Wednesday, 4 November 2009

And So to Stourport

Slowly to Stourport part VI
From Cookley it was only a short trip through Kidderminster to Stourport which marked the southern extremity of our trip. After following the narrow and winding canals through the Black Country and down from Stourton Junction it comes as something of a shock to arrive at Stourport, with its complex of wide-open basins, locks and buildings developed over a 40 year period from 1771 when the canal was completed through to its junction with the River Severn. Much has changed here over the years not least of all recently, with the re-excavation of part of the Lichfield Basin, filled in in the 1950s and the less happy closure and conversion into flats of the Tontine Hotel.
The main basin overlooked by the Clock Warehouse
We dropped down through the deep York Street lock and winded in the main basin before locking back up and tying up on the visitor moorings. When I'd been planning this trip I'd envisaged spending the best part of a day at Stourport and staying overnight, but the convuluted route we'd followed to get here and a lack of detailled planning on my part meant we had just an hour to spare! Time only for a quick walk around the basin complex and a quick look at the re-excavated Lichfield Basin with its new flats that will soon be inhabited by people who didn't expect noisy and smelly boats mooring outside their front windows.
The old Tontine Hotel overlooking one of the basins
The Tontine Hotel was built by the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal Company and functioned as its headquarters as well as being the principal hotel in the area. I have fond memories of it from a hire boat trip in the 1970s when its then 1930s ambience and spacious interior, although clearly not original, gave one the impression of being aboard an ocean liner (steerage class).
Then it was back to the boat and off in an attempt to get as far along the Staffs & Worcs as possible before dark. There was time for a brief stop outside the supermarket in Kidderminster and while Duncan popped inside for a few odds and ends I chatted to the security guard who was genuinely interested in boating - at least until he started asking about how much various things cost, when it was painful to watch him mentally transforming the various amounts into the number of hours he would have to work at a security guard's wage.

"As far as we could get" turned out to be Kinver. In the 1970s the village was renowned for the number and quality of its pubs, particularly as each one was owned by a different brewer - a novelty at the time, especially in the West Midlands which was dominated by Ansells and M&B. In fact, so popular did the village's pubs become that landlords reputedly asked the Campaign for Real Ale to cease publication of its guide to the Kinver crawl. Its very different now but the Plough and Harrow at least remains to remind you of former glories and it was here that we spent most of the evening.

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