Saturday 29 May 2021


Wednesday 26th May; Astwood locks to Tardebigge lock 33

It was sooo cold overnight!  Just like winter.  But the sun popped out now and then to cheer us up and we tootled off soon after 9.  We didn’t see a single boat as we went up the Astwood flight, just a few pedestrians and a couple of gnomes we hadn’t noticed before.

The cottage there at the second lock keeps hens and doves – we could hear one and see the other.

It was very quiet boat-wise.  We saw our first cygnets of the year, followed a safe distance away by a bigger clutch.

On the approach to Stoke Works I noticed how the planting on the long wall of a garage has grown over the years.  Once just a framework, years of careful pruning and training has resulted in some lovely stripes.  I have no idea what the plants are, pyracantha maybe.

We moored above the bridge so I could nip up to the shop in Ryefields Road, about 10 minutes walk away if you stride out.  We would run out of bread tomorrow and milk the day after, and while I was there I though Dave might like a treat – he is a great Magnum fan.  But in spite of buying some frozen peas, and then wrapping up the peas and the Magnum in the newspaper (like in the old pre-fridge days, which I just remember) I couldn’t quite manage to keep it frozen.  So it was a bit bendy, but still, I’m told, delicious!

There was time before lunch to try and remove some of the green fur that had developed over the long periods without moving over the last year.  

It was remarkably hard to dislodge, then when I found the right tool it was hard to remove it from that too.

We moved on again straight after lunch, as we wanted to be sure of a mooring in Stoke Pound below the Tardebigge flight.  As we pulled out past the industrial units on the offside, we saw the counterpoint to the Armitage toilet factory somewhere up country, I can’t remember which canal for the moment – Shroppie maybe, or T&M? It's the T&M, thanks Pip.

As many bog rolls as you cold ever want

Then, outside Crafted Boats, we saw NB Tentatrice where Jenny and Chris had left her to have some work done.

In Stoke Pound, the Queen’s Head pub garden now has a huge clear-sided marquee taking up half the garden, and we were so busy looking at the customers that we failed to notice that we had passed all the remaining mooring spots before the lock mooring.  Oh dear.  Should we reverse back and moor in the stink of the chip fat opposite all those diners?  Well, no contest.  Fingers crossed, we started up the flight and straight away met 3 boats together, who had been held up at lock 47 – some wood jammed behind the bottom gate apparently.  So we were up 4 locks in the blink of an eye, up the 5th after a couple more, and moored up in the pound between locks 33 and 34. Much quieter and with a hugely better outlook.

There is just room for 2 boats on the Armco, but we wouldn’t stop here in the middle of the day as we would be in the way if boats wanted to pass each other.  But it was quite late, and quiet, and before we went to bed we double-checked that lock 33 was firmly closed, and we slackened our ropes in case the water level dropped overnight.

17 locks, 3 miles


Friday 28 May 2021

That dratted wind

Tuesday 25th May; marina to below Astwood bottom lock

After the appalling weather we had been having we’d been watching the CRT page on the river level indicator boards rather closely.  So we were fairly sure our initial plan of cruising up to Stourport would be scuppered, which indeed it was.  Things kept us at home anyway, but today we left at 9 and by 1 o’clock we were lunching on the boat, wondering if the wind would abate.  We needed a boost of shore power for the batteries anyway, and to fill up the water tank, so didn’t try to leave till after 3.  But the wind had other ideas.  It was blowing almost straight down from where we needed to go, and with a boat on one side of us and the pontoon on the other we were doomed – we reversed out, but before the bow was free and Dave could swing the tiller, the wind had shoved the bow back down the marina and we ended up at 90 degrees to the pontoons pointing the wrong way.  So we’d have to reverse out.  Actually no – the wind was so strong that we couldn’t make enough headway (or whatever the word is when you’re reversing) to keep us from being blown sideways towards the pontoons.  Dave made a snap decision, positioned us perfectly and we managed to get back onto the pontoon, with me on the bow rope to keep us from blowing into our neighbour.


Oh well.  We re-attached the shoreline, then Meg needed a walk so we went down to the staircase where there is plenty of space for a game of ball.  On the way back we climbed through a gap in the fence to a well-worn footpath following the very edge of the rugby club, with much less scope for losing your ball in the cut.

We got back to the boat, and I put the kettle on.  Then Dave shouted through the stern doors, ‘the wind’s dropped a bit!’  Out I rushed to confer, zoomed back in again, kettle off, shoreline unplugged, bow rope untied …. Yes!  The perfect weather window, just good enough, and we escaped.  Too late for the volunteers on Hanbury locks, but a boat had just come down so it was a fairly quick ascent.  They clearly knew the flight, as the side ponds were full.  Side ponds work well here as a water-saving device.  When a boat coming down empties the lock, they should use the side paddles to divert some of the lock water into the side pond rather than the whole lot disappearing downstream.  When a boat enters the lock to come up, the crew opens the side paddles to partly fill the lock from the side ponds instead of taking it all from the pound above.

Water rushing from the side pond

You can hear the water rushing under your feet where you stand on the boards above the culvert.  The water enters the lock just by the back gates, and doesn’t throw the boat about at all.  Dave took the picture into the sun, hence the flare.

The flow slows as the side pond empties, the crew shuts the side paddles then opens the ground paddles by the top gate in the normal way.  The side ponds tend to drain overnight, so the water hadn’t gone to waste. 

As we came out of the top lock, Dave spied a fat rat creeping out from a sluice by the lockies’ hut.  I zoomed in, and have cropped the photo, and I’m pleased with the result!  It shot off into the hedge, then came back again as I closed the gate.


We turned north at Hanbury junction, away from the racket of Saltway (the busy road into Droitwich) and pottered gently along in the evening sunshine, out of the wind and content with our lot.  The hedges are foaming with May and Cow Parsley, a beautiful sight.

We moored a few hundred yards before the Astwood flight, one boat a hundred yards behind and another closer to the lock.  Bats and a moon too.  Perfect but for one thing. 

We have a difficult decision to make in the next few days.

1½ miles, 3 locks

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Between trips

Some time in May ….

After our last trip we had rather a full car, as we brought home the lifejackets for servicing and the pair of dinette seat cushions as the covers needed a good wash.  Why bring the cushions home you ask, and not just the covers?  Well, having discovered years ago that it’s wise to replace seat cushion covers before they are completely dry in case they have shrunk, and with no washing machine on the boat, it was the only way to make sure I could get them back on again!

Not a banana

I’m fairly sure the covers hadn’t shrunk but it was still a struggle getting them back on.  Then they finished drying, a lot easier at home with big radiators!

Need to straighten that zip

Then it was time to service the lifejackets.  We had watched a video on how to do it, but had some questions so I emailed the suppliers, Marine Warehouse.  When does the gas bulb need replacing?  And what happens when the date on the cartridge has expired? Here are the answers.

With the cylinder it won't need to be replaced provided it hasn't been fired and isn't corroded in any way.

The Black cartridge has a use by date because it is not guaranteed to work after this time.  It may also fire accidentally. 

So we ordered replacement cartridges and duly fitted them, following the instructional video they supplied.   

First check it still inflates!

Then you can fit the new cartridge.

And don't forget to screw the gas cyclinder back in properly.  The hardest bit was re-folding and re-packing the yellow inflatable part.  I noticed my whistle had become detached so fixed that back too.


When could we get back to the boat?  There was a lot of catch-up work to be done in the garden, and also the small matter of the weather.  I spent several days dodging the spots, not always very successfully and getting quite muddy too.  But with heavy rain and gales, we wouldn’t have been able to leave the marina!

But we arrived today so all's well.

Saturday 8 May 2021

and home again

Wednesday 28th April: Oddingley to the marina

Well it certainly rained last night and it was still going when we got up.  Meg had to go out first thing of course but she was very quick thank goodness.

The forecast seemed confident it would stop raining by 9, so we finished breakfast and had another cup of tea, then bingo! the Met Office was right, so we set off.  No-one had arrived to moor near us last night, and there were only a couple of boats on the long Dunhampstead public mooring.  We could easily have moored up to pay the Fir Tree farm shop a visit, but it’s going to be windy later and we preferred to get into our berth before it got too bad.

We were dripped on slightly in the tunnel, but it didn’t matter as we already had our waterproofs on.  We will need to adjust our headlight before we do any more tunnels though, as we would have dazzled anyone coming towards us – but as with the rest of this trip, there have been few other boats to worry about.  The towpath north of the tunnel is always a bit damp …

It’s not far to the junction with the Droitwich canals.  There is a residential mooring on the offside as you approach the New & Used Boat Co, which is at the junction, and we had a hitch-hiker here for a while.

I just missed the action shot when he took off again, didn't even get his toenails as he sprung into the air.  We had a lockie to give us a hand down the Hanbury flight – the bit I really appreciate is that they close up the bottom lock for you, so the crew can get on board without having to close the bottom gates.  They are deep locks and the bottom landing is not the easiest to get on and off at. 

The wind made it very difficult to negotiate the marina entrance, and Dave decided to forgo a fuel top-up in favour of getting back in our berth.  That manoeuvre went well.  The wind got considerably stronger over the next hour and we were glad we’d got a move on earlier.

We were packed and on our way home at 3.  The car was rammed – the dinette seat cushion covers need a wash, and we had the foam inners along for the ride.  I always try to get the foam back in place before the covers are completely dry just in case they shrink, so that meant taking the whole kit and caboodle with us.  The chimney needs a bit of tlc, so that came home too, in a sack to keep any loose soot off everything else.  We also have our lifejackets, which need a full check on before we go on the river later in the year (we hope).  The timing will depend a lot on when we are allowed to have family to stay.

3 miles, 3 locks, 1 tunnel.


Trip stats 

Droitwich Spa Marina to Worcester and back - Droitwich junction canal, Worcester and Birmingham canal. 19 miles of narrow canals, 34 narrow locks, Dunhampstead tunnel twice.


Thursday 6 May 2021

Off with their heads!

Tuesday 27th April:  Perdiswell to Oddingley

Last night we could see the supermoon through the trees, but unfortunately the thin cloud prevented a clear photo.  We could see more detail through the binoculars, but it wasn’t really that super.

After a quick trip to get some milk from M&S, we were away at 10.  The lovely sun of the last few days had disappeared and it was cloudy more or less the whole time.  But it warmed up a bit and there wasn’t much wind.  Blackpole and Tolladine locks were in our favour, and we paused in the first to check the drain hole from the shower.  It turns out that the pipe bends to join the one from the basin and there is only one outlet, which explains why poking a bit of pipe down it didn’t get through to the outside.

There were cowslips in flower at Blackpole, or it may have been Tolladine.  I should have taken a photo, cos they won’t be flowering now!  As we approached the Offerton flight the contractors were on their way towards us.  I know they have to trim the grass but really, do they need to blow the bits off the towpath?  It’s a bit, hmm, suburban isn’t it, and now there will be grit all over the grass too.  He did stop as we approached but there was a lot of dust in the air.

And all those lovely flowers we saw on the way down had been strimmed to oblivion.  I know the area round the lock needs to be clear, but all the way to the ends of the lock surrounds?  Really?  It does mean there will be access to pick blackberries later, but all that lovely pollen and nectar for the bees has gone for a burton.


We arrived at lovely Oddingley in time for lunch, and were surprised to find the moorings completely empty.  So we picked our spot and decided to stay till tomorrow.  We have seen very few boats out and about this time, and most of the hire boats were still moored in Lowesmoor Basin in Worcester yesterday.  Though later on, there was a flurry of time-shares.  After lunch Dave washed off the dust from the starboard side.

We weren’t quite in the right place to get the house and church in the picture as well, and the cows with their calves had disappeared over the far side of their field, so this is the best I could manage.

Then we all walked over the level crossing, down the lane to the footpath and up the hill to the woods.  I didn’t take a photo of the view, because I took several last year.  Besides, there was something totally fabulous to see under the trees. 

The primroses were still flowering, the birds were singing and it was glorious.

What is so wonderful about carpets of bluebells in woodland is that they mess with your sense of perspective, and for brief moments you can imagine it is literally a ‘sea of bluebells’ – I’ve seen this phenomenon elsewhere, and it seems to be leaning trees and odd bits of fallen branches in the distance that create the illusion.

Anyway, I love it.  We could even smell their perfume in the air.  The stroll back across the railway at Dunhampstead and down the towpath was a bit of an anticlimax after that.   

The Fir Tree pub, which closed down a while ago, is now a farm shop.  We would have checked it out, but it wasn’t open at the time we passed.  We made it back to the boat in time to beat the rain.  Dave fixed a loose bolt on the fire, and soon after that the fire was blazing.

 8 locks, 4 miles, a sea of bluebells

Monday 3 May 2021

Retracing our steps

Monday 26th April; Commandery to Perdiswell

After the usual late evening sirens along the main roads nearby, it was a very quiet night.  We hadn’t quite decided whether to go up-river to joining the Droitwich Barge Canal, or to turn round, so Dave took Meg off to Fort Royal park before we went down the lock, and I nipped up to the Zero-Waste shop ‘Pack it In,’ which is in the Old Market Hall in the Shambles, to get some dried apricots. 

                                    Worcester now has smart new recycling bins in town

In the end we decided to turn round as the forecast is not that brilliant over the next few days and we need to be home before the weekend.  So after disposing of the rubbish and cassettes we turned – not without difficulty because of the wind – and started back.  At Blockhouse Lock the willow trees were shedding their wiggly catkins.

While I waited for the lock to fill, this beautiful boy started strutting around.

He was clearly out to impress, puffing out his chest and fanning his tail, but his lady love was not impressed and soon scarpered.


We enjoyed this boat name – while you are wondering how it’s pronounced, you notice that the owner has given you a little hint.

It was a bit early for lunch when we stopped at the park by the mural (bridge 11), so while I had a quick play with Meg, Dave rubbed down and prepped a rusty patch on the port side while the towpath was on that side.

We carried on to Perdiswell after lunch.  The sun was bright and the canal was sometimes quite sheltered (and sometimes really not).

Past glories remembered at bridge 12

At Bilston top lock the volunteer was letting down some water, but let us up straight away.  He told us that the duck we saw yesterday, then with 12 ducklings, had started out with 13 the day before.  When we saw her a bit later that afternoon, she was down to 9.

We had moored up by 3 in a good patch of sun.  Meg was agitating for a walk before we had even finished tying up – this must be one of her top 3 moorings.  So off to the park she went with Dave, and I followed a little later to test out my knees.  I had to stop running a couple of weeks ago as my left knee was playing up – arthritis I think, and when this happened with my other knee maybe 15 years ago my doctor said, you need to strengthen your thigh muscles to support your knee.  I did, and haven’t had pain since, well a bit recently because I have been very slack over the winter and not been keeping fit.  So I got back to being good with my exercises and now the pain's nearly gone and I can start running again.

I had my shower, then discovered that the pump that empties the shower tray wasn’t pumping.  My Man that Can abandoned the newspaper and came to sort it out (I had to cook tea, you see).  Sod’s law says that the drain hole would not be on the towpath side, so it all had to be done from indoors.  After some sloshing about, and poking with a bit of water pipe that was knocking around, it still wasn’t clearing – so he tried to blow whatever it was through, and eventually it worked.  We know, from cleaning out the sump on occasion, it was likely to have been an accumulation of dog hair that had dried in the pipe!  Though how so much of that gets down the shower we are not entirely sure.

I can't remember exactly what we had for tea, but it did include the last of a big bag of purple sprouting broccoli I bought from the 'Veg Shack' near the marina before we left the other day.  There is a footpath leading from the main road back to the canal which crosses the original line by a derelict lock, and I forgot to download the photo as it was on my phone, not the camera.  So here it is.

Derelict lock near the Droitwich Junction canal

7 locks, 3.5 miles, a little run and non-hurty knees