Monday, 19 June 2017

A Day Trip to Hereford.

Monday 19th June 2017 to Hereford by Train (and back).
The guide books highly recommend taking a train to Hereford as the journey is beautiful and the city well worth a visit. So, we set off for Worcester railway station, pausing en route for an iced coffee in the Costa next to the station, the first of our summer cruise.
The train journey was a delight, forty-five minutes through the lovely hop fields, oast houses, orchards and corn fields around (and through) the Malvern Hills.
As we walked to the cathedral in Hereford, we passed two street musicians playing and raising money for the victims of the London tower-block fire. We recognised "Red, Red Wine" and "Three Steps to Heaven". Pleasingly, their collection bucket was full, but this young lady didn't care, she just danced to the music while eating her ice-cream.
We preferred the original street name - much more fun!
Magnum number one of the day in the cathedral cloister.
Spot the second Robin, hoping for a hand-out.
Hereford Cathedral is home to the mappa mundi, the largest and most elaborate world map surviving from before the fifteenth century. Designed by one Richard of Holdingham, it was made for Hereford in about 1300 and Hereford has been its home ever since. It is certainly an incredible artifact and it is a history lesson as well as an atlas.
Christ is at the top with the saved on his right and the damned on his left. Jerusalem is in the centre with the Mediterranean below it stretching to Gibralter at the bottom. Africa is bottom right, Europe bottom left and the Red Sea top right. Beside the original is an English translation, which helped a great deal. This is a schematic of the basic layout.
On this English translation, north is top left  and south, bottom right. England is in the middle with Wales and Ireland on its left and Scotland top left. Fascinatingly, the area of Scandinavia includes a 13th century gentleman wearing a bobble hat with skis on his feet!
Next to the mappa mundi is The Chained Library, where all the books are chained so that they can be taken out to be read but they cannot be removed. At the end of each set of shelves is an index.
M found copies of books by Cicero and Virgil that she studied for her Latin A-Level, although the copies she was using were probably printed a bit later than 1532!
The index shows that the books are in section six of the shelves and they are the 5th, 6th and 7th from the left in that section, as outlined here. Unfortunately, we couldn't take the books out for M to read.
We repaired to the café for refreshments and noticed a large blank memorial, which made us think of a caption competition. M's suggestion was: "I can't believe the Clarks shoe sale ended yesterday!"
Sir Edward Elgar was born in Worcester but had a long association with Hereford and was frequently to be seen cycling around the city on his bicycle. Outside the cathedral is a very appropriate statue in his honour.
Given his love of cycling, M and he became instant pals. As they looked back towards the cathedral together, M asked if it was still the law that you could legally shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow within twenty-five yards of the cathedral on a Sunday morning. Sir Edward refused to comment.
The detail on this sculpture was fascinating including his name and address on the saddlebag...
And the fact that in his hand was a notebook with ideas for his latest music.
Around the foot of the plinth was a quotation: "This is what I hear all day, the trees are singing my music or am I singing theirs".
Back at the station, it turned into a two Magnum day (or should that be "Magna"?).
As we sat waiting for the train, M fell into conversation with a lady carrying a large rucksac. It turned out to contain her paraglider. She had launched from the top of the Malvern Hills at Colwall and run out of lift in Hereford about 20 miles away! She was on her way back to Colwall by train.
As we crossed the Severn on our way back, M photographed MM waiting at her mooring.
Back at the mooring after a super day out.
We discovered that Worcester is a famous centre for dragon-boat racing and all evening we were entertained by teams practising with the steady beat of the drum to keep time. They have a major international dragon-boat racing festival for charity over the first weekend of July.
MM had another day off.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

On to the River Severn and on to Worcester.

Sunday 18th June 2017 in Worcester.
The water in the basin was very calm at 8:00am and the temperature blissfully cool - but not for long!
After breakfast, we set off across the basin to the four narrow locks, which drop you down on to the River Severn, past the finger post pointing the way.
The funfair is right next to the locks, so we got a close-up view. M was still not impressed with the idea of being hoist into the air and spun around with her feet dangling. (Note from M: "NO WAY"!!)
We were helped down the two staircase lock pairs by a very hot C&RT volunteer who was looking forward to his tea break. Eventually, we left the last lock and went out on to the river.
We had befriended a couple, Ray and Helen on nb "Bigger Decisions", in the basin. It was their first time on the Severn, so we agreed to go down river together.
We parted company temporarily as we pulled into Stourport Marina for some diesel, so we went through the first river lock with a cabin cruiser complete with a very enthusiastic crew.
The River Severn is a very big river, even this far from the sea. It is lined with high banks, to protect the surrounding countryside from flooding, and the trees have grown undisturbed on the banks. There was a slight breeze on the river but it was still very hot!
There are not too many properties close to the river because of the risk of flooding, but this cottage looked to be just what we needed!
The river locks are quite large but there were a couple of cruisers waiting behind us which were so wide that they couldn't fit into the lock beside us.
By the third river lock, we had caught up our friends on "Bigger Decisions" and we went ahead to scout out a good mooring close to the city centre. On the way we were passed, more than once, by a rowing eight with a very attractive, competent and scantily clad female crew. A sight for sore eyes, said R! It is clear that rowing has become increasingly popular with ladies as they easily outnumbered the men we saw on the river.
We moored up in exactly the same place as we had three years ago. There is, unusually, a small charge but the mooring is both convenient and quiet. Our friends Ray and Helen moored up behind us and very kindly invited us on board for a glass of wine, which we enjoyed immensely along with their excellent company.
This youngster thought that he ought to join us but, sadly, he went away disappointed.
Back on board MM, we opened all the windows to cool off and watch the sunset.
Today: 12 miles,7 locks and 8.4 hours (including two days' power) and one kingfisher!
Trip: 67 miles, 51 locks and 49.8 hours.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Visit from Jim.

Saturday 17th June, 2017 in Stourport.
Stourport-on-Severn is where MM's steel shell was built by Jim Sparkes of Alexander's, a true craftsman in steel. We proudly dislay his logo on MM's side, alongside Kingsground's (who did the fit-out).
We coudn't be this close without contacting Jim so we were delighted that he was able to come and visit us this morning.
It was wonderful to see him and have a catch-up. He surveyed his handiwork and seemed pleased with the result.
It was very hot and ice creams were the order of the day as well as a visit to "Blossoms" tea room, delayed from yesterday.
M was upset to see that only ONE Boater is allowed to use the Rubbish facility. She said that today was definitely her turn until someone moved the apostrophe!
M went for a walk and decided that she would love one of these cottages facing on to the River Severn.
The former "Tontine Hotel", now divided into flats, got its name from the way it was originally financed through a tontine, where the last investor left alive ended up owning it!
Stourport is a town of contrasts. It was built from an empty farmer's field as the terminus of the Staffs & Worcs canal and a place where cargoes could be transhipped from narrowboats off the Staffs & Worcs to wide barges on the Severn. But, over the years, it became a popular tourist destination for people from the Birmingham area - a sort of "Birmingham-by-the-Sea" except the "sea" was the River Severn. So, next to the historic canal basin is a funfair and a sort of "kiss-me-quick" resort full of rows of fish and chip shops, pubs and amusement arcades. M decided to give this fairground ride a miss.
As the sun gradually sank in the west, she declared that this one was also a non-starter!
Our mooring in the basin was lovely and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
MM had another day off!

Friday, 16 June 2017

A Closed Museum and on to Stourport.

Friday 16th June 2017 in Stourport.
We'd decided to visit the Carpet Museum this morning, which celebrates Kidderminster's history of carpet making. However, we discovered that it only opens four days a week and today is not one of them. Rats!
As we walked back to MM, R posted some railway themed postcards to Lucas in the special Rowland Hill postbox.
We moved MM a quarter of a mile up the canal and moored up outside M&S so that M could get a "few bits". We had considered mooring here overnight right in the centre of town but it is a good thing that we didn't. Apparently, the local petrol-heads use the adjacent car park late at night for burn-outs and doughnuts. Clear evidence showed in the thick black tyre marks on the car park tarmac. The massive former Brinton's carpet factory is now a Debenhams.
Caldwell lock, just south of the town is in a very pretty setting beside the sandstone rock face.

We moored up shortly after, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Severn Valley Railway steam engine cross the bridge over the canal. Our progress was delayed for a while by the presence of a sock wrapped around the propellor. That's the sock, in the foreground.
Just after 11:00am, the service from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth chuffed slowly over the bridge - not a lot faster than us!
The charming name of Falling Sands lock no doubt refers to the sandstone banks and, perhaps, to their propensity to end up falling into the canal. This is a lovely stretch of the waterway.
York Street lock is the final one on the Staffs & Worcs canal; it drops you the last 12ft down into the basin complex at Stourport. It was a hot afternoon and R glanced hopefully at the adjacent "Blossoms" tea room, with happy thoughts of an ice cream or coffee. His hopes were dashed, however, as, by the time we moored up, it had closed for the day. Rats again!
M's geraniums, purchased at RHS Wisley, are doing us proud this year.
Having topped up with water, we moored up in the next space, in the same spot where we had moored up three years ago.
It was a lovely evening as R fed the resident swan family.
Today: 4 miles, 4 locks and 8.0 hours (including power for three days).
Trip: 55 miles, 44 locks and 41.4 hours.