Narrowboat Tacet

Silent Movement - Our gap year travelling the inland waterways

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Weathering the Severn

Yesterday we began our journey down the Severn to Gloucester.

The sun was shining, the water was flowing fairly fast, the levels just touching orange, but well clear of red. So we made good time and with locks being opened ready for us it didn't take long to get down to Worcester.
Coming out of one of the locks we spied an old boat coming towards us, looks like 'Colllingwood', we both thought, 
and it was. Collingwood is the boat we did the BCN challenge on back in June.
Graham was on the phone so didn't see us.
Going down
The new boat house at the King's school at Worcester is finished, on the outside at least, looking good jutting out over the pathway almost to the river.
We moored on the pontoons above Diglis locks ready for an early start this morning.
The locks open at 8am and we were almost ready!
It was quite chilly and there was a bit of a breeze, we were leaving the lock at 8.30 and we were off, again the flow kept us moving at a good pace, just one lock at Tewkesbury and then on down to Gloucester.

We took turns in steering as it was quite cold standing on the back, we had a few showers of rain too. In places the water was quite choppy.
We passed a gravel barge so well loaded that water was lapping the gunwhales.
With a sigh of relief we reached Gloucester lock and slowly began to rise,
'til we could peep over the lock wall and get a glimpse of the safety of the docks. We have stopped just under the crane on the left of the photo where we can feel the wind rocking us and hear the rain on the roof. We were all tied up and settled by 2.15, less than 6 hours, and we had a half hour stop at Lower Lode (as directed by the lock keeper), I think to let the tide ebb a bit.

Stourport - Worcester
12.5 miles, 8 locks

Worcester - Gloucester
27.5 miles, 3 locks

Tuesday 30 October 2012


We must have been here in Stourport almost the same time last year, the October half-term holiday, as J will remember 'cos she came to stay with us and we went out onto the River Severn.
We had a wander around the town, but mostly the port, this morning before leaving the canal behind us and venturing out onto the river.
So here are a few pictures taken in the lovely, bright sunshine.
From the lower basin you get a good view of the Tontine building, now converted into houses and apartments. See last year's blog for more about what Tontine means.
Looking towards the upper basin across the wide lock, where all the shiny white gin palaces cruisers are moored.
The clock warehouse looking grand.
Aahh I think I prefer the colourful mish-mash of the narrowboats.
In the dry dock, ready for bottom blacking.
I like the records kept round the top of the dry dock wall, showing boat names and year of painting work done.
And out on the river, quite a fast flow today, we shall be travelling with the stream down towards Gloucester.

Monday 29 October 2012

Bridging the Gap

Today we have travelled from Kinver to Stourport, the end, or is it the beginning, of the Staffs & Worc. canal.
Now we have completed all of the canal, some of it twice. It is such a pretty canal, one of the best, I think. Mostly rural and quiet, through lovely sandstone cuttings and little villages. Today's journey took us round the edge of Woverley,
under the village of Cookley,
through the town of Kidderminster.

 Here we stopped to have a quick look around. Conveniently both Tesco and Sainsbury's have canalside stores, very handy for the heavy goods.

The red sandstone is evident along much of the canal, with the channel having been cut out of the rock, and at Debdale lock, there is a large cave cut into the sandstone.
A small doorway can be see by the steps.
Inside it is roomy with a bench running round the whole space.
Some think it would have been used as a stable for the towing horses. But I'm not sure how the horses got across the lock from the towpath side. It may have been used by the navvies for shelter during the work of digging the canal.
It would have been dry and reasonably warm as, like the rock houses at Kinver, the air temperature keeps much the same all year round.

But the title of this post needs explaining...
At Caldwall lock, I was intrigued that at the bottom of the lock, there are no less than 3 ways to cross from one side to the other.
Since the sad death of a lad last year, crossing one of the original footbridges (no handrails) across a lock in Stourport, on his bike, BW and now C&RT are at pains to prevent another accident. 
 However at the moment this means ugly scaffolding 'temporary handrails' round these lovely old structures. This bridge at Kidderminster is a busy public thoroughfare and does have rails anyway.
Here they have put in a new handrail beside the old walkway. Looks a bit odd. 
And at Fazeley a wooden handrail has been put up.

Many of our locks are listed buildings and so great care has to be taken not to spoil them. I think a sense of perspective needs to be kept when making changes. Of course locks can be dangerous places, hopefully they won't become no-go areas for us to enjoy.

Kinver - Stourport
10 miles, 7 locks, 1 tunnel

Kinver Rock Houses

Kinver Edge is a high heath and woodland escarpment around the village of Kinver, with a set of complete cave-houses excavated into the local sandstone. One of the rocks, "Holy Austin", was a hermitage until the ReformationThe Kinver Rock Houses date from 1770 and were inhabited until the 1950s. They are now owned by the National Trust. Last year we passed through Kinver twice and each time was when the houses were closed, so today we made sure we didn't miss out on a proper look round.

At its height 11 families lived in the cave homes and it is believed they came about in response to a housing shortage for employees of the Hyde Iron Works.Each home had a living area and bedroom.

When the last two families moved out in the late 1950s the 11 homes began to fall into disrepair.

Three levels of homes were constructed in the rock. None of them had electricity or running water or toilets. Families shared an outdoor privy.

Three homes on the bottom tier were restored and opened to the public in the 1990s.

The trust has since restored one of the homes on the top tier which was converted into a tea-room by the Reeve family and which is still used as a tea room. Th.e frontage of these are built from sandstone bricks but inside the rooms are cut out of the rock

The rooms don't vary much in temperature, being cool in summer and warm in winter. The homes had fireplaces keeping the damp out. You can see the brick chimney here on the outside of the rock.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Stourbridge to Kinver

Still enjoying the sunshine we got to the end of the Stourbridge Canal and onto the Staffs and Worc, turning towards Stourport.

Beautiful trees

Hyde Lock
Lock gates at the lock cottage

Circular Weir

Kinver Lock with horse tunnel
Stourbridge - Kinver
5 miles, 7 locks, 1 tunnel

Stourbridge Glass

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, so it was good to be out and about enjoying it. First of all we walked back to the Redhouse Glass Cone, to find out more about the glass making industry here in Stourbridge.

The Red House Glass Cone was built at the end of the 18th century and was used for the manufacture of glass until 1936.
Reaching 100 feet, Glass Cones within the Stourbridge area were commonplace. Today, it is the only complete Glass Cone in the area and one of only four left in the United Kingdom.
Inside the cone, the centre was where the furnace was kept burning at 1250'C  and around the furnace, the glassblowers would sit where they could work the molten glass into the wonderful glass wares of their day.
The Redhouse cone was the home of Stuart Crystal til they moved to newer premises in 1936.
There was a demostration of glass blowing, using a modern day furnace, a much smaller affair.
The molten glass being worked on the end of the blowers rod. It has to be kept moving to keep the glass an even shape.
Rather a blurred picture because of the movement, as the piece is finished, a bloodshot glass eye!, well, it is almost Halloween.

Friday 26 October 2012

Brierley Hill to Stourbridge

On our way to Brierley Hill yesterday we did a slight detour at Blower's Green Junction to go up the Parkhead locks to the the now quiet basin at the top.
 It would be a nice mooring I think but not a boat in sight.  It must once have been a very busy place as the top here is a junction with the Pensnett Canal, now just a basin,
 and the Grazebrook Arm.

And most importantly the Dudley Tunnel,  to take you through to Tipton at the site of the Black Country Living Museum.
But not for us, it was as far as we could go.  The tunnel is navigable, but with many restrictions and difficulties.  Boats wishing to go through have to pulled by electric tug, no engines allowed due to the poor ventilation.  Also the tunnel is very narrow and low, most boats would not fit through without almost sinking it first!  Inside there are caverns and many small branches and basins once used to serve the quarries and mines here.
So we had to turn around and make our way back down the three locks again.
Back at Blower's Green the lovely old, restored pumphouse is beside the lock on Dudley No 1 canal.
We moored for the night at the Harbour at Brierley Hill, close to Merry Hell Hill shopping centre, we were not even tempted to go there, instead we took a walk up to the High Street, not very glamorous, but preferable to our minds.
Friday morning we were on our way again, good to have the sun out today, but very cold, we needed the two flights of locks ahead to keep warm.
First of all, Delph locks
with restored stables near the top,
views down to Stourbridge from the top,
high level water overflows beside the locks, ducks at the top,
who we saw walk up the slope and slide back down. Think they were having fun.
Looking back to the top, it's a distinctive flight, 8 locks altogether.
Our second flight of locks was the Stourbridge locks, 16 of them, with plenty of water, some pounds almost overflowing, and the weirs or bywashes flowing fast.
This lock is almost a staircase, just the width of the bridge between the two locks and the pound actually behind the house beside the lock.
There once was a dock here, under the bridge to the right.  There is a little shop and pub, and the village of Wordsley and just in view Dadford's Wharf and the Redhouse glassworks kiln.
Passing Dadford's Wharf boatyard,
and the distinctive bottle kiln at the glassworks.
Looking back to Wordsley,
and on the way to Stourbridge, along the town arm to the bonded warehouse at the end.

Brierley Hill - Stourbridge
5 miles, 24 locks