Five boats took part in the inaugural cruise of the Cotswolds Canal Cruising Club:
Cormorant II Lynn & Bob Hallam
Intrigue Polly Fothergill & Jan Thomas
Joie de Vivre Joyce Taylor & Jim Hanks
Time Out Angela & John Cheesbrough
Wildcat Wendy Beaumont with Jackie & Robin Stammers,
Yvonne and Graham joined “Wildcat” later.
The intention was to cruise from the Braunston area via the Grand Union, the North Stratford Canal and the Birmingham & Worcester to the newly opened canals into Droitwich; then return along the Severn and Avon rivers to Stratford, and then back to the Grand Union.
The weather had other ideas. Four boats assembled at Napton Junction (Intrigue joining later) on Saturday 30th June and descended the 9 locks to the Blue Lias moorings for the crews to meet up that evening over drinks. The drinks were preceded by Jim’s taking an unfortunate and unplanned dip in the canal; a foretaste perhaps of the soakings all would receive over the next few days.
The journey to Hanbury Junction (start of the Droitwich Link canal) took the planned six days and included pleasant stops at Saltisford Arm and Lady Lane Wharf, the latter being the home of the very friendly Earlswood Motor Yacht Club. Many hands made light work of the Tardebigge Flight allowing time for everyone ( at Bob’s insistence ) to climb the 18 steps near bridge 54 to the view point to spend a little time admiring the magnificent vistas in all directions. Fortunately, this was one of the less rainy days. Polly and Jan on Intrigue joined us below the flight.
At Hanbury problems began; with Wildcat already through (now with additional crew, Yvonne and Graham) and three boats in or down the first Droitwich locks, BW decided to close the canal. Wildcat, using the Nelson principle (“I see no signals”) had already made it through to Droitwich on what were if not exactly red boards must have been distinctly pink ones. The next three: Time Out, Intrigue and Cormorant II took refuge in the new and practically empty Droitwich Spa Marina. Joie de Vivre loitered back at Hanbury – possibly the best choice.
Saturday morning saw a valiant attempt to complete the run into Droitwich defeated by padlocked lock paddles. It was Sunday before the journey could be completed, albeit with some trepidation sliding through the M5 underpass. This is not a passage to be made with anything on the roof.
The weather had improved by this point allowing crews to enjoy the rest of the day in Droitwich. Clearly however this was not a place to stay. The predictions for using the two rivers were not getting any better and Droitwich has practically nothing in the way of boaters’ facilities. A drumhead meeting on the G&T deck of Wildcat decided on a phased withdrawal: A canal passage round to Worcester, then, if still no chance of a river trip, back up Tardebigge!
HM and HRH had thoughtfully arranged to visit Worcester on the same day as the Club, though they seemed rather more preoccupied with visiting the new town library and cathedral. This being so and the river still emphatically closed the withdrawal began.
The weather on the return trip seemed to settle into a pattern of bright, breezy mornings followed by a good soaking in the afternoon. Fortunately most of Tardebigge had been completed before the rain arrived. The Earlswood club was as welcoming as ever, and all five boats reached the bottom of the Lapworth Flight by Saturday evening (July 14th). Sunday morning saw the first of the splits as Intrigue and Cormorant II headed south down the South Stratford whilst Joie de Vivre, Wildcat and Time Out completed the run back to Napton.
The disappointment at not completing the river section of the cruise is undeniable …. but there will be another year. The newly restored section of the Droitwich Canals was explored, Droitwich was reached, and no-one will forget the height of the River Salwarpe or the scrambling through the M5 tunnel. The rain will be forgotten; it failed to dampen spirits anyway. It seemed at least that the first cruise of the Cotswold Canal Cruising Club was enjoyed by all.
Cruising days: 16
Cruising time: 88.8 engine hours
Average per day: 5.55 hour
Distance travelled: 120.20 miles
Droitwich Canal Revisited
September – October 2014 –
Debby & Martin Rushbrooke
The 4Cs in July 2012 made the Droitwich Canal their inaugural cruise, 5 boats took part and battled against poor weather conditions and river closures.
We on N.B. “Phoenix” have just completed a trip on the Droitwich Canal and would like to let other members know just how enjoyable we found this new restored piece of waterway.
28th September 2014 – 7th October 2014
9.5 days mostly in glorious sunny even hot weather.
Engine Arm (Oxford Canal) – Warwick – Northern Stratford – Worcester & Birmingham – Droitwich Canal – R.Severn – Staff & Worcester – Wolverhampton 21 – BCN – Northern Stratford – Home to Engine Arm.
79 Cruising Hours
Average Hours per day 8.5
Droitwich Canal Passage
We arrived at Hanbury and the Droitwich Junction Canal at lunchtime on Wednesday to be greeted by a CRT volunteer. He discussed the first 3 locks and explained how side ponds worked and should be used and asked if he could help us. Not wishing to offend we accepted his offer of help and he set of lock wheeling to the 2nd of the locks.
The restoration of these 3 locks was made possible due to a legacy left by a canal enthusiast Neil Pitts. Neil was a great friend of ours, and regular passenger on our Hotel Boats.
We found these and all of the narrow locks to be in good working order and very deep. Although we noted filling the 4 new locks created a lot of turbulence in the chamber and wondered how rough an Uphill journey might be!
The famous reeds are still in evidence, however the reed cutter was at work between locks 3 & 4 and there was a clear and wide channel. The Droitwich Spa Marina is now full of boats quite a different scene to those who visited in 2012.
We were fortunate to cruise this waterway after a very long dry summer, the river sections were below the green section on the gauge and the rivers flow barely in evidence. The water level being low, our passage under the M5 was easy, but we are a tug and sit low in the water, I would have been interested to see another boat with a taller profile use this tunnel as headroom is definitely limited.
Arriving at Vines Park in Droitwich we joined the Barge Canal in glorious sunshine, the locals were very willing to help with the swing bridges, advise on mooring and generally were pleased to see us. We opted to moor in Netherwich basin on the edge of the town, this was secure with ample finger moorings for visitors. The basins permanent moorer’s happily offered advice on places to eat and shop.
The next morning we were on the Droitwich Barge Canal and as such the locks became broad, they were all in good working order, some people may say that they are heavy and stiff, but then perhaps they are not that familiar with Hatton or Knowle!
Our dog “Lizzie” loves boating or more accurately towpath walking, the 5 ½ miles of the Barge Canal has an excellent towpath
(even under the A449!), don’t expect to see your boat on the move as the reeds are very tall and dense.
Mooring is limited to Droitwich town and a new section just above the 2 River Severn locks at Hawford.
We much enjoyed this canal, it allows boaters to cut off the less attractive bottom end of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and unlike some restored waterways it is in a pretty good shape already. One only has to think back to the early days of the Kennet & Avon to remember a canal that was difficult to work. Many Locks had already fallen back into disrepair, it had no moorings, serious water issues and very few facilities.