Trudi, an experienced narrow boater and member of the Waterways Holidays booking team, writes about her latest journey on one of her favourite canals, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
“It has surpassed all of my expectations…..”
We began our journey from Northwick, just North of Worcester, on the 69 foot narrowboat ‘Transcendence’. Turning onto the River Severn we were instantly blown a short distance sideways down the River by the wind (our jaunt coincided with the arrival of hurricane ‘Katia’ which hit our Western shores over the weekend of 10thSept) but quickly managed to right ourselves to head North towards Stourport-on-Severn.
Our crew consisted of myself , ‘Captain Ken’ (as he likes to be known) our two faithful hounds Tasha and Banjo and two friends who had never narrow boated before, Claire and David, who soon fell in love with the whole boating experience. We taught them how to steer the boat using the tiller whilst we travelled up the River as it’s much wider than the canal. A cloudy sky reflected in the wide open waters as we cruised happily along spotting wildlife, church spires, motor cruisers and millionaire mansions. There are mechanised locks on the Severn and we pulled in to the left-hand side in order to share with another group on a motor cruiser, chatting away together as the water level rose. These large locks are all manned by lock-keepers, and this lets you get used to handling the boat in a lock (if you’re unsure) before attempting the smaller ones yourselves. The skies opened at one point and it pelted down, but our trusty golfing umbrella kept the worst of it off and any disappointment was made-up for by the fabulous rainbow that appeared to our right above the trees and the cottages. At around 6pm we moored up outside ‘The Angel’ in Stourport and stopped there for the night, our only disturbance being the ‘Disco Trip Boat’ that passed us twice that evening, much to our hilarity.
The first set of ‘real’ locks are found at Stourport and they are not typical, as you need to fill one lock from the other, checking beforehand that no-one is coming down the other way. These lead into the Stourport Marina / Basin where you can re-fill with water if needed. The Marina is rather interesting, with it’s familiar clock tower and wind-dial rising above the many rows of colourful boats moored below. The locks are surprisingly narrow and entering them is like threading a needle, but they fill quickly, which is always a bonus. As we left the marina we began our discovery of the Staffs & Worcs. (as it’s known in short). And the sun came out, thank goodness.
At first the area surrounding the canal was quite urban, with terraced houses and playing fields overlooking the waterway. Gradually these receded and countryside prevailed, with a meandering route that takes you under bridges and past pretty cottages, skirting the over-hanging willows en-route. Soon, we reached the outskirts of Kidderminster, where we stopped at a big ‘well-known supermarket’ which is conveniently situated right alongside the canal. As we continued, we wondered at the intricate Victorian architecture of ‘Weavers Wharf’, once a textile mill providing yarns for the booming carpet industry Kidderminster became so famous for, now a shopping centre re-opened in 2004 which houses chain stores, shops and restaurants. From under the dark and artistically graffitied bridge number 16 (below a main roundabout) at Kidderminster Lock, we emerge slowly upwards to see an absolutely gorgeous church tower, complete with turquoise-blue clock face….a real photo opportunity.
As we wend our way further along the canal, the countryside opens out into green and golden fields, fringed with bullrushes and grasses. The map says that there’s an aqueduct here but it must be hidden by the trees. The route becomes more wooded, with the various colours of leaves rustling on the trees above us and reflected in the tranquil waters below. One thing we are enjoying very much is that the locks are quite far apart which allows for a lovely long run-up, with much appreciation of the surrounding scenery and many wild flowers along the way…reminding me of a book with intricate botanical illustrations. There are also many interesting red and yellow sandstone rock formations along some parts of the canal, at one point we see that caves have been made out of the rock and I understand that these caves can be found in surrounding areas too.
On our second evening we passed Wolverley and stopped just after the Cookley tunnel, which is just 65 yards long and is cut out of the local sandstone which passes directly under the town itself. The walk up from the towpath to the main road is very steep (beware) and even more difficult with two bags of delicious food from the local, very reasonably priced, curry house!
The next day we continued on towards Stourbridge with the strong winds whipping at the sides of the boat and making it quite hard going for Captain Ken and slowing our progress. The scenery however, was delightful. Even the gardens of houses that we passed were either landscaped beautifully or had vast vegetable patches, where ducks, geese, herons and squirrels roamed. Fields of sheep, drinking from shallow patches of the canal were interspersed with summer houses and follies. We stopped at Kinver for a walk around the town, which was very traditional with it’s butcher, antique shops, baker and pubs (also supermarket, Chinese take-away and fish & chip shop). There was a lovely ivy-clad walkway between shops which lead to a café, where we stopped for a late breakfast.
When we returned to our boat, we decided to turn around at the canal junction for Stourbridge rather than continue to the town itself, as we were being hampered by the wind. Executing a perfect 6 point turn at the winding hole, we progressed back the way that we had come. Believe me, it often looks completely different on the way back (for those of you who dislike the thought of ‘out & back’ cruises) and although we re-visited several places that we had already passed ….the white cottage next to Whittington Lock which actually has miniature lock gates to it’s front garden, the house which was completely covered in creeper, the arched viaduct stretching high above us, pubs that we decided we might try on the way back, the beautiful church spire, the open fields, 2 kingfishers! …..it was just great!
More of Trudi’s holiday snaps can be seen on our Waterways Holidays Facebook page
Thanks Trudi for giving us your review of the River Severn and Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.