Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Droitwich Canal

When we were moored below Tardebigge locks on Saturday night we phoned a couple of friends, who we knew had moorings a couple of miles away at Stoke Prior, to see if they could recommend anywhere for Sunday lunch. As luck would have it they were in residence, so on Sunday morning we carried on down the next few locks and breasted up with them. Stuart is a vintage motorbike fanatic and was off on a club ride but Michelle joined us in the Navigation pub where we had a superb roast lunch.  In the evening we sat outside till late, eating and drinking and generally having a good time. Michelle's a knitting and crochet nut like me, so on Monday the two of us slipped away to Bromsgrove to stock up on yarn.  It was really nice to spend time with them, they're such a lovely couple, very much on our wavelength.  We'll be meeting up again in a month or so for another cruise round the BCN.

The Droitwich Canal opened in 2011 after many years of restoration so we thought we'd better make use of it on our travels towards Worcester. The first 3 locks are manned by a volunteer lock keeper who helped us through the flight. The top lock is a bit deep and the gates swing so there are chunks of wood supplied to prop them open.

It might have only opened last June but the canal is in danger of being taken over by weed in places.

At the staircase locks we met a right pair of idiots. I don't call people idiots lightly, but we'd had the pleasure of them rushing past us so fast a few days ago when we were moored up that they knocked one of my ornaments off the shelf! This time they were showing off their boatman skills. Their boat was in the bottom lock of the staircase of 2 locks. One of the guys was filling the top lock (which you then let down into the bottom lock to fill it) but couldn't be bothered to wait until it was full so he started letting water down into the bottom lock.  He then realised that there wouldn't be enough water to fill the bottom lock so opened the top paddles of the top lock to let more through. When I commented on his unusual technique he assured me he knew what he was doing "as he'd seen the marker level" ?????  Well guess what..........he let so much extra water down into the bottom lock that it overflowed the gates and the lock sides and then their boat got stuck!

Because they'd overfilled the lock, their boat was far to high and the force of the water rushing through the overflow sucked them over to one side, where their rubbing strake got stuck against the lock side.  They couldn't move either forwards or backwards or side to side. They were well and truly stuck.  But they still knew better than us. Although they didn't refuse our offers of help pushing the boat they wouldn't listen when I told them why they were stuck and how to rectify the problem i.e let some water out of the lock.  Eventually the penny dropped, we let a load of water out and they managed to get into the top lock.  At which point we left them to their own devices. Men who know it all can do it all in my opinion. I wouldn't have minded, but the lock operation instructions were clear enough, they just chose not to follow them!

This is the overflow where they'd got caught. The normal water level is just at the bottom of the grating, they'd filled the lock to the top of the coping stones.

This staircase lock is brand new, with concrete sides and an enormous cill.

the staircase locks from below

The only major obstacle to navigation on this canal is a very low tunnel. As the canal was derelict when the M5 motorway was built they didn't bother with a bridge over the canal.  The restoration works had to make use of a river culvert under the motorway and, as you can see in the photo below, this is rather low.

We weren't certain we could get through the tunnel so dropped the flower troughs on their sides and took it slowly, fully expecting to back up if necessary.

As it happens, we had about 3ins. clear headroom over the top box.  As this is a river culvert I doubt we'd get through if the river level was much higher but we're not planning on coming back this way so it won't bother us.  If you're planning coming this way, PLEASE make sure you check the river level marker at the last lock.

 When we reached the town of Droitwich Spa we came to the first double width lock, and this sign.

It's a strange lock because you have to open a foot bridge before you can go in, and it's only a couple of inches deep too.

After another 2 swing bridges we arrived at tonight's destination.  The new pontoon moorings for the town.

We had a quick trip into town but most of the shops were closed as it was after 6pm so we just paid a quick visit to the large Waitrose supermarket. I don't know how they manage to stay in business as they are SO expensive. We'll have a proper look around tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

my in-laws live in droitwych and the new waitrose is a godsend.skpt