Another cool and misty morning meant another good opportunity for some photos both before we left the moorings and when we were on the move
But suddenly the mist cleared and for a short distance we had sunshine and a blue sky, and a Buzzard in a tree:
The River Severn can be a very pretty river but one thing it lacks is landmarks so its actually quite hard to work out where you are and when you are looking for a canal junction that you know comes off just above Bevere Lock but there are no other obvious land marks it makes it quite hard to find and CaRT have decided that apparently this junction is one of the few places that doesn’t need any navigation signs.
Approaching Hawford Junction from upstream is all a bit of a mess.
There is a landing stage by itself and then another set of landing stages. The second set were moored up so we assumed it was the first one but is the landing stage above or below the junction and which side of the landing stage is the entrance to the lock. We decided to go past and turn and approaching from downstream everything is totally clear.
The first two locks set the tone for all the wide locks on the canal – the paddles are pretty light but the bottom gates are pretty heavy and are far from easy to close – so don’t attempt this canal unless you have some strong members of crew on your boat.
The first bridge (Hawford Bridge) on the canal takes you under the Worcester – Kidderminster road and it was lost in the 1940s, and the road was subsequently widened to a big dual carriage way. So one of two new tunnel was built – this one being the A449 Tunnel and given that they never really closed the road over the top whilst they built this new tunnel it’s pretty impressive.
Coming out from the bridge you’d be inclined to think you were still on a river, and the canal retains this feeling all the way up to Droitwich, as the canal winds its way slowly up the valley of the River Salwarpe. The canal is really quite isolated and it’s probably this isolation that saved it from being lost for ever.
The 5 locks that make up the Ladywood flight are extremely pretty and with a couple of crew lock wheeling you can make good time through them, although be prepared to spend time talking to the large number of locals who are walking their dogs – the tow path is in very good condition and is obviously a very popular place to walk. In some ways it’s a pity the same can’t be said about the mooring facilities as mooring is extremely limited along the whole canal but at the same time that, and the large reed banks do give it a sort of pioneer feeling.
This pioneer feeling is further boosted by the relative lack of signage on the canal and with a few notable exceptions the ones that are there are actually very sensible.
Even as you approach Droitwich the canal keeps its very rural feeling and its only really as you get towards the two railway bridges in the town itself that you really realise you are in the middle of a town.
The only boating facility on the canal – a waterpoint – can be found on the end mooring pontoon at Droitwich basin. but be warned the pontoon isn’t too long so long boats will find that significant portion of their length is sticking off the end of the pontoon at one end or another..
The next half mile of canal contains 4 swing bridges : three before the lock (one of which is always open) and one over the lock itself. You’ll need a Watermate Key to remove the padlocks and the third one (from the basin) is pretty awkward to remove.
The Barge Locktakes you onto the River Salwarpe for a few hundred yards. This used to be a much shorter distance butthe orignal line of the canal has been lost and from here until Droitwich Spa Marina you’re on a totally new canal. This bit of canal does seem to have two rather unnecessary sets of signs:
The locks from here are narrow and the new ones seem pretty well built and are a lot better than the nightmare that is Stoke Lock on the Trent and Mersey canal.
Although the canal has got through one big navigational problem at the Worcester-Kidderminster road there is a much bigger one ahead : the M5 which basically obliterated the canal when it was built.
So after a few hundred yards you come off the River Salwarpe and onto what is basically a canalised version of the the Body Brook. The Body Brook is pretty small but oddly enough it has a culvert under the M5 that is wide enough to take a narrow boat and also has enough height to allow a boat with reasonable water and air draft to get through. This does seem slightly more than co-incidence and you have to wonder if someone made a very sensible and forward looking decision quite a number of years ago. So this culvert was turned into the M5 Motorway Tunnel
OK I said it was big enough to take a narrow boat but there is “big enough” and “just big enough” and the M5 tunnel certainly falls into that category. Mintball’s aerial just about cleared the roof but any boat with half a garden centre on it’s roof or carrying the contents of a spare shed up there is NOT going to make it. Approaching it from Droitwich you first pass through the Impney Way Tunnel which contains warnings out the height of the tunnel. After the Impney tunnel there is an Emergency/Escape area area where you’ll have one final chance to clear the roof of your boat and also to check the available headroom using the guide on the side of the tunnel..
After the tunnel there is a short length of canal before you arrive at Lock No 6. You’ll need to drop crew off but don’t attempt to drop them off on the bridge where the Body Brook enters the canal – only use the landing stage! Only one bottom paddle on the lock seems to be in use, we assume its to stop getting too big a surge going down the canal and through the tunnel.
Lock 6 is one of four new locks on the canal and the last two are in a two lock staircase – Staircase Locks No 4 and No 5 – are, like the other locks, very smooth to use and quite quick.
We turned right at the junction and headed off towards Worcester. We stopped for the night at Tibberton and discovered that the injector spill rail was leaking very slightly at one end so we carried out an emergency repair using some tape, heat shrink tubing and some cable ties. We ate in The Bridge Inn and then went down to the Speed The Plough as the Bridge closed early.