Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th October; Stoke Pound to Droitwich Spa Marina, and home
We didn’t get up early on Wednesday, and Dave decided to wash the port side of the boat before we left, but even so at a quarter to ten we were still the first away from the moorings. The sun was warm and there was less wind than yesterday as we started down Stoke locks. I have never noticed this windmill before; it’s across the fields to the west of the top lock.
I discovered that it is a 19th century post mill and is part of the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings. The museum has over 30 buildings ranging from a mediaeval town house to an Anderson air-raid shelter, a privy, threshing barn, forge and a pre-fab. (For the non-UK or younger reader; prefabs, as the prefabricated houses are known, were put up after the war to house the huge numbers of returning ex-servicemen and people who had been bombed out. It was supposed to be a short-term solution for 10 or 15 years, but I remember a school-friend having moved from one in the 1960s). The museum’s priority is to retain the buildings in their original position, and I don’t know where the other ones are located, but the windmill at least is only about 10 minutes walk from the Queen's Head at Stoke Pound. It’s in an odd position for a windmill though, as it’s nowhere near the top of the hill at Tardebigge, even if the trees weren’t there when it was in full operation.
Dave wondered the other day where the thousands of bricks in tunnels and locks were made. Today I noticed quite how many bricks are stamped with the maker’s name and there were three different ones used just on Stoke and Astwood locks where you might have thought they would all have come from the same place. As well as these two was the one for the Earl of Dudley’s brickworks I saw yesterday.
We emptied a cassette at Stoke Wharf while the boat was in the lock, as there were no boats waiting below. Then we stopped on the visitor moorings at Stoke Works as we were running out of milk. I got the bike out and
whizzed pedalled up to the friendly little stores on Ryebank Lane just over half a mile away. There is a butcher next door to it. The sun was glorious most of the day and with the autumn colours beginning to show, Astwood locks were very attractive.
The blackberries are still fruiting well even though it’s the middle of October. At the bottom Astwood lock they looked so good I tasted one and it was sweet enough for me to grab a container and pick some.
We had lunch in the sunshine below the locks and eventually both our mooring companions from last night came by. We waited a while before leaving as they were going down onto the Droitwich canals where we are headed. By the time we rounded Hanbury Junction, they had gone and the volunteer lockies were waiting for us. An electronic information board has been installed as a trial at the top lock. It shows the river conditions on the Salwarpe, which joins the canal nearer to Droitwich, and the Severn at Bevere Lock. (Water level boards are seen below locks on rivers or where the canal becomes, or is influenced by, a river navigation. If the water level is in the green, the river conditions are safe for navigation, but if it is up to the red you’d be very unwise to proceed. Your insurance would probably be invalid too if you came to grief). As you can see the Salwarpe and Severn are both in the green here. I thought the culvert which takes the canal under the M5 was affected by the level of the Salwarpe, but on investigation it appears not.
You can see that the middle two sets of lights – in the amber ‘Proceed with caution’ section - will show whether the water is rising or falling. The boards below locks can’t tell you this – only how close the water level is to the red.
Normally at Hanbury Locks you use the side ponds to save water, but they are all out of use at the moment. There is a large hole in the bottom one which is awaiting repair. Here is the lovely volunteer who has been here for years.
We were soon moored up and Chuffed will be here for the winter, though we may go out again before we winterise. It depends on the weather – if it’s very wet and windy we will wimp out and stay at home. One of Dave’s jobs for the winter will be fitting new mats to the stern deck to match the well deck which looks very smart or at least it will when he has filled in a couple of missing bits by the edge. He is using Versatile interlocking non-slip tiles from Industrial Plastic Supplies Ltd, which was a lot cheaper than a chandlery – the black tiles were about half the price.
Anyway the afternoon was warm and dry enough for Dave to do some painting on the gas locker lid at the bow. I swept the leaves from the roof and gave it a scrub to remove Dave’s footprints (the disadvantage of our work sharing at locks) and the bird poo. No matter if you moor away from trees, the blighters still get you. We had intended to wash the starboard side of the boat too, but someone else has moored on our allocated pontoon and we are next to them. So as we reversed in to make unloading easier the pontoon is on the port side so it’ll have to wait. We’ll cope.
15 locks, about 4 miles
On Thursday Dave set off early towards Droitwich Spa station to go and fetch the car from Swanley marina. I took Meg for a decent walk as she will be stuck in the car this afternoon. If you follow the towpath to the Hanbury locks you are walking beside a busy road and there are gaps in the hedge so dogs need to be on the lead. So some lazy and thoughtless idiot must have stood here and watched their dog perform under this sign and failed to pick up after it ……
I am afraid I didn’t pick up the pile of poo either – it was already breaking down and collapsing sideways (too much info, sorry). Anyway, I took Meg back towards Droitwich via Gateway Park where there is an interesting take on displaying information boards.
Dave had a tedious journey back from Swanley, getting caught in traffic at the roadworks where the M5 leaves the M6 – but he did manage to spot the Wolverhampton Level where it passes under the motorway!
Stats for this trip (copied from Canalplanner);
89 miles, 3½ furlongs and 121 narrow locks.
7 tunnels; Cowley (81 yards), Wolverhampton (109 yards), Summit (103 yards), Edgbaston (105 yards), Wast Hill (2726 yards), Shortwood (614 yards) and Tardebigge (580 yards).
Canals travelled; Llangollen (little bit); Shropshire Union (part); Staffs and Worcester(little bit); BCN (parts of the Main Line, Old Main Line (Wolverhampton Level), Wyrley and Essington, and all the Walsall canal except the Town Arm); Worcester and Birmingham (part); Droitwich Junction canal (part).