I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Tuesday 2nd August

I will start this by saying that if you don’t have Imodium Instants in your medicine cabinet I would suggest that you do – they are good. I won’t say anymore on the subject but I wasn’t right all day!! It wasn’t long this morning before we turned off the Worcester & Birmingham and onto the newly opened and restored Droitwich Junction and Droitwich Barge Canals. There are six locks on the Junction before it joins up with the Barge. The top three have been open for a while but the second three, two being a staircase, are brand new – it seemed so strange all clean and new, hence the photo! At the bottom lock we had to take everything off the roof as the height of the M5 tunnel is only 6 foot and we are 5 foot 9 inches with nothing on the roof. As we got to the tunnel Richard knelt down but I suddenly realised that I couldn’t so literally had to fling myself onto the floor!! There is another lock and a couple of swing ridges and then we were into the new Town Wharf – a marina like basin with nice pontoons to tie up to. We had some lunch and wandered back to Waitrose. We decided not to stay in the basin as it wasn’t very Millie friendly as it was her last night of hunting for a week I felt we should find somewhere else. We moseyed down the canal through five locks but couldn’t find anywhere to moor. The canal is quite narrow and reeds have been planted either side – which is all very well but doesn’t help boaters looking for moorings! We eventually found a couple of gaps where we could put our front and back lines so stayed there for the night.

History time! The Barge Canal is one of the oldest canals in the country being designed by the eminent canal engineer James Brindley. It took four years to connect the River Severn at Hawford with Droitwich, opening on March 12th 1771. Early in the 19th century waterway developments switched to the other side of the town with the opening of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal in 1815 which, because of the geography in the area, avoided Droitwich. To capture the potentially lucrative salt traffic they opened a wharf alongside Salt Way (Hanbury Road), salt being transported from the town by handcart. The inconvenience of transhipment was put up with for 39 years until a canal linking the Worcester and Birmingham Canal with the town was opened in 1854. Known as the Droitwich Junction Canal it was constructed to the same narrow dimensions of 7 foot width as the Worcester & Birmingham rather than the 14 foot width of the Barge Canal, and was the last new canal (other than some cut-offs constructed in the Black Country) to be opened at the end of the canal mania. Competition from the railways caused the inevitable decline and the last boat used the Barge Canal in 1918. The Junction Canal lasted only a few more years until the mid 1920's when the last boat is believed to have travelled along it. The problem of what to do with the canals was regularly debated by Droitwich Borough Council in 1963, and a campaign for their restoration was started and it was suggested that restoration could be completed in under two years!! However it wasn’t until 1973 that Droitwich Canals Trust was formed and work began. The first section of the barge canal through Vines Park was opened in October 1986. Although the majority of the 7 mile length of the canals was still in existence, a 550 yard stretch between the M5 Motorway and Hanbury Locks had to be completely rebuilt. The existing culvert for the Body Brook has been used to allow the canal to pass under the motorway. The Barge and the Junction Canals have been connected together by canalising a 600-yard stretch of the River Salwarpe through the centre of Droitwich. The Droitwich Barge Canal opened officially on September 11th 2010, and the whole canal was officially opened on June 29th 2011.

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