It's been ten days since I wrote a blog - primarily due to our continuing stream of vibrant, vivacious visitors! In that ten days we've travelled back up (or was it down - I'm never quite sure on the rivers!) the Severn, turned into the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and moored at Stourport then Kidderminster, spent a couple of nights in Kinver, then tootled up to Tettenhall just outside Wolverhampton, and arrived at our current mooring just past Calf Heath yesterday.
So apologies for the length of this blog which catches up with where we are, who we've spent time with and where we've been.
During this time period we welcomed:
- My mum and dad, and mum's Sunderland school-girl chum Jo who lives in Florida but spends a few months each summer in UK to get away from the heat and hurricanes there. Amazing to get my dad back on the boat, but I suspect, sadly, that was the last time he'll be able to manage it.
- Barry's sister back to the boat for two nights - she'd been visiting Bath and Cornwall for a few days. Jenny left us on Tuesday morning last week and headed to London and then back 'down under' to her home in Gladstone, Australia after her European tour - it was very magical to have Jenny on board with us as we don't see her often and now it's likely we won't see her for many years. Good luck with all your artistic endeavours Jenny (see her incredible Fimo creation below).
- Gavin and Helen - friends from Gisborne, originally from UK, who were over visiting family arrived Tuesday afternoon for 24 hours. We were humbled and honoured they found time in their busy schedule to fit us in.
- Lisa and our gorgeous grandson gave us the enormous pleasure of a day in their company on Friday for some marvellous mayhem and madness.
- Finally, for this blog, we were blessed with a chance meeting with Leonie and Ray, who'd been in touch with Barry a couple of time before we came here - and live in Napier, New Zealand, one of our closest neighbouring towns (just a short three hour winding road trip away!).
I've scheduled in time to build a few more foundations for my Life Coaching business, in between visitors, and we've also enjoyed a few days where just the two of us have been able to amble at a leisurely pace, or sit still for a while.
More and more, I'm recognising the main reason for me/us being back in England - to experience and appreciate the importance of people, rather than things, stuff, or money. Don't get me wrong, money is important, but we can and will find ways to earn more in the coming months and years, but we know we can never make more time.
Below are a mixture of mine and Barry's photography overview of the past week and a half ...
Jenny's amazing artwork - we couldn't bring
my our seven year-old cat Suki with us, so she lovingly made us a Fimo model for xmas to pack in our suitcase
Holt Fleet Lock on the River Severn
A charming, chocolate-box cottage spotted along the river
Sharing one of the big river locks
Interesting rocks beside the Severn, close to Stourport
Coming into Stourport Basin
Sandra pontificating on something while waiting for the lock to fill
The back of the Chandlery at Stourport - very picturesque ...
... but not as much as the historic fairground close tot he canal and river
Stourport was built around the canal
Stourport has five basins and houses almost 100 boats, and has five locks and a dry dock. We were told a few years ago that Bewdley chose not to embrace the canals, however I found this information on the Stourport Town Website which put me right:
"Popular legend has it that James Brindley chose Stourport rather than Bewdley for his canal because the citizens of Bewdley did not want his ‘stinking ditch’ passing through their town. The reality is that Stourport made far more sense from a topographical point of view. A canal joining the River Severn at Bewdley would have needed to cross several hills. Joining the Severn at Stourport it could follow the Stour valley and this obviously made construction much cheaper."
We were most impressed by the fair - it's so well-kept, has REAL flowers dotted around everywhere rather than being spoilt by plastic/artificial versions, and have put down some turf - which is plastic, but looks fine as it's underfoot and clean. The rides are all shining and classic examples of the rides you remember as a child. Well worth a trip if you have children of any age.
Areandare moored at the same prime spot we secured for 24 hours in May, 2009
Then it was on to Kidderminster, and more visitors ...
Dad, mum, Jo and Sandra on board Areandare
Kidderminster is a town dear to my heart as I resided there to do my Registered General Nurse training, from 1978 to 1981. There's some fabulous moorings stone's throw from either Tesco or Sainsbury's (take your pick!), and a short walk to the town centre. I do have to admit that Kidderminster is pretty characterless - though Barry has managed to spice it up a little with some fabulous camera work ...
Very clever - the boaters clothing matches the colours on the boat!
A walk to Kidderminster General Hospital revealed significant changes since 1981 - the staff residence has been demolished and a Primary Care Centre built in its place!
Jenny returned from Cornwall by train, which is a bit of a walk away from the canal - and meant on our way to meet her we saw the effects of a large fire at a recycling plant, with smoke billowing high into the sky. It apparently took 80 firefighters to bring the blaze under control over a few days, and there were concerns the water they'd been using could contain toxins that would contaminate the canal.
Meanwhile Barry saw it as a fantastic opportunity to take some dramatic shots (I've super-sized them as they're worth seeing more of) ...
Jenny stayed for two nights, had a short journey northwards and left us at Kinver, where Gavin and Helen met us in their hire car.
Gav and Barry shooting something special - picture to follow!
Barry and Gav practicing with the good old British Charcoal BBQ - in NZ it's not such a chore as they generally take the simpler, safer and quicker gas BBQ method
Possibly got the meat on a little too early - but managed to cook it and it did taste lovely and smoked!
We had travelled a little way up the canal with Gav and Helen, then moved further the following day arriving at Tettenhall and moored opposite the Multiple Sclerosis Society - so we had a postcode to give to Lisa who was arriving the following day. Fortuitously we were right by some shops, and when Lisa parked up on Friday, discovered a great little children's park too. Barry and I had great fun climbing up and sliding down the slide with our grandson, and then taking them for a little round trip. You can't take your eyes off young children for a second on a narrowboat, and we were shattered that evening - I slept for 12 hours!
We've decided not to go up the Shropshire Union due to the poor internet coverage - and also because we've found we have more time to meander before Barry heads back to NZ in August. So on Saturday we had a quieter stop for two nights in Coven - right outside the Hope and Anchor pub which I'm amazed to report we didn't frequent at all having blown our alcohol/socialising budget enough last week!
Arriving at our next night's stop last evening, just after Calf Heath, we heard a tapping on the boat and at first I wondered if we'd moored somewhere they were going to charge us. A friendly, smiling face was waiting as I emerged from the cratch and introduced herself saying they were the couple who'd been in touch with Barry and couple of times before we came here. How special to find they've been inspired by our blog to venture here to spend some time on the waterways. Leonie and Ray bought their boat 'Firefly', and arrived here in April for they're not sure how long.
Leonie's paternal grandmother was born in UK, so she's fortunate to be eligible for an initial four-year UK residency visa, and is able to work - she was able to 'sponsor' Ray to have the same rights. We found ourselves extremely puzzled and perplexed as to how it appears so much simpler for them to gain entrance, than Barry who's married to a British citizen? Who knows the answer to British bureaucracy, but good on you both for taking the plunge and being so adventurous.
Not the most flattering of photos, sorry (Sandra's of course!) - the obligatory home-brew tasting challenge and a game of six-handed rummy - we look forward to a return match sometime soon!