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Archive for August 4th, 2008

The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 27

Posted by indigodream on 4 August, 2008

Stourport to Worcester

Looking back up the Stouport Staircases

Looking back up the Stourport Staircases

After our little break in Birmingham we are slowly getting back on track. Our targets for the summer are to get to Gloucester, Stratford upon Avon and Lechlade before returning to London. Both Sanity and Spirit have recommended Sharpness to us so we will add that to the list! We have yet to hit any of our targets – may be next weekend?

As we reported on day 26, we had a quiet night’s sleep on our mooring – I was quite surprised as the bit up from bridge 5 is as glum a place as any I’ve seen. I did wake up at 1.30am to the sound of squealing girls on the nearby road bridge and then again at 7.30am by the sound of squealing herring gulls. They were almost indistinguishable and there’s been some lively debate on which is the bigger nuisance (though Richard never heard the squealing girls)!

I found some a very curious but excellent dog-walking spot this morning. I walked back to Mitton Chapel Bridge, crossed over the canal and through the gate into an area of overgrown woodland. We’d passed this place yesterday and wondered at its history as the untended woodland is full of old gravestones. I know it sounds strange but it was a great place for dog-walking. (Edit required here: Remember Sue is Welsh. The Welsh seem to like graveyards especially if they can work out that somebody is their neighbour’s grandfather’s milkman’s 4th cousin’s daughter’s 1st boyfriend’s aunt). Random paths have been cut in the vegetation and I met a couple of other dog-walkers there. Dogs had a great rummage there following various animal trails and chasing squirrels. OK, some of you will be horrified but I didn’t feel that we were disrespecting the dead that lay there – they’d already been abandoned to nature a long time ago, uncared for and unregarded. I had expected to find a derelict church at the heart of this area but I was surprised to see a modern chapel. Maybe they’ve decided to spend their funds on the living rather than the dead – great idea!

Looking back to the entrance to the canal at Stourport

Looking back to the entrance to the canal at Stourport

We weren’t much better at getting going this morning – it was well gone 10am by the time we moved. Sanity had silently slipped her mooring hours before and we didn’t notice their passing. I’m sure they didn’t hear our snores over the sound of their engine! Just before the lock we overtook a hire boat that was mooring up. We smiled ruefully as we watched them desperately hurling crew and ropes at the bank and pulled the boat manfully into the side. This was the very same technique that we used when we first hired – it made us realise how far we’ve come and how technique wins over brute force every time! We tackled the first lock with a crowd of onlookers at the lockside coffee shop. There was a gaggle of male cyclists of mixed ages – they looked as if they’d been in the saddle since dawn and were still raring to go. Just the sight of them made me feel exhausted :-).

Note: One downstream paddle slips as you wind up but we did see one person succeed in raising it fully so there is a technique. Richard failed at getting it past half open.

We stopped off at the useful rubbish point on the left below the lock and filled up with water (very low water pressure here). Despite the constant stream of boats going up and down the lock, no-one seemed to want the services so Richard washed an accumulation of summer dust off the boat – she looked much better for it.

Looking back up the majestic Severn

Looking back up the majestic Severn

I must apologise for today’s photos – I seem to have had an attack of the shakes every time I clicked the shutter. Ah well, now you’ll have go and see the Severn for yourselves!

As we negotiated our way towards the two staircase locks to the Severn I mused on the strangeness of Stourport. It really does feel run down, a transit point rather than a destination in itself. For somewhere so far inland it has the strange feel of a seaside town out of season. Yet, we were heartened by the fact that the locals don’t seem to regard boats as targets and that there’s a new basin being developed here. Maybe this is the start of a smart new future for the town.

Looking downstream!

Looking downstream!

We had another good crowd of onlookers at both staircase locks. I don’t know who designed this basin but there’s an impossible angle from the first staircase to the second, especially as the pound is short and our boat is long! Last time we struggled so this time Richard pulled the front over using the centre rope and we had a much smoother lock entry. Just as well, I was being followed down the locks by a crowd of admirers and had a reputation to maintain! Two rather small kids were there with their father and did well pushing lock gates open and shut.

Note: The last lock out of Stourport has very leaky walls – close your side-hatch before locking down or you’ll be drenched!

Dramatic scenery

Dramatic scenery

Three years ago, the Severn was the first big river navigation that we’d ever been on – we had been on the Caldon before but that was just a little hop. At the time we were a bit nervous because we just didn’t know what to expect – raging torrents, savage currents, fierce weirs. As it happens, the river was calm as a millpond and we had a great cruise. Since then we’ve done a lot of river work, including the tidal Thames past the Thames Barrier. Despite this, I still felt a frisson of our old nerves as we passed onto the Severn. I needn’t have worried – the river was calm and lovely though there was a fair flow downstream. I didn’t really notice this until I heard the shout of “do a U-ie so we can see if they sell diesel” and as I turned broadside to the current the boat was being swept downstream at a pace. Not an issue with our big engine and propeller but a salutary reminder that this was not a man-made and tamed canal that we were on. (By the way, after all that they were closed for diesel!)

Every river we’ve been on has a different character. The Severn here is wide and slow with a grave majesty far beyond the mundane little boats cruising it’s length. It’s amazingly scenic. This is not picture postcard pretty. No, this is a large canvas, painted by an old master, framed in gold leaf and hung in the National gallery sort of beauty. It is breathtaking and yet remote – just as you couldn’t touch the paintings in the National Gallery so you can’t touch this landscape – there are few mooring spots and the river runs through a remote valley for most of its length.

Good company at Lincomb Lock

Good company at Lincomb Lock

Some people have no sense of occasion though – we were passed by a crowd of jolly youngsters crusing upstream in a hire boat. Two of the ‘crew’ has on mock navy captain’s uniforms (complete with ostentatious captain’s hats) and saluted grandly as we went passed. They were brilliant but we almost fell out of the boat for laughing!

We had a spot of bother at the Lincomb lock – there was something blocking the downstream gate. We caught up with a hire boat and were later joined by a third boat. On the gruff directions of the dredger that they’d called in, we all brested up out of the way and had a convivial chat with our neighbours. Just as well, we were there for over two hours as they tried to clear the obstruction. As it happens, the third boat was ‘Quidditch’, owned by Will Chapman, doyenne of the Save Our Waterways campaign. If you want to know more about this worthwhile campaign then check out (website link here).

We had a long chat about how best to protect a boat’s diesel supply. It seemed to me that high fuel prices have brought piracy from the high seas right onto the canal. I used to think that narrowboats flying the Jolly Roger were being funny – think again……

Anti-piracy device - Blue on the lookout!

Anti-piracy device - Blue on the lookout!

Richard’s Research on resisting pirates….

We have a flush fitting not a raised fitting so this paragraph is all about flush fittings. If you have the other sort go and get a beer rather than read this. Richard has read a comment on usenet from Tony Brooks suggesting fitting a simple hasp and staple across the top of a flush fitting but taking care to seal the holes. He did warn about making sure that in a few years time it does not seize up and you can remove whatever you put in! We noticed that Sanity had a similar style fitting and Harnser did something similar but a bit more technical. Richard found that asap supplies do a natty locking cap (Perko P-1324DP0BLK) but it does not have a BSP thread so he thought we would need to change the filler. Gypsy Rover got a nice shiny fitting from Beeston Marina but that needed a bigger filler hole. NB Firesprite have something that may be similar -see here. Questions for us were will the existing hole work, do we need to make it bigger? Now that Richard has his can of cutting oil he happily taps threads for fixings on the boat but he seems less happy to get a big file out to enlarge the diesel tank hole. We finally settled for ordering a retro fit cap from Fuelock and will report back when we have fitted it next weekend though our tank is so low at the moment that you would need to be a bit desperate to try and steal our diesel!

The high water mark is alarmingly high!

The high water mark is alarmingly high!

Back to the cruise….

The Chapman’s boat name, Quidditch, reminded me, of course, of the Harry Potter books which I have enjoyed immensely (and which I’m reading for the hundredth time). Being on the river with the broken lock reminded me of the Hogwarts school motto which roughly translates into ‘never poke a sleeping dragon’. That could be a motto for us – the river which seemed so benign had seemingly parked enough debris in the lock to block the gate, there were large trees wrapped around the midstream piers of many bridges and a dusty trail of trash along the water’s edge suggested that the river had been much much higher in the recent past. I found it hard to get my head round just how much water was involved in raising the river that high. This is borne out by the locks – although we were locking down, the upstream gates towered over us as if we were locking up – a sign of just how high this river can get.

Could have been a Constable painting!

Could have been a Constable painting!

The delay at the lock was a real nuisance as it would make for a late finish, but at least we got to sit down to eat lunch and chat to some interesting boaters. The rest of the trip was incident free and we largely had the river to ourselves. We were surprised at this, we expected it to be much busier during the school holidays.

We looked out for the turn onto the Droitwitch Barge Canal, which we though was being restored, but we must have missed it. Has anyone else seen it, were we just being incredibly inattentive?

As we got closer to Worcester civilisation started to creep up – still rather remote and untouchable though with grand houses and ‘private mooring’ signs plastered on a mix of ‘Heath Robinson’ mooring platforms. We

This house would do for our retirement!

This house would do for our retirement!

should mention that there are a few pubs along the river and most have generous moorings for visiting boaters.

We were musing on whether to go right into Diglis Basin when we spotted the Worcester City Council moorings at the racecourse and by the Worcester Railway Bridge. The Racecourse moorings looked great for dogs though the mooring ‘rails’ looked a bit rickety (despite being made of concrete!). We moved on to the railway bridge – these had better access to the train station and was still surrounded by parkland, though a bit too close to the road for Blue to be left unrestrained. The council has provided useful rubbish skips for boaters here. There is a fee to be paid – a grand sum of £3.20/24 hours. Although they’re only 48-hour moorings the council were very reasonable when we rang and asked whether we could stay for 4 days. The fees are collected by

But we wouldn't want to live on this wooden boat with a smoking stove on board!

But we wouldn't want to live on this wooden boat with a smoking stove on board!

the park keeper or you can pay the council direct over the phone – all very convenient.

We rushed to get the train from Worcester to Kidderminster. It was perfect timing as the only train of the day (engineering works) was standing there as we got to the platform. As we travelled back we mused on how much we’ve enjoyed our summer cruising so far.

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