Sunday 3rd August
Droitwich to Stourport (but being posted from the west end of the Huddersfield Narrow)
Oh dear, I can’t find my notes from the day – never mind!
I do recall that we had a quiet night in Droitwich and that the towpath moorings at Vines Park are very civilised! I can’t remember what time we set off, I think it was very early by indigo Dream standards i.e.before 10am! I do recall that it was a very fine day!
It didn’t seem to take long to leave Droitwich town. We were soon back in the countryside, and what wonderful countryside it was – stunning views and deserted towpaths just perfect for rummaging. There was a particularly greyhound-perfect stretch leading from Mildenham Mill lock to Bridge 3 (apparently one of the few surviving Brindley originals) – Richard, Ty and Ollie had a good rummage there. It was a good walk for the hounds before we reached the relentless river.
Hawford bottom lock, which leads on to the mighty Severn, feels as if it should have a lock-keeper, but it’s straightforward enough. There is a traffic light which indicated the state of the river, and the lock itself is a standard manual lock – it’s just a bit awkward to see whether there’s any traffic coming up from the river. We waited for two boats to come up – a tad awkwardly, as a small launch was moored on one lock landing, making it difficult for two boats to wait for the double lock and for upcoming boats to exit the lock neatly.
We locked down with a hire boat and had a moment of confusion when we exited the lock – we hadn’t realised that there wasn’t a “lock cut” as such – we mistakenly turned left then did a huge swing upstream when we realised we were on the main channel – oops!
The Severn was magnificent – deep and enticing – we opened the throttle and headed upstream. In my memory, the Severn upstream of Worcester is relentless with moorings few and far between, but on this trip I notice at least four pub restaurants offering moorings – we’ll have to explore them another time! We did wonder later whether we should turn back and stay the night at one of the pubs and travel home on the Monday. We got behind no fewer than four slow boats and were wondering how rude it would be to overtake then given that the river locks only take two boats at a time. We decided to be polite and hang back – this was a HUGE mistake as we got badly caught up in Stourport. The slow boats ahead joined a queue waiting to get off the river and we were behind them! Two hours later (I said they were slow) we finally got into the bottom staircase lock. I had a slight sense of humour failure while waiting – we’d been ahead of plan all day and were up for an early finish and drive home, but now it was getting late – sigh! Hence I was a tad louder than I intended when a hire boat came upriver and blithely approached the lock into Stourport – “OI, there’s a queue” I yelled nastily – they looked contrite and moved back into position!
There are two deep staircases into Stourport – the second being at an awkward angle to the first – with a 60′ boat there just isn’t enough room to get the angle right between them…unless you have Richard giving the centre rope a little tug to bring the front around just those few essential inches – smooth work.
There were LOTS of gongoozlers at Stourport – a whole family “helped” us through by opening and closing gates – the kids were transfixed!
It takes a lot of time to get into Stourport Basin and I was keen to get through and up York Street lock to the towpath moorings beyond. But we had a most lovely surprise – as we were moving through the basin we spotted Andrew and Frances from nb Doris Katia – we’d assumed that they were already in London with the St Pancras Cruising Club – as it happens, they were just setting off! We had a great catch-up – we’ve shared far too many Thames tideway adventures with them not to really! I felt a pang of nostalgia – we had some great experiences on SPCC convoys. But after two years in London, it was definitely time for use to get out onto the rest of the system.
We said a reluctant goodbye to them and set off up the lock – here we had yet more gongoozlers as the cafe garden is right on the lockside. Some admired my sun hat – I never know whether they’re being ironic because it is rather unique. But this time, someone wanted to know where they could buy one – ah, mine came from Zimbabwe, many years ago – it’s a wonderful place to visit but maybe a little too far just to buy a hat!
We met nb Muskrat above the lock – fellow BCN CHallengers and THE boat to beat before the length bonus rules were introduced. SO much for my theory that we didn’t know any boaters this far West :-)
The moorings just up from the lock were only 48-hours and rather full, so we pressed on past the Rising Sun pub, where Richard’s car was parked. There were a few potential 14-day towpath moorings. but the canal is a bit narrow there and, in the absence of other moored boats, we weren’t sure whether to stay or go. We had a chat with a passing community police officer – I’m always reassured by their presence. This one was a genial young man who was helpful and reassuring – it seems that there are very few towpath crimes hereabouts.
In the end, we decided to move out to the Bird in Hand pub – we’ve moored here before – there is particularly fine greyhound-walking over Mitton Chapel Bridge. I have poignant memories of walking Blue and Lou through the haunted old graveyard there – not a place to be taking scaredy Ty! At the Bird in Hand we had a choice of a 14-day mooring on the towpath a little way back, or a 5-day mooring right outside the pub. We chose the latter, though this caused us some pain the following weekend….
It was gone 5pm by the time we moored up, so we decided to eat in the pub; but that plan didn’t work, they were between lunch and dinner servings – we had intended to wait for the chef to come back on duty, but we realised that it would just take too long. We headed off, we’d find somewhere to eat on the way, and, despite my grumpiness at the how late it was, we had a good drive home after a £9.99 special at a Harvester, Ollie had ice cream…