Monday, 19 July 2010

Droitwich - First of Many?

After the Barge Canal re-opens "later this year", and particularly when the Droitwich Junction Canal follows in 2011, I'm sure many of the continuously-cruising - and other - boaters who post their experiences online will be visiting the town and writing about what they see.
What they will find is a small, Worcestershire town with a big history. Nowadays mainly a dormitory town for Worcester and Birmingham commuters, Droitwich's original prosperity came from salt. Salt had been produced here in Roman times and by the time of the Normans the town was the largest producer of salt in the country.
After a long decline, salt working in the town finished in 1922, when the remaining producers combined to open a large-scale saltworks at nearby Stoke Prior at a point now known as "Stoke Works" on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. The demise of the salt trade led to the closure of the Droitwich canals, which remained derelict until the Droitwich Canals Trust began its restoration campaign in 1974.

Most visitors begin their tour of the town with a visit to the High Street. To be frank, as a shopping centre it's seen better days, being composed now mainly of charity shops, beauty parlours and fast-food takeaways - and of course, like most town centre streets that haven't been pedestrianised, it also functions as a car park. Serious shopping takes place in a nearby 1970's arcade, but the high street retains a certain charm and is sure to feature on a number of boaters' blogs in the future.
High Street, Droitwich
Centuries of salt extraction have taken their toll on the land on which the town is built and have resulted in the higgledy-piggeldy nature of some of the shops seen above, whilst in some parts of the town there isn't a straight line in sight.
Droitwich's other claim to fame is its radio transmitters. Not as well known to boaters (yet) as those at Hillmorton, they have been broadcasting BBC radio since 1934. Readers of a certain age may recall "Droitwich" on the dials of their old steam radio sets  -alongside "Athlone" "Hilversum" and "Vienna"!

Droitwich - You read it here first! (with apologies to anyone who's already written about it)


Halfie said...

I think I'm right in saying that Droitwich transmits the long wave BBC program(mes). It used to be Radio 2 (or even the Light Programme) on 1500 metres (200 kHz), then Radio 4 on 198 kHz (after all the MF and LF frequencies were made divisible by 9).

Starcross said...

Halfie, I beleive you are right about the transmitter. I think it also supplies the World service to western Europe and, these days, even Talk Sport and wahetever "Virgin Radio" on medium wave has become.