Treasure Island StourportWith only four units eaten from our 15 unit card we weren’t ready to pull the mains plug, theThe Showman Pub River Severn washing machine frenzy felt too good. Genuinely lost count of cycles so far, we’re just washing for fun now…dog towels, trainers, guest bedding (the next lucky visitors get to sleep clean). Up in the high street this afternoon there wasn’t as much wet washing in Dizzy Dolly’s laundrette as there was hanging about this boat. A mish mash of shops you can get everything from Le Chameau welleis to ‘All the baking your body can take in a month’ sunbed vouchers. Nick longed to stay the month, to turn tantastic again.

A walk along the river bank with Murk, strong streams carryiRiver Severn ng huge bits of tree make it hard to believe self drive motor boats are ever let loose out there. Most of the basin has resigned itself to January but Treasure Island is refusing to give in to winter.

Not even contemplating riding any red boards this time round, tomorrow we’ll begin the climb back up the Staffordshire and Worcester fully charged. Stourport’s electricity injection has been a luxury mid winter retreat.

Stourport Basins

ring road bridge KidderminsterThe Kidderminster possy have a lot to learn from the Wolverhampton crew, allring road Kidderminster parallel parked and tucked up in bed by trolley Kidderminster

A pretty gloomy morning, dropped under the ring road and past Slingfield Mills. Not a great write up in various guides but Kidderminster was way better than Stourport Basinexpected – beautifully restored mills, plentiful rings and a choice of two supermarkets Slingfield Mills, Weavers Wharf, Kidderminsterslap bang on the canal – someone couldn’t get enough of launching trolleys into the water…a total count of nine outside Tescos, luckily they’re pretty heavy to get very far, keeping well right we found a metal free passage through.

Countryside and bulging sandstone soon returned. Just us and a couple of canonists out in the middle of nowhere all stocking up on more firewood, fortunately there’s only so much a canoe can carry – a couple of logs onboard they paddled off popping a wheely.

Stourport is die-hard canal territory, real pubs, businesses thStourport Basinat still bother to sell waterside and no-nonsense boat facilities. One lock drop and a whole world of Georgian splendour unfolds. At it’s peak Stourport was one of UKs busiest inland waterways. A complex series of interconnecting basins linked the River Severn with the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. Opened in 1788 The Tontine Hotel was the jewel in the Staff and Worcs Canal Company’s crown.Stourport Basins A place of business for directors, committee members and shareholders, revelry always followed a dTontine Hoteleal…it boasted 100 beds, a ballroom and served the best food and finest wines for miles around. In 1862 the railways threw and spanner in the works and before long the magnificent Tontine was regarded as a bit of a money pit, rooms were let in hope it might pay it’s way. Now immaculately converted into apartments.

River Severn

River Severn

It is pretty wet around here, not exactly flooded but not that far off. Two hundred metres from our mooring,  the Severn rushes past. The bottom lock gates are under water.

With riverside walks, canal history, boats bobbing about, showers, water, bins and ELECTRICITY this is a bit of a busman’s holiday but it’s amazing how free and easy life feels with lights blazing, the washing machine whirring and ‘water in mind’ showers that aren’t interrupted midway through by a chilly ‘soaping up’ session. Ew.

Sleeping Shop Side

smoking WorseleyA bit of a mixed bag today. The sun shone for a while, we found some dry logs and haveStaffordshire and Worcester down to Kidderminster ended up on a mooring that’s practically inside Sainsburys – on the flip side there’s a pair of trousers waiting for the wash with a knee full of dog shit, and Nick’s arm is only just coming back to temperature having been immersed in chilly water more times thanlovely logs he bares to remember freeing the prop from nasties. 

The canal is windy, huge chunks of sandstone overhang the water making an interesting trip down to the outskirts of Kidderminster. With Lego houses flying up  it seems some canal character might be lost forever, for a scary moment we thought we’d wound up back on the ever revolving Milton Keynes carousel of monotony. Signs of the carpet industry that bought prosperity during the 19th century live on though, even the local moored in Kidderminsternewspaper is still named The Shuttle – ‘Huh?’ Nfirst real logs of the wintero! Don’t switch off SFR…just sleep happy knowing that shuttles are used on carpet looms…

You can’t have it all ways round, stocking up with heavy groceries ealier today we were loving close supermarket proximity but since daylight faded, replaced by floodlights, the car park is looking and beginning to sound like Worcestershire’s version of Le Mans.

Living On The Edge

rock houses KinverKinver takes some walking. Not really one for mapped routes Nick came up withKinver Edge own right to roam version. The Edge (every inch of it) delivered views that rolled for miles. Nearing the end of the hike we dropped down to the ‘rock houses’. Soft sandstone allowed settlers to carve houses from the rock, rumours surrounding these mystical dwellings include rock house Kinver 1895home to a giant that once roamed the woodland, but generally accepted as true is that the houses were inspiration for Tolkein when writing The Hobbit. Inhabited until the 1950’s they’re now restored and managed by thMurk on Kinver Edgee National Trust.

We had planned to take a turn and head back up onto the BCN  but its lovely out this way so we’re heading on for a little while longer. New plans left us a bit short of water, nothing that reversing up through a lock and back a mile didn’t solve.


Stourton JunctionWonky bridges, crooked tunnels, split bridges, pretty junctions – they’re all back in abundance out here on the Staffordshire and Worcester. Saturday morning bunny all the way down Stourton Locks before turning left at Stourton Junction. For a few days this week we hardly saw a boat either moored or on the move so today was treat to see so many colours bobbing under the rocks and tangled in thStewponey Bridge, Staff and Worcestere ivies that line this stretch.

LDunsley Tunneloads of long term moorings leading into Kinver, the drop down through Hyde Lock opened up a whole stretch of empty visitor rings.

Kihail in Kinvernver high street is only a short walk, some quirky buildings and interesting shops. There’s only so long you can spend in the Co-op but in that time the sky turned from a clear sunny one to an ominous blanket of darkness – soon dumping flash hail and spine cracking lightning.

A happy cratch cover tonight, it has come home.


Stourbridge Town ArmA trip down the Stourbridge Town Arm was much more successful than the Wednesbury Oak Loop. Clean deep water and leafy sections of towpath that must be beautiful in summer. Like many, this stretch fell into dereliction in the 1960’s, now restored, the end of the arm is home to some very friendly long-term moorers and boasts the Bond House where goods once sat waiting for taxes to be paid up. A tight squeeze to turn, we began to wind our way back out.

Pitched up at Ruskin Glass Centre, then climbed the steps into an unusual kind of place. College come visitor centre, we seemed to be the only visitors. It was trusknglasscentrehe sort of door we’d never usually venture through but in for the whole hog we ducked inside. Greeted by a very welcoming volunteer the story of glass began…in 1467. Not a great student at the best of times, prone to feelings of spontaneous combustion, Nick shuffled impatiently. As luck would have it a retired glass blower arrived and took over for the second part of the session. Unbelievably skilled and knowledgable the talk was interesting but drifting into the second hour lunchtime took a hammering…never athe glass talk good thing. Practically climbing the walls by the time we made our exit Nick waBonded Stores Stourbridge Town Arms muttering incoherently ‘soporific, strange’… Still dazed but sandwich in hand things were looking a bit more rosy until a bang on the roof and a shout to move the boat on as ‘students with special needs like to visit the moorings in times of crisis and one was having a crisis right noglassw’. Not the only one.

So lunch on the go, we swung back onto the Stourbridge Canal and headed out into the country. The first true greenery for a while it even looked healthy through the dank grey mizzle. Back into the land of tie up where you fancy we stopped before the rain hit hard.

Time Travel

Delph Locks Metres on from the manicured Merry Hill moorings we were back into genuine stuff again. Wound our way past factories and round shopping trolleys, under a chimney skimming bridge and along to Delph Locks. The flight is impressive with an edge of the world feel looking down from the top. Originally opened in 1779, they’ve been butchered in number and shape over the years, restored to re-opening in 1967.

Leaving the Dudley no. 1 behind we turned left onto the lock hoppingStourbridge Canal. Lunch was done with fairly quickly as plans involved clearing the Stourbridge Flight before dark. Not the greatest start with bottom gates left open, empty locks etc but Nick was winding paddles and yaLock inspection on Stourport locksnking gates like a lock hand possessed. Until the men in the high vis jackets whistled.

By mid afternoon, at a standstill, I cleaned the shower and Nick washed the cratch out Stourport Locks towards Red House Glass Conewhile a lock inspection took place. An hour or so later with not much found other than a few windlasses the stinking pound was re-filled and we crept on through, light fading and still plenty ahead. The last few locks dropped down through some beautiful old  bridges and buildings – give or take a satellite dish here and there it could have beenRed House glass Cone a time tunnel. Coloured bulbs strung outside Red House Glass Cone, a great example of catapulting canal history in style.

So we didn’t quite finish the flight. Not exactly sure what’s outside, there’s definitely one lock looming in the darkness. We do have a bit of a tilt on, perhaps the pound is seeping away…

Merry Hill

the other end of Dudley TunnelJust a couple of miles today, a water fill at Blowers Green where it’s only a short walk up the locks to see the other end of Dudley Tunnel. Down a lock and along to the Waterfront at Brierley Hill. Past the private moorings, we tied up above Westfeild’s Merry Hill – an enormous shopping centre with Sainsburys and Asda.Moored Westfield Merry Hill

Flood lighting all the way tonight, plenty of people about…just one ‘let me on the boat’ so far. Nick has just taken off in the direction of Argos for hoover bags as though they’re at the bottom of the garden…forget electric hook up this mooring has life essentials on tap. Crazy mild again, perhaps winter won’t arrive at all.

Netherton Tunnel

BCN New Main LineDue to issues surrounding death by fume inhalation and getting the boat stuck we turned round and headed away from Dudley Tunnel. Part of the morning was spent re-visiting old ground…along to Tipton Green, a drop down Factory Locks and a speedy ride along the New Main Line. Turning right onto the Netherton Tunnel Branch soon led to the mighty tunnel mouth. The last tunnel to be built during the canal age, Netherton was completed in 1868, it showcased engineering: straight, brick lined, 27ft wide, dual tow path and gas lighting. Shafts known locally as the peNetherton Tunnelpperpots due to their shape and the iron grills that cover the openings provided plentiful ventilation. In contrast to Dudley Tunnel engines are a must, no unpowered craft are allowed through. Needless to say it’s haunted. Sadly no ghosts today, voices from the darkness were nothing other than three ambitious walkers taking on two miles of  pitch black soggy tow path.

Bursting out the other eNetherton Tunnelnd we were onto Dudley no. 2. Moved through Windmill End Junction and on past Lodge Farm Reservoir to a mooring that’s not quite a mooring but is working out nicely so far. Over lookinventilation shaft Netherton tunnelg Netherton Hill to one side (luckily the direction of the undrawn curtains) and a heavily razor wired industrial park to the other.

Bedding washed and fire dried throughout the day, bedtime was looking lovely until leaving the port-hole out when rained at an impossible angle, soaking the middle of the mattress. Radiators blasting now.

BCN Old Style

BCNA short stint on the New Main Line before veering onto the old at Smethwick Locks. Brindley’s contours might have been a slow go pain way back, but they definitely make for a more interesting journey. The area of heathland, now Smethwick Locks was a headache for Brindley who figured a tunnel would work but ground conditions meant locks were the only option. Originally twelve in total, water supply was nightmare and involved several pumping stations. In 1789 a lower line was cut and six of the twelve locks wereM5 done away with. Then came the problem of too much traBCN Old Main Line - under M5ffic which meant duplicate locks, it’s these that remain today. Not far in distance but the new and old lines are worlds apart.

Through Summit Tunnel then a lunch stop, looking at the Nicholson we figured Dudley Tunnel had to be two-way as there was no mention of booking or passage times. Not longgeese Black Country Museum BCNbefore we reached the M5 awkwardly perching over the canal. Snaking under, in, out and round it seems amazing the 1960’s let what must have been an almost redundant stretch of canal escape bucket loads of concrete.

Dudley Tunnel

electric tug Dudley Tunnel

By the time we reached Tipton Junction and turned left we were on the run in to the Black Country Museum, the mouth of two-mile Dudley Tunnel. Map reading done for today, Nick flicked on a few pages…only to find the tunnel navigational notes, handily written well away from the map, a Nicholson speciality. Anyhow the gist of it goes ‘MUST book in advance’ ‘engines must not be used’ ‘poor ventilation’ ‘electric tug available’ ‘limited headroom’ and the knock out blow…’legging’ That’ll be a no then.

Good moorings outside the Black Country Museum with water point, showers etc. A quick boat wash while Nick got to grips with re-routing.