|Beautiful woodland on a beautiful day at Kinver|
Which is exactly what we've been doing. We're certainly not in a rush: we have an appointment with the boatyard crane next Tuesday and it's only four miles and five locks away. I think we can make it on time.
Having spent our allotted 24 hours mooring up in Kinver, we eased our way just half a mile out of town to the most idyllic country mooring on a sweeping bend past Hyde Lock where we could stay a couple of weeks should we wish. And we'd be tempted if it wasn't for that crane.
We've found ourselves at the centre of a little network of secretive country walks, the simplest of which was a circular route to Kinver and back, returning (via the Plough & Harrow for a pint of Bathams, the celebrated Black Country bitter) along the course of the old Kinver Light Railway.
This, incidentally – the railway, not the Bathams – rescued the village from near oblivion when it was built in 1901 and brought thousands of day trippers to visit the cave houses and Kinver Edge.
|The River Stour twists and turns a delightful course beside the canal|
|The Sheep Whisperer at work|
From Stourton we returned along the towpath to the boat where a two mile walk deserved a beer in the sun.
|Brian pays his respects at the pet cemetery|
Yet another walk today (we were overdoing it; this was going to be a 'two beers' evening) saw us cross the canal by the lock and climb a steep track to the main road. Where the river and canal take the valley, the road follows them along the high hilltop and the views all around are superb. Then a short footpath took us down to the top of the little Dunsley Tunnel where we spotted a weasel scurrying along the towpath until he heard us coming and scuttled off into the undergrowth.
Yes, it's been a blissful few days, enjoying the delights of the countryside. Yet it wasn't always like this here. Back in the 17th century a local entrepreneur built a waterwheel powered 'slitting mill' here – one of the first – and harnessed the power of the river to slit iron bars into strips that could be made into cut nails. That brought industry to the area and it was followed by what grew into a massive ironworks along the canalside, right where we are moored now.
Not a trace of this remains; the Light Railway's razed the site to the ground and nature did the rest, incorporating the land back into the woods around it.
The slitting mill had gone much earlier, though ironwork continued and a firm making spades worked there until the early 1900s. The ironworks manager had a magnificent Victorian pile of a house, Hyde House, and when the works closed it was leased by a pastor who formed the Midland Counties Crippled Children's Guild and brought disabled youngsters from all over the Midlands to live there. Sadly, after he died home went downhill, eventually closed and the building fell into decay before being destroyed in a fire. Just a few fragmentary traces of this past remain: bits of brick wall, remains of millponds and fragments of gates and fences.
|Fragments of a past life in this sturdy old fence tensioning ratchet|
|Nature works its magic in miniature on the top of this fencepost|