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STOURPORT RING – 7 -14 days round cruise
Offering an interesting mix of river, countryside & cities, this route will take you through the historic city of Worcester, along the River Severn to one of the prettiest canals in England- The Staffordshire & Worcestershire.
Take a Steam train ride in the Severn valley & cruise through Birmingham to the superb 26 acre outdoor Black Country Museum, the cosmopolitan Gas Street Basin with all its cafes & bars, and Cadbury World at Bournville.
(2) Start & Finish : Alvechurch OR Worcester marina, Worcestershire.
Total Distance: 91 miles
Total Locks: 118
Cruising Hours: 54 hours
Novices should take 10-14 days to complete this ring, but experienced boaters can do it in 1 week, but if you want to stop off & explore you will need 10-14 nights.
Cruise from Alvechurch marina southwards towards Worcester and you will soon encounter your first tunnels, although at 613 yards and 580 yards they are some of the shorter ones.
After the last tunnel you will soon reach the Tardebigge Locks. These represent the Boaters Rite of Passage, as these 30 locks, combined with the nearby 6 Stoke Locks, represent 36 locks in 4 miles, and other groups of locks will pale into insignificance in comparison.
By the time you have had your training & stowed your belongings, time will be passing when you leave Alvechurch. so if you cruise for about 1 ½ hours you should get through the 1st lock of this long flight, and there will be room to moor up just after that.
Tardebigge reservoir is near here, and the old Engine house is now a Bar/restaurant.
Have a good breakfast & then descend the Tardebigge flight set in very pretty rural surroundings, which can take 4-5 hours, but there are places in between the locks where you can moor up & have a breather!
At the bottom of the locks is the Queens Pub- Canalside at bridge 48, with good food and a lovely waterside terrace.
The 6 Stoke locks are slightly more interspersed and the canal continues through very rural surroundings towards the 5 Astwood Locks.
It is worth stopping near bridge 41 before these locks, as you can walk into the village of Astwood and find the Bowling Green pub, which has a Bowling green in the garden! It is 7 hours cruising to here.
There are not so many locks today as you climb down through the countryside towards Worcester. The 6 Astwood locks start you off, and then there is a short tunnel at Dunhampstead to negotiate, with no more locks until you get to the 6 Tibberton locks. Soon you are passing the outskirts of Worcester and you can moor up at Lowesmoor Wharf, which is where our boats also start from.
It takes about 8 ¼ hours cruising to get here.
From the Wharf you can walk into the city centre of Worcester, with its splendid cathedral dating from 1074, & museums, art galleries and half timbered buildings. The museum at the Royal Worcester Porcelain works is well worth a visit, as it contains the most comprehensive collection of Worcester Porcelain in the world.
There are many bars, pubs and restaurants and take-aways around Worcester, and plenty of shops to stock up on supplies, or for a little retail therapy.
After leaving the Worcester Marine at Lowesmoor wharf & negotiating 2 locks, you will be ready for the last lock on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal before you reach the River Severn (turning right onto the Severn)
As an alternative to mooring overnight at Lowesmoor Wharf you can turn right on the River Severn & moor near the Cathedral.
Continue up the River Severn leaving Worcester behind, and cruise through the lovely Worcestershire countryside. There are very few locks, but the Bevere lock is one of the prettiest.
You leave the River Severn at Stourport on Severn & join the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
This canal is one of the prettiest and most interesting waterways in England. The canal basins at Stourport are full of pretty moored boats, there are 2 entrances to the basins from the Severn one through Broad locks, and the second one through narrow locks which is the one you should take.
The locks are open 24 hrs, and form a staircase, the lock-keeper is usually around in case of difficulties. You should proceed to the eastern corner of the upper basins to join the Staffs & Worcs canal. There is a useful tea room & craft shop by the lock and temporary moorings.
You soon leave Stourport behind and approach Kidderminster with its smart new developments, & good moorings at Weavers wharf, with supermarkets & cafes nearby.
It is 9 hours cruising to here, with 15 locks.
If time allows take a train ride on the Steam Railway. The Severn Valley railway is a full-size standard-gauge railway line running regular steam-hauled passenger trains for the benefit of visitors and enthusiasts alike between Kidderminster in Worcestershire and Bridgnorth in Shropshire, a distance of 16 miles. Why not disembark at Bewdley & take a trip to the safari park with it's free roaming giraffes, elephants & big cats.
The train journey is full of interest, for the route follows closely the meandering course of the River Severn for most of the way on its journey between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. One highlight of the trip is the crossing of the River Severn by means of the Victoria Bridge - a massive 200-foot single span, high above the water which, incidentally, features in the film 'The Thirty-nine Steps' with Robert Powell in the leading role.
There being few roads in the Severn Valley, some of the views are only visible from the Railway. The scenery is varied and largely unspoiled, punctuated by the quaint 'olde worlde' charm of country stations, each one giving ready access to local villages and riverside walks.
Be prepared for a long days cruising if doing this ring in a week! Leaving Kidderminster behind you soon enter the open countryside again, until the canal is encroached by trees and cliffs which make you feel you are in the jungle. At Debdale lock a doorway reveals a cavern cut into the solid rock, which may have been used to stable towing horses.
The canal continues through secluded woodland and pretty locks to the very pretty village of Kinver, where you can stock up on provisions or get some fish & chips! It is worth having a look at the fascinating Rock houses, carved out of the cliffs and in continuous occupation for 150 years until 1935.
You pass by the Stourbridge Canal and occasional locks and canalside pubs until you reach the 3 Bratch Locks just north of Wombourne. These locks are open from 8am to 8pm and you should carefully study the operating instructions before use, or consult the lock-keeper if in any doubt.
The Octagonal toll house, lovely setting and unusual layout of the locks make an interesting view, but just treat each one as a separate lock & you should be OK.
Continue on if time allows & moor up near Dimmingsdale Lock.
Cruising time to here is 11 hours and there are 22 locks.
You are soon approaching the outskirts of Wolverhampton, and about to turn off right onto the main line of the Birmingham Canal. 21 locks will carry you up into the heart of Wolverhampton.
Continue down the main line of the Birmingham canal, ignoring the left turn up the Wyrley & Essington Canal, and later on the Wednesbury oak Loop. After the short Coseley Tunnel you will see a canal leading off to your right which you should take towards Dudley and the Black Country Museum.
It is worth mooring up near this superb 26 acre outdoor Museum which has been built around a re-constructed canal village, with a pub, shops and an inland port. You can ride on a trolley bus or tram, try sweet making, metal working or glass cutting, experience an underground coal mine & meet the characters in the shops and houses.
It is 9 ¼ hours cruising to here, and there are 24 locks.
Turn right along the Wolverhampton level canal, it is lock free for a while now, ignore the right turning at Oldbury Junction, and turn right at the Spon Lane Junction. There are 3 locks at Smethwick, but after these it is lock free again. Keep on the Birmingham main line towards the Gas Street basin which is where you will join the Worcester & Birmingham Canal again on your way back to Alvechurch.
For those on a 10-14 night cruise it is worth mooring up in the Gas Street basin which is in the heart of Birmingham's canal network, and has been redeveloped into a unique experience where traditional narrow boats moor up next to cosmopolitan cafes and bars. The surrounding area is a vibrant arts & entertainment area and there are many shopping options within a short walk.
Continuing on down the Worcester & Birmingham canal through Edgbaston & Selly Oak, you will reach Bournville where there are visitor moorings & you can visit Cadbury World, a must for adults and children alike!! You do need to book beforehand Tel. 0121 451 4159. It is signposted from the canal. There is an exhibition dedicated to the history of chocolate, audio visual displays, Victorian Birmingham & a Jungle to explore!
After Bournville continue on at the Kings Norton Junction, ignoring the right hand turn to the Stratford on Avon canal, & soon you will come to Wast Hills Tunnel, at 2726 yards it is one of the longest in the country.
After the tunnel you will have left Birmingham behind and soon reach your home destination of Alvechurch marina, tired but exhilarated by the places you have been & the things you have seen on your journey.
Cruising time 9 ¼ hours 3 locks
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