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News article created on 8 May 2015

May Day, May Day, I'm going for a cruise (part one)

Some of you will remember the recounting of my mid-Winter cruise at the start of the year. With far less challenging weather, at least for the first part of this cruise, this, and the following blog entry, recount my travels to St Richard's festival at Droitwich.

I decided to go to the St Richard’s Festival at Droitwich over the early May Bank Holiday. This turned out to be a classic example of a town festival which embraced the Canal rather than a boat rally by itself.

My route took me from the winter moorings on the lower Stourbridge Canal down to the Staffs & Worcs. Single-handed at this stage, I moored on the Thursday night just above Hyde Lock at a spot known as The Beeches (see photo), just by a bench commemorating Alan T Smith, a great champion of the waterways from the 1960s onwards.

Friday saw me passing through Stourport and down the Severn, ending up at Bevere. On the way, I was able to see just how many large trees had been felled during the winter’s cutting programme, thus improving the navigable width.

I got firmly stuck coming out of Cookley Tunnel (oddly, I didn’t on the return journey) but all the lock gates and paddles worked OK. When going down the four narrow locks at Stourport I was able to encourage gongoozlers to help. This part of the River has some lovely sections with wooded slopes – and I spotted one tree with (unseasonably) lots of mistletoe bunches (see photo). It was good to see recent cutting back of trees in the lock cuttings.

The reason I went as far as Bevere was on the advice of the Holt lockkeeper who recommended The Camp House Inn, just below Bevere Lock. This is a typical riverside pub that theoretically should no longer exist.

But it does – deservedly – and attracts customers by road and water; there were four hire boats and two private boats tied up nearby as well as HELEN. In addition to the home cooked food and real beer, there was the bonus of a folk music group just enjoying playing together.

Saturday saw me on the Droitwich Barge Canal, helped with the wide locks initially by the very cheerful Graham from the Trust who was checking water levels (watching the effect of the boats going to the Festival) and clearing rubbish. My son Richard arrived to help me with the five wide locks of the Ladywood Flight.

That this is another Brindley canal is clear from the way it follows the River Salwarpe in the same way the lower Staffs and Worcs follows the Stour. Arrived about lunchtime to see both Richard Parry (Trust’s chief exec) and David Hagg (Chair of the local waterways partnership) among the visitors. Enjoyed a good evening meal in The Spinning Wheel. Read more about  the second half of my journey.

About this blog

John Dodwell

John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.

John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!

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