Friday, 30 October 2009

Stewpony Lock

There's some dispute about the spelling of Stewpony Lock, with the guidebooks adding an E in the pony part. However, the sign at the lock itself does without. The name is apparently thought to come from a local soldier who returned to the area with a Spanish wife from the town of Estepona. Anyway, it's another attractive setting with a cluster of buildings, including a little toll office. The large cottage has been sold, so I hope the new owners don't mind lots of activity because BW still have plenty going on at their little depot here.

The boat was a Countrywide Cruisers from Brewood. They could so with some new pictures on their website, as the boats are painted far more attractive colours these days.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hyde Lock, Staffs and Worcs Canal

From Stourport we drove to Kinver and parked in one of the many free car parks just off the main street. We walked down to the canal at Kinver lock, and walked along the permanent moorings to Hyde Lock, which is in a very attractive setting.

The cottage next to the lock has unusual and appropriate garden gates.

From Hyde Lock we turned off the towpath and took a footpath along the River Stour back into Kinver, where we had lunch at the Kinfayre Coffee House.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Last week we spent a couple of nights at a hotel in Stourport. The weather forecast for the whole trip had been dreadful, so we'd been quite pleased to have seen the Droitwich Canal and Holt Lock on the Severn without being rained on. By Wednesday morning, the forcast had changed from heavy rain to sunny intervals.

We started the day with a visit to Stourport Basins. As we approached the staircase locks up from the river, a Viking Afloat hire boat was approaching -- the same one we'd seen yesterday. They didn't seem to have much idea about the operation of the locks, so we lent a hand with the bottom pair and watched them make quite a good entry into the top pair.

We walked down over the barge locks. The old Tontine Hotel is still being converted (it seems to have taken ages), and the newly dug out far basin still has flats on only one side. The other two sides are still building sites, but without much evidence of building. The basin itself is still closed to boats. The Upper Basin and Clock Basin were as full as ever, and we chatted to a liveaboard couple on Catflap, who'd just filled with diesel at the chandlers and spun the boat onto the water point.

We walked up the canal past York Road Lock, where there are nice moorings, trying to work out where we'd stopped on our hire boat ten years ago. Our boat had been based in the Basins, and we'd spent the final night on these moorings and eaten at the pub just up the path.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Holt Lock, River Severn

Having seen the Droitwich Barge Canal, we drove up to Holt Fleet on the River Severn, and had lunch at the Holt Fleet Pub. It overlooks the River, and is right next to Holt Bridge, which is a Telford structure.

The river was very quiet and very still. While we were having lunch, just two narrowboats passed going south. Later, we crossed the bridge to walk up to Holt Lock.

There's a sign at the lock showing the flood level in the summer of 2007. It was a couple of feet above the lock. As we walked back we spotted a Viking Afloat boat heading towards the lock. The red traffic light began flashing, then the gates opened and the light turned green so the boat could go straight in.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Droitwich Barge Canal

We set off on Tuesday for a couple of days away, with our first target being the point where the Droitwich Barge Canal meets the River Severn. Having checked on Google Maps, we knew we were looking for Lock Lane off the A449 in Worcestershire. Fortunately Lock Lane has a huge sign and we parked on the verge of this dead-end lane. It took a few moments to find how to get down to the canal, as the nearby house is being rennovated and the footpath is still technically closed, with a fence across it. The entrance from the river was completed in August; the lock into the canal certainly looks ready for use.

The pound above the lock appears to need little more than some water.

Just around the corner there's another lock with a bridge to take the towpath to the other side.
Then a little further on is the major engineering feat which has just been completed: taking the canal under the A449. It's clearly been a big job, with large embankments and a reasonably long tunnel. The towpath inside the tunnel appears to be suspended over the water.

Beyond the tunnel, the canal peters out very rapidly, with plenty of dredging needed before boats can use it. However, the Droitwich Canals Trust says this will happen this winter, and the whole of the Barge Canal should be open for use next spring. When we eventually use this canal, it will mean even more because we've seen it before the work was complete.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


We're just back from a couple of nights away on a land-based break, during which time we managed to visit a number of boat related sites. This morning, on the way home, we stopped in Worcester. We parked near the River Severn, and walked past the Cathedral down to Diglis Locks, where the Worcester and Birmingham Canal leaves the river.

We last came this way on a hire boat about ten years ago, and neither of us could remember much about it. It would have looked very different back then, as there's been lots of new building, with more to come. There are new flats everywhere, including right next to Diglis bottom lock.

Walking up towards Diglis basins, we realised that the pound between the two locks was completely empty -- and I mean completely empty.

This pound should have seven or eight feet of water in it. I rang the BW mobile number shown on the noticeboard next to the locks, to report the problem. The BW chap who answered said he was just up the canal at Lock 5, and would be down in a few minutes to sort it out. We saw him a little while later letting some water down. It would have been interesting to know how long it took. Meanwhile, we had a good look round Diglis basins. The inner one is particularly attractive, and full of boats of all shapes and sizes.

We walked up the canal past a couple more locks before making our way into the city centre, then for a look round the Cathedral, and back to the car to continue our journey home.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Breaking the Ice on Test

The November issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of Breaking the Ice, and lovely little tug by Daddy's Boat Co. This was done on a nice sunny day on the Staffs and Worcs canal, and our short trip included a lock and a tunnel.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

September Cruise photos

I have uploaded more than 200 photos from our September cruise to a new set on flickr.

Friday, 2 October 2009

September Cruise - Day Twenty-two

We had only a couple of hundred yards to go today, and it didn't take long. We were up quite early and on the move just before eight. I was quite please with my reverse onto the wharf alongside the other OwnerShips boats. One very good thing about Norbury as a base is that you can get the car to within a few feat of the boat, which makes loading and unloading much easier. We were on the road before 9, and home by lunchtime. It's been a great three weeks (with only half a day of rain), covering 264 miles and 190 locks. We're back on board in November.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

September Cruise - Day Twenty-one

We left Coven at 8.10 on a cold and cloudy morning for the final leg of our journey. About an hour later we turned from the Staffs and Worcs onto the Shropshire Union at Autherley Junction. Napton hire boats were moored four abreast across the canal on the other side of the stop lock. As we continued north, we passed a surprising number of boats heading south, considering that the canal doesn't go anywhere at the moment. As the morning went on, the sun came out, although it was still quite chilly especially in the long cuttings. We stopped at Brewood and found that Pip and Roger from Windsong were moored a couple of boats along. This time, we were able to have a proper chat.

We walked into Brewood and found a good selection of shops. The butcher was particularly good. BW were doing a lot of work along the canal, mowing and strimming the towpath and clearing lots of overgrowth on the offside.

We set off again for Wheaton Aston to fill with water. All three water points were occupied when we arrived, but Windsong were just about to leave so we took their spot. We had lunch while the tank filled, then continued north, passing Windsong again moored up for the weekend in a nice open spot. It was about 4.15 when we arrived at Norbury Junction, but not wanting to spend the night in the basin we tied up on the visitor moorings. There was plenty of late afternoon sunshine, so we went for a walk up to the bridge. We saw a report on the local TV news the other evening about how the stoppage on the Shroppie is badly affecting businesses like Norbury, now that there's so little passing trade. But the yard does seem to be making the most of the stoppage in one sense: there were eight boats moored across the canal.

19 miles, 2 locks (264, 190)