… and we’re off again

After a week at The Patch, Slimbridge, Wrens-Nest is on  the move again.

Joy has spent the mornings of the last week helping run a Holiday Club at Wotton Baptist Church, the club was called Rocky’s Plaice and was set around the theme of a fish & chip shop. Over a hundred children attended, and the week ended with a fish and chip lunch for the children, leaders, parents and grandparents.

Chris has been doing exciting stuff like writing letters and boat maintenance.

DSCF0067 We have had hundreds of visitors, OK well that’s a slight exaggeration but we counted about 47! Friday evening we celebrated with six friends and a bottle of champagne and today we had a mini cruise with two special couples,  one couple had just DSCF0078celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and the other couple celebrated their diamond anniversary this year.

 

Do spare a prayer for our friend Gary who was with us Friday, he had a stroke in the early hours of this morning and is now in hospital.

We are moored up tonight at Sandfield Bridge just before Saul Junction.

Arrived at The Patch

IMG_0866 This morning we awoke to the sound of screaming gulls (in fact Joy said they hadn’t shut up all night) they must think Gloucester is a Port 😀

After a very light breakfast we set to work hoovering and cleaning the boat, we were expecting visitors you see. Our friends (and previously near neighbours from Dursley) Mike and Myra travelled up to Gloucester by bus and we cruised down the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal together as far as Patch Bridge at Slimbridge, stopping [successfully this time] for a  pub lunch at The Pilot at Sellars Bridge, Hardwicke.

IMG_0873For those of you not familiar with the area the G & S is actually a ship canal, although not many ships are seen these days, and wide enough for our 63’ boat to turn practically anywhere. The Dock area in Gloucester has undergone and is still undergoing redevelopment. The new Gloucester Quays , with its designer outlets, is up and running and Sainsburys have their own moorings although they were full and we couldn’t stop to go shopping.

It was an easy cruise down to Slimbridge, (famous for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) as the bridges are all manned and have traffic lights, and I can’t help mentioning Splatt Bridge, another of my favourite names! By teatime we were at the Patch and had found a mooring near the bridge with a water point adjacent.

Patch Bridge is named after Shepherds Patch developed during the nineteenth century, providing homes for canal workers. Near the bridge are the Black Shed Café Bar and Glevum Boat & Cycle Hire on Patch Wharf and the Tudor Arms a few yards away.

We got a taxi back to Dursley, took Myra and Mike home and picked up Matilda, Jer’s 1972 VW Beetle which we are borrowing for a few days and of course to wish our grandson, Morley, IMG_0886happy 7th birthday. Then we had to get back at the boat to meet Alison, Joy’s niece at the pub (officially The Tudor Arms, but locally it’s universally simply referred to as going down The Patch) we then gave her the conducted tour of the boat before bidding her goodnight and retiring to bed.

Hello to the Severn & Gloucester Docks

IMG_0851 We left the Avon through Avon Lock and were soon making our way down the River Severn which sure looked big and wide. Within a few minutes we were at Upper Lode Lock and wow wasn’t that big, the biggest inland lock in the country the lockie proudly told us, he was really helpful and talked me through the process and was very careful to let the water in gently and re-assure us that, despite the size of the lock the rise and fall would only be 4 feet.

IMG_0853 We were soon on our way again and apart from encountering a tacking sailing dinghy and a speeding Dutch barge it was plain sailing :P    By lunchtime we were at the Boat Inn Ashleworth, but just our luck it was closed on Wednesday lunchtimes (some kind of pattern here?)

So off we went again and at the Upper Parting, just 3 miles from Gloucester Lock, we phoned ahead to the Lock as required but got the answering machine, thinking he was at lunch we pottered down slowly and phoned again at the ½ mile marker when we got through and were told to wait at  IMG_0860Gloucester Quay Wall and grab hold of the chains as soon as possible to keep out of the pull of the river towards the weir. It all sounded quite scary but we managed OK and soon the lock traffic lights turned green and in we went.

 

 

IMG_0861The Lockie, Mike, was again helpful although Joy managed to pinch her fingers when the boat drifted forwards. Soon the ordeal was over and we were into the docks and on the Visitor Moorings.

Sad Farewells to the Avon & nb Katherine

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We set off from Pershore Recreation Ground this morning and were soon at Pershore Lock where a large sign warned us of Commercial Traffic Ahead , we had to ring Pilot Boat ‘Tardis’ to announce our arrival and he warned us that there were three barges and tugs working ahead.

We pressed on keeping a good look out, we soon found the Pilot Boat and exchanged greetings and saw the first of the barges unloading. Within a few miles we passed the two tugs who were pushing dumb barges full of soil and then the site where they were moving it from and still have no idea why they were moving tons upon tons of soil a few miles up the river.

IMG_0831 We stopped for lunch at Eckington Wharf which has a picnic place which Graham & Judy knew well and then went on down to Twyning where we said our farewells them at the Fleet Inn where they were meeting friends tonight. For our part we travelled on down to Tewkesbury passing under the M5 near the M50 Junction, a view we have often seen the other way round.

IMG_0843 We phoned the Lockkeeper at Avon Lock (Tewkesbury) who told us there were moorings just past the lock, which we completely managed to miss and had to annoy a whole lot of fisherman (who we learned had a match on) in order to turn around. We phoned the Lockie again and he explained in detail where we were supposed to be, there were some lads fishing there too who were also none too pleased that we moored there, but we managed to squeeze in and make our peace with them. Later a ‘Tupperware’ boat moved out of the way and we were able to move up a bit as the lads were coming back at 6am tomorrow!

… and now we’re at Pershore

IMG_0813 We set off predictably late at gone 11:00am Joy and Judy just had to go shopping as we were in a real town. Our first obstacle  was the Hampton Ferry, which is pulled across the river on a rope, so you have to give three long blasts on the horn so they know you’re coming and can lower the rope. The ferryman decided he  had plenty of time to do one more trip across before we got there, which of course he did, but you do start to wonder as you get ever closer!

IMG_0814 Joy  had been complaining for a few days that the loo was smelly so we had to get it ‘pumped out’ and we were very excited to find DIY pump outs were available for free at  the sanitary station outside Evesham sewage works, these things are important to boaters 😀 The map said there was another cable across the river here, but it was, fact between the pillars of an old railway bridge about 25 feet above the water level, we had visions of the sewage workers arriving for work by zip wire!

Map picture

Chadbury and Fladbury Locks were negotiated and by the time we reached Wyre Piddle after passing Tiddle Widdle Island we were sure the map makers had been the victims of some schoolboy humour. The joke was on us though as we moored up outside the Anchor pub at Wyre only to find it closed for refurbishment. 😦

We had to content ourselves with mooring for the night at Pershore Recreation ground which was conveniently close to Asda so provisions were purchased and we spent a pleasant evening playing Balderdash with Graham and Judy and sharing supper together.

Down to Evesham with the Family

IMG_0796 Jer, Sadie, Morley & Iona came to visit us today at Bidford on Avon, left their car there and joined us for a cruise down to Evesham, it was a really nice day and we had lunch as we travelled and arrived in Evesham mid-afternoon. Joy got us into trouble at Evesham Lock by handing the lock-keeper our centreline, giving away the fact that we hadn’t been keeping to their rules all day!

 

(using both bow & stern lines – front & back ropes to you landlubbers)

IMG_0803 We couldn’t have moored up in a better place, opposite Workman Gardens, as there was a big play area there where Morley & Iona had a whale of a time and got soaking wet which was all part of the fun. Meanwhile Jer rode his bike back to Bidford in 23 minutes (over 3 hours by boat) and brought the car back, Sadie had a ‘pronk’ (jog) round the park  and had to show Iona how to use the play equipment.

We had dinner together before they went home and we washed up and promptly fell asleep for an hour exhausted but happy. 😀

Onto The Avon

IMG_0765 Today we ventured out of Bancroft Basin at Stratford and down onto the Avon, I had been a bit worried by all the guide book’s talk of strong currents and weirs but like the Thames it was quite gentle at this time of the year at least. Even the locks were well maintained and quite easy to use despite being three times wider than the narrow ones on the Stratford Canal.

IMG_0773 Graham & Judy had guests for the day and we all enjoyed a relaxing day down the river stopping for a riverside picnic lunch on the way where we found a new friend who wanted to see what we had in our kitchen and was friendly enough to take food from my hand.

It was quite novel to frequently be able to see the bottom of the river after the muddiness of canals, Graham said he saw fish; we certainly saw lots of fishermen who often seemed less than pleased to see us. We stopped at Bidford on Avon where we found moorings outside the Frog pub to re-unite nb Katherine’s visitors with their car and stayed there for the night.

Dentists, Willows & Annie’s Tea Rooms

The visit to the dentist went well, apart from having to get up at silly o’clock to drive a hire car to Banbury to leave Joy shopping & on to Bloxham for my 8:40 am appointment. I am pleased to report that my new crown is in situ and looking good.

Whilst in Banbury we visited Tooleys Boatyard to talk about blacking and devised a ‘Cunning Plan’ to have Wrens-Nest’s bottom blacked whilst we were on holiday in September.

Having discovered Graham (of nb Katherine) was the owner of an Austin Seven I asked if he would like a dynamo for it as I had one ‘under the bench’ at Heyford so we went there to retrieve said item and met Bones there!

IMG_0760a This chance meeting changed our lunch plans so we decamped to Annie’s Tea Rooms at Thrupp for pork pies, fresh bread and salad. We had a chance to observe the newly mechanised lift bridge and wonder of wonders… British Waterways working to trim the willow tree which had swept our sack truck off the roof a few weeks ago. Who says complaining doesn’t work!

Moored in the basin

That’s Bancroft Basin, Stratford upon Avon, we arrived here just about lunchtime today.

IMG_0742 Yesterday was a long day, with 9 locks and and no less than 3 aqueducts. nb Katherine was immobilised just before Wootton Wawen aqueduct with what turned out to be a huge length of plastic around the prop which caused some delay to our progress.

 

 

IMG_0739 We’ve done aqueducts before but they were just like bridges with proper sides and stuff but these were on the style of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal which is a cast iron trough with a towpath on one side and nothing on the other!The Edstone Aqueduct was the last and highest of the trio and to quote Waterscape:

Edstone (or Bearley) Aqueduct is one of the earliest cast iron canal aqueducts in the country and is the longest in England. It has a low level towpath and crosses a river, railway and a road. It is one of the local wonders of the canal network.

We considered continuing down part of the next flight of locks and set off on a reccy but decided that we would stay put which turned out to be a “good decision” as it started to pour with rain soon afterwards.

IMG_0749 So this morning we made a 8 o’clock start and made our way down the Wilmote flight to the edge of Stratford which we did in good time, so stopped for a bacon and egg breakfast. Afterwards we carried on to Stratford arriving about lunchtime. I have to say that The bridges on the Stratford Canal seem to be some of the narrowest we have encountered not to mention the debris at every bridge-hole and some of the lock by-washes (overflows) were viscious. We had been warned that the canal got shallower as Stratford was approached and we found it to be true.

IMG_0754 We reached Bancroft Basin in Stratford and found moorings on the finger pontoons which were so difficult to get onto as the wind which had picked up during the morning making lining up for locks a problem made mooring here a nightmare as the pontoons were floating and bobbing about and even the bowthruster couldn’t fight the wind. Fortunatly we were rescued by nb Lacy Fair who helped Joy with the mooring ropes and nb Katherine who shunted us into line before nb Xilion Rose did the same for them. Its all about cooperation on the canal 😀

Tomorrow I have to visit the dentist, so have hired a car to take us back to Bloxham and Banbury, so no boating tomorrow.

Kingswood Junction – The Lapworth Link & on towards Stratford upon Avon

Kingswood Junction Our route today took us up to Kingwood Junction, the water level was very low and made for slow progress, I even stopped to check if there was anything round the prop at one stage the engine was working so hard.

 

 

IMG_0704 On reaching the junction we hung a left under the bridge and then through the Lapworth Link, a short short stretch of canal that links together the Grand Union and Stratford-on-Avon Canals, its not much wider than our boat and when we emerged into Kingwood Basin it was full rudder and much power to turn us to face the right direction… but we did it… without the aid of the bowthruster 😀

Fleur de Lys We were back to narrow locks again here and progressed down in light drizzle and as it got heavier, decided to call a halt at Lowsonford opposite the Fleur de Lys Pub where we intend to eat tonight and one of its claims to fame is that it is the pub where Fleur De Lys pies, well known throughout the land’s chip shops, originated!