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Monday 28 March 2016

Boats, beers and boozers. 8

Following my beloveds return to the boat from a home visit we left Kidderminster and set of continuing our journey down the Staffs and Worcester Canal.

 Weavers Wharf shooping area. Slingfield Mill and Brinton's factory chimney. The old mill building is now home to a Debenhams. When the Staffs. and Worcester Canal was cut through joining the Trent and the Severn the weaving and carpet industry could really take off. There were 25 steam engine chimneys like this, but only this remains.

This bridge marks the entrance to Pratt's Wharf that was built in 1835 to carry timber to a saw mill via a lock down into the River Stour to Wilden. It also carried coal and and iron to the Wilden Iron works. It finally closed in 1950.

A little closer to Stourport is this transhipment wharf that had three railway lines to it from Stourport Station. The loads railway wagons would roll down from the station to the canal by gravity. There were substantial sets of buffers at the end. They largely carried 10ft lengths of iron and steel bars from South Wales. They would be loaded in canal boats that would then head to Pratt's Wharf and lower down on to the Stour to take them to the Wilden Iron Works.

There was no room for us on the visitor moorings above York Street Lock so we went down with our fingers crossed. Luckily there was a spot just passed the services so we filled up and settled for the day. It is surprising that there are so few moorings with so many basins. Just past the facilities is the Lichfield Basin. This used to be filled with canal boats bringing coal from Cannock Chsea to power the Stourport Power Station. The Power Station was opened in 1927 by Stanley Baldwin who was enjoying the second of three terms as the Conservative Prime Minister. He was born in Bewdley and served as the town's MP. He died in Stourport in 1947. The Baldwin family also owned the Wilden Iron Works. The power station was enlarged during WWII but was finally closed in 1984 and the basin filled in. Later is was excavated to form the centre piece of a housing scheme but now visiting boats are allowed in. In fact the place was completely empty which just seems a criminal waste.

These are the wide beam locks that were built to bring up Severn Trows up to the Upper Basin from the river. They were built in 1771 and ten years later the narrow beam to sets of two locks were built close by. The whole complex of basins and locks make for a great amble about on a nice day. Not so good on a cold windy and drizzly day but still a delight to see the old buildings and warehouses by the water too.

The basins and the river side make for such a nice walk that folk used to come out for day trips from the industrial towns of the West Midlands. For this reason the town has a bit of an air of a seaside town complete with fun fair, candy floss and ice cream!

It would be easy to get lost making your way to the river from the upper basin as there are all sorts of little arms and  sheets of water so to save embarrassment they have a sign post for us boaters.

We popped into the chandlers for a couple of bits and then  headed off on our tour. We stopped for a pork pie and then had a pint at the Black Star. The served beer from the Wye Valley Brewery and I tried the HPA and Butty Bach before further wanderings. Before finally heading back to the boat we stopped at the Holy Bush for a drink, and to warm up if the truth beknown. There were only a few in but as soon as we had our drink we were included in the conversation and made to feel right at home. A girl came in and they asked why she was there as she wasn't due to work until the following day. It turns out that she had just got back from her holiday and had missed folk so much she had just popped in to catch up! I reckon that is the sign of a good boozer. The beer is largely from Black Country Ales and at £2-35 they were good value. I tried the 'Pig on the Wall' that almost had the look of a mild it was so brown. There is a rich malty taste that gives it a touch of coffee and chocolate. I also tried the 'BFG' or 'Bradley's Finest Golden'. This pint had more of the hops taste and was a complete contrast as there was the citrus on the tongue. I enjoyed them both and will definitely be back when we pass through next time.
The Holy Bush, Stourport.

Monday 21 March 2016

Boats, beers and boozers. 7

After our trip up the Stourbridge Arm to sample a pint at the Royal Exchange we continued on our way down the down the Stourbridge Canal to it's junction with the Staffs. and Worcester Canal at Stourton.

It is a nice flight of locks that drops you down to the Staffs. and Worcester Canal, especially in the spring when the leaves are nice and green and the blossom is still out. You can see the sign post at the junction here from the last lock.

Once on the new canal you are quickly up to Stewponey Lock. It has a lovely little toll house still by the lock and I love these circular weirs that are a feature of the Staffs and Worcester Canal.

We stopped for a day at Kinver and had a lovely walk to the Holy Austin Rock Houses and a hike up to Kinver Edge and around the plateau there before descending to the village once more. We did stop for a pint at the Vine that is just by the Kinver Lock and enjoyed my pint of Enville Bitter brewed not very far away at all at Enville at the Enville Brewery (funny name for a bear then!). If you wanted to reduce your beer miles even further I also had a pint of  'Under the Edge' from Kinver Brewery brewed in Kinver!! We were also offered home made samosas which, all in all could qualify the pub for this blogs boozer but we are still moving on. Well worth a visit though and saves you the walk into town too.

The Staffs. and Worcester must be one of the most picturesque canals on the system and it certainly has it's moments as it cuts through sandstone ridges giving dramatic photo opportunities. One of the best must be here ate Debdale Lock. It is a long way from Debdale Wharf on the  Leicester Arm near Foxton.

Not far from Debdale Lock we moored up again and explored the little village of Wolverley. It is hard to miss the church of St. John that is built on the ridge overlooking the village. The village has been there since before the Norman Conquest and has been quite a place in it's day. There are still some beautiful buildings. Wolverley was the birth place of one William Sebright who went to London and made his fortune. We bought lots of land in Bethnal Green and when he died he left it in his will to be sold and use the money to establish a Grammar school in the village The original school from the 1620's is still there but another school was built in the 1920. It is now a state run secondary school. The River Stour at the foot of the ridge powered an early tin plate mill in 1670. The village is also the birth place of John Baskerville who was the printer who invented the Baskerville font and whose works were in Birmingham just near the New Library with a posh building bearing his name there. There are some houses that have their back wall built into the sandstone cliff and others that have garages carved out of the rock.

We continued on our way and ended up at Kidderminster. Helen had to go home so it was handy for the station and Tesco's and I was left to get on with the painting of the back end of the boat and the newly acquired short plank. This view of the church of St. Mary and All saints is taken from the aqueduct over the River Stour which is just before the lock.

I very rarely go drinking on my own but as I had a week on my own I had a look round the town when ever I went shopping or to buy bits and pieces for the boat. I did find the Penny Black, a Weatherspoon's, in the middle of the town but ventured further up the hill to find the King and Castle. The pub name has nothing to do with royalty or fortifications but refers to two iconic classes of steam trains. Here follows two gratutious photos of steam trains from Wikipedia.
King Edward II built in 1930's

Drysllwyn Castle (Earl Bathurst) built in 1936.

The King and Castle pub is in part of the Kidderminster Station of the Severn valley Steam railway and hence the association with the steam trains. The bar is actually part of the refreshment rooms and is decorated appropriately. Mind you my main reason for seeking it out was to check that the Bathams they served was just as nice as that I'd tasted at the Royal Exchange and it wasn't a fluke. As well as Bathams on regular they have Hobson's bitter and mild. I'm afraid to say that I stuck to the Bathams as a proper taste test. (Strictly for research purposes you understand). 

The King and Castle pub is found just near to the first ornate lamp before the entrance to the station proper. The modern working station is found just behind the camera.

I must say that although it was still a magnificent drink it was just not quite as good as that from the Royal Exchange so must have been a day or two older or something. I did give it 4.5* rather than the 5* previously , partly as it was £2-80 instead of £2-60 at the Royal Exchange, so still worth walking up the hill for, I also managed to force down a a cob sandwich with it to that was beautiful with the beer. It is funny how a bread bun attracts different names all over the place isn't it. It would be a bread cake her, a bap, roll, barm cake and tea cake to name a few. The natives were friendly and after a couple and a cob I wandered back to the boat contented. The presence of the steam trains and the access to the platform make this a must for those of us addicted to beer and  steam engines so is my blog recommendation.

Sunday 13 March 2016

Home from Home.

At last!! We have made it down to the boat for the first time since 9th November. And I think it is the first time I have relaxed since then!!!  We drove down to Kings Orchard Marina and arrived after an easy 90 min trip. We approached the boat the with the usual trepidation of just hoping that everything will be okay. We too Macy the Cat with us and she was soon at home and seemed to be glad she was back aboard. I had a quick look about and the only thing I could see was that the stove looked a little rusty in patches. On closer inspection it seem that we have a slight leak from the roof that has dripped down the flu, onto the top of the stove causing a little rust. I went and turned the water on at the pump and then turned the electrics on so that we could fill the kettle. the next job was to turn the gas on so that we could boil it, all soon achieved. Whilst that was on I cleaned up round the stove and then lit it to warm the boat up. Whilst that was catching I put the Hurricane heater on for the hot water and then checked the header tank. It needed a bit of a top up but not too much. Then I set too transferring the stuff we had bought from down with us from the car to the boat. It was a lovely spring day but still had a little nip in the air. There were plenty of folk about cleaning and polishing their pride and joy.

My next job was to go round the radiators to bleed them. Once do, another check of the header tank and then on with the Hurricane heating. When we were down in November I thought that the hot water was not cutting out. At home I had puzzled over it and wondered if it was the tank thermostat but it appeared to be working fine this visit. The heating also seemed to be fine so all was tickety boo. I then turned to the engine. I had a quick squint down the engine hole to check everything looked okay. I was gratified to see that there was no water in the bilges at all. I then gave the engine 5 secs. on the heat plug and she started straight away, and ran as smooth as a sewing machine.

By the time I had had look about the boat it was nearly the end of the Italy v Ireland 6 Nations match so it was a good time to erect the TV aerial and hope that that would also be working fine. And all was well. Especially as England turned out winners, despite a nasty scare towards the end. It now seems that as Scotland beat France today England are Champions but they will want to win with a Grand Slam next week to seal the deal.

The night was rounded off with the voice and the concluding part of 'Stag'. I'm not sure whether it was the couple of cans of beer, Helen's couple of glasses of wine but I felt so comfortable a relaxed, even before we got to bed. As soon as we got aboard we felt like we were back home, comfortable and happy.

About 0800 in the morning with the mist just rising.

Helen hardly stirred through the night, which is always a good sign. She always sleeps well on the boat, as do I. I was up and making the tea after that but we didn't hurry to stir out of the pit until later. The water was hot and the shower pump worked first time so yet again all was well witrh the world.After breakfast, and catching up with the 'Archers', I went and brought the coke that had been in my Mum's bunker! What!!! Well the house is being cleared on Monday so there was no point in leaving it! I only got three bags but it burns really well and lasts for ages. Helen sorted out the planters as I filled up with water, not full as I'm not sure what the weather will bring before we get underway properly. Our thermometer showed that the minimum temperature inside had been +1C so that was good.

Looking North from our berth.

Our pontoon.

After all that work we went to pay our dues for electricity and then headed out to go and have a look at the Heart of England Centre. It is a little outlet centre and surprisingly Helen didn't come back with any purchases but we did succumb to a hot cross bun and a coffee before heading back to the boat. I then checked the batteries and had a much closer look around the engine hole. By the time that was all done we decided that we would head to the Plough at Huddlesford for a pint. It is only about 15 mins walk along the tow path and when we got there I found that the were serving Joules Pale Ale that is one of my favourites. They also had Tim Taylor's Landlord. After a couple we wandered back to the boat and I have had time to write the blog while Helen gets the tea.

The Plough from the canal.

Helen on the way back.

The marina on the way back.

After tea we have 'Night Manager' to watch and then another good nights sleep before having to head homeward again. We will be back over Easter some time.

Monday 7 March 2016

The dust is settling.

It has been a very busy time over the last few weeks, but now it seems the dust is beginning to settle. Last week we saw my Mum off on her last trip. It was a warm one too.

The build up to the funeral was peppered with deciding on hymns and readings etc. She had left little guidance but we liked the way that mu Dad's had gone so we replicated that. It was a trip to the crematorium followed by a church service and the wake.

At the crematorium we were ushered in to the sound of 'Sailing By' which is the theme tune to the nightly shipping forecast after midnight. My Mum seemed to always go to sleep with this blasting out due to her deafness, (Which she never acknowledged). It has many other memories for me as I remember being wedged in many a wheelhouse with the heat blasting out and the chart table light dimmed right down waiting to hear whether you were going to be able to stay in your bunk off watch or rolled out on to the deck. The music we left to was 'Now is the Hour'. We tried to find a version that had the original Maori version and then English too. In the end we settled on the Vera Lynne version with it's war time connotations. My Mum and Dad lived in New Zealand for several years and this is an emotional song. It also has very many other memories for me as it was often sung when far away from home in saloons and bars afloat and ashore by homesick matelots after a few drinks. I thought if I was going to breakdown any time it would be then.

My Mum, Betty in 2015.

We then went to our local church St. Augustine's and held a service there with a couple of hymns. My younger brother read a poem out by Joyce Grenfell that was very good, and appropriate.

Then my oldest brother gave a potted life history of our Mum who was a typical Yorkshire woman but took great pride in her five sons. I'm not sure what she would have said if she had known the night she died we had robbed her purse and all went out for an Indian meal! It was the gathering of the clan and perhaps the hardest thing of all was when those living away were taking their mementos of my Mum and Dad probably not ever seeing the house again.

My Mum was almost 30 when she had me so I have no memory of her at all like the above picture taken when she was 17 in 1943. She was quite a catch I would say.

She was as tough as old boots and only took to her bed on the final day as she physically couldn't get out of it. She wanted to stay at home and so she did and luckily she had no pain and fell asleep with plenty of us there to see her on her way. The last episode of  'Call the Midwife' had me weeping like a baby as I had been to see my Mum at the undertakers as my wife wanted her to have her best shoes with her, as she was always particular about her shoes.

I'm not sure how I will feel when the house clearers arrive and the house goes on the market but it is certainly the end of an era. Don't often write anything personal on my blog but just felt I wanted to share this, not for sympathy, please don't add comments like that, but for just marking her passing in a public way, but private to me.