Thursday, 8 June 2017

Stoke Prior (some local exploring)

What a wet and windy day Tuesday was!  Our walk in the morning took us up the Stoke and Tardebigge lock flights and back again - 35 locks in the two flights.  There were a couple of boats on the move, braving the wind, but they were both hire boats going back to their base at Stoke Prior so they had no choice really.

The rain held off during the middle of the day and, as I had lunch, I realised the boat was grinding against the side.  I’d not heard it since we have been moored here so assumed either the water level had changed in the pound or the wind was causing it.  Anyway, I took the opportunity to put our new go kart tyre fenders down.  Karen had been given four by a guy in her office and I had temporarily rigged them up for use on the River Avon.  Before putting them down I decided to fix the lines permanently and set about drilling holes in the tyres and making the lines look pretty.

Our go kart tyre fenders and my fancy ropework 😉

I mentioned on Monday that this area is called Stoke Works and used to be a major salt producing town.  It came late to the salt production scene and was mainly led by a guy called John Corbett.  Salt springs were discovered during the building of the canal (the Worcester & Birmingham canal) which happened between 1791 and 1815.

John Corbett was one of the model employers from the industrial age and provided housing for his employees as well as a school, church, stores and even retirement homes for them.  The retirement homes were built in the style of alms houses and have a commemorative inscription built into their walls saying they were provided for decayed salt workers and their widows – I never realised I was decayed rather than retired!

Other model employers who built villages for their employees include Titus Salt, the Victorian textile magnate, who founded Saltaire near Bradford – well worth a visit.  Another one that always comes to mind is Port Sunlight on the Wirral, founded by one of the Lever brothers, also well worth a visit.

The school built by John Corbett in 1872 – now converted to flats

The house looking bit on the left was where the teachers lived and there was also a doctor’s surgery and dispensary.

The shot above is the view from our boat so the following is the view the flat owners must have!

Our boat from the old school

I may have mentioned before that donkeys were used to tow barges on this canal rather than horses.  This was because once they reached the River Severn at Worcester, donkeys were easier to transport on the barges for the river trip.  In his heyday John Corbett owned over 50 barges for transporting coal to, and salt from, his works so owned several large fields for resting the donkeys.

Very little remains of the old salt works now.  The pump house appears to be the only building and that is in a sorry state of repair.

Old pump house where brine used to be pumped up from underground

Plaque confirming there is little left

If you cruise along the canal you will see where the entrance to the old salt works wharf was.  If you walk along the towpath you will walk over the entrance.

Entrance to John Corbett’s salt works from the canal

Other than the entrance bridge and the pump house, the works is now derelict land

Later on Wednesday, Buddy and I walked across the fields to see the church that Corbett had built in the 1880s but in the medieval style.  It suffered almost immediately from subsidence from the salt extraction in the area.  Inside the floor is very uneven and has a pronounced slope but I couldn’t get a photo to do it justice.

Sloping floor in the church - not obvious here but quite disconcerting walking around

Walking back to the boat the sun came out and quite a few butterflies started flying around.  It felt like days since I’d seen any butterflies and I was fortunate to see four new ones for this year: Small Heath, Large Skipper, Common Blue and Meadow Brown.  This means I have seen 13 different species so far this year so maybe summer is around the corner.

Walking home across the butterfly meadow

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