Saturday 23rd September; Kinver to Oldrington Bridge south of Kidderminster
After doing a few jobs we left around 10.30. It was mild and grey with just a little dampness in the air. The canal is really pretty south of Kinver. We soon caught up with a boat at the first lock, Whittington lock. In front of him was a hire boat with a very slow crew. He had locked then down – apparently only the steerer seemed to know what he was doing, and we found out later when we were the boat behind them that one of the crew lacked the muscular strength for the stiff paddles and the other wasn’t at all sure what he should be doing.
When it was our turn at Whittington lock we wondered whether the constant sound of water at the cottage might be a bit annoying, especially at night; the noisy bywash runs directly under the house.
The red sandstone of the cave dwellings at Kinver outcrops in various other places along the canal. Just south of Austcliff Bridge the canal bends sharply to the left around Austcliff Rock. Of course that’s where we spotted the bow of an oncoming boat. The horn was urgently deployed –we saw him first - but we managed to pass each other without incident.
The picture was taken looking back; as well as the lack of visibility on a sharp bend the canal is very narrow here too. Shortly afterwards we came to Cookley tunnel, where the east portal has houses high up above it. The canal turns through 90 degrees after the tunnel and naturally we met a boat there – both horns sounded at once. The oncoming boat was a long one and needed to pass us on the ‘wrong’ side in order to get lined up for the tunnel. The adjustment of our position didn’t take long and on we went. Debdale lock came next; on the offside is a cliff with a cave cut into it.
It is said that this was used as a stable but how a horse was persuaded to get over there I can’t imagine. There is a footbridge over the canal (under which Chuffed is passing in the photo below) which leads to a steep path leading up the cliff. Maybe in earlier times the bridge had ramps rather than steps at each end.
We stopped on the busy Wolverley visitor moorings, just above the lock, for lunch. Then it was time for shorts as the sun had come out at last. The pub beside the lock was busy on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The ground paddle on the towpath side is one of those which produces a fountain when you wind it up …. well I do like to entertain the gongoozlers! anyway clothes dry quickly when the sun is out. Wolverley lock is very hard work. I needed help to get the top gate closed when it was our turn, and then the bottom paddles were very stiff too. Next came Wolverley Court lock, which only drops a few feet unlike the deep one at the pub. The gate paddles on the top gate were very awkwardly placed. To reach the one on the towpath side I had to lean out across the water, and to operate the other one I had to stand on the footboard. Your windlass goes down into the gap between the paddle gear and the end post as you hang on to the rail to save yourself from falling in.
At least closing the paddles is straightforward. Now we were approaching Kidderminster. Some of the tree stumps at the bottom of the gardens have been carved rather fetchingly.
The slow boat we had been following pulled in on the visitor moorings and we went on to Kidderminster lock. There is an obligatory photo to be taken here.
As we passed through the industrial area further along we could see a large group of the local yoof congregating close to the canal. Our front doors were closed so we just kept to the centre of the canal but there was no need to worry – a police car screamed round the corner, lights and siren going, and the teenagers scattered like leaves before a garden blower.
We carried on for a while to get out of the town and pulled in on a sunny stretch of towpath after Oldrington Bridge and the last of the industry. There is a good long stretch of piling there and it was a beautiful evening.
8½ miles 7 locks Cookley tunnel