Sun 19th July
Greensforge to Dunsley Meadow, near Kinver
We took a walk, with brollies up, half a mile back to Hinksford Bridge where we crossed the canal and waited for bus 255 by the Old Bush Inn. We noticed that the timetable at the stop was totally different to the one James had seen online and photographed. If we had timed ourselves by the bus-stop timetable we would have missed the bus by twenty minutes. Thankfully the one from the website was accurate.
We arrived in Wombourne and had a coffee in a café before going to Kingsway Church, where we have been twice before. “Nice to see you back for your occasional visit” said someone on the door. The worship was led by a visiting chap on a keyboard, and we knew, or had heard, most of the songs. The talk was also good, but sadly there seemed to be no opportunity for fellowship afterwards, unless we missed it.
Before the service at Kingsway Church
We went to the Spar for some milk before catch the bus back to Hinksford and walking back to the boat. The rain had stopped and it had turned out fine, so we set off for Kinver. This part of the route has plenty of red rocks and narrow sections.
Leaving Greensforge Locks
Gothersley Lock weir
We passed the junction with the Stourbridge Canal before going down through Stewpony Lock, where there is a very old toll house, usually with an ugly waterways van parked in front, ruining any chance of a decent photo. There was a patch of beautiful rosebay willowherb nearby.
The old toll house
Soon afterwards we went through Dunsley Tunnel, all of 25yds long, just over a boat length. The sign at the entrance said we should have a tunnel light, and suggested wearing life jackets and safety helmets! Health and Safety gone too far!
On a previous visit in 2013 we had spotted a beautiful mooring before Hyde lock, with lovely views up a valley, with pine woods and a sloping meadow, presumably part of Dunsley Manor or Dunsley Hall Farm. At the time there was a boat moored there with about fifteen cats, and an eccentric couple who were very antagonistic towards everyone who came past. People said they had been there for several weeks. We had decided not to stop.
This time the mooring was empty, so we selected our spot and moored up. There were buzzards in the trees opposite, rabbits in the meadow, and owls overhead in the branches later on. It was delightful.
Dunsley meadow above Hyde Lock
4 locks, 4 miles, 1 tunnel
Mon 20th July
Another day with the view by Dunsley Meadow.
In the morning we had evidence that the mouse population had been reduced by one. We had an enjoyable day catching up with things. James dug out his wildlife camera and set it up ready for the evening.
He went for a walk back along the canal towpath to Stewpony Lock, and then a short distance along a main road before returning via a footpath through woods.
Map of James’ walk
Going on foot through Dunsley Tunnel, he spotted some unusual holes in the rock walls, just above the water line. Does anyone know what these were for? Apparently this is the oldest navigable tunnel in the UK (1769) and also the shortest.
Dunsley Tunnel Roof
Dunsley Tunnel holes in the rock - what are they for?
After leaving Stewpony Lock (apparently named after Estepona in Spain), the route was up a hill on the main road, and then through a barley field and into the woods on a footpath. There James met an old man (late 80’s or early 90’s) who had walked from Stourbridge along the canal towpath, then up to Greensforge, and back as far as here. He was aiming for a pub in Wolverley before walking back. A round trip of about twenty miles! He parted company with James at Hyde Farm, where James returned to the canal and back to the boat, a walk of a mere two miles.
The path through the barley
Snail. Does anyone know which species?
Old man in the woods
Hyde Lock and cottage
Our mooring with a heron opposite
No boating today
Tue 21st July
Dunsley Meadow to Wolverley
We had an appointment at Wilson’s Covers to repair our pram hood. It was a lovely morning as we left our beautiful mooring to proceed through Hyde Lock. We noticed that the house there has garden gates looking like lock gates.
Glorious morning. Heron still fishing.
The gates at Hyde Lock House
We paused at the facilities before going down Kinver Lock to the visitor moorings right by Wilson’s Covers. They repaired the cover while we waited, replacing the forward facing window, and giving us stronger and longer straps. It took about three hours and they made no charge for it. Good service. They also quoted us for a front tonneau cover but we thought the price was too expensive.
We used the time with a walk into Kinver to visit the lovely village shops.
We then moved on to Wolverley, where there was one mooring place left, just for us. The journey took us past more sandstone cliffs and another short tunnel at Cookley.
Overhanging rocks near Cookley
Debdale Lock with its cave
More red rocks
4 locks, 5 miles, 1 tunnel
Wed 22nd July
Wolverley to Kidderminster
Rain was forecast later, so we had an early start to reach Kidderminster in the dry. We noticed some unusual paddle gear at Wolverley Court Lock, with two separate paddles on the top gate. The one furthest from the beam was quite difficult to reach as there is not enough room to stand on the ledge on the gate, so we had one foot on the ledge and the other on the lock side.
Unusual paddle gear at Wolverley Court Lock
When we arrived outside Sainsbury’s at Kidderminster, we moored next to Petroc, a BCF boat we have met twice before. Originally we met them in 2007 at Savick Brook on the Ribble Link. As we were preparing to leave the Lancaster Canal to take the tidal section back to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, they were arriving on the tide. Their engine had died due to water in the tank. They enquired about BCF and we gave them some literature. Then last year we visited the church in Braunston, and they were in the pew behind us.
Moored with Petroc
We suggested that we get together for a drink later.
We went to PC world to look at new computers for James. We also went to Sainsbury’s to stock up.
Later we took Hugo to Pets at Home as they wanted to see him before we could buy some flea prevention treatment for him. They also tried unsuccessfully to give him half a pill for tapeworm prevention. Despite two nurses trying their best to administer the tiny pill, he wasn’t having it and they couldn’t get it down him.
Later on we went on board Petroc for drinks and nibbles.
Geoff, Gill and Hazel on Petroc
James checked the bus times for our proposed trip to the Dudmaston Estate tomorrow. With bus passes and National Trust membership this makes a very cheap day out. He identified a bus stop on Google Earth and set off to find it and to see if there were any better routes than walking round on the ring road. There was a good route through Sainsbury’s car park and up a hill – about twenty minutes walk.
Kidderminster Lock and Church
2 locks, 2 miles
Thu 23rd July
We made preparations to depart for the day on the bus to Dudmaston Hall. Then we realised that there was no Hugo. He is usually curled up somewhere in the boat when we get up, or he might be sitting by the stern watching the world go by. We went along the bushes by the moorings, calling his name and banging his dish.
A passer by (we’ll call him John) said he had heard a cat miaowing on the other side of the canal. We heard it too, very faintly. A cruiser two boats along said that something had jumped on the boat in the night and there was a commotion with the ducks – they thought it might have been a fox.
James and John went along the towpath and over the bridge and back to the land opposite. Despite James asking John not to go any closer as he would frighten Hugo, he persisted on bashing through the bushes, hissing through his teeth. We didn’t hear Hugo any more, and we searched all over but couldn’t find him. John went on his way.
We then tried to move the boat across the canal, but there was nowhere to tie up, and the edge was shallow, so we abandoned the idea.
We went shopping in Kidderminster at Morrison’s and Aldi and returned to the boat for a light lunch.
We both went back across the canal to try to locate Hugo, but he didn’t respond to our calling. We covered the whole area, about three acres, calling and banging his dish. There were a lot of nettles and brambles, and bushes. It was difficult to move around. There was also a derelict baseball court. There was no sign of Hugo. There were a couple of fox holes, which were a concern to us. Perhaps he had gone down a hole and couldn’t get out? Perhaps he had had a run in with a fox?
We returned heavy hearted to the boat. Meanwhile there was a lad sitting on the wall having a stressed phone conversation with someone and ending in tears. A man on another boat (Ben Gan Zeilen) came to suggest that we might be able to help him. James went to see the lad and invited him on board for a drink and a chat. He came straight away. His name was Tom and he was able to pour out his heart to us. It was basically a story of young love that had a few problems. He went on his way much happier having unburdened himself and listened to some advice we gave him.
In the afternoon we found it difficult to concentrate on anything much as we kept thinking about Hugo.
At about 7.30pm we heard a blackbird chivvying in the bushes, and we thought it might be because of Hugo. We both went round to the other side again and called him. We heard a small miaow from a little further away. Hugo doesn’t have a very loud voice. James managed to spot him but there was a chain link fence between him and Hugo. James directed Hazel round to the place. When Hazel could see him and keep an eye on him, James went back round the end of the fence, and climbed higher up the hill, circling round the other side of Hugo. Hugo came towards James, but kept just out of reach until, finally James managed to get hold of him.
We put him in Hazel’s shoulder bag for the walk back over the bridge and back to the boat. We kept him in after that.
James went to tell the guy on Ben Gan Zeilen that we had found him, and also about Tom. The couple’s names were Simon and Angela. Nice people.
We never got to Dudmaston Hall. It’ll give us something to do next time. They are closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
Hugo in the undergrowth
No boating today
Fri 24th July
Rain we were promised and rain we received. We didn’t move the boat.
Hazel went to a few shops. James caught up with the blog.
We had a call from Gill from Petroc. She had left her walking pole by one of the locks on the way down to Stourport, and could we collect it for her, please? Of course it may not be there when we go tomorrow, and we may not get to Stourport before Petroc leaves for Droitwich, but we’ll try.
No boating today