Monday, May 30

Towpath Turpin Samples Stourport...

Friday 27th May 2016 brought with it a combination of church, canal and crossword as Nick and I sought the Stourport sunshine prior to visiting the Kidderminster Beer Festival...

- 172 221 at Kidderminster -
There might also be a few calendar characters in attendance but first off I join Nick aboard the 10:22 from Smethwick Galton Bridge, reaching Kidderminster half hour or so later. After the ever-essential train photograph we flag down a passing bus (the 10 from Spennells as it turned out), administer our £3 Diamond Daysavers and then connect onto the number 3 at the town bus station.

- Stourport Parish Church -
A swift ride via Birchen Coppice later, we alight by Stourport Civic Centre ready to have an opening look at the local parish church. St Michael & All Angels surprises us by having a relatively modern box building set within some atmospheric stone ruins, resulting in something of an architectural anticlimax. The churchyard allows further views of the older Victorian Gothic masonry while the neighbouring lawn cemetery is neatly laid out stretching down towards the canal.

- Stourport Narrow Locks -
Talking of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire, it was time to put Towpath Turpin to the test with a basin-bound stroll. Lower Mitton Bridge and York Street Lock are both accounted for then we survey Stourport's historic canal quarter complete with four distinct basins all watched over by a well known clock and the fairground helter skelter. A set of broad locks can be found over towards the Tontine but we concentrate on the narrow locks leading down to the hump-bridge junction with the River Severn.

- A friendly dinosaur (but which one?) -
On a warm spring morning you can certainly begin to appreciate Stourport's Georgian charm, although it's safe to say they didn't have the Treasure Island amusement centre to contend with when the canals were first built. Something about the fair does appeal to our collective silly streak, especially when Towpath Turpin can pose next to various gorillas, pirates, the Statue of Liberty and Mr D9's favourite purple dinosaur. We can only assume that 'Barney' was suitably starstruck to have made the acquaintance of our highwayman hero. 

- Raspberry Wheat in the Hollybush -
Back to more serious matters and lunch comes courtesy of Ye Olde Crown Inn, a former Wetherspoons that still follows the JDW template quite religiously - our curry club deals are washed down with a decent pint of Woods' Shropshire Hills Beauty. Two very tempting taverns are next in our sights - the Hollybush for some excellent Raspberry Wheat ale (Titanic once again showing mastery of fruity flavours) then the Black Star where the invitation to grapple with Dorothy Goodbody and her Wholesome Stout is never something Nick is likely to turn down!

- Brinton Park -
The Friday afternoon congestion along High Street does its best to delay us but the 3 does eventually arrive on the scene, loading up with noisy schoolkids just as Nick tries to take his restorative nap. A sharp nudge has him awake again for Brinton Park, Kidderminster's flagship area of open space being home to a Doulton-tiled drinking fountain recalling the life of eminent solicitor and freemason Richard Eve. Equally worthy of mention is Weavers Park Lane pub where we stop for a swift half, sampling Hobson's Old Prickly and Ramsbury's Sun Splash respectively - not bad at all!

- Crossword Conundrums -
Our early evening exertions are very much focused on the Kidderminster Beer festival, held once more in the superior surroundings of the Town Hall complete with the William Hill Organ. The festival theme celebrates the 250th Act of Parliament anniversary that brought about the construction of the Staffs & Worcs Canal, and among the ales to be tasted are Fixed Wheel's Blackheath Stout, Pope's Rhubarb Fool and Hobson's Postmans Knock. We also attempt the waterways-inspired crossword in the programme but quickly get stumped by some of the more cryptic clues. 

- A Fishy Finale? -
Our knowledge of odigrips, funnelstacks and Dutch flat-bottomed boats is admittedly limited so I send out an SOS (a Banks & Taylor Strong Bitter) and end up with Mild Concussion (a potent Fixed Wheel concoction); Nick meanwhile has come over all Plum Porter as per his predilection. Time and train waits for no Turpin though so to the station we must go, pausing briefly for more plumminess (in Weavers Comberton Hill micropub, a place we heartily recommend) and a final fishy flavouring to our pictorial posturings. Cheers!

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