Friday 3 November 2017

That’s probably it for this year

Monday 30th October 2017; Vines Park to Droitwich Spa marina

The first frost of the season – at least the first we’ve seen.

1 first frost of the season

The sun was coming up but I always prefer not to work locks if it is frosty - far too slippery and dangerous for my liking.  So the packing up and cleaning out of cupboards began.  After a while the frost had gone so off we went, and the sun was shining as we came through Vines Park.  I had hoped to take a few photos, but a local couple was taking their grandson to the playground and the Grandad helped with the swing bridges – very useful too, as the padlock on the middle one is an absolute bugger nuisance to get locked again, as the bridge wants to swing back.  So we were through the park like a dose of salts with no time for photos.  Next time I do that swingbridge I’m going to try leaning on its end to hold it closed (rather than pulling it shut from below) and reaching over to deal with the padlock.  It might be easier to do it that way round.

The gates at both ends of Barge lock were ajar – the Severn might be running fast but the Salwarpe, whose bed the canal shares at this point, was quite low.  As of course is the bridge under the M5.

2 motorway bridge

In the wait for Chuffed to come up the staircase pair, I had plenty of time to watch the goldfinches searching for seeds in the teasels.  There were quite a few but only one remained by the time I got focused.  The feathers on their faces protect them from the prickles as they probe the teasel heads.  Pretty little things, and I love their tinkling fairy bells call as they flit about.

3 goldfinch on teasel

And time also to take in the view back down towards Droitwich.

4 view back towards droitwich

Eventually we were up the last lock and Dave opened what will probably be the last gate of the season.

5 last lock of season probably

We topped up the fuel tank before reversing onto our pontoon and after a quick lunch cracked on with the packing and cleaning.  All the contents of the food cupboards, apart from some tea bags and a few tins, had to come home, along with all the bedding.  The fiddliest job was to sweep out the well deck.  Foolishly we hadn’t got around to doing this on the good towpath at Hawford Junction – we have two wooden lockers which need to be emptied and removed, along with the folding bike, before the matting can be lifted to get to the grit and bits underneath.  Extra mess was caused by breaking up and bagging the collection of ash twigs we had amassed for kindling, which had been drying in the cratch.

We hadn’t planned to spend so long out this time as we both had commitments on Tuesday morning, and really needed to get going before dark.  So it meant we didn’t have time to meet up with Jennie and Chris (NB Tentatrice) as we had hoped.  Neither have we done all the outstanding jobs, nor winterised fully; we (or more likely just Dave) will be up again before Christmas to check everything is OK, and there is unlikely to be a big freeze before then.

1 mile, 5 locks, 3 swing bridges and the M5 tunnel.

Trip stats; Worcester and Birmingham, River Severn, River Salwarpe, Droitwich Barge canal, Droitwich Junction canal

Narrow canals: 20 miles, 7¼ furlongs, 33 locks

Broad canals: 5m 7½f, 11 locks

Rivers: 4m 3¼f, 1 lock

3 swing bridges, Dunhampstead and M5 tunnels.


Thursday 2 November 2017

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Sunday 29th October; Hawford junction to Vines Park

The clocks went back last night so there was no excuse to lie abed this morning – besides which we wanted to get to Droitwich in time for Sunday lunch somewhere!  It was cloudy and breezy to start with, though not particularly cold.  We could see this attractive brick arch carrying the road over the river Salwarpe from our mooring

1 old bridge over salwarpe

but the modern one over the canal was so ugly it was not worth a picture, though I took one of the towpath under it which was surfaced with metal panels.  Meg took one look on her walk yesterday, turned round and went back to the boat!  probably because it looks too much like a dodgy pontoon.

2 new canal road bridge no go for meg

According to CanalplanAC the canal passes under the A449 in a tunnel but it’s really just a big bridge.  Nicholson’s informs us that bridge 3, Linacre bridge, is ‘worthy of close examination’.  It is a ‘rare surviving example of one of Brindley’s original structures’.  So we slowed down and admired its graceful lines.  3 lovely linacre bridge

The marks left by the tow-ropes are clearly visible.

4 stone supports with rope marks

It’s elegant from the other side too.

6 elegant brindley bridge

We were joined on the mooring late yesterday afternoon by a hire boat, so the locks were in our favour.  As I crossed the road over the bridge at Ladywood bottom lock I spotted a box containing water and a box of jelly babies.  Ah-ha, I thought, jelly babies, essential fuel for a long run.  One of the runners confirmed it was a local training run of 10 miles.  A cyclist was enjoying his elevenses as he watched them go by.  In terms of spectacle our ascent of the lock was a poor second.

7 ladywood bottom lock

There was a flurry of hire boats coming down this morning so we found every lock empty and waiting.  We found out later that the canal had been closed yesterday at Vines Park as unfortunately a body had been found in the canal, so this probably explains the number of boats – if they had been delayed on their trip they would no doubt catch up some time on the river.  At one of the locks a spindle tree had a good crop of fruit.  The berries are very poisonous to us, but the birds will enjoy them.  They are bright pink and will split to show orange seeds inside.

9 spindle tree

One of the bywashes of Ladywood locks has been cleared of vegetation, clearly showing its circular shape.  One set of bottom gates has had metal extensions added, and the extra length makes the gates much easier to open.

10 circular bywash ladywood locks  11 handy beam extension ladyood locks

Now there were nearly three lock-free but leafy miles to Vines Park.  We had to go into neutral several times to allow accumulated leaves to drop off the propeller.  And kingfishers too – Dave spotted SEVEN, though I only managed two. This blog post by Adam (NB Briar Rose) explains why there seem to be so many about this autumn.

By midday we were tying up on a pontoon at Netherwich basin.   Last time we were here Meg took fright at the scary pontoon and had to be bodily hauled off the boat so she could be taken for a walk.  This time she hopped off with no problem – she obviously recognised where she was and was impatient to get Dave to the park for a game of ball.  The sun was out by now and it was a very pleasant walk through the park to get the paper from Waitrose.

We had an excellent Sunday lunch in the Gardener’s Arms, after which we relaxed with the papers as the sun streamed through the windows.  But the clocks have gone back so it wasn’t that long before it was time to light the fire.

5 miles 6 locks

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Slow going on the Severn

Saturday 28th October; Diglis Basin to Hawford Locks

Considering we were only a few steps from the pub, it was remarkably quiet overnight.  After a clear night it was chilly first thing and overcast with a cutting wind.  I set off at 8.30 to trot along to Pitchcroft Park, aka Worcester racecourse, where I joined the Saturday Parkrun.  A carthorse performance today rather than racehorse but never mind.

After a lovely hot shower and a cup of tea we got the anchor and lifejackets ready.  Before we left the marina we hadn’t anticipated coming all the way down into Worcester but with the weather set fair we decided to extend our trip to encompass the Droitwich Ring.  Before we set off down the Diglis locks to the Severn, Dave checked the weed hatch.  He had to pull a load of cut reeds off the day before, so thought it wise to check again.  In the pic below I had the bottom lock all ready but Dave was otherwise engaged with members of  Meg’s worldwide fan club.  They were on holiday from somewhere in Europe. 1 megs fan club diglis locks

We were warned when we first got her (she is a rescue from Blue Cross) that she was obsessive about balls and sticks.  If there is no ball she will find a stick and pester people to throw it for her (we never do, but it doesn’t stop her trying other people).  When there are no sticks she tries bits of reed instead and today she found a bit of dried-up leaf, which the children happily ‘threw’ for her.  She brought it back on the boat with her.

2 with her silly bit of leaf

At the bottom lock the river level indicator was just above the green. 

3 just in the green

In the summer the volunteers tell crew to get back on the boat and then they look after the the bottom gates.  This is very useful as if no volunteer is on duty, crew must be picked up from the pontoon which is a way downstream from the lock.  It would be a real nuisance for a single-hander.  With normal river flow Dave would have headed downstream before turning back to collect me.  With the stronger flow at the moment he would have been carried a long way down towards the weir and river lock, as had happened to a boat yesterday, so he turned upstream straight away and the current brought him downstream as he made the turn.  He was thus able to get to the pontoon relatively quickly.

It was just after midday as we passed under the main road bridge, and we stopped for lunch on the racecourse moorings a bit further on and for Meg to have a comfort break before the long slog against the current up to Hawford junction.  The scullers were out for our lunchtime entertainment.

4 scullers

It is less than two miles to Bevere lock from the racecourse but the flow held us back to canal speed.  The current was noticeably faster on the outside of the bends so Dave had to keep his wits about him to select the slowest flow while ensuring he kept to the channel.  We saw several kingfishers and some posh properties.

5 posh property

About half a mile from the lock an enormous cruiser swept by, followed quite a while later by a narrowboat, much slower but still zooming long with the flow.

6 big cruiser

The lockie saw us in good time and we didn’t have long to wait.  Above the lock was a narrowboat waiting against the wall on the west side and another who hadn’t realised there was a boat coming out, and he was all over the place trying to pull in on the east side.  But that was a mistake as the flows towards the weir made it very difficult for him to get off again.  But I was happy as Hawford junction was in sight and we could get back to the calm of the canal.  And the sun was shining too.

The Droitwich Barge canal (from the Severn to Droitwich) has broad locks and those gates are very heavy.  I had to get Dave to help close the bottom gate of the first lock.  Here he is on the way to the second.

8 back on canal betweem hawford locks

I had help at the second lock too; a family was out for a walk, all dressed up in Halloween costume and make-up.  So I had three chatty little ghouls helping with the gates and their witchy Mum nattering away.  It was three o’clock by now and we decided to stop on the good moorings here; there is virtually no other mooring all the way to Vines Park which is about 3 hours away.

9 mooring above hawford locks

There is some sort of holiday place on the other side with a large tepee, but we didn’t see anybody about.  It soon got cold once the sun started to go down so we lit the fire.  It was however a beautiful clear evening.  My sunset picture isn’t too impressive – it was much pinker than this - but I was quite pleased with the one of the moon I took a couple of hours later.

10 pink sky

11 half moon

Quite a nice one for Halloween, though it is dead leaves in the tree rather than bats.

3½ miles, 4 canal locks, 1 river lock.