Friday, 30 June 2017

A Mink and "Big Bird"?

Friday 30th June 2017 back at Worcester.
A cool morning but thankfully dry. As we walked into town, we paused to admire the carved signpost in Vines Park that celebrates the re-opening of the Droitwich Ring.
Each of the four arms was carved on one side and on the other showed the number of miles, locks, swing bridges and tunnels by canal to the furthest point north, east, south and west from Droitwich on the canal network. The sign pointed north to Tewitfield, Lancaster (127 miles, 106 locks, 13 swing bridges and 7 tunnels), east to Brandon on the Little Ouse (187 miles, 189 locks, 11 swing bridges and 8 tunnels), south to Godalming in Surrey (204 miles, 201 locks, 30 swing bridges and 7 tunnels) - which is where we are headed - and west to Llangollen (125 miles, 93 locks, 10 swing bridges and 7 tunnels). A great and imaginative illustration of the breadth of the canal network.
Two lovely murals are to be found in the town,each depicting the history of the town in a different way.
Droitwich now celebrates its long history of salt production and, in Vines Park, there is a replica of one of the boats called a "trow" that used to carry the salt down the barge canal to the Severn for shipment to the world. It now provides seating for passers-by.
There is also a replica of a Roman brine pit.
With a fridge full of goodies from Waitrose, we topped up with water and set off down the northern section of the restored Ring. This part is the former "barge" canal, so the locks are wide locks; however, the abundance of sedge meant that the canal itself was frequently quite narrow. Often, as M walked between the close-spaced locks to "set" the next lock, she couldn't see where MM was and even wondered if she missed the lock altogether!
We have hardly seen another boat moving on the Droitwich Ring, but as we approached the first of eight locks that lead down to the Severn, we saw that there was  a boat coming up - great timing. Then, as we waited to go into the lock, another boat came up behind us and so joined us in the lock. Typical, like buses, none for ages and then they all turn up together!
But it was great to be able to work the wide locks in company. Nb. "Lindal Iron Ore" is a hire boat based out of Lowesmore Basin, where we moored MM last weekend. The two families  on board were on their first canal holiday and doing very well and clearly enjoying themselves.
This ivy-covered footpath signpost reminded M of "Big Bird" from Sesame Street - except it was green not yellow.
This is a beautiful rural stretch of canal. The only slight disappointment is that because of the sedge barrier and the other vegetation, there is nowhere along the whole stretch between Droitwich and the Severn where you could moor up.
The C&RT is "upgrading" the towpath along this stretch; M said that she by far prefers the original grassy path. Maybe the C&RT should put in some visitors' moorings?
Linacre Bridge is one of James Brindley's original accommodation bridges. It was much more elegant than the later bridges.
Drama as M, walking the towpath, came out of the tunnel under the A449 just before lock 2. Running towards her came a mink, which stopped in its tracks when it saw M, almost under her feet.
At the same time, a golden retriever, "Barney", spotted the mink and gave chase from behind. The mink hesitated, confused as to which way to go. Eventually, it dashed past M, hotly pursued by Barney and the pair of them disappeared into the tunnel amid much squeaking and growling. R was also coming through the tunnel on MM and watched as the two of them raced towards him. The mink escaped into the water and so both it and Barney lived to fight another day.
Finally, we got to the last lock that let us down on to the River Severn.
There is only one river lock before Worcester. For our new friends, a river lock was a bit intimidating, so they were pleased to share it with us.
After mooring up on the Severn at Worcester in the same place as last week, we invited our five new friends on board for a glass of wine. Rachael, Kathy, Caitlin, Derek and Dave hail from the New Forest and are on their first ever boating holiday.
In the end, we provided the glasses and they, very kindly, brought a bottle of wine. A great way to end a really fun day.
Today: 10 miles, 9 locks and 5.0 hours.
Trip: 90 miles, 80 locks and 68.6 hours.

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