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Hiring a Canal Boat


In the early 60's I started reading books by Emily Kimbrough. Several of her books dealth with canal boats, one in France, one on the Thames, and one was about a narrowboat hire in England and Wales. Ever since I read her books, I've wanted to do that. So when we decided to visit our daughter who is on a 3 year job exchange, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have a narrowboat holiday. My son-in-law could help us with the boat, and could
Initially I wanted to go across the big aqueduct in Wales, but since my son-in-law couldn't spare a whole week, there was no way we could do that in a long weekend. So I hired a boat through Hoseasons through a hire company called Brook Line in Dunhampstead. It had the advantage of being fairly close to our daughter's house in Cheltenham. We hired a small boat of about 43 feet that slept 5.

Our Boat
Our Boat

Our Boat

At the bow, there were small seats on each side. The folding doors to access the bow can be folded shut and locked. The doors have shades on the windows for privacy. Inside on the portside of the boat is a hanging closet, and next to that is a bench and a window over it. There is a red hatch on the bow which gives access to stored equipment, and the water fill is there also. On top of the boat there is a boat hook and a mop in addition to the orange life preserver.

The steering platform is on the stern. Past the controls are a hanging area with a set of foulies (supplied with the boat) which we didn't need because we had excellent weather. They also supplied our grandson with a life preserver. The stern of our boat did not have a place to sit, nor did it have any protective railing to keep you from falling off the back. There was enough place for two people to stand provided the helmsman didn't need to move the tiller too far to the side.

There are two big steps down from the stern platform. One of the waste baskets is in this area. Our double bunk was just past the stern steering station. This fixed double was pretty narrow. Bob and I almost had space to lie flat next to each other without overlapping. The person next to the wall (Bob) had to crawl over the other person to get up. The door between the bunk and the steering platform can be slide-locked shut so that someone can't come in via the stern (or to shut out cold air), or can be hooked open on the edge of the sink. The cupboards over the sink have the exhaust pipe from the engine going through them which keeps it warm in there, and on the stern side there are shelves, and a mirror on the inside of the door. There are storage drawers under the bunk
Next is the galley area

There was a 3 ring notebook of instructions in case we forgot what we were supposed to be doing. Past the table are the windows with curtains which are across from the double bunk. On the left is the head (toilet - fresh water flush) and on the right is the shower and sink. This whole area can be closed off by securing doors across the central passageway, or there is a door closing off the head separately which leaves the passageway open.

Getting underway - Friday July 26, 2002
Friday - July 26: Both our daughter and son-in-law went in to work. Our daughter came home about 10 and we packed food for breakfast, lunch and snacks. When her husband got home we had lunch and loaded the boys in the USA car, and our daughter and I went in her car (a Rover), to Dunhampstead where the boat hire place was

We parked in the last two places (free) in the lot, and had the boat tour including important lock information (don't leave the paddle winder in the lock mechanism - it will jump out and drown, as it doesn't swim worth a darn), boat running information (check the sump every day, don't let the rudder catch on the lock sill or the sill will damage the rudder - and cost big £££), stove running information(hold the stove knob on for 30 seconds), and toilet running information (don't put anything down the toilet except human produced waste and toilet paper).

Then we loaded the stuff we had brought. We brought towels, although overseas visitors have them provided. We weren't sure, since we were coming from a local house if we counted as overseas. We decided to go down to Worcester and come back instead of going to Birmingham because the route to Birmingham included among other things the Tardebigge Locks - 30 locks in a row, and we didn't want to expend that much effort. Plus, Birmingham isn't exactly a prime tourist destination.

But there were no tunnels on the route, and I wanted to do at least one tunnel, so we went up toward Hanbury Wharf first, and went through the Dunhampstead Tunnel (236 yards long), through Shernal Green, and turned around at the Droitwich Junction where there is a defunct canal. The canals are too narrow to turn except at junctions or turning points. We could have had dinner at the Eagle and Sun pub, but it is apparently so popular that we'd have to have reservations and besides it was too early for dinner and too late for lunch.

Bob steered, and turned us around (the boat is 43 feet long, not quite 7 feet wide, and doesn't steer well in reverse) without any apparent problems. There were several boats moored on one side of the canal there, and the people on them appeared completely blase about his prowess to handle the boat, and that he wouldn't run into them, but I noticed that one apparently relaxed man was really only pretending to read. Then we went back down through the tunnel again, past the hire office.


The tunnels do not have tow paths along side the canal. So the horses that pulled the boats in the old days before engines, were unhitched and led over the tunnel to the other side. In order to get the boat through the tunnel, the boat operator(s) would lie on the cabin top on their backs, and 'leg' the boat through the tunnel. That is they'd walk along the roof of the tunnel to pull the boat through


After we passed Dunhampstead for the second time, we went past Oddingly with its ancient half-timbered manor house and tiny church and several murders to its credit. The Firs Inn headlines these murders in its advertising board by the side of the canal.



The story about Oddingly goes that the new minister at the church (some years ago) was going to require increased tithes, and had built a large building to keep the tithes in. Several of the farmers did not wish to tithe, and two of them hired a man to murder the minister. When one of the farmers would not pay the hit man, he murdered the farmer also, and then escaped into the woods.

His skeleton was discovered many years later - so much later that the other farmer in the plot (presumed to have murdered him), had also died by that time.


We tied up at the free public moorings below the bridge and went up to eat dinner there at a pub.
public moorings

public moorings

We actually had a choice of two pubs. We ate outside overlooking the canal.


We've gone a distance of perhaps 7 miles in all. Several swans came up to the boat, perhaps expecting a handout. This swan came up to the boat and hissed threateningly at us. Whether she was angry at not getting something to eat, or upset that we were too close to her babies, I don't know.

Mother swan

Mother swan

After we ate, we had a peaceful night. There is a heater, but we didn't need it.

Leaving Tibberton

Our son-in-law got up and ran (he works out every day) to the tunnel and back (he was surprised at how short the distance was and how quickly he got there), then he got a local paper and a national paper and showered.

When you shower, you have to manually pump out the water that collects from the shower. After Bob figured out how we could get away from the moorings without hitting anyone, we were off before 9.

x20020727-0856.jpg (Son-inlaw managing the mooring line.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 07:47 Archived in England Comments (0)

Locking Down to Worcester

We were off before 9. In the beginning, Bob steered and our daughter and son-in-law did the locks.

Right after Tibberton, the locks start. There were 14 of them between Tibberton and the Severn River in Worcester. First were the Offerton Locks (6). We were following another boat which also had first time hirers. Another boat following us was more experienced.

Since we were all going in the same direction, that meant the first boat opened the top paddles, and after the lock filled opened the gates (which were almost impossible to open unless the water was level inside and outside the lock), drove the boat into the lock closing the top paddles and gates.


Then they opened the bottom paddles, and after the lock emptied, opened the gates, and exited the lock, closing the gates and paddles behind them.

Then we had to do the same procedure unless we met a boat coming up, in which case they would fill the lock and leave the top gates open

At one point, the people ahead didn't shut one of the bottom paddles all the way so the lock wouldn't fill. The lady in the boat behind us pointed that out.

After we got done with the Offerton locks, our son-in-law steered, and Bob and our daughter (and grandson) did the locks.


These were the Gregory Mills Locks.

Each lock and bridge is numbered in sequence (different sequence for bridges than for the locks)

You are supposed to push the gates rather than pull them. That way you don't back off into the canal. There are studs on the brickwork in the semicircular swing radius of the gate lever to help give traction.

When the water is out of the lock you can see the Lock Gate Sill sticking out from the gates. It is this sill which will damage the rudder if you don't keep the boat away from the lock gates. When the boat is going down in the locks it can come down on the sill and the rudder will be damaged. When the boat is going up in the lock, the water pushes the boat back toward the stern and the rudder can get stuck under the lock gates which allows water to come in on top of the boat and flood it. Neither is desirable.



On the water, proper protocal is to keep to the right. Even in England, boats drive on the right



We passed under a railroad bridge, with the interesting hole in it, and had intended to go into the Viking boat basin to get water (this was right next to the bridge) but it was a very tight turn so we decided not to try it.

We are starting to see more urban scenery. The canal path is now paved and the edge of the canal is brick. There are moorings along the sides which are set in permanently. It would not be possible just to stick a stake into the ground and moor here.


We decided to go all the way down into Worcester almost to the Severn locks (the last 2 on the canal) and get water and turn around in the Diglis basin ready to come back. Bob took over running the boat in Worcester, and as we approached the Sidbury Lock which was the last one we were going to do in that direction. We were going to go down and turn around and come back up the lock and be ready to leave the next morning to go back. From here we could eat in the Kings Arms or access the town and cathedral easily.


We saw a lady and a little girl in a colonial costume feeding the ducks in front of the lock.

We came in to let our SIL, daughter and grandson off to work the lock, and apparently one of the ducks got between the boat and the brick side of the canal and was killed. The lady had a fit.

But as the boat yard manager said - you can't maneuver an 18 ton boat that precisely, and also you can't see from the steering position exactly what is in front of you because there's a big blind spot.

Our grandson was the only one of us who had actually seen the duck. This made him feel important, but not too upset.

It left a bad taste in everyone's mouths because we all felt that the lady who was feeding the ducks had caused the problem (because even baby ducks can swim faster than our boat if they are paying attention) and she was very officious and said she would report it to the RSPCA and there would be a big fine.

Some guy (presumably her boss) wanted us to stop for us to talk to him in the middle of locking down, or under the bridge which was next to the lock.

We couldn't do that of course, because we'd have been in the way of any other traffic wanting to use the lock. He didn't seem to understand that you can't just stop a boat like you can a car by putting on the brakes. Boats have no brakes, and there was no place to tie to in this area.

He came down and told us it was a protected duck (!!!) and endangered etc. They asked for the boat number, which was written in LARGE numbers on the side of the boat, along with the hire companies phone number which he ostentatiously wrote down.

Later found out that the duck which he said was a protected duck (ruddy duck) was in fact an invasive species from North America, which far from being endangered was on the list to be eradicated because it was taking over from the Spanish white-headed duck which is the native duck.

It is endangering the white-headed duck by interbreeding

So we continued down and turned in Diglas Basin (not a trivial operation as there were moorings and boats at the docks). There was a pub here, but the guidebooks warned that it might be a rough group and primarily a drinking pub and not an eating pub. After we turned, we got water.

Then our son-in-law and grandson pulled the boat along the towpath and we tied up below the lock instead of above the lock (closer to town) as we had intended. (We were moored right opposite the Royal Worcester factory at bridge #2, but there was no access from the canal towpath to bridge #2. So we had to walk up to the next bridge each time.) The total distance of our trip was less than 6 miles.

We got off the boat and went into town (We didn't want to eat at the King's Arms with a view of the canal at that point.) and ate a late lunch at Charlie's Cafe (Our grandson had sausage and chips, I had quiche and salad, SIL had steak and ale pie, Bob had a tuna sandwich and our daughter had a cheese potato and salad).

It was too bad that we didn't walk up into the cathedral first to eat because they were having a food fair. We toured the cathedral (King John is buried there) and our daughter, SIL and grandson went up into the tower.


Bob and I walked to the Royal Worcester factory, and I looked for a wedding present for our niece, but none of the things she'd asked for were available there even though I looked in all 3 shops (regular, sale and seconds). She will just have to make do with the wedding spoon I got in Wales. I did get my mom an iris fairy plate (she was an iris judge).

Our daughter took our grandson to get some soccer spikes for camp this week, and then they went to the Royal Worcester factory too and she got her cousin some cut glass.

Our SIL wanted to go to mass either Sun morning or Sat evening, so our daughter and I had researched beforehand all the Catholic churches in Worcester. (The Cathedral is COE of course.) St. George's was not too far away which had 6 pm mass, so they walked up to it, and Bob and I napped a bit on the boat, and then met them at bridge #3.

We had dinner at Ye Old Talbot. (The food fair was over at 5:30 pm). I had the lamb chop special, our daughter had the lamb joint which was more fat and had bones, and Bob and our SIL had steak and ale pie, which neither one of them thought was as good as previous ones they had had. Our grandson had a hamburger and chips for a change. For dessert, our daughter and grandson shared a chocolate torte, Bob had lemon Brule (which was excellent), and I had a blackberry pie for dessert. Our SIL had another Guinness.

I have finally gotten resigned to the fact that lemonade means Sprite here, and hot tea is too hot for me to drink right away if I am thirsty, so this time I ordered pineapple juice and got about half a glass of it. So I ordered tap water in addition

Posted by greatgrandmaR 08:26 Archived in England Tagged boat king cathedral lock canal duck john Comments (0)

Returning to Dunhampstead

Leaving Worcester, July 28, 2002 - Sunday morning

View Ship Follower 1964 & Five Visits to Barbados & Driving South on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Leaving Worcester, July 28, 2002 - Sunday morning - Worcester

Leaving Worcester, July 28, 2002 - Sunday morning - Worcester

Houses along canal - Worcester

Houses along canal - Worcester

We had breakfast on the boat again, and our SIL jogged up as far as the railroad bridge, came back and showered. They had been awakened in the early hours by a mother swan chasing her adolescent cygnets down the canal. She did the same about 7 in the morning. Apparently the lower gates of lock #3 were open a little bit, and the cygnets were sticking their heads between the lock gates and trying to get into the lock, and she didn't want them doing that.

Adolescent cynet

Adolescent cynet

I thought we should get a jump start on everyone (including all the duck feeding people) and leave early. We could see the lock #3 was in the down position, so all we would have to do is open the doors - we wouldn't have to empty the lock first. And in fact all but one lock all the way back all we had to do was open the doors and drive in and then fill the lock and drive out.

Going up to open lock #3 - Worcester

Going up to open lock #3 - Worcester

However at the first lock, we had a slight problem in that the engine was running (and was putting out a LOT of black smoke - it was a diesel so it always put out some, but this was more than usual), but the transmission wasn't engaging so the boat wasn't going forward.

Bob managed to keep the rudder off the gates, and then when we got to the top of the lock, I handed my daughter and SIL a line and they pulled us out of the lock. We tied up and Bob opened up the little prop box to see if it was fouled, but didn't find anything. And when he started the engine again, everything appeared to be fine.

Ducks make a mess on the lawn - Worcester

Ducks make a mess on the lawn - Worcester

walking along the towpath

walking along the towpath

Then we ran aground in the middle of the canal and had to back off (using the punting pole) and try again.


A little later at lock 5 or 6, a piece of wood got stuck in the lock gate, and kept it from opening all the way, so when we tried to drive into the lock, we got wedged in and couldn't go forward any more. Bob had me come back to run the engine, and he and our daughter and SIL pushed the boat backwards using the boat hook and pole as I revved up the engine in reverse until we got unstuck. Then they shut the gate the piece of wood dropped out and the gate could open again.

Looking up at lock gate - Worcester

Looking up at lock gate - Worcester

Fisherman and playground - Worcester

Fisherman and playground - Worcester

We stopped about 10 am after lock #8 (bridge 15) where there was a Leisure Center with a playground, and let our grandson off to go play. We had morning tea with scones and clotted cream and jam. We hadn't been able to get a morning paper, or we would have read it then.
Lock gates being closed - Worcester

Lock gates being closed - Worcester

This time when we went through the 6 Offerton Locks, our daughter drove and her husband and Bob worked the locks

We stopped at Tibberton again and had lunch on the boat, and took naps


Then we proceeded to Dunhampstead so that our grandson could drive back to their house with his dad so he could go to camp and his father could go to work in the morning. We tried to fill up with water, but the sign said there was a charge. Actually according to the hire boat guy, the sign was wrong, and we could have gotten water without paying because it was the hire boat company's water point.

Sign pointing to water point - Droitwic

Sign pointing to water point - Droitwic

We moored in the hire company basin, and unloaded stuff.

Unloading the boat - Droitwich

Unloading the boat - Droitwich

After Bob wandered around and looked at the spray booth and the new boat they were building there, we went and had dinner at the Fir Tree Inn (which I have been told is now closed) The Fir Tree Inn in Dunhampstead served Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen. It advertises the murders at Oddingly as part of the ambience. We decided to eat inside. It was too hot to eat outside because there was no shade.

They had a lunch board which said 2 course lunch was £7.95, but they said it was too late for lunch. The dinners started at about £10.95. They changed their minds and said we could have lunch after all. I had roast beef with yorkshire pudding (which wasn't a real one - more like a muffin than a popover), Bob had turkey and dressing and our daughter had pork and dressing. I had Bristol crème Brule for dessert, and Bob had chocolate fudge cake with ice cream


After we got back to the boat another couple with two teen age boys came in and moored next to us. They had the boat for a week and had done the whole ring up through Birmingham. They said it was nice except for the Wolverhampton part when some boys made rude remarks like they were going to break in a steal stuff off the boat (the TV) and asking them for a ride etc.

In the loose-leaf binder that came with the boat (in case we forgot the operating directions) it said in that case to take their pictures (which I probably would have done anyway - I came back from this two week trip (the whole trip not just this weekend) with 26 floppies of digital pictures (between 6 and 20 per disk) and 12 rolls of film). This particular day, since it was bright and sunny, I took a LOT of pictures.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 17:26 Archived in England Comments (0)

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