, Sue alerted me to the fact that Caxton was stuck on the bottom. My initial reaction was to run a bit of water in but obviously that just made it impossible to open the bottom gates. In the end we muddled through and escaped the clutches of Debdale lock.
We later bumped into Graham Booth, a regular contributor to Waterways World magazine and whose boat we had passed a little while earlier. Graham recognised the boat and is a friend of Joe & Lesley, we had a brief chat about boats and blogs before Graham carried on walking his dogs along the towpath.
We continued our descent through Kidderminster and saw a black steam engine in LMS livery running light (engine only) across the viaduct over the canal. At Falling Sands lock, Sue was talking to three ladies who were out on a canalside walk. They mentioned that they had noticed that it always seemed to be men driving the boats while the women worked the locks. As Sue explained that very often this was because the women didn’t want to drive, a man cycled along the towpath between them. As he passed me he said, with a cheeky grin, “L Plates, that’s what they need!”. It made me laugh but I’m not sure what would have happened had the group of four females heard him and then got hold of him!
We reached Stourport by half past twelve and secured a good mooring above the lock which leads into the basins. After showering, we took the short walk to the river where we had lunch in the Angel. It is a year and two weeks since we “discovered” the town by car and whilst having lunch at the same location, vowed to return by boat and here we are. Click Here
After lunch, we wandered through the town and did some shopping before returning to Caxton where we had home made Chicken curry for dinner. Tonight, a visit to the funfair, tomorrow all the fun of the river.
We went to Stourport-on-Severn today for the first time ever but by car, not by boat. What a fabulous place! The town had the feel of a seaside resort about it without having a seafront. So for me at least, being in a compact area on a hot sunny summer’s day with a canal, some canal basins, a river, a funfair with traditional rides and a Wetherspoons, I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. I knew that I hadn’t because there was no sign of a sausage roll tree anywhere. No more text, just a few pictures.