Monday 7 October 2019

Back to winter quarters

Wednesday and Thursday 2nd/3rd October; Astwood bottom to Droitwich Spa Marina
It was dry when we got up, with a bit of sunshine too, but boy was it cold!  Quite a shock after yesterday’s mild weather.   Everything was dripping with condensation, even inside the cratch cover.  We always prefer to moor out here as it’s much quieter than Hanbury Junction, with no road nearby, the motorway just a distant hum and the trains not very close either.

Well wrapped up, we were on our way before 9.  Parts of the canal are getting very reedy and narrow now.

We came round a bend to find a boat snuggling into the reeds on ‘our’ side.  We passed to their port side and heard the steerer say ‘Well, we’ve passed our first boat without hitting anything!’  They must have just collected it from New and Used Boat Co at Hanbury junction.

Still tucked in on the wrong side ....
We moved smoothly round Hanbury junction to find the lock gate open and the hire boat we were behind yesterday on the lock landing.  They very kindly waved us into the lock, as they were waiting for the volunteers to arrive for advice.  They had been hoping to meet friends in Droitwich yesterday; we had warned them to watch out for the level of the little river Salwarpe, and the electronic board above the locks had indeed shown it to be in flood.  But today it has gone down, though the Severn is still in the red.  We had hoped to travel back to Droitwich via the Severn, but changed our minds in Birmingham when we saw the weather forecast.  Just as well, as we need to be at home after the weekend, but would have found ourselves stuck in Stourport several days ago.   

The volunteers arrived as we emptied the top lock – they could see we were familiar with using the side ponds so let us get on with it.

Filling ....
and filled.
One of the volnteers came to help at the second and third locks, which was nice.

Hanbury middle lock
At the bottom lock was a group of contractors who were doing the autumn  mowing and strimming.  They were some of the most uncommunicative people we have ever met on the cut.

They must have had a bit of a drip from one of the strimmers as they carried it over the lock.

Petrol rainbow
Once into the marina, we filled with fuel and found our spot for the winter.  Dave whizzed off to the station to travel back to Calcutt to collect the car and left me to pay the mooring fee – ouch!

After lunch Meg required a walk, so off we went to Vines Park, as I wanted to collect some conkers too.  She took her ball, which was fine till we got to the narrow bit of towpath just before the road bridge to town.  A scary Alsatian (just a puppy) spooked her and she must have put her ball down.  Just a hundred yards later I spotted it and hurried back – it was nowhere to be seen.  The Alsatian owner said airily, she must have dropped it in the water.  There was no sign of it - it would have floated - and I suspect she may have nicked it for her doggy!  Oh well, luckily there is a pet store next to Waitrose so we could get another.

Vines Park
With a new ball and pockets full of conkers (to reputedly deter spiders, but I love the look and feel of them so would have got some anyway) we made our way back to the boat.  Dave arrived soon afterwards.

The big job for the afternoon was replacing the batteries with the ones we bought at Alvechurch.  I got them from the well deck onto a luggage trolley, wheeled them to the stern and passed them over, while Dave did all the on-board work (or should that be under board?)  It took both of us to get the trolley with the old ones over the lumpy path and up the slope to the car!

By dusk it was cold, so we lit the fire.

1½ miles, 3 locks.

It was very cold in the morning.  We finished packing up and cleaning fairly quickly and we were away by late morning for a quick and easy drive back to Devon.

Trip stats
We travelled on the Grand Union, North Stratford, BCN, Worcester and Birmingham and Droitwich Junction canals; 62 miles althogether with 108 locks, made up as below.
40 miles 6¾ furlongs of narrow canals with 65 locks, and 20 miles 5¼ furlongs of broad locks with 43 locks.
We traversed 7 tunnels; Shrewley (wet), Brandwood, Edgebaston (once in each direction), Wast Hills (very wet), Shortwood (a howling gale) and Tardebigge.
3 lift bridges including the mechanised Shirley Drawbridge.

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