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DSCF5921While in Evesham we bought Catty a present of a harness & lead, so that she could go outside in more populous area, we should have known she wouldn’t appreciate it because when we tried it out here at Bidford she just lay down & refused to move. Oh well despite what O2’s ads would have us believe you can’t make a cat more dog!

 

We left our neighbours, nb Against the Odds, at the mooring and headed for Stratford. As you can see Bidford bridge has a large centre arch which you might assume is the one to use, but you’d be wrong; see the view from the other side. We followed nb Woodham, who had been moored at The Frog’s mooring through the proper arch and teamed up with them at all the locks to Stratford.

At one lock a cruiser had already prepared the lock and waved both of us in, when we had tied up he wound open both paddles and while the two narrowboats were quite stable, he was bobbing about like a cork with the water from the sluices washing over the front of his boat. This didn’t seem to perturb him or his lady who was holding their ropes with her feet casually up on  the dashboard.DSCF5929

 

At Luddington Lock we spotted Laplander an iron hulled steam powered ice boat dating from 1830, who later came through Stratford ‘Whoop-Whooping’ with their steam whistle.

IMG_20140726_165112Just two more locks and we were at Stratford recreation ground where the moorings were quite full so we breasted up with Woodham until a space became free in the morning near the bandstand.  Before that we topped up with water, a combined operation with three other boats & three hoses which meant none of us had to move.

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We have been into the town today, visited the market, had ice creams (one Honeycomb & one Salted Caramel, thanks to June’s recommendation who happed to phone us from Banbury) and we had a ‘ploughman’s’ lunch at The View bar & restaurant in the recreation grounds.

Received a Facebook message this afternoon saying our friends Lis & John from Gloucestershire were in Stratford, it turned out they were having tea at the RSC café almost opposite, but hadn’t spotted us! Needless to say we invited them over and spent the next few hours chatting until it was getting dark!

Summer Cruise Day 21

WEJourneyMap-23175Another early start today as we left our Evesham mooring after a quiet night, despite being close to a main road and the riverside benches being occupied ‘til late evening with small groups drinking Eastern European beer.

So we crept away at 8:15 and found Evesham Lock set for us, and were assisted through by another narrowboater and and a man who was, I assume the lock keeper, because he assured me I’d swamp the front of the boat by being that near the lock gate.
As I said I hadn’t done so at previous locks he said “ Please yourself” and I continued my practice of filling the lock by the opposite side paddle until the sluices were covered without any problem.

DSCF5910We passed the The Bridge Inn & Ferry at Offenham, curiously there is no bridge and the ferry doesn’t look much used. See footnote 1
Many of the Avon Locks have been renamed after benefactors of the trust so next was George Billington (Offenham) Lock  which is just a 3’  rise and has a unique tower next to it again dedicated to a man instrumental in re-opening the Avon to navigation.

At Robert Aickman (Harvington) Lock we joined a Viking Afloat hire boat who were heading back to Worcester and whose help was appreciated as the top gates were extremely difficult to open. We caught them up again at IWA (Marcliff) Lock and shared with them again and were impressed with their (12 year old?) son’s steering ability who seemed as competent as the adults, if not more so. Good luck to them, they need to be back at Worcester Sunday night, so they pressed on to Stratford while we moored up and had a pleasantly lazy afternoon at Bidford Recreation Ground moorings.

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We were joined on the moorings by nb Against the Odds by mid-afternoon who we have seen most days since Tewkesbury.

For boaters contemplating cruising the Avon it’s worth knowing that many of the locks have overnight moorings adjacent as other moorings are sparse as you progress further upstream.

The first documentary evidence of a bridge at Offenham is from 1285 (Watson no date). This stone bridge crossed the river close to Dead Man’s Ait (or island), where many skeletons of horses and men who did not manage to fully escape the battle of Evesham in 1265 have been found (Cox 1953).

The stone footbridge that was once located to the west of the study site was probably removed when the Evesham to Stratford section of the Avon was made navigable in the second half of the 17th century; the crossing thereafter being served by a ferry. Ferry Lane and Boat Lane clearly refer to this part of the crossing’s history, and the route continued to support traffic and a public house; the Bridge Inn (WSM 07366), which presumably originally dated from the time of the bridge.

Offenham

Summer Cruise Day 20

With today’s weather forecast set to ‘Scorchio’ we planned an early departure from Pershore, and surprisingly we managed to be away before 8 am. There were just three locks today, Pershore, Fladbury and Chadbury. Pershore lock was the deepest at 9ft and has a diamond shaped chamber to add to the excitement, however we had all the locks to ourselves and were able to take our time negotiating them.

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The other two are conventionally shaped and have more modern lock gates which look less ‘home made’ than the previous ones. In truth the gates are well balanced and despite their size, easy to open & close, not only that but the paddles are counterbalanced with a weight & chain mechanism, the trick seems to be to gently open the paddle on the top gate opposite to the side you are moored and the water flow keeps the boat against the lock wall.

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Some of the houses along the way had beautiful gardens and a camera shy heron, who had been teasing Joy by swooping across in front of us as soon as she put her camera down, eventually perched on a dead tree branch for a photo opportunity.

A notice at Chadbury advised us to give 3 long horn blasts to warn the ferryman at Hampton Ferry to lower the rope but in the event it didn’t seem to be operating today.

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Abbey Bridge

So it was under Abbey Bridge and we were moored up at Evesham, opposite the park before noon. Later in the afternoon we ventured into the town to have a look around and bought a few items.

IMG_20140721_114115We made good use of our prime mooring next to King John’s Bridge in Tewkesbury, there was a shady tree next to us to shelter from the sun, and the town centre was just a few minutes away.

We look a bit lonely in the photo, but actually there was a coming and going of boats either side of us.

 

 

DSCF5858Neither were we lonely because we were pleased to welcome several Gloucestershire visitors during our stay, Allison, Edward & Hazel and Anj, a friend of our daughter whom we hadn’t seen in ages and who now works in Tewkesbury.
We also made use of  the Buttercup Laundry & Ironing service in Chance Street. (note: NOT a launderette) 1

 

Whilst in the town we sampled a couple of the hostelries, Ye Olde Black Bear,  dating back to at least 1308 and which serves up a nicely cooked All Day Breakfast and also Theoc House café bar, which has more of a wine bar/bistro ambiance and where we enjoyed gorgeous tapas, the Black Pudding scotch egg scoring a particular hit with Joy.

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This morning we topped up the water tank, and it was off upstream passing through glorious countryside in the sunshine.

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After our first Avon locks at Strensham (the only reminder of the eponymous motorway services being the bridge carrying the M5 above us) and Nafford (where a boat moored on the main lock landing forced us to moor on the short right hand landing where we were in the way of a broad beam coming down the lock) by that time we were glad to stop for lunch in the shady Great Comberton visitor moorings.

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Suitably refreshed we tackled our last reach (is that the right word?) for the day, up to Pershore, though the old & new bridges and tackle the complexities of Pershore Lock which has a side paddle which must be used first, and a rise of 9ft, not appreciated when I had to climb back down (and up) the lock ladder because I had forgotten the windlass! I blame the heat!

We were happy to moor up for the night at Pershore Recreation Ground under another shady tree, then had a welcome warm shower to cool off before tea.

1) 5 Chance Street, Tewkesbury – GL20 5RQ 01684 273927

DSCF5816We knew the weather forecast was not good for Saturday but there looked like there might be a dry spell between 10 & 12, so we departed before 10 and it immediately started raining! We started the descent of Offerton Locks and were soon drenched to the skin. The only good thing was that most of the locks were in our favour, but we stopped after 3 locks to change into dry things, which was a waste of time because we were soon wet again.

DSCF5825We took a lunch break on the outskirts of Worcester and phoned up to book an overnight berth in Worcester Marina, aka Lowesmoor Basin. After lunch we carried on through another 6 locks to the marina where we were directed to a berth which involved reversing though a kind of ‘goalpost’ arrangement, which is designed to hold the boat straight as we were moored end-on to the basin edge.

IMG_20140719_210221We were glad to have the luxury of mains electricity at the marina as we needed to make good use of our tumble dryer! We had arranged for our son Jer and the children to meet us there, but whilst waiting for them we had a phone call from my niece Kate who was on holiday in the area with her husband Stephen, so we had five visitors & a dog for the evening which led to a visit to The Anchor at Diglis Dock for a meal!

The grandchildren stayed with us overnight and in the morning we left in much better weather, the staff at Worcester Marina were most helpful despite it being a ‘turn-around day’ for their hire boats. Morley was a big help with the remaining locks and by 12 noon we were through Diglis Dock and out onto the wide waters of the River Severn, which was quite calm despite the previous day’s rain.

DSCF5842 Diglis was our only lock on the Severn today so it was a straightforward cruise downstream to Tewkesbury with the Malvern Hills in the distance. Upton Blues Festival was in full swing as we passed and we saw and heard a couple of the acts as we went by, also the Conway Castle was just manoeuvring as we approached so we had to hold back, just glad there wasn’t more flow on the river! “MV Conway Castle is the largest passenger vessel on the River Severn”

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Soon we were passing under the M50 and as we saw Mythe Bridge we knew it was time to leave the Severn and join the Avon. Bob the Lockkeeper locked us though Avon Lock, found us a nice mooring facing King John’s Bridge and told us to make ourselves comfortable before relieving us of the fees for our Avon Navigation Trust licence and mooring. Jer came and collected the children before tea as they have another week of school before they break up.

We are spending a few days here and already have visitors scheduled, but more are always welcome.

Summer Cruise Day 14

After yesterday’s exertions an easy day was on the cards today, we left Stoke Wharf at about 10:30 and stopped off almost immediately at J. Pinder’s  Little Shop Of Chandlery and managed to purchase two more cigarette lighter sockets for my project.

It was a pleasant run down to to Astwood Locks passing nb Chelonian moored up, yes they were the guys who helped us yesterday!

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I quite like these Worcester and Birmingham Canal locks, they are easy to operate, well maintained and I rather like the engineering of the paddle-gear too with nicely designed pawls on the ground paddles which are balanced to disengage when you take the pressure off and proper handles on them too so you don’t get greasy fingers as you do on the Oxford canal.

 

We bought some runner beans at the bottom lock cottage, by that time it was really starting to warm up and a lunch stop outside of the The Eagle & Sun at Hanbury Junction was in order. Naturally we were tempted to order some chips to go with the salad Joy had prepared and drinks to go with it too.

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After a brief rest it was nice to pass through the cool Dunhampstead Tunnel, and finally moor up at Tibberton Visitor moorings. After a bit of a rest I fitted the cigarette lighter sockets and then had to clear up the mess before a light tea.

We had just given up on getting a TV signal when a Viking Afloat hire boat moored by us… and it was friends from Heyford! Chris, Emily and their boys Oliver & George on a ‘late-booking’ trip out of Worcester. What are the chances of that???

We sat and drank cups of tea and caught up with each other’s news for perhaps a little too long as they were planning to get a meal at the Bridge Inn but I’m afraid they were too late by the time they got there!

Embarrassed smile

Summer Cruise Day 13

When it’s forecast to be the hottest day of the year and you’ve got 35 locks to do, who ya gonna call… Lockbusters!

Well maybe not quite, but our son Jeremy had promised to drive up and help us but he did better and brought two friends with him. Max & Nicky have been live-aboard boaters since last October and had never been through a lock yet, well they are on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal where there are no locks, so we certainly put that right today.

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We left our overnight mooring at about 8:15 (yes, a.m!) and pottered on down, through Shortwood Tunnel, to the Anglo Welsh Hire Base at Tardebigge Old Wharf, unfortunately there was nowhere to moor except their wharf so we had just pulled in there to ask if there was another mooring nearby, when our crew arrived. Jer had met the manager previously and he kindly allowed them to leave their car there.

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After introductions we set off and went through the Tardebigge Tunnel, another first for Max & Nicky, on reaching the top lock another boat was just starting down so we helped them through and gave our recruits some basic lock training. Of course following another boat meant that every lock would be against us but bless them, as they left each lock they raised the top paddles for us so the lock was almost ready for us when we arrived (sorry I can’t recall the name of their boat, but many, many thanks to them). We were soon into a rhythm with one person ahead preparing the next lock and we only met one boat coming up the whole flight.

DSCF5802We were at the bottom lock by 1pm in just 3¼ hours, where we stopped for lunch just past the Queens Head, another canal-side pub which doesn’t encourage boaters to use their moorings. After being fortified with hotdogs which Joy had prepared on the way, Jer took my bike and went back to fetch the car, whilst we carried on, with our now proficient crew, down the Stoke Prior Locks and moored just above the bottom lock opposite the Black Prince Hire base where we found Jer chatting to the staff as he has an ex-Black Prince boat and was enquiring about replacing the front fender rubber.

After some cooling drinks in the nearby Navigation Inn we returned to the boat for a spaghetti bolognaise and a well earned rest before saying our goodbyes and arranging to meet again.

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