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2018 Santa Trip Boat Success

It’s amazing what a great team of volunteers can achieve and after working on Santa’s Grotto from the end of October right up until the first scheduled Santa Boat Trip the grotto was finally completed – featuring new lights both inside and outside the building, a new “snowy” façade for the display area, new red ‘sparkly’ carpet, a festive display in the weighbridge window (courtesy of Della and Kate) and a host of extras we were ready to commence the busy Christmas schedule of around 40 trips over the 2 weekends leading up to Christmas, a Friday and a session for local schools.

It is a great testimony to the volunteers that Santa’s grotto was modified and improved from previous years despite seasonal colds hitting quite a few of us and Malcolm, a key member of the team, in severe pain from a trapped nerve which limited his physical capability, not that he didn’t try hard despite the pain he endured – well done to him for his commitment to the cause. Ann Pollard had taken responsibility for capably organising people to undertake the various duties required to run the Santa Trips – manning the wharf, steering the Blackcountry Man as well as face-painting, playing the elf and of course Santa was always in demand and under pressure. Volunteers also operated the kitchen, serving welcome hot drinks and seasonal delicacies (weren’t the mince pies great !).The office of course had also been busy with ticket sales coming in thick and fast as Christmas approached and Facebook / Website “adverts” galvanizing interest in this local Santa experience right up until the last day as parents desperately tried to get a place – “book early” is a good idea for the future !

Most of the Trip Boats were in fact fully booked and it was a joy to hear the excited children shouting “we want Santa” as they returned back to the Bonded Warehouse, urged on by John Ganner through his louder than usual P.A. system – and then Santa arrived on his platform at the head of the canal to great delight and cheers by the little ones (and many parents / grand-parents!). So it was almost time to disembark the boat and enter the brightly lit and animated grotto area where patience was a virtue for many as children waited excitedly and with great anticipation for their turn to see Santa whilst being amused by face-painting, family photograph opportunities and looking in wonder at the display area where Thomas the Tank engine and his locomotive friends must have covered many a mile during the course of the annual event.

Santa tells us he enjoyed meeting all of the children and their parents and was able to give out an early Christmas present to those who had been good which was well received by the children who went off happily with their cuddly toy or magic set whilst parents headed for the café for their hot drink and mince pie or stollen.

We hope that everyone who came along enjoyed their visit – the volunteers work so hard to ensure that everyone has a good time and of course the income raised is vital to enabling the Bonded Warehouse to continue to operate for the benefit of the community. We received some wonderful Facebook reviews, recommendations and many “Likes” from some of our visitors but we were particularly pleased with the following well thought out comment from Teresa Hodgetts to whom we as volunteers are understandably most grateful:

“What a lovely Santa trip today – I have two children who have grown up and have visited Santa in many places but not here, what a wonderful experience at an exceptional price. The wait for Santa was in an area lit up with so much to look at. Santa himself was so welcoming and patient with our little one. She has never got close to the big man and usually ends in tears and screams but not today – a testament to Santa. Just goes to show the not so well known places with volunteers can really achieve the ultimate package – Thank you to you all.”

The Photo gallery below provides a pictorial record of the 2018 Santa Boat Trip programme – if anyone has any personal photographs that they would like to share we’d be grateful to receive these via the Bonded Warehouse email address and would happily add them to the Gallery.

Amazingly the volunteer “Tuesday Club” will commence  deconstructing and storing Santa’s grotto and all of the decorations on 8th January whilst Santa has a well earned rest !

Finally on behalf of David Caunt, Chairman of  Stourbridge Navigation Trust, we  would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who bought tickets for our Santa Trips and hope that you all felt it a good, value for money and memorable experience – we’d love to see you again next year ! In the meantime we’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.

The Blackcountry Man featured in Towpath Talk

The Blackcountry Man trip boat is pretty well known in the area and many local people would have been onboard but a recent edition of “Towpath Talk” , the ever popular newspaper for canal boat enthusiasts,  recently featured a 2-page spread about the boat, its history and indeed its current role on the Stourbridge Arm.

Here are the extracts for Towpath Talk for your information:

“Black Country people were once the backbone of the Industrial Revolution – foundry workers, miners, glass turners – and the narrowboat with the namesake The Blackcountry Man is a living tribute to the heritage of local people. The Blackcountry Man was built in 1948 by Harris Brothers in Netherton for Stewarts & Lloyds of Halesowen.

It’s thought to be the last full-length 70ft boat built of riveted plates in the Black Country. In its more recent transformation, The Blackcountry Man was fitted with a Lister diesel engine, but was originally unpowered and would have been towed by a tug, a horse, or even the might of a man.

The boat was used for trade on the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) until it changed career to become a maintenance craft for British Waterways (now the Canal & River Trust). Like many of the historic canal boats that have survived, The Blackcountry Man’s raison d’être had to be fluid with the times. In 1986 she was spectacularly converted to a passenger-carrying vessel for the Stoke on Trent National Garden Festival with the Queen Mother as prime guest. In 1991 she changed hands and was restored, and spruced up for new purpose in Stourbridge. The boat’s original crews would probably have raised their eyebrows over the addition of some fancies such as soft cushioned seats, side windows, loos, wheelchair access, taped music and (for goodness’ sake) a bar.

In her latest guise, The Blackcountry Man is a trip boat that carries passengers from the distinctive round-walled Bonded Warehouse to Stourton and Kinver. The journey can be enjoyed as a floating escape to the quiet backwaters of the Midlands, or seen as a voyage to discover local heritage or even a brazen excuse to experience this historic boat at intimate quarters. Like many of the best canal treasures, this boat refuses to retire. When the much respected boat operator Mick Bourne retired, Tom Downing and his father Andy took up the baton. Tom became the youngest boat master in the country at the age of 18, and he and his boat, The Blackcountry Man, both became national record breakers with local pride.

Cruises on The Blackcountry Man run from The Bonded Warehouse in Stourbridge along the Stourbridge Arm Canal and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. They also run special themed cruises and are available for private charter.”

Dates and timings vary and a full schedule of trips for 2019 together with an online Booking Enquiry Form can be found on the Stourbridge Navigation Trust website:


Santa’s Helpers Working Hard to Build the Grotto.

An urgent call to Santa’s helpers to start the enormous and often complicated task of preparing for Santa’s visit next month was met with seasonal enthusiasm and very soon the Bonded Warehouse was a hive of industry as partitions were erected, lights checked and attached to the ceilings and tinsel adorned wherever there was a blank space. The active display once again featuring the ever popular Thomas the Tank engine was also constructed – quite a challenge with items needing to be carefully positioned and a veritable spaghetti of wiring connected safely – it’s all looking very good I must say. The entrance to the Grotto has also been changed this year under the watchful eye of Pauline, one of the volunteers. The ‘set’ is more directed towards a ‘snow scene’ style which works well in showing off the festive display amongst twinkling lights. A new red carpet has been ordered, featuring silver twinkly bits so that should look very festive but creates another task to fit it (it all got a bit too much for Della at one stage – see photograph!).

There’s much more to do so it will be “all go” for the next few weeks as further decorations are put in place – it promises to be a spectacular show !

Shambolics in the Bonded Warehouse !

Stourbridge Navigation Trust were most grateful to a number of bands who at very short notice filled in over the recent Open Weekend to cover a late cancellation … no panic ! We noticed that one of the bands, The Shambolics, had recorded a video clip in the Brindley Room down at the warehouse and thought that this was newsworthy because despite the room being used for a plethora of purposes, this is the first time, to my knowledge, that a band has made a video clip and posted it onto You Tube for potentially Global digestion.

I must admit that when I heard the band playing in the beer tent (where else !) I was most impressed as clearly the band are talented, technically competent and played some great tunes whilst having a great time – I particularly liked the “bluesy” numbers, though there was something for everyone to enjoy and let their hair down to.

I believe that by helping us out at short notice was mutually beneficial – certainly it solved an embarrassing problem for SNT but also the band promoted themselves really well and received a number of enquiries for potential  bookings – not surprising and much deserved.

Anyway, we hope that you enjoy the short clip which shows the band performing “The Letter” in their own inimitable style in the Bonded Warehouse.

Open Weekend Success

The weather was for once favourable on 20th/21st October for the Stourbridge Navigation Trust’s 2018 Open Weekend down at the Bonded Warehouse in Canal Street where thousands of visitors enjoyed a wonderful weekend of a wide variety of colourful entertainment in Autumnal sunshine.

Around 80 canal boats descended onto the Stourbridge Arm Canal for the event which also included a classic car display, steam engines, amusements, canal boat trips, a fairground organ, for the first time a hog-roast as well as other food outlets, a busy outdoor bar and a craft fair in the Bonded Warehouse. Music was also a theme of the Open Weekend with some quality bands  rocking the enthusiastic audience near the bar.

Stourbridge Navigation Trustee Chris Dyche hailed the event a big success and said “it was a delight to see thousands of local people enjoying all of the amenities which our canal side conservation area has to offer“.

The event was attended by The Mayor of Dudley, Cllr Alan Taylor and his wife Winifred who arrived on the Blackcountry Man boat together with Dudley South MP Mike Wood and ‘top brass’ from the Canal and River Trust.

Chris Dyche went on to add “Our objective at SNT is always to promote Stourbridge’s waterway and its environs for the benefit of everyone. The Trust is now gearing up for its seasonal annual Santa boat trips – Festive waterways outings with Santa will run throughout the day on the 15th/16th December, 22nd/23rd December and on the afternoon of Friday 21st December. Tickets priced at £9 each are now on sale – call 01384 395216 to book your places.”

Stourbridge Navigation Trust would like to thank everyone involved with or attending the Open Weekend for making the event a great success – boaters, musicians, stallholders, vintage car owners, food retailers, bar staff, our volunteers, Stourbridge Army Cadets and of course the local community as a whole who turned up in fine weather in their thousands made the event memorable and Stourbridge proud.

SNT Joins Forces with Stourbridge Army Cadets

SNT are delighted to have ‘joined up’ with Stourbridge Army Cadets Force in a mutually beneficial informal association.

The Army Cadets based in Oldswinford have a very enthusiastic and well managed platoon who were struggling to find appropriate voluntary work to evidence the cadets aspirations in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme so SNT undertook to provide a platform on which to undertake some purposeful community work along the Stourbridge Canal Arm. After several meetings with representatives of the Cadet Force, primarily with Colour Sergeant Sophia Baker, arrangements blossomed with the Cadets playing a key role at the recent Open Weekend by having a big clear up  before the event and then maintaining the site, keeping it  “clean and tidy” over a busy weekend. The Chairman of SNT, David Caunt, has undertaken to write a letter to each cadet who helped over the weekend, thanking them for their valued contribution, thus providing vital evidence of their involvement in a major community event. The cadets also took centre stage at the Open Weekend by performing a march through Canal Street on each day – something that hasn’t been seen before !

SNT have also put the Cadets in touch with the Canal and River Trust with a view to them formally adopting the stretch of canal in order to take formal responsibility for its maintenance along the Canal Arm on a regular basis, doing the local community a great service, taking the strain off SNT volunteers and providing rich evidence for their Duke of Edinburgh applications – win / win !

SNT volunteers are supporting the cadets in return by supply of training bibs and exercise paraphernalia as well as making wooden drill ‘machine guns’ for them based on a rather complicated template as well as seeking more opportunities to put them in the spotlight.

We hope that this relationship will help the Cadets Force who aspire to develop young people aged 12 to 22, creating a disciplined yet enjoyable environment  to hone their personal development as fine young people. We are sure that the Cadet Force will once again hit our News page in the very near future.

SNT Hit the Airwaves on Black Country Radio 102.5 FM

On the 14th October one our Trustees, Lance Cartwright, guested on “Black Country Matters” – a weekly show hosted by another of the SNT’s Trustees, Dr Paul Collins on Black Country Radio 102.5

During the show a lively dialogue took place with Lance informing listeners in “radio land” about Stourbridge Navigation Trust “a registered charity, comprised of willing and able volunteers of a variety of ages, sex, experience and skills but with one thing in common and that is to ‘look after’ the Bonded Warehouse and the Stourbridge Town Arm to the very best of our ability.

The Trust was originally founded by the Staffs & Worcs Canal Society volunteers who came together to restore the then derelict Bonded Warehouse and rejuvenate the almost unnavigable Stourbridge Arm Canal. This spirit of volunteering has continued for over 40 years although mainly the efforts are now more focused on maintenance rather than restoration as well as developing the facility for use by the community (clubs & societies). All of the work required to maintain the buildings, the site and to manage the community activities is undertaken by a small group of volunteers. “

The Open Weekend was talked about in some detail before the conversation returned to the role of volunteers – “we are always on the look-out for new volunteers with any skills they may have and will be made very welcome by the group of regulars who aren’t necessarily canal boaters but merely wish to get involved with a unique community asset in someway that aligns to their skills, experience and availability.”

Lance and Paul confirmed that if anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer or indeed can bring skills / experience as a Trustee then they should simply pop down for a chat on any Tuesday morning when there will be someone around to describe the volunteering role in more detail. Lance concluded in saying “having been a Trustee for 3 years now I can safely say that Stourbridge Navigation Trust is a worthy organisation and the work is varied and fulfilling, so if there is anyone out there who has for instance just retired and wants to support a local charity then please get in touch“.



Santa Canal Boat Trips Now on Sale !!

We are pleased to announce that Santa has already set his schedule for his visit to the Bonded Warehouse in 2018 !

Santa Trip boats will be running on the following days and times:

   Saturday / Sunday – 15th / 16th December.
   Friday 21st December (afternoon only).
   Saturday / Sunday – 22nd / 23rd December.

On each of these full days we will be running boats departing promptly at 10.45am / 11.30am / 12.15pm / 2.00pm / 2.45pm / 3.30pm / 4.15pm and 5.00pm.

On the Friday afternoon trips the first Santa Boat will depart at 2.00pm and then at 2.45pm / 3.30pm and finally at 4.15pm .

Tickets are priced at £9 each (Child: Boat Trip, Santa Experience & Present . Adult: Boat Trip, Santa Experience, Mince Pie and Drink).

To book your places call the Trust Manager on 01384 395216.


Free parking available onsite.


Street Food Affair Video

Stourbridge Navigation Trust who manage the Bonded Warehouse are pleased to work in association with Street Food Affair as we both desire to bring the community together at this unique historic building.

Many of you will know that the monthly Street Food events are now in their second year and have become extremely popular, especially this year aided by the splendid summer weather but there is always something for everyone to enjoy be it the food, drinks, music or bargains in the Twilight market.

At the event in July a number of video clips were professionally taken and the short video record of the event can be seen using the following link – Street Food at the Bonded Warehouse – we hope that you enjoy the video and hope that it will inspire you to come to future events (keep a look out on our Forthcoming Events webpage for dates currently scheduled for the remainder of the year).

Out with the Old Chairs, in with the New !

Tuesday Club were energetic again this week moving plenty of furniture around – as good as a workout in the gym ! Pictured is Gareth Pollard taking a breather after handling the old chairs down from the large shuttered windows on the circular end of the building.

As part of an internal refurbishment new carpet tiles were fitted in the Dadford/Whitworth rooms on 2nd May and we also had a further 100 chairs delivered last Tuesday, 32 Burgundy for the Brindley room and 68 navy blue chairs for use in the Dadford room and the coffee bar area. The task for Tuesday Club was to remove the 160 older chairs down to the basement and then to replace them with the colour matched ones – quite a long job and on a warm day we certainly got a sweat on very quickly.

The new additions certainly have freshened up the rooms which do look very nice now as indicated in the photograph below of the new burgundy chairs placed around the walls of the Brindley room. Photographs of the refurbishment of the Dadford Room and the Coffee Lounge with new flooring and matching blue chairs can be found on the “Rooms for Hire” pages.

We were pleased that local community organisations (e.g. Scouts) could extend the life of many of the older chairs which were only slightly cosmetically looking a bit tired and they were soon snapped up and taken off site to their new homes.