Wed 15th July
Compton Lock to Dimmingsdale
We had some rain in the night that hadn’t been forecast, so our pram hood was down. It dried up fairly quickly.
We set off through Compton Lock, Wightwick Mill Lock, and Wightwick Lock before mooring up once again.
Circular Weir at Compton Lock
We had stopped to visit Wightwick Manor, a National Trust property in close proximity to the canal. We had been here twice before and enjoyed our visits. Our first destination was the café where we enjoyed a tasty chicken and bacon stew. We then had a gentle potter around inside the house where many of the volunteers told us stories about the people and artefacts. Then it was time for another visit to the café for afternoon drinks before returning to the boat.
We moved on from Wightwick, away from the busy road bridge, to some moorings at Dimmingsdale we had noted down on a previous visit. We remembered seeing boats moored on the offside, with people sitting out on chairs on the grass. There was only space for two boats, so we were pleased when we saw a space available. However, things were a little different this time. The place was overgrown to such an extent that we had to hunt for the mooring rings in the long grass. The brambles and nettles had also encroached onto the grass so there was nowhere to sit out. What a shame that a facility like this has been left to deteriorate. Probably the contract gardeners, who mow the towpath grass, have not been told about this official mooring. Perhaps this is something that could be taken up by the Staffs and Worcs Canal Society?
There was also an overflow weir by our stern with water rushing away all night. Thankfully we sleep in the bows.
Hunt the mooring ring - it's there somewhere
3 locks, 3 miles
Thu 16th July
Dimmingsdale to Wombourne
Leaving Dimmingsdale moorings
Dimmingsdale moorings in better days
We passed some historic boats just above Awbridge Lock. Some were fuel barges taking on supplies. Among them were Brighton and Nuneaton of the Narrowboat Trust.
Awbridge Lock had an unusual bridge, which had vertical slots in the parapet.
Awbridge Lock and bridge
At Bratch Locks a boat was coming up, so we had to wait for twenty minutes before starting our journey down. These locks are very close together but are not actually a staircase. Between the locks there are very short pounds, which are connected through culverts to long side pounds
A very short pound between the locks
Bratch side pound
We had one more lock today: Bumblehole. This has a steeply sloping bridge at the tail end.
We moored on rings near bridge 45, and an hour later Robin and Mary went past on Loftus, heading for Stourport. Last seen on the mission at Polesworth.
We visited the Round Oak pub for a drink, and although they advertised Black Rat Cider, they had run out so James had to make do with Thatcher’s Gold. Hazel had a still perry, which she enjoyed.
7 locks, 2 miles
Fri 17th July
Wombourne to Greensforge
Before we set off, a CRT rig came past consisting of a dumb barge, being pushed by a tug, which was towing a more modern workboat.
We moved off soon afterwards and stopped just before bridge 43 where there are mooring rings. We went to Sainsbury’s, hoping to post a birthday card to Claudia, but there was no post box, although there used to be. One of the staff who lived locally said there was no post box nearby. We bought some groceries and returned to the boat.
Half a mile on was a genuine pair of staircase locks at Botterham. The Nicholson Guide is a little confusing, as the locks are shown as two separate ones, although the name Botterham Staircase Locks suggests otherwise.
There was a bit of a queue here, as the CRT dumb barge had been taken down, and instead of following straight away with the tug, they had tied up the barge, and allowed another boat to come up, before taking the tug down. Meanwhile another boat had arrived at the bottom and found the barge on the lock bollards. We waited for this other boat to ascend before we started down. The notice suggests one up and one down at busy times. In this instance it would have been quicker for everyone for the two CRT boats to go down in quick succession.
Botterham Staircase Locks
As we were waiting at the locks, we spotted a postman in his van, and he was able to take Claudia’s birthday card for us.
After the two locks at Swindon (Not the one in Wiltshire) we paused for lunch, as it was really hot. When we decided to continue, Hugo had gone AWOL somewhere in the hedge. We called him, banged his dish, and rattled a packet of his food. No result. Then we tried throwing cupfuls of water into the hedge. Still no cat. We sat down to wait, as we weren’t in a hurry. Within five minutes he appeared, so we had probably woken him up from a shady sleep under a bush.
Off we went once more, aiming for Greensforge. On the way we saw several boats with a black, white and red flag with chains on it. We asked one lady what it was, and she said “Black Country” as though we should have known. Doing some research online later, it seems that the flag has only existed since 2012, when the design won a competition and is now registered as the official Black Country flag.
Black Country Flag
Apparently the black represents the smoke out put by day, and the red represents the furnaces by night. The white is a cone at a glass factory, and the chains represent the industrial products made locally. The links represent the bond between communities within the region. There has been some controversy about the chains being offensive to those with families affected by the slave trade.
Hinksford Lock was the last one of the day. We noticed another odd shaped weir. They vary a lot on this canal, but it is known for circular weirs.
Teardrop weir at Hinksford Lock
When we arrived at Greensforge, we found that there is only one 48H mooring, and it was available for us. We were able to empty our cassettes for the first time since Gailey on Monday.
In the evening we walked up past the Navigation away from the canal to Ashwood Marina, where the Woodman Folk Club takes place every Friday. This was their last club night until September. It is a shame that several folk clubs stop for the summer. The guest artist was Bev Pegg, who was very funny, and had a bass player and fiddle player with him. They played some Django Reinhardt numbers, which were brilliant.
Woodman Folk Club
Hugo made friends with a black cat from a boat on the permanent moorings.
5 locks, 3 miles
Sat 18th July
We had the whole day at Greensforge, and James fitted some new turn button catches to the panels on the side doors to replace the expensive chrome ones that catch on clothing.
In the evening we went for a meal at the Navigation pub, and had ham hock with leeks and bacon, which was very nice. They also had Thatcher’s Traditional Cider, which is still and cloudy, as well as Thatcher’s Gold, and Scrumpy Jack.
Navigation at Greensforge
No boating today
Tomorrow – bus to Wombourne for the Kingsway Church. Tuesday – an appointment at Wilson’s Covers in Kinver. The rest of the week – Kidderminster and Stourport (probably).