THE ALTERNATIVE STOURPORT RING
2nd - 9th September 2006
Saturday 2nd September
(Weather Dull and Light Rain)
- The crew gathered at Alan's House at 9am and headed off to Stoke Prior via the Pork Pie shop, where
Pork Pies that Jim had pre-ordered were collected, still warm. They arrived at Morrisons
in Bromsgrove at 11-40,
where all-day breakfasts were enjoyed before collecting sufficient provisions
for the week.
- After reporting at the boatyard, the crew were
informed there would be a 45 minute wait before the narrowboat "Holly" could be collected.
Therefore the crew chose the spend the time available at the "Navigation" where one
pint of London Pride was consumed.
- After explaining to the boatyard staff the superior
experience and knowledge of the crew, they decided that Holly should be the
first boat to leave the yard and ascend the 36 Tardebigge locks. These
were expertly navigated by the experienced crew in a mere 3 hours 15 minutes.
- The expected very bad weather during the
afternoon turned out to be quite mild with only a little light rain at
- Alvechurch was reached at 6-45pm where after a little
debate and the use of a runner (Ron), the "Crown Inn" was selected to spend the evening.
A little difficulty was found mooring at this location due to the reeds and
- The fare in the pub was well received and washed down
with 5 pints of "Bombardier" and "Flowers" ale. The crew were
exhausted after their first day and returned to the boat for cheese and
biscuits before retiring for the night.
- There was considerable heavy rain during the night.
Sunday 3rd September
(Sunny and bright day, but a little breezy)
- The crew were up and underway at 7-50am anticipating
the long journey through Birmingham to Merry Hill. The Wast Hill Tunnel
(2726yds) was traversed successfully following 2 other boats, in 27 minutes,
with Ron at the helm.
Note light from a following
- A breakfast stop was made just north of Norton
Junction, where Jim prepared an excellent breakfast. Favourable
comments were made about the flavour of the Morrisons sausages and the lack
of baked beans were noted (forgotten at the provisions gathering stage).
- The spirit of the crew was much lifted by the sight of a number of
female joggers out for a Sunday morning run.
- Birmingham Gas Street basin was reached at midday
where a long wait was made to fill with water whilst Ron and Alan went to
find a Tesco Express to purchase Organic Baked Beans and supplies of toilet
- After travelling through Gas Street Basin and mooring
just after "Old Turn", the crew were allowed a short shore leave to visit
the "Malthouse" where 3 pints of Courage Directors were consumed (except
Jim) before returning to the narrowboat for Pork Pie, wholemeal bread and
salad on the move out of Birmingham. The journey down the "Birmingham Main
Line" was uneventful, before making the tight turn towards the Netherton
Tunnel (3,027 yds). Albeit slightly longer, this tunnel was much wider and straighter than Wass
Hill Tunnel and was negotiated in a mere 33 minutes. Later the crew
negotiated the only lock of the day immediately after turning from the
Dudley Canal into the
Stourbridge Canal at Park Head.
|Entering the "Blowers Green" Lock
at Park Head Junction
- The delights of Waterfront on a Sunday night proved
very disappointing for the crew. Dinner of Fish Pie (Except Jim) was
enjoyed at The Brewers Wharf where full advantage was taken of the "Two
for One" meal offer. Three pints of Banks Original was enjoyed before
dinner with a further pint during the meal. Afterwards a visit was
made to Wetherspoons, where the Marstons Pedigree was considered to be of
poor quality. Carl, the colleague met during the last skiing trip by
two members of the crew was not on duty that evening.
- Although it was feared that the the loud music from
the local nightclub might keep the crew awake, the weary crew fell into a
deep sleep until awoken by very noisy road sweeping activity outside in the
Monday 4th September
(Dull and overcast at first, but turned into a hot and sunny afternoon)
- The crew were up before 7am and underway shortly
afterwards anxious to start the long descent of the 8 Delph Locks and the
remainder of the untried route towards Wolverhampton.
- Neil prepared a healthy breakfast of Porridge and
Toast, which was enjoyed on the move. Jim chose to not fully
participate in the breakfast and we believe was missing his traditional
- The Buckpool flight of 16 locks were swiftly
negotiated, despite Jim side-swiping a moored boat on leaving one lock.
The force of a weir stream was blamed for the event, but the other crew were
aware of the truth.
- By the time the boat turned right at Stourton
Junction into the Staffs & Worcestershire Canal it was apparent that early
starts had put the crew ahead of their planned schedule and quick
re-calculations were carried out. The revised plan was to stop for a late lunch and top-up shopping exercise at Wombourne rather than an overnight stop and to head on to Compton for
the overnight stop. This may enable a whole day to be gained and make
the possibility of a Kingwood Junction excursion possible. The crew
were much intrigued by this possibility.
returning from their shopping expedition
- The lunchtime stop was made at Swinton where 3 pints
of "Old Hooky" were taken at the "Old Bush" sitting in their beer garden,
enjoying Old Hooky at The Old Bush
- Compton was reached at 7-30pm in the failing light
after a long day of cruising, where a mooring spot was selected right next
to the bridge.
- An evening meal of Gammon Steaks was purchased at the
"Oddfellows" public house, together with 3 pints of Banks Original Ale.
With the exception of Ron the other members of the crew managed sweets from
the menu, but afterwards found this affected their beer drinking capacity.
After a short stroll, except Jim, they returned to the narrowboat to retire
for the night at 10-30pm!!!
Tuesday 5th September
(Sunny and warm in the morning clouding over in the afternoon)
- The crew (except Jim) were up at an earlier hour and
setup off at 7-10 am. Neil prepared porridge, which was consumed on
the move with Jim driving. The remainder of the Staffordshire and Worcester
canal was completed up to Aldersley Junction in a mere 45 minutes, where
turned to start the flight of 21 locks through Wolverhampton. The
highly experienced crew instantly fell into their well rehearsed routine,
which enabled the locks to be traversed by 10am.
Mother Duck looking after her
clutch at Lock No 2
- As the fresh water level in the boat had reached the 45% point, a stop for water
was made at the BWB Broad Street depot and the crew made welcome use of the other British
Waterway facilities on offer.
water at Wolverhampton
- The journey continued down the Birmingham Main Line
canal, past many disused and derelict factories. Ron offered to
prepare the crew a late fried breakfast which was greatly enjoyed by all.
- There appeared to be no suitable pubs on this section
of the canal and therefore with a 3:1 majority (Jim objecting), it was
carried that the boat should continue at great speed towards our night-time
destination in Birmingham, where Ale could be enjoyed without delaying the
for the high speed section of the canal.
- A small diversion was agreed to use the Birmingham
Old Line rather than the Main Line, via the Spon Lane and Smethwick Locks.
This proved to be most interesting, as the narrowboat travelled underneath
the M5 motorway. The crew were concerned when a number of locals
advised that there had been no boats seen travelling this section for many
- This concern proved justified when the narrowboat
ground to a halt in a lock beneath the motorway. Jim found the problem
to have been caused by a giant lump of polystyrene jamming the boat against
the lock wall. After considerable energy had been consumed attempting
to free the boat by reversing, the offending polystyrene was removed by Jim
with the boat hook.
- The narrowboat "Holly" again moored in Birmingham and
the crew hurried to the Malthouse for a number of pints of Courage
- The crew all agreed that the Kingswood Excursion
should be attempted starting on Wednesday morning and felt that a Chinese dinner
in Birmingham (except Jim) was required to maintain their strength for the
Wednesday 6th September
(Sunny and warm most of the day)
- The Crew departed Birmingham, after porridge (except
Jim), slightly later than
normal, stopping at the BWB station to top-up with water and
make use of their excellent facilities.
- The descent down the 13 locks through the heart of
Birmingham was uneventful, following a slower boat with a number of
younger persons on board. The crew met with two BWB workmen replacing
the sluice ratchet on one of the locks. After befriending them, they
offered the crew the old cranking pinion as a souvenir.
- The boat joined the Grand Union Canal out of Birmingham, stopping for
a late breakfast, prepared by Alan (with scrambled egg, but no beans).
- Afterwards the crew realised that to reach the Boat
Inn at Catherine de Barnes, great speed would be required, which was
accomplished arriving at 2-20pm. It became apparent that a Wake was in
progress and the crew watched with great interest. Three pints of
Courage Directors (Except Jim) were enjoyed by the thirsty crew.
The Boat Inn at Catherine de Barnes
wildlife at Catherine de Barnes
- The crew left The Boat Inn for the final leg of their
journey to Kingswood Junction, starting their descent of the 5 double width
Knowle Locks. The journey stared uneventfully, in tandem with another
narrowboat. However, on leaving lock 4, catastrophe struck, when the
rudder jammed whilst Ron was carrying out the delicate manoeuvre. The
lack of control resulted in a collision, which accurately deflected a passing narrowboat into the side of
the basin, but luckily the collision deflected their path sufficiently to enabled them
to make the
fifth lock where, disabled, it completed its passage through the lock.
The stricken craft was guided out of the lock into a safe position where the
damage caused by Ron's misdemeanour was investigated. As it was
considered that the damage was too great for the crew to remedy on their
own, assistance was summoned from The Black Prince emergency call out
engineer, who promptly announced that he was unable to attend until the
following day. Faced with the prospect of no beer or food for the
evening, the crew set about repairing the damage themselves, under the
guidance of Alan. Helped by advice from a local boatman, and with
great difficulty and courage, the rudder was lifted and dropped successfully back into the
cup bearing beneath the waterline, enabling the narrowboat to continue its
- The delays caused by the repairs made the planned
destination impossible, therefore an alternative evening destination was
selected, being the "Black Boy" at Knowle. This choice proved to be
greatly appreciated by the crew who enjoyed, Steaks, Ale Pies and Chicken
Madrid dinners, with 3 pints of London Pride Ale (Except Jim).
- There was rain during the evening, whilst the crew
enjoyed their rest in the pub, but it stopped in time for them to return to
the narrowboat for coffee and cheese, before retiring.
Thursday 7th September
(Started cold, but turned into another sunny day)
- After the excitement of the previous day the crew were
up early and away from their moorings at 7am. Porridge was prepared
again by Neil on the move, before Ron carefully guided the narrowboat into
the Kingswood Lock Junction and lock complex and on to the
- Again the crew snapped into their co-ordinated lock
handling mode to enable the rapid passage through the 20 Lapworth locks in
an enviable one hour period.
Lock No 4 of the Lapworth Flight
- After this exercise, the crew stopped just above the
locks at Hockley Heath, to enjoy Jim's breakfast of Egg, Bacon, Sausage,
baked beans and tomato, with a little toast.
- A short stop was made at a Bakery Shop close to
Bridge 20, where supplies of Butter, Milk and a Large Pork and Stilton Pie
were secured, much to the delight of the remainder of the crew. The
jam doughnut purchased by Neil was considered excessive and he was banned to
the rear of the boat to consume the said item.
- After much deliberation a lunch time stop was made by
Bridge 17, where the crew made the excursion to the King's Head public house
where 3 pints of Thwaites Ales were enjoyed in excellent surroundings.
On returning to boat the crew felt in necessary to consume the freshly
purchased Pork and Stilton pie along with some salad and bread.
- Narrowboat Holly continued its journey along the
Stratford canal stopping briefly at the Major's Green draw bridge, where Jim
took great delight in stopping all the traffic on a busy road to allow the
slow passage of the boat though the bridge.
- The crew guided the narrowboat Holly onto the Birmingham
Worcester canal at Norton Junction and again traversed the long Wast Hill Tunnel
to arrive at Hopwood on schedule. After filling their water tank for
the last time the narrowboat slipped into its planned mooring location adjacent to the Hopwood House
Inn at 7-15pm.
- The crew enjoyed dinner at the Inn of curries and
steaks with several pints of Banks Original until the barrel ran dry.
Continued drinking took place with some Jennings Cumberland Ale, which was to
the liking of most members of the crew. As had become usual practice
the crew returned early to the boat for coffee with cheese and biscuits.
Discussions took place to add yet a further excursion to the route with the
boat passing its home boatyard the following day and travelling on to Hanbury Wharfe to visit
the Eagle & Sun, before turning the boat to return to the Boat & Railway for
our final evening.
Friday 8th September
(Clear and cold at first turning into a hot and sunny day)
- Two members of the crew were awoken during the middle
of the night
to see a large barge pass by, navigating in the dark using a giant headlamp.
- Again with great anticipation of the forthcoming
Tardebigge locks, the narrowboat left its moorings early at 7-05am to travel
the short distance through the Shortwood and Tardebigge tunnels to arrive at Top Lock.
- The crew were somewhat frustrated by the slow
progress down the flight of 36 locks, following a number of craft with
inexperienced crews. In addition, time was wasted by a surprisingly
large number of boats coming up the flight, which had to be passed carefully
in the lock basins, with Jim driving.
- All were surprised and intrigued to pass the
narrowboat "Gloria", which was used by the crew during their holiday last
year. The current crew on the boat, especially the 2 daughters, were quizzed as to whether it
continued to perform well and if they were correctly looking after it.
- The home boatyard was passed at gone 1-30pm and guided onwards
towards the Astwood flight of 6 locks. Again this took longer than
expected and narrowboat Holly finally arrived at Hanbury Wharfe at nearly
4pm, to attempt the difficult
process of turning the 70' boat in the narrow canal. This was
accomplished with great skill by Ron, in the entrance to the disused course of the Droitwich Junction canal.
- To the great disappointment of the crew it was found
that the Eagle & Sun closed at 3pm and the despondent crew returned to their
boat to return up the Astwood locks to moor for the evening at Boat and
- Arriving at the moorings for the final night at
5-30pm, Jim found it necessary to check out the pub for the evening, whilst
the others showered and rested ready for an enjoyable last evening.
Moored for the
- Jim returned to the boat having checked the quality
of the beer with the news that, since their last visit, the skittle alley in the pub
had been changed into a Carvery Restaurant and that many locals were
reserving tables. Neil offered to visit the establishment as a matter
of urgency to reserve a table for the 4 crew at 7-30pm.
- The crew selected the excellent carvery Dinner, which
was considered both wholesome and good value at £5-95 per person. Two
members (Ron & Neil) succumb to the delights of the sweet trolley. As
this was the last evening on the boat the crew sat on the canalside edge
taking benefit from the patio heaters and consumed 5 pints of Bank Original
ale. All remaining traces of the cheese and biscuits were consumed
afterwards on the boat.
Saturday 9th September
(Another fine day)
- The boat was a hive of great activity from an early
hour, with the crew packing their belongings and cleaning and tidying the
boat ready for the handover back to the boatyard staff. Porridge was
again enjoyed by 3 members of the crew.
- Ron took the narrowboat for the last mile back
to the boatyard passing up the final lock. The transfer of the belongs
was swiftly achieved and the crew left the boatyard before 9am to start
there journey back to their homes.
- It was considered by all members that the holiday was
a great success and the most ambitious yet, with enviable statistics as
Total Distance travelled = 111.5 miles
Number of Locks
Return to Homepage