The sound of rain on the roof usually makes bed a lovely place to be, but last night it had us peering out the port hole. Warnings of rain in Wales combined with the deluge in Worcester played all sorts of tricks on our night time brains – flash flooding, rising up above the racecourse moorings etc… With plans to set off at first light we eventually fell asleep and woke again at 7.30.
Out on the stern feeling jetlagged we looked at the water and realised night time had conjured all sorts of horrific river conditions that were nowhere to be seen in daylight. Into Diglis Lock, where four Crayola crayons crossed the bridge, making an even more trippy start to the day.
Son of Henry VII, Prince Arthur”s birth symbolised the end of the Wars of the Roses, by the time he was three his marriage was in the planning and he was formally bethrothed to Catherine of Aragon at the age of 11. Then he died, aged 15, leaving lucky Catherine the job of marrying his brother Henry VIII. One of the most important monastic cathedrals in the country, the monastery continued until 1540 when Henry VIII wasted no time dissolving it, ordering some of the last monks to become Dean and Chapter.
…and we’re back in the room SFR.
Up a lock, pulled over for a quick Asda dash across the bridge. On and out, a stormy Worcester disappeared behind us as we crept up from the urban, out into the greenery.
After a still hazy start, today burst into life. Stourport’s mix of finest Georgian architecture, fun fair and maze like basin formation is a curious concoction that provides a great place to stay then kicks you out afterwards feeling slightly bewildered but happy to have been there.
The river looked like a mill-pond and the sun broke through making a beautiful few hours out on the wide water. The locks popped up pretty quickly downstream and in what felt like no time we were free wheeling, standing on the roof trying to catch a glimpse of the 5.40 at Worcester. The racecourse moorings scream narrowboat freebie. Tie up, stand on the rail for the first four races then enjoy free admission (programme included) for the remainder of the card. Nick thinks we should own a horse one day.
The dragon boats have disappeared, so have the rowers and the racecourse is plunged into darkness leaving just us and the river…and a dog in a garden not far enough away that is mindlessly barking non-stop. Word from the lazy boy is ‘Two ropes and we’re away’.
That Worcester mooring was a good thing. Reluctantly pulled the ropes and left a gaping hole just waiting to be swallowed up. Under Worcester Bridge, up past the race course and out onto long, big stretches of river. Gloomier today but still dry and hardly a breath of wind.
Effectively no official visitor moorings between Worcester and Stourport, we’re getting used to it but it’s a stark contrast to canal life where the chance to moor is pretty much round every corner. Locks are a breeze though, just roll up, wait for the flashing red light (meaning the lock is being prepared) then the green light followed by huge gates effortlessly opening like curtains. Easy as.
Three locks and twelve miles later, we began to recnognise the view ahead. It’s been a big loop – including Kinver, Penkridge, Great Haywood, Fradley, Sawley Cut, Nottingham, Leicester, Stratford, Tewkesbury, Worcester but we’ve come full circle ending up back where we were in January – the river looks alot calmer now.
Up through the narrow locks and into the Basin, lucky to find the last mooring, we wasted no time connecting water, electricty and getting an enormous thrill out of hearing the washing machine working without the sound of the engine. Even our water proof coats got washed, that’s never happened before.
The network seems to be joining up at a great pace now making narrowboat world seem smaller. Quite bonkers how many places we know how to find a supermaket in.
An early morning out with the old, in with new neighbour rotation – who it turned out we were moored next to in Birmingham during the winter. Worcester is an interesting mangle of streets with just about every shop out there, there’s still exploring to do.
Murk has become a complete pain to walk as he now thinks every outing involves a swim in The Severn. A loop along the river, through flower meadows, past the Cathedral bought us to Worcester Cricket Ground where we stumbled upon the training facilities, Nick sprung into his younger self and I struggled to leave the ground.
It took a walk up to Diglis Basin for us to realise how used to open rivery freshness we’ve become and how much we like it.
The predicted Saturday morning rush down to The Severn didn’t happen, in fact we were the only boat heading out. Water tank filled, boat roped, the water disappeared and the gates opened. A short channel before reaching The Severn, with instructions not to swing round too early because of sand banks we finally straightened up and began to plough upstream. What might be a twig on a smaller river suddenly becomes a tree trunk, there was a fair bit of missile dodging involved. Hot, the banks are high and for long stretches there’s little sign of life, perfect for sunbathing. The old church tower at Upton-upon-Severn reached high above the pretty cluster of boats and buildings below. No room at that inn, moorings packed right out. A straight 16 miles it was then, we did check on the temperature gauge a few hundred times but it didn’t budge. Good boat.
Having only eaten the wake of the odd cruiser throughout the day it was surprising to see a flurry of them heading downstream from Worcester. Into Diglis Lock, we rose in next to no time, a deep one requiring rope shimmying on the lock wires.
Lurking while trying to figure if a space on the pontoon moorings before Diglis Basin was 60ft or not, a couple appeared happily offering to move a cruiser along to free up a bit more space, very kind – especially as it wasn’t even their boat! Great mooring although the height of the floating pontoon poles is a little alarming…
The Severn rose almost two foot over night, with the bottom narrow lock submerged we turned our back on the river. Pulling up for diesel and coal we had no idea what a momentous occasion the boat was going through, a bell was dinging somewhere in our brains but it was only later, noticing the brass plaque that generally goes unnoticed form one month to the next we realised the boat had been home…literally moored to the side of the shed it was built in.
That was the extent of yesterday. Well and truly beaten by the weather we moved a few miles before stopping for lunch and not moving again.
This morning the sky was bright and the rain had stopped raining. Lucky timing meant we passed under Falling Sands Viaduct just as the an old Severn Valley train crossed over head. Tried and tested, it’s possible to step off the boat at Kidderminster ring road lock, dash into Sainsbury’s, find the wine aisle, pay and be back out ready to jump on the boat with three litres of red wine by the time it chugs on by.
The dog shit incident meant we missed the wonder of Debdale lock on the way down, the cave beside the lock provided shelter to both navvies and horses over the years. Wound our way round towers of sandstone rising from the water. Brindley followed the natural contours of the land, the canal hugs the River Stour, with recent downpours the constant rush of running water is never far away. More wood, the logs are in, we’ve never had it so hot.
With only four units eaten from our 15 unit card we weren’t ready to pull the mains plug, the 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 carrying 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.