The rock houses of Holy Austin

Gothersley Lock to Kinver: 3.5 miles, 4 locks
         Did an Augustine hermit ever live in a cave on Kinver Edge? Might that be why now the rock houses above Kinver are located in a place called Holy Austin? The answer in unknown but a visit to the rock houses is strongly advised for visitors to Kinver.
       It wasn’t a long cruise this morning and it was only just after 10 when Cleddaucleared Gothersley Lock. There was a small plume of smoke from the towpath:

a BBQ breakfast was speculated, but no, it was last night’s fire still with life in it.  All the way the surroundings became increasingly picturesque: here was the ruin of the Gothersley Toll House, there were rhododendrons tumbling down the offside and the faint haze of bluebells in shaded areas.

At Stourton Junction the locks climbed steeply towards Stourbridge and Birmingham.

Then comes Stewpony Lock and its attractive tollhouse,

positioned to capture payments from boats descending from the Stourbridge Canal.  Duck your heads boaters, as you leave these locks, the bridges are a touch low!

The canal weaves on, cut in places through the sandstone. Next comes an expanse of meadow, popular for mooring.

An information board tells of the Kinver Light Railway, an electric light tramway that for thirty years at the beginning of last century transported high numbers of tourists from the Black Country to the open green spaces of Kinver and Kinver Edge.
         Then to Kinver (population about 6,000). The main street is a delight. See these notices available today.

Which side of the fence do you sit on in the great Marmite debate?! The village has a strong sense of community: there are fund-raising events and indeed a huge Country Fayre, an annual event for over thirty years, on June 16thinvolves a Grand Parade and masses of arena entertainment. Leaflets available in shops flag up ‘The daring Wye Valley Axemen’ as second on the bill… wonder what they do…?
        Visiting Kinver’s Rock Houses (National Trust) always involves an uphill stretch.

 On a last visit in 2011 the houses were closed(wrong day of the week) but today they were open – and popular.

Two of the rock houses have been fitted out, one as lived in the 1900s, the other as in the 1930s.

There is plenty of information about the lives of the families who have lived there, some until as recently as the 1960s. Hacking houses out of sandstone had gone on for centuries, but eventually local sandstone quarrying finished as the stone was too soft. 
         From the back of the site trails lead up onto Kinver Edge, a huge area of sandy heathland, with walks and trails, vistas and picnic areas. At a viewpoint you can check out the direction to Moscow and to New York,

as well as to Birmingham and London! Lucky is the community which has this vast open air space on its doorstep..

        There is just one last puzzle to solve: why is Kinver’s church so high above the village street?
         Back on the towpath late afternoon it was do as others do: get out the deckchairs, have a cool drink and chat to passers-by and boating neighbours.

Enjoy the moment – and try not to think about how boating affects this:

                    Tomorrow: to Wolverley

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