Punk Rock Beginnings
7 years ago I was the drummer in a punk rock band! Amongst the many wonderful and quirky people I met during this time were a couple who attended a lot of our gigs. They were friends and colleagues of the lead singer’s wife. Through our brief, after set chats we became aquaintances and followed each other on social media.
Denise and Nicky, both university lecturers, eventually retired to a beautiful cottage in the country where they expanded their creative repertoire with projects they would post on social media.
They were crafting the most extraordinary dioramas, in tins, with local & literary themes:
What do you get for the cyclist that has everything?
One configuration caught my eye. A work in progress, it was a wooden plaque with an old ‘John Bull’ repair kit and contents on it. I immediately contacted Denise to enquire about purchasing it.
Still very much in the prototype phase, Denise and Nicky spent some time perfecting the construction and very kindly, tailored the plaque for Mary and me.
Eventually, Denise contacted me to not only say it was complete, but that they wouldn’t charge us as it was the first one they had made. I was over the moon and touched by their generosity. We needed a bicycle adventure to collect our prize.
The Canal & The River
Nicky and Denise live out at Astley Burf, a beautiful riverside hamlet that I have had many ties to throughout my life and cycled to many times over the years. There is only one real way to get to Astley Burf: follow the flow of water.
Completed in 1771, the Staffs and Worcester Canal links the Trent and Mersey Canal to The River Severn. A 46 mile corridor through some spectacular countryside, just a stones throw from the urban sprawl of the West Midlands.
I spent 10 years living on the Alice Kathleen, my 70ft narrowboat, moored on the Staffs and Worcester Canal so I know it quite intimately. It flows with the seasons and no two trips are ever the same. There is always something new to see.
I’ve spent my life cycling the canals. I’ve enjoyed their evolution from abandoned, forgotten secrets that were a challenging adventure on my doorstep to the vibrant, maintained thoroughfares they are today. If I have to travel anywhere by bike the canals are often my preferred route, away from the traffic and the fumes.
Mary and I joined the Canal at Gothersley Lock and followed it South as it shadows the River Stour.
There hasn’t been much rain and therefore the towpaths were hard packed, fast to ride on and very little mud to deal with. The sun was shining though it was cold with a brisk Easterly wind.
The Staffs and Worcester Canal is pretty sheltered as it drops through the Devonian Old Red Sandstone to join the Severn so we were saved from the worst of the wind but it still caught us off guard through the more exposed sections after Kidderminster.
Tea & Cake and a Good Natter
From Stourport we followed the River Severn South, straight to Astley Burf where we were warmly greeted by Denise and Nicky. We had a tour of the beautiful Fairy Garden and Wilfie, the chocolate-coloured, patterdale terrier was very interested in us. After a good natter, a delicious tea cake smothered in butter and a proper cup of tea, we were treated to a tour of the creation cave where the creative magic happens.
After receiving the Bicycle Repair Kit plaque it was time for us to head home. Rather than use the roads we opted to retrace our route to enjoy the countryside before heading back into Birmingham.
Bicycle Repair Kit
We are very proud of our bespoke Bicycle Repair Kit Plaque. At one time an everyday item. It now has a new life. Just like the Canals.
It hangs proudly in our sun-room and will forever remind us of our friends and bicycle adventures!
I would like to say a big thank you to Nicky and Denise for inspiring this adventure!
If you would like to commission a bespoke item like this as a gift or to remind you of a special time or place, please get in touch with
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Thanks for reading.