Dunhampstead to Droitwich
Rewind to Friday 1st August
Joyo! Wyn’s a natural on the helm ;-)
We were so excited today as we both managed to escape early from work and had planned to get to the Fir Tree in time for supper with cousin Denise and husband Wyn. Denise reckons there is normal time and Surrey time, so, when we say “we’re leaving at 2pm” that’s 5pm in Surrey time! The Surrey clock was running fast today and we did manage to leave at 3.30pm but we bitterly regretted not getting away earlier. By the time we got onto the motorway, our segment of the M25 (6 o’clock to 10 o’clock) was gridlocked with a 2-hour delay. We diverted cross-country on the basis that we would at least keep moving, but that seemed to take equally long as we threaded our way through the narrow high streets of Surrey’s scenic villages. All very lovely, but after 2 hours I was starting to think that London has gravity, like a planet, and that we were never going to achieve escape velocity!
To cut a long journey short, we arrived at the pub some 4.5 hours after leaving home. Luckily Denise and Wyn had booked a table based on Surrey time!
We unpacked the car and had some welcome help with the hounds – nb Henry H was moored right next to us so Ty and Ollie went to stay with their houndie pals Rosie and Bertie; Sarah and Andy walked and fed them so we could get to the pub. It was a lovely arrangement – Ty and Ollie really appreciated the company while we were out and Ty is always a bit braver in a big pack.
We had a fine dinner with Denise and Wyn, the food at the pub probably deserved more appreciation, but we were so tired we could barely hold a fork! Luckily Denise and Wyn had arranged to stay over at The Vernon, in Hanbury, a short taxi ride away (we were all very thirsty after a hot day). We arranged to meet in the morning – fortunately they could stay for a bit of cruising so we’d have more time to talk when we were a bit more awake!
Hello, Fulbourne – great to see you again :-)
We reclaimed our hounds – Henry H is really a 2-hound boat for overnighting – especially when you have four hounds on board who’d want to sleep in the snug front cabin nest with Sarah and Andy!
Rewind to Saturday 2nd August
We had a lazy morning – partly prompted by the heavy rain that had moved in overnight. I got up when I heard the clink of Rosie and Bertie’s collar tags on the towpath – I quickly got dressed and caught up with them a little way down the towpath. This was in a gap between showers, so the four hounds had a lovely walk together. Bertie greeted Ty with a sweet little hop and a skip; Rosie is Ty’s half-sister and they walked shoulder to shoulder – Ty seemed much more confident with his (younger) sis looking after him. Ollie is Ollie – such a phlegmatic character!
As we got back from our walk, the rain started in earnest – time for a coffee and a slow breakfast. Denise and Wyn had planned to have a lie-in, so we weren’t expecting them before late morning. That was fine by us! Henry H moved on mid-morning, they were heading South to Worcester – never mind, I’m sure that Ollie and Ty will meet up with their pack-mates soon.
Denise and Wyn arrived around 11am, just as the rain stopped and the sun started to make a show. To start with, Richard and Wyn did the first car shuffle to Droitwich, while Denise and I caught up on family/South Wales gossip. When the men came back, we left them to the helm and carried on – great! Although the day was largely dry and sunny, we had the odd vicious thunderstorm/heavy shower to contend with – another excuse for the men to be manly in their waterproofs and for me and Denise to carry on chatting indoors!
New territory – entering the Droitwich Canal (or the junction canal to be precise)..
I’d just been telling them how we were seeing fewer boaty friends this side of the country (we barely moved along the Grand Union for chatting!) when we passed by nb Fulbourne with hardy crew member Elaine, who always wears beautifully crafted traditional bonnets when on board. We stopped briefly for a chat – it was lovely to see Fulbourne, we’ve shared many an adventure but we haven’t seen her for over a year.
Soon after we turned onto the Junction Canal towards Droitwich. It’s a lovely bit of water, though I confess that it’s even better past Droitwich. We pulled into Droitwich Marina shortly after the entrance to the canal – the red light on the loo was blinking – time for a pump out! We also remembered to to replace the empty gas cylinder so that we’d have a full spare on board – not that we use that much gas, but you can rely on a cylinder to run out at the most inconvenient moment (halfway through one of our charity cruises in Birmingham a month ago, while making lunch – of course!).
As we moored at the service point, an almighty thunderstorm broke overhead – it passed quickly, but the thunder really upset Ty. When it was dry, we took a little walk around the marina to prove to him that the sky wasn’t falling. Unfortunately this strategy worked a bit too well – he calmed down but didn’t want to get back onto the boat! We eventually persuaded him but he was not a happy boater.
We had wanted to fill with water at the marina, but the arrangement of the water taps on the service pontoon seemed a bit off. One tap was not drinking water, the drinking water tap had the pump-out rinse hose attached to it – the person on duty said it was fine to use the tap to fill the water tank provided we used our own clean hose; a third water tap was unlabelled. Hmmm, we decided we could manage on the water that we had!
Otherwise, we were very impressed by the marina and took a moorings brochure. What impressed me was that the basin was very roomy with plenty of manoeuvering space – unlike Limehouse, which has some tight turning circles – especially following the Olympic development.
Wyn taking great care of Indigo Dream at every lock….
With the boat in good shape, we set off towards Droitwich – the canal was lovely and there was just enough room for us to get through the culvert that takes the canal under the M5. We were grateful to the boat that had just come through though, who advised us to take the bikes off the roof – the headroom was tight. I guess it wouldn’t take much fresh water to make the passage unnavigable.
We soon arrived at Droitwich town – characterised by it’s many swing bridges – it took a while to get to the central mooring area! Of course, the navigation now becomes the Droitwich barge canal, with wide locks. It’s quite confusing as the first narrow stretch is apparently known as the junction canal and It took me a while to understand how there could be two locks with the same number on the one canal – except it’s two canals. It’s a juxtaposition worthy of the original canal builders :-)
One of the town locks is peculiar in that it has a weir that runs off to the right – there is a sign warning boaters to stay well to the left and to be aware of heavy flows. But there are no lock landings or even a bollard to hold your boat on the left hand side – very strange. With a lot of barely used bollards sprouting like mushrooms at other lock-sides, you’d think they could spare one for mooring opposite a weir. Never mind, there wasn’t enough flow to bother us today so it wasn’t a problem.
Once you get through the various locks and bridges, there is pleasant mooring available on the towpath side adjacent to Vines Park. We took a towpath mooring, not realising that a little further on there is a secure basin with a mixture of permanent and 48-visitor moorings. It would have been a little quieter there for Ty, who was a bit spooked by the sheer numbers of passers by, though everyone was amiable and we had a quiet night on the moorings.
Wyn’s car was already in Droitwich, and he generously agreed to help with the next car shuffle – collect Richard’s car from Dunhampstead, take both cars to Stourport (our planned destination) then come back to Droitwich. We were immensely grateful, we hadn’t realised quite how far away Stourport was by road and they saved us hours of to-ing and fro-ing.
We said a reluctant goodbye to them late afternoon – they had a long drive back to South Wales ahead of them. In the meantime, we had a quiet evening on board – I was too tired to explore Droitwich (which is a shame as it sounds like a fascinating town). Instead, Richard went to explore the ready-meals at the local Waitrose (5 minutes walk from the boat) and we settled in with the DVD (more Game of Thrones – still gripping though some of the violence is inexplicable)….
Surprisingly deep locks on this section – it must have been a real labour of love to restore this canal – so glad they did!
Narrow locks – narrow canal!
Ty supervising at the locks – it’s better than being on the boat, but only if there aren’t too many strange people around – not a problem here :-)
They really mean it…..
Just enough room for us – we work on a rough air draft of 2.1m
Room for the boat but not for the crew – duck!
Broad locks and swingbridges – now we’re in Droitwich :-)