Blog

Ranting in Worcester

I’ve had to hold my horses/tongue/etc until I had calmed down to compose this missive. 

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We had travelled down to Worcester from the yard via Stourport and the Severn, and a very pleasant trip it was too. Misty, but dry and warm. I like to take photos in the mist as I find them “atmospheric”, which is a very simple view, but then I’m a simple soul. Here are a couple for your delectation.

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We had planned our trip very carefully with an eye on the published “Winter Stoppage Programme”. It turned out that we had to book passage through the river locks from Stourport to Worcester too, even though it was the end of half-term week and there were plenty of hire-boats still out. Not many pleasure boats knew that booking the locks was required, as CRT are still pretty rubbish at disseminating this sort of information. We had to be through the two barge locks linking Diglis Basins to the Severn before Monday the 2nd of November, as these were programmed to be closed for works to take place. We also had to be through the first few narrow locks on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal as this stretch was also scheduled to close on the same date. This meant that our destination of choice for that evening would be Tibberton, this being the first reasonable place to tie up. Reasonable means that there is a pub there, - and another one too.

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As we entered the top barge lock, we could see that work had already started on the replacement of the coping- stone edgings, and that the brick-work below these was also being replaced. This set our alarm bells a-ringing; the water-level in the basins must be low. Sure enough, it was - at least nine inches below the normal level. We managed to get our deliveries in the basin done even though we could not get alongside the bank. We then set off up the canal towards Sidbury Lock (the first of the narrow ones) with some trepidation, as we knew that trouble was in store. We struggle along the length below Sidbury Lock at the best of times; the lock is approached under a major road bridge, and the channel is narrow and full of rubble. Further obstacles, such as road-cones, road-works signs, push-bikes etcetera are regularly added to the canal here by the local hard-of-thinking. It took us nearly two hours to travel the last one hundred yards into the lock. We achieved the lock by raking as much rubble as I could to the edge, removing an assortment of scrap-metal and surplus road-works accoutriments, and repeatedly filling the lock and emptying it in a series of flushes to lift our boat in small steps over the remaining detritus. Lots of swearing was involved too - all of it directed at the local Canal & River Trust management, who do not appear to care that deeper boats will struggle if the water level is allowed to fall, or, as in this case, be deliberately lowered without any notice issued at all. We also found out that the brickies have been working on the lock from a boat, and have been going up and down in the lock alongside boats passing through. Wheeee!

The sandstone coping stones on the barge lock are being replaced as some of the old ones have deteriorated. They are being replaced with sandstone blocks that are much shorter than the original ones, and this is altering the look of the lock significantly. The new blocks do, however, match the completely replaced copings around the basins themselves. These new blocks look very uniform and “machine-cut”, and as a result have none of the character of the original hand dressed copings. They are also much slipper when wet.We finally got to Tibberton, a journey that severely tested our knowledge of the canal, as the last two hours were travelled in pitch dark and thick fog. I couldn’t even see the front of the boat! It certainly concentrated my mind - in fact it made my head hurt. Lucky that the pub was open, then. 

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We should have been there with plenty of daylight to spare, albeit foggy daylight. I don’t mind long days, but it is intensly annoying when the long day is caused by a complete disregard by CRT for customers(!!) using the canal. Rant over.

coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014