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Archive for August 3rd, 2008

The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 26

Posted by indigodream on 3 August, 2008

Fallen trees by our mooring

Fallen trees by our mooring

Caunsall (Bridge 26) to Stourport

If you’ve ever watched the classic ‘Conan’ films you’ll know that barbarians are big on the ‘what’s can be called the best in a man’s life’ sort of thing and heavy on the ‘slaughter of your enemies and lamentation of their women’. Well, this led me to musing on what’s the most profound pleasure available to a narrowboater? My absolute top is lying warm and dry in bed at 7am listening to torrential rain banging on the roof and snuggling into my duvet until it stops. You can’t beat it!

So, if that’s the case then our day was off to a great start. We lay in bed until the rain stopped and had the most leisurely start. We had decided to come up late last night and we couldn’t rouse any sense of urgency this morning. Even the plan of getting down to Upton on Severn this weekend was rejected – we’d go for 2 easy days and finish up in Worcester.

A mink coat on its rightful owner!

A mink coat on its rightful owner!

So, we watched at least six boats pass us by, we walked the dogs, checked the engine – we did everything apart from actually get going. We also helped another boater to jump start his car (using some thin jump leads which added a bit of drama by smoking alarmingly); we knew we’d get on with him as he was walking a pack of three miscellaneous dogs, his fourth, a lurcher, having decided to stay in bed – how typical!

Then again, if we had gone early we wouldn’t have seen our first close up of a MINK. It was running along the bank opposite us, bold as anything. I abhor the idea of wearing fur but I had to admire the coat on this mink. The photo’s a bit grainy but take it from me, it was glossy black and unbelievably luxurious. Oh, on the fur thing, I can’t claim a moral high ground and won’t be joining the paint chucking brigade – after all, four sheep gave their lives so that Lou and Blue would have comfy beds 🙂

Cookley Tunnel

Cookley Tunnel

We’ve had a wonderful demonstration of how good it is to be in a community of boating bloggers. Last week, Marmaduke posted a photo of a fallen tree very close to an ‘unattended boat’. Adam from Debdale spotted that it was the Indigo Dream and let us know. We let Marmaduke know and they reassured us that BW were there clearing the canal and making other trees safe. Then on Friday, Sanity coincidentally posted a note that they’d passed the boat and that she was safe and sound. Thank you everyone – the boat was completely fine and by the time we got there you wouldn’t have guessed that she’d has a near miss!

Once we did get going we played leapfrog with the Nightingale – the boating family (split between 2 boats) that we’d chatted to in Stourbridge town. They’re lovely people – we caught up with them for the last time in Stourport. They’re turning back towards home (in the frozen north) now so we won’t see them again this year. Happy cruising!

A lock carved out of the landscape

A lock carved out of the landscape

We’re still getting used to the traffic after the solitude of the BCN – the canal was busy today but with very few boats coming up; the general stampede was towards Stourport. The canal continued on, rural and lovely, right up to Kidderminster. It’s not just the greenery, there is some interesting geology here for those with the wit to understand it! The canal and the locks seem to have been carved right out of the soft red sandstone and the waterway twists and turns around the contours – sometimes perched on the edge of a hill, sometimes creeping under leaning cliffs, sometimes worming right through the rock (as in Cookley Tunnel). In places, the sandstone had regular large pock marks; by Caldwall Lock, the otherwise smooth rock had a layer of pebbles embedded in it. We have no idea what all this means!

Don't miss this turn when you're driving down!

Don't miss this turn when you're driving down!

We were particularly taken with the canal just after Debdale Lock – the road sweeps past the canal edge down a steep hill with a wicked bend at the end. We stuck to the towpath side, expecting at any minute to see a car gracefully diving into the canal having missed the turn! A little further down, just before bridge 21, there’s a particularly lovely winding hole, something about the wide water and the shadows here that gave the place a dream-like quality.

Note: Wolverley Lock by “The Lock” pub has a lively bywash just below the bottom gate on the right. I made the mistake of hovering there to pick Richard up and Indigo Dream was well into the rhododendrons before I worked out what was going on!

The lovely winding hole!

The lovely winding hole!

There is superior dog rummaging at Wolverley Court Lock – Blue made the best of it but Lou stayed on board. Her foot’s swathed in blue bandages again and she’s not happy about it! Richard will laugh forever at the sight of me in the lock dancing around with, literally, ants in my pants. I’d noticed an ant’s nest by the mooring ring where I held the boat for the lock but had no idea that they’d migrate into my trousers! I hit the moral low ground again as mass ant slaughter ensued!

Kidderminster looked pretty good from the water and we were greeted like royalty there as the church bells rang loudly and joyously at our arrival (what other reason could there be!). It was sunny and we’d just enjoyed a stretch of waterway flanked by a fine waterside housing development. It was just a building site when we passed this way three years ago. There looked to be potential dogwalking

The fine belltower in Kidderminster

The fine belltower in Kidderminster

on some rough heathland on the right just after the housing (and just before bridge 17).

Kidderminster is good for shopping – plenty of moorings and good access to Sainsbury’s and Tesco. We stopped off at Tesco, the plan being for me to shop in the town centre while Richard cycled back to get the car. I’m afraid I couldn’t be naffed to go into town but I did run round the supermarket. It’s a bit inferior as it doesn’t have Krispy Kreme doughnuts OR a Starbucks. I consoled myself with the hot chicken counter instead! We ate lunch here and the towpath was full of curious and friendly passers-by so we felt very contented. There shopping area by the canal is a strange mix of new and old – a bland and faceless Tesco next to characterful restored mill. Richard drove through the town

Old and new!

Old and new in Kidderminster!

and says it’s quite rough by road – it seems that Kidderminster is halfway through its improvement programme – aren’t we lucky they decided to start with the waterside!

I was surprised by how quickly Kidderminster disappears and the canal reverts to its rural reverie. This stretch is cool and green under the trees; in places the air seemed pleasantly chilled, like a crisp chardonnay, yum yum!

We liked the look of the Watermill pub by Bridge 13 – has anyone eaten there?

Being sandwiched between Kidderminster and Stourport, we started wondering about the

Dramatic sandstone cliffs

Dramatic sandstone cliffs

suitability of various mooring spots again. There was a cluster of boats moored by Pratts Wharf Bridge so we assume this is a good spot. It is very interesting – the bridge goes over the mouth of an old branch (now closed) that used to lock down to the River Stour. It was the narrowest bridge hole and a tricky turn into it – I fancied I could still hear the curses of the old boaters drifting on the wind! The boaters moored here certainly had a precise sense of smell – the stretch down from Bridge 9 was robustly fragranced by the local sewage farm though the rich aroma stopped about a boatlength before the first mooring! We also liked the look of the mooring by the “Bird in Hand” pub (between bridge 8 and 7) though there wasn’t anyone there when we passed.

Rail above canal!

Rail above canal!

Stourport also greeted us like visiting royalty with the charming sounds of church bells. Not quite as ostentatious as Kidderminster but I’m sure they’ll try harder next time we pass through! That was a brief highlight – my visual impression of Stourport is that it’s a bit of a dump. But the place grew on me as the evening went by – not least of which because we had an undisturbed night’s sleep on what felt like an unpromising mooring spot just above bridge 5. The moorings just past Bridge 5 feel a bit more ‘proper’ but they’re only 200 yards away so if you go that way both sides of the bridge are fine! There are also moorings on the wall of the basin below but these looked pretty full.

We had a few highlights in the evening – we met some boaters from Tongwynlais – they were amazed that we knew where they were from, but I used to live in the next village up the valley. It’s always a small world when Welsh people get together! We caught up with the crew of the Nightingale, who were

Lou looking pitiful - sympathy please?!

Lou looking pitiful - sympathy please?!

suitably complementary about Blue and Lou. Then we knocked on Sanity’s window and finally met Bruce and Sheila. We had great chinwag and might still be there on the towpath had Lou not jumped aboard in a desperate bid to find a sofa (she’d been on her feet for almost half an hour)!

Food is an issue in Stourport if you don’t know the code:

“atmospheric pub” means dark, smells of urine and the menu looks as if someone had been sick on it! That’s The Angel right down by the Severn!

“Food served ’til 9pm” actually means it will be served until 8pm because we have a live band. That’s the Black Star pub by the moorings. Richard said that the bar maids were very pleasant. Not to sure what that meant.

In the end Richard had to scour the streets for a chinese takeaway – our previous favourite was closed for renovation (it was one of those nights!) but he did eventually bring back a superior meal which was enjoyed by ALL on board!

Photoblog:

Debdale Lock's cave

Debdale Lock's cave

This cave is by Debdale Lock – it was once used as overnight stabling for the towhorses – it looks dark and uninviting now! But we did see this pony who was unencumbered by a 20-ton boat and free to enjoy the sunshine!

A happy pony!

A happy pony!

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