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Hanbury Wharf, Droitwich - Barton Turns Marina

20th - 25th October 2003

6 Days, 51 Miles, 87 Locks









Hanbury Wharf, Droitwich

Stoke Pound Bridge (48)



Stoke Pound Bridge (48) Withybed Green (Bridge 61)
Withybed Green (Bridge 61) Gas Street Basin, Birmingham
Gas Street Basin, Birmingham Minworth - Cincinnati Bridge
Minworth - Cincinnati Bridge Huddlesford - Plough Bridge
Huddlesford - Plough Bridge Barton Turns Marina






Monday 20th October 2003


A 6 a.m. start from Chelmsford saw us arriving at Barton Turns Marina around 9 a.m., to drop off our car there and to meet Nicholas. The plan was for Nicholas to drive us to Hanbury Wharf, near Droitwich, and then to accompany us on the first 2 days of the boat trip. We unloaded the contents of the car on to the boat, picked up the final paperwork from Hanbury Wharf, bought diesel and a few essentials from the chandlery, and then were ready for off at 12-30 p.m. The first problem was to get our bearings and to make sure that we were going in the right direction along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal! This may sound simple, but the Nicholson map is a bit confusing at this point and we were thrown by the sign pointing to “Droitwich”, which is along the yet-unrestored Droitwich Canal.

Setting Off from Hanbury Wharf


But we were soon off heading in the right direction and pointing the boat towards the first set of locks, the 6 Astwood Locks.


These were followed by the 6 Stoke Locks, and by 4-30 p.m. we were at Bridge 48, just before the 30-lock Tardebigge flight. This seemed a good place to stop for the night, especially as The Queens Head pub is located right alongside the canal at Bridge 48. We had intended to have dinner in the pub, but a quick phone call revealed that it had just been totally refurbished and they were not doing meals. So, it was up to Sue to rustle up food on the boat before we went across to the pub for a drink. The “Queens Head”, presumably once an old fashioned canal side pub, is now the trendy “Queens” bar done out in a variety of conflicting styles.

The Queens Head


We settled down for our first night on the boat, with Nicholas sleeping on quilts and a Thermarest in the front section. Unfortunately it was the coldest night of the year so far, and we actually had frost and ice on the inside of the windows!


Tuesday 21st October 2003

Early morning on the canal

Within a short time we entered the first of the 30 Tardebigge flight of locks. These locks are the longest flight in Europe and carry the canal up 217 feet in height. A baptism by fire on our second day on the boat, but at least we had Nicholas with us to share in the lock work.

Sue and Nick

The Tardebigge Flight


We made a late start at 10-30 a.m. and reached lock 29 by 2-50 p.m. in the afternoon. Nicholas took his leave and cycled back to Hanbury Wharf to pick up his car, and we carried on to do the final lock, Tardebigge Top Lock.

This was followed in succession by the 580-yard Tardebigge Tunnel, and the 613-yard Shortwood Tunnel. We arrived at Bridge 61 near Alvechurch at 5 p.m. and moored up for the night. The Crown pub at Withybed Green, next to Bridge 61, looked most inviting and we stopped there for dinner and a drink.

Wednesday 22nd October 2003

The schedule for the day looked lighter than the previous 2 days, as there were no locks to contend with and just over 10 miles of cruising in to the centre of Birmingham. We set off at 9-30 a.m. and after a couple of miles arrived at the entrance of the 2,726 yard long Wast Hills Tunnel. This is a fairly wide and high tunnel allowing for boats to travel in opposite directions at the same time, but it was cold and dank and took 40 minutes to pass through. We arrived at Kings Norton at 11-30 a.m., Sue going off to do some shopping whilst I fettled the boat, getting rid of rubbish and taking on water. We kept to the left at Kings Norton Junction on the Birmingham and Worcestershire Canal (the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal goes off to the right) , passing through Bournville, Selly Oak and Edgbaston on our way to Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham. The terminus of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal is the stop lock at Gas Street Basin known as the "Worcester Bar". This was a physical barrier between the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the older Birmingham Canal. The Birmingham Canal refused to allow a junction and for many years goods had to be transhipped across the "bar", but this was finally resolved in 1815 by an Act of Parliament which allowed for the stop lock joining the canals for the first time.
It was interesting to come across 3 working boats carrying coal going in the opposite direction, a reminder that the canals were built for industrial transport, not pleasure boating. We arrived at Gas Street Basin at 3 p.m. and decided to stay there for the night rather than tackle the Farmers Bridge Locks and the Aston Locks on the descent to Spaghetti Junction.



Gas Street Basin, Birmingham


The whole canal area of Gas Street Basin has been regenerated, and a quick call at the local British Waterways office confirmed that it was safe to moor there for the night. So we moored right outside Sea World, opposite the National Indoor Arena, and had dinner at Pizza Express!


Entrance to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, next to the National Indoor Arena


Thursday 23rd October 2003


We set off fairly early, and turned right at the National Indoor Arena on to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. Within minutes we reached the first of the 13 Farmers Bridge Locks, but ran in to a problem as the lock paddles are fitted with “handcuffs” as a water conservation measure to stop vandals opening the paddles. The lock master’s office was closed, so we phoned British Waterways for help. Before they came back with a solution, the lock master arrived on his motor bike! He had been involved in an accident and had been delayed. We were soon able to purchase the necessary key, and headed off down the 81-foot fall of the Farmers Bridge Locks.

Approaching Farmers Bridge Locks

Farmers Bridge Locks


These locks thread their way through a narrow space between high rise buildings, and the route is not a particularly pleasant one. At one point you pass under the footings of a high rise building that straddles the canal itself. There is a lot of building work going on, and lots of scaffolding by the side of the canal. The lock master came down part of the way with us to help us with the locks, and he confessed that the area was not particularly safe in the late afternoon and evening. Even he would not go down there after 6 p.m. he confided!

We soon arrived at Aston Junction, and took the left fork towards the Aston Locks, a flight of 11 locks leading to Salford Junction, directly under Spaghetti Junction on the M6. Marginally better than the Farmers Bridge Locks, you would not want to be caught on the Aston Flight late in the afternoon early evening. Cuckoo Bridge is probably the only safe place to moor in this area, and even that is not so desirable. We decided to continue. We carried on through Gravelly Hill, Erdington, Tyburn until we came to Minworth Top Lock, next to the Cincinnati Factory. We arrived here at 4 p.m. and decided to tie up for the night alongside another boat that had just stopped. Although next to a busy road, this is a pleasant area as the factory gardens facing the canal have been nicely groomed.

Aston Locks

Cincinnati Bridge

Friday 24th October 2003


The first job of the day, after the regulation cup of tea of course, was for Sue to open her Birthday cards and presents. After that we set off through the remaining two Minworth Locks to Curdworth, passing through the 57 yard long Curdworth Tunnel and on in to open countryside. We stopped at White Bridge, after the 6th of the Curdworth Locks, for lunch and then pressed on to Fazeley Junction. Fazeley Junction was quite busy and we saw a lot more boats, but those moored at the junction itself made the left hand turn towards Fradley quite difficult. The Fazeley Junction area is quite built up with attractive houses and gardens, and made a pleasant change from the industrial areas around Birmingham, We had been intending to continue to Fradley Junction on the Trent & Mersey Canal, but by late afternoon it was getting cold and we had nearly an hour to go. We stopped at 5-50 p.m. for the night at Plough Bridge, Huddlesford. We had intended to go to the Plough Inn for dinner, but it was dark and cold, and we opted for a meal on the boat and an early night!


Saturday 25th October 2003


We were on the home stretch. We cruised up towards Fradley Junction from Huddlesford, and entered the junction itself through the swing bridge. The Swan at Fradley, nicknamed the “Mucky Duck” is supposed to be one of the most photographed pubs in Britain, but it did not look much as we approached, and in any case the junction was heaving with boats making manoeuvring quite difficult. The problem is that the Junction Lock is immediately after the turn leaving very little room for the approach. After Junction Lock we passed through the 6 locks en route to Barton Turns Marina, and arrived there at around 3 p.m. By this time the wind had got up and it was driving with rain, making manoeuvring in the marina tricky. Our designated slot on Pontoon 3 had been take by another boat, so we were relocated to pontoon 5, slot 232. It was a relief to get in to the pontoon and to get the boat tied up for the night.


Barton Turns Marina


Mooring pontoons


Good security


Service facilities