Tuesday, 20 August 2019

We Made It! 19th August 2019

Monday 19th August 2019
Netherwich Basin, Droitwich to Droitwich Spa Marina
1.5 miles, 5 locks, 3 swing bridges

With such a short journey ahead we did not hurry at all.  It was bright and sunny and we set out with Monty to go to the playing fields for a game of ball.  We had not even got out of Vines Park when it started to spit.  We sheltered under a tree to no avail and had to make a dash back to the boat.  As Sue from Cleddau would say it was "2W4C" - too wet for camera!

We could not wait for ever, so started to make our preparations.  Our biggest regret was that we had not taken the cratch down before we went for a walk.  With so much rain recently we decided that the whole lot would have to come down to ensure we made it through the M5 culvert.  Thankfully we have two good tarpaulins to protect the bed, but it would have been a lot easier without it all being wet.

First job was to move to the water point to fill the tank - any extra weight to keep the bow low in the water is essential.  That done we moved off to the first swing bridge to find that a hire boat had just come through, and as they had not locked it they kindly opened it up again for us.  We were thus able to sail through and moor up opposite Waitrose.  I popped in for the paper and a few other bits and we then had lunch before heading off again.

The first obstacle is the swing bridge opposite Waitrose - it really needs two people to release the lock.  One to push the bridge and one to remove the padlock.  Debby from nb Chuffed said she leans over from the bridge and manages it that way.  I failed!  Chris moored up and came to lend a hand.  Success and he went through and was about to moor up to help me again when a kindly man stopped to lend a hand.

Next comes the barge lock at the edge of the park - this has a swing bridge in the middle.  I opened one gate, then over the bridge to open the other one.  I swung the bridge; Chris entered.  There were a group of lads on the other side of the lock, so I asked them if they would be kind enough to close the gate their side.  They were only too eager and jumped to it and also helped me with the gates to let us out once the water had levelled.  The rain had stopped, but it was still deemed to be 2W4C, so no photos!

One more lock and we arrived at the M5 culvert.  The height board on the Droitwich side is in need of a lot of attention!  It is of little use in its present state.

The water level looked about right for us, so we hoped we would be okay.

We were and could have left the cratch up and just taken the cover down.  Still better safe than sorry.

Nearly there

We emerge unscathed

Looking back - this is what the board the other end should look like!

One more single lock and a staircase of two and we would be there.  As we were rising in the single lock I spied people at the staircase - were they coming down?

Yes - please note the gentleman in a red t-shirt

The boat emerged, they shut the gates, which we assumed meant the man in the red t-shirt was coming down behind them.  I asked the ladies with windlasses if this was the case. 'No I don't think so - we have not seen any other boats at all', they said.  I politely said that if that was the case if they saw boats coming up it was okay to leave the gates open.  'Oh', one replied 'I did not see you at all'!!  The man in the red top was indeed coming down.  I think I might suggest a trip to Specsavers for the lead boat!!  Anyway I helped the other boat down - he was on his own, but young enough leap up and down ladders with ease and to even move the boat from top to bottom lock whilst kneeling on the roof!   He was astounded when I told him that the other boat had no idea he was there even though he had filled the top lock whilst they were in the bottom one.

I think he might have been in for a frustrating trip as the boat ahead had only just exited the single lock in the time he had got down the staircase and nearly got all the way to the next lock.

He is very efficient - he just drove up to the lock, stepped off the bow and opened paddles on both sides.  I suspect he would have arrived at the next lock well before the other boat is out of it, or maybe even still in it!

For us it was a short journey back to the Marina.  We had a reluctant traveller - Monty did not want to get back on the boat.  It is a route we walk regularly and I think he felt he would rather walk!  However that would take us to the wrong side of the marina, so he had to ride.

 The marina swans were there to greet us with their two cygnets. 

 A cup of tea was called for, but why would it take almost an hour to make and clear up?  I poured the water into this mug

turned round to get a spoon out of the drawer when there was a popping noise.  I turned back to find tea everywhere and the mug in two parts!

Sadly the tea had leached into the two large drawers below the work top, so we now have two very clean and tidy galley drawers!

Our future plans are flexible, but we hope to be back in Droitwich for the Salt Festival on 7th and 8th September.  We take delivery of Kiera (Monty's black Labrador friend) on the 8th and hope we will head off somewhere for at least another month.  It will all depend on various appointments we have and the weather.  Surely we deserve an Indian summer as we seem to have missed the real summer?

Our statistics for this summer cruise that started on Thursday 18th April.

We have travelled 503 miles, gone through 329 locks, 30 swing/lift bridges, 13 tunnels, over 134 aqueducts of varying size and under motorways on 22 occasions.  We passed through 5 counties (not including Greater Manchester - which I am given to understand is a unitary authority) and travelled along 11 waterways.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Nearly There - 18th August 2019

Sunday 18th August 2019
Hawford to Netherwich Basin, Droitwich
5.25 miles, 6 locks

We woke at 7am to the sound of rain on the roof, so rolled over for a while.  Thankfully it did not last for long and our trip was dry and warm, but with a strong breeze throughout.  I checked the river levels before we left.  I think we chose the right day to tackle the Severn.  The river levels are rising both towards Stourport

and Worcester

The Barge Canal is not particularly interesting - the most striking feature is the reeds.  Tall and very lush which restricts the view.

Some parts are quite narrow.  They cleared them all a few years ago, so hopefully they will again one day.

The six locks are all very large, the paddles are a challenge and the gates an even bigger challenge.  The first three needed to be emptied before we could enter, so it was slow going.  There is a lovely cottage at Ladywood lock with a very busy bird feeding station to keep one amused whilst waiting for the lock to empty and then fill.

 The visitors were mostly chaffinches, but there was one greenfinch and a little robin.

At least the locks are well behaved, so ropes are not required

It all took long enough for Monty to lie down on the job.

When you see a gathering of cars near a canal it can only mean one thing

 A fishing competition

 As we approached our fourth lock there was someone at the lock with a windlass - two boats coming down.  A very welcome sight.  One had a name that our daughter will recognise - it was one of her favourite books when she was a youngster.

It is a beautiful boat.  The other boat was a hire boat that they let go ahead as, it was reported, they had crashed into them twice trying to get into the first two locks.

The fifth lock had a boat exiting - they left both gates open.  We only use one, but at least there was a bridge to make the job of closing the offside gate a little easier.

I have mentioned how heavy the gates are - at this lock not only are they heavy, but the arms are canted, making it even harder.

Just below that lock was another fisherman with one of the longest poles I have ever seen. It completely blocked the towpath when he moved it out of the way

and stretched right across the canal and when deployed.

This bridge as you approach Droitwich is not noted as a tunnel,

 but it is as long as some others that are.

 Just round the corner was our local charity trip boat 'Pamela May 2'.  Brand new this year and an all electric boat.

A bit further on and we arrive at Netherwich Basin - we need not have worried about finding a space, there was only one other boat in residence.


Three more boats came and joined us over the course of the afternoon, but no one disturbed our view from the side hatch.

Just 1.5 miles, 3 swing bridges and 5 locks to go and we are back in the marina.  However, we will need to take the cratch down, fill the water tank, put Monty plus one in the bow (asking them to "think heavy") and see if we get under the M5 "culvert".  Await developments!

Sunday, 18 August 2019

On Home Waters - 17th August 2019

Saturday 17th August 2019
Bird in Hand, Stourport, Staffs & Worcs Canal, via the River Severn to Hawford, Droitwich Canal
10 miles, 9 locks

08:00 this morning and the weather forecast said there was 15% chance of rain!

Thankfully it did not last long, but it had to happen after I had already dried all the back deck surfaces!

Once the rain had gone, the sun came out and it was mostly sunny with a deal of wind for our journey today.  It was to be a day when sensible advice given my me was to be totally ignored!

I was walking ahead of the boat to the first lock of the day when I noticed on the other side of the canal all these tanks

It is a fish emporium with an interesting name! It looks as though it is a successful business

As I rounded a bend and went under a bridge there was a boat coming towards me.  I knew Chris was pretty much in the bridge hole, so I told the helmsman that there was a boat about to come through the bridge.  I naturally expected him to stop, or at least slow down, but no!  He carried on with a cheery wave and had to engage reverse rather abruptly!  So first piece of advice ignored.  I had warned Chris that it had not stopped, so he knew what was coming.

Neither of us have noticed this sign before despite the fact it has been there since 1996!  We have tried looking up the post nominal 'RTN' and the closest we have got is 'Rotarian'.  Does anyone know if this is correct and if not, what does it stand for?  The sign was erected by Rotary International, so I would think our guess is correct.

We first came to Stourport in 1974 - our very first boating holiday just a year after we got married. I cannot call it a narrowboat holiday as it was a very odd little craft that was steered from the front.

We think the Hoseasons base was somewhere near where the Starline base in now by the top of the staircase locks.

Was the 1974 holiday a success?  Well not really and I guess it could have put us off for ever.  I am glad it didn't!  We arrived well before the 2pm pick up time to find that our boat had not been returned.  The current hirers, we were told, would be put on a black list - they had to call the engineers out a number of times - once because they had run out of diesel which they had been warned they must not let happen.  The other call outs were all false alarms and totally unnecessary.  They arrived late afternoon and very quick turn around was achieved. Then the base staff saw us down both the staircase locks onto the Severn.  Now bear in mind that we were young (early 20's), had no experience and it was so late that the Severn locks were closed - what were we to do?!  We had no idea!  There were no mooring pontoons on the river at Stourport then. We eventually had to lasso a tree and tie up as best we could.  We must have been able to get off as we had a dog who needed grass.  A very stressful start.  I can't remember much more about it - I think we made it to Evesham and back again in the week, but it is a very vague memory.

No such issues today - we were early enough in the day to enjoy peace and quiet - it was too early for the cacophony of noise that emanates from the fun fair by the locks.  The downside was that it was also too early for any volunteer lock keepers.

I checked below to ensure no one was coming up the first staircase - there wasn't.  The bottom lock was empty, so all I had to do was fill the top lock.  In Chris went and I opened the middle paddles to drop us down.  Then I heard the unmistakable sound of paddles being wound near by.  I peered over the bridge to see people trying to empty the bottom lock so they could enter from the second staircase.  Thankfully they did obey my shouted 'STOP'.  I went down and explained they should have looked at the top lock before doing anything to the bottom lock.  Their boat was almost up in the lower staircase and I advised the crew to advise the helmsman to stay in the lock until we were ready to swap places.  He didn't!  We know from experience that currents abound there and add a brisk wind and you end up all over the place.  They only picked the boat up yesterday, but maybe they will heed advice in the future.

They did eventually sort themselves out and made it safely into the lock after we had left

Down we went preparing to go onto the Severn.  The anchor had been retrieved from the bow locker this morning, the VHF radio had been charged up and all three of us donned our life jackets.  Conditions were normal.

Although only just

We are nearly down

and we are off

heading towards Worcester

We know that the River Severn floods - was this boat 'beached'

No such worries for us today - it was clear, sunny and bright

Just two locks to go through - both were ready for us and all the work is done for you.

Talking on 'no worries' - the moored boat above is nb Knoworrys' who we saw last on the Severn in Aug 2016!  We believe she moors at Lapworth over winter and her Australian crew spend the summers sailing our canal and rivers.  It was a pleasant enough 1.5 hours cruise before we turned off the river onto the Droitwich Canal at Hawford.

Back to our home canal

We had just two big locks to go up before the moorings - would we be lucky and find a spot?

Yes!  Room for two more boats

As Chris waited below the second lock there were two lads on the lock landing fishing - leaving plenty of room for boats needing to use the landing.

Now these locks are big and the gates very heavy.  As I was struggling to open a gate for Chris to exit the two lads were walking past and one put down his fishing gear to lend me a hand for which I was very grateful.  He then asked me if he helped me would I drop the lock as that was the best place to fish.  Not something I would entertain if water was short, but it isn't, so once we had moored I went back with two windlasses.

The lock was emptied and in no time at all the perch began to bite

I hope you had a good day and thank you again for your help.  In the event dropping the lock was not a waste of water as eventually two more boats arrived to come up.  One pulled in behind us and the other continued on, we presume to Droitwich.  It was a hire boat, so I am sure had a schedule to keep to.

I may have only worked 7 locks today, but they were all really hard going.  I was glad to stop and was not impressed when Chris suggested continuing for another 5.25 miles and 6 big locks!  That will wait for tomorrow.