Thursday, 25 May 2017

Worcstershire and Staffordshire Canal - Kinver to Kidderminster

Kinver Lock
For the first time ever we transferred our attention from canal walking to canal cruising and tried out a section of this canal for a couple of days.  We hired the boat from Worcester and headed up the Severn before transferring on to the canal at Stourport.  It was only by going by boat that we realised how slow this form of transport actually is.  By the time we got to Kidderminster we realised that would have to be the limit of our ambitions.  Yet we also wanted to explore more of the canal than we could by boat and so we hit on the idea of doing our usual thing and walk the section we had originally intended to cruise.

Fortunately for us there are a couple of buses per day from Kidderminster to Kinver and we made sure to get the one on the morning.  Perhaps surprisingly we were the only ones on board and it was a fairly bumpy ride the few miles that we had to go.  We got out in the rather attractive looking village of Kinver and headed away from the centre to find the canal about a quarter of a mile away.  On the way we passed a very grand looking water pumping station.  The Victorian architecture was very eye-catching and I couldn't help thinking that the old place would make for a good looking block of flats someday.
Housing Stock
At the canal bridge we passed by a pub that looked rather inviting.  It was a bit early for lunch though so we turned right along the canal and headed towards Kidderminster.  Almost immediately we plunged into the most delightful countryside and not how you might expect Staffordshire to look. (we crossed the county boundary on the bus).  Large scale maps of this area suggest that it is a lot more built up than it actually is.  Initially the canal bank was nose to tail with moored boats.  I suspect that many of them were here to make the most of the pub and/ or the facilities of the village.  Most looked pretty sleepy although there was the smell of bacon as we passed by some of them. 

Approaching Whittington Lock
Mostly the route was free of boats after this although a couple passed by us in the next couple of miles. We left the first boat that passed us behind when it got stuck in a lock and all was quiet for some time after that.  It wasn't long before we crossed the county boundary between Staffordshire and Worcestershire, handily marked by a proper signpost (never seen one of these on a canal before).  It was about this point we started to see the surrounding countryside and not just the canal corridor.  Beyond were the bright yellow fields of rapeseed and in others merely red/ brown soil reminiscent of Devon.  We were now hitting our stride with the walk and the combination of early spring fragrances and singing birds were enough to gladden the hardest of hearts.

Whittington Lock
Up until Caunsell Bridge (number 26) the route had largely been straight sections with the odd curve.  Now the route changed to a lot more wiggly as we found a small range of hills.  This was a very interesting section as we passed by a pretty good looking building that I suspect is now a conference centre/ hotel.  This overlooked a large field in which a heron stood motionless poised for action, although he seemed quite far away from the water and presumably what he was looking for.

A little further ound the canal and we went past a mobile home site.  This was rather larger than I thought for when it looked like we had passed it some more seemed to reappear around the next corner.  Perhaps I was rather more focused on trying to find out where the woodpecker I could hear was actually hiding out.  I never did see it although it sounded like it was really close.

Starting Out
The next part of the mobile home site sported an unusual sight - a signal gantry that looked like it was of Great Western Railway vintage.  No doubt that the residents of this particular park took the appearance of their site very seriously - most seemed to have well tended small garden plots outside their homes.  I would like to say that my nose was filled with teh fragrance from their flowers but sadly that was not the case - instead I got a sudden waft of death smell and this soon turned into a stench.  It was pretty apparent why when I passed by a dead badger.  It looked like the carrion eaters had been at it already for it wasn't a pretty sight either - looked a bit CSI.

Border Post
After we had passed by the mobile home site we came upon a short tunnel and unusually we had to walk though.  Personally I always like these opportunities, as long as no-one is coming the other way!  There really isn't much room to pass by then...  Just the other side of the tunnel and we passed by a factory that still had its canal connection.  I imagine in days gone by this was a wharf but now any notion of goods coming this way must be a very long time ago!

Guard Duty
Another aspect of this canal which we found very attractive was the rocky outcrops that showed themselves when we went around some of the corners.  These were particularly evident at Debdale Lock, where I stopped to help out some boaters get through. This must have taken some digging out by the navvies and probably wasn't too attractive when first built but now it has blended in it really adds a lot of character to the waterway..  We went around a large loop with a large rocky outcrop in the middle while on the other side the woods were resplendent with bluebells - made for a lovely scene.  Further on and the bluebells were replaced by Ramsens, adding some extra fragrance to the walk.

At the next lock we were briefly tempted by a coffee shop in the garden centre next door to the canal but moved on when we saw how busy it was.  Across the valley we could see the village of Wolverley and the church looked particularly attractive.  The sunny start we had had to the day was disappearing though under a layer of cloud, which was a great shame. 

Cookley Tunnel
The last part of the walk was completed a lot more quickly as I took rather less pictures with the increasing gloom.  It wasn't too long before we came to the outskirts of Kidderminster and although the housing estates were clearly growing out into the surrounding countryside the canal successfully managed to cut a swathe through all of them and retain a rural feel for quite some distance.  Even the estate that did surround the canal towards the end nicely dovetailed with the route.  Having the canal as the centrepiece rather than a nuisance was a nice touch by the developers and the residents appeared to embrace it running through the middle.
Boat Park

Not long past here and we were back to our boat.  It was a good little work out for the morning - although we only walked a modest length (6 miles) we did enough to suggest tht this canal might be worthy of further exploration.  I'll wager it will be by foot rather than boat as it is a lot quicker!

Orange Tip