The rain overnight cleared earlier than the forecast had said. We set off in beautiful sunshine along the very pretty section of canal before Stourport. We dawdled along enjoying the trees and the birds.
Once we had arrived at the basin in Stourport we moored up to get water. This was a decision I regretted later as it put us against a tighter time limit than I would have chosen. We had a quick lunch before setting off to the river locks.
On our way north, we had been reminded that we should use the narrow locks rather than the wide (‘barge’) locks when leaving the river. We had followed this advice, but then found that the narrow locks were being repaired, and so had to go back to the wide ones. Today, both sets were working. It was quite a job turning the boat through several right angle corners in a stiff breeze with moored boats all around, this time with no bow thruster. I managed it without mishap, and we soon found ourselves in the first of two double lock staircases. From the bottom lock you can see the funfair.
The transfer from the first staircase to the second is across a pound not much longer then the boat, but the locks are offset by about the same amount. A passer-by (who was also a boater) suggested that whoever built it like this must have had a wicked sense of humour. Another onlooker had suggested something I’d thought of myself – that Clare should open the second gate before I left the previous lock. At least that way I could put all my efforts in to getting in to the lock, and spend none on waiting.
While Clare was closing the gates behind us, a CRT volunteer appeared and helped us through the rest. We were on the River Severn a little after 2pm. The locks on the Severn are staffed, and cannot be used when no staff are present. At this late stage of the season, the latest lock passage is at 4pm. We had less than 2 hours to do the twelve miles and three locks to Worcester. Usually that would be impossible, but today we were going downstream and the stream was strong!
At the first lock, we went in with another boat. He had hoped to get to Worcester today, but didn’t think he had enough time. I was still optimistic, so he invited us to leave first. It wasn’t long before he was just a dot behind us.
Each of the three river locks opened for us as we approached, so the only waiting around was in the locks as the water went out.
We arrived at the canal lock in Worcester a couple of minutes after 4pm. As I’d hoped these locks are user operated, so we had easily beaten the cut-off at the previous river lock – that was more than half an hour earlier. There is a pontoon landing area to let off crew just downstream. I had to turn to face upstream in order to approach it. Clare read out a danger sign saying not to turn here. That seemed odd as it was exactly what you needed to do. The manoeuvre went smoothly enough, but I needed a lot of power to persuade the boat to turn all the way round.
We waited for another narrowboat we had just overtaken to join us in the lock. They knew what they were doing so, instead of turning in the fast stream, they continued to the “slack water” beyond the weir on the approach to the river lock. It took them a little longer, but with less risk of going over the weir – sideways.
At the top of the locks we could see the stream indicator showing that the stream was too strong below Worcester for boats to proceed. There is more rain forecast overnight, so its possible that by tomorrow, the section of river we have just used may be closed too.
By coming down the river to Worcester we have avoided the closed section of river in Droitwich. We now have a couple of short days to complete our journey back to Droitwich Spa Marina.