Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Steaming to Stourport

Severn Valley steam railway train crosses the elegant viaduct above the canal
Phew! After yesterday's antics, today's final miles to Stourport were thankfully free of drama. We even got a treat and saw a steam train from the Severn Valley railway crossing high over the canal on a magnificent viaduct.
Just a couple of locks and four short miles separated us from last night's mooring outside The Watermill pub at Kidderminster and Stourport where the canal meets the Severn.
What an odd place that Watermill was. A huge establishment devoted to providing 'twofers' for a clientele of families, pensioners, girlies on nights out and occasional marooned boaters, aiding the choice of food with menus that include pictures of the dishes for those who struggle to imagine what the words 'steak and chips' actually means. It actually means rather less than you might hope from the pic as the food was decidedly average and, if you look at the prices too, then not as tempting an offer as the two-for-one deal suggests.
First lock of the day, the pretty Caldwall Lock
Time worn steps tell an eloquent story of 200 years of use
That said, the building itself was clever: an old watermill actually built about 20 years ago but fitted out with some panache inside using reclaimed beams, stained glass, pine panels and such like. And the beer was okay, if a bit cold. Nice to get a decent pint of proper brown bitter too (Hobgoblin) after all these golden ales that Midlanders seem to like.
We were quickly past the site of the tree blockage this morning and through the picturesque Caldwall Lock, followed  by a long, steep bank of more elderly trees, any one of which looked likely to topple into the water during the next breezy night.
And then, just as we passed under the railway viaduct along came the steam train. The Severn Valley is a 'proper' steam railway that runs 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth and uses big ex-mainline engines like the one we saw. No 43106 is an ex-London Midland & Scottish loco: a 2-6-0 for any railway buffs.
After that moment of nostalgia we came to our last lock, Falling Sands and a final, somewhat insipid run into Stourport through the flat, scrubby floodplain of the River Stour which the canal had been tracking all the way from Kinver and which was also destined for the Severn.
Once this arm led under the bridge and down to an ironworks
Stourport was a huge inland port where canal boats traded loads with the big Severn river vessels. It had its own local industries, too, but only vestiges remain. We passed a stub of canal that once led down to the river and provided a link to an ironworks while on the edge of the town another stub, bordered by a high brick wall inset with mooring rings, is the remains of a canal/rail interchange basin.
Now Stourport is an eccentric mixture of magnificent 18th century canal port, slightly shabby country town and, most bizarre of all, a sort of inland Great Yarmouth with kiss-me-quick style amusement arcades and chip shops and a huge, permanent funfair 'Treasure Island'.
Not sure I'd fancy going out in that flow: the Severn was running hard
But more of that tomorrow. Enough for now to say that the line of narrowboats moored up here waiting won't be going on the Severn yet awhile: the river is flowing fiercely and the depth boards are on red for danger.
PS Actually we did have one incident today: while out shopping in Stourport I managed to lose my special, bought-by-Harrywoman-for-Christmas glasses. So far I've walked round the town three times and can't find them. Blast.


  1. Don't forgetq cast an eye over our boat Fruit of The Vine moored in the upper basin. You reviewed it in December 2010 for Canal Boat magazine.
    Keith and Dianne

  2. Yes we already spotted it! Still looks very smart too.

  3. Well the trips going well (despite the odd sticky bits to keep you on your toes).....I hope the Spring weather arrives soon for all our sakes.... great when the sun shines but the hail is no fun. Also nice to hear that Fruit of the Vine still have the same crew (and looking good).You do wonder after boat shoots if the happy owner remains happy and loves the canal life they were so looking forward to. Have a good you have some Easter Eggs hidden away for Skipper Brian.