Cape of Good Hope – Summer Cruise Day 27

IMG_20140730_204840It’s OK, we haven’t got hopelessly lost , still around Warwick! Last night’s meal at The Cape of Good Hope was excellent and can be recommended. They were most helpful and allowed our locking partners, Ian, Chris & Heather on nb Woodham to moor outside this morning while Chrissy went to the hospital for a routine blood test. Meanwhile we headed on to Kate Boats for a pump-out and then on to do some shopping at  Warwick Tesco where the others caught us up. While we were at Tesco’s we put the washing machine on so it was done when we got back.

DSCF5993After a bite of lunch we carried as far as Fosse Locks where thunder started to rumble ominously, so Joy called a tea-stop, by 5pm it had cleared a bit but we decided against further progress and tied up for the night. So we enjoyed a meal  on board, of Pork & Apple sausages, new potatoes and runner beans followed by a crumble with the blackberries Joy foraged back at Warwick and Bramleys from Tesco.

Hatton Locks – Summer Cruise Day 26

Left Kingswood just before 9:00, trains woke us at 3:00am & I couldn’t get back to sleep for ages. It was nice fresh morning and we made the turn onto the Grand Union, which I always think of as the motorway of British canals, but the level was well down this morning and passing oncoming boats was tricky as it was easy to ground out when you left centre channel. We passed Willow Wren boat, Dipper aground but they said they had just got free.

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A little further on we saw steam narrowboat Tixall moored up, this is a modern steamer unlike Laplander which we saw at Stratford, steam buffs can peek inside here.

We were through Shrewley Tunnel by 10 and at the top of the 21 Hatton Locks by 11 o’clock where we were met by two volunteer lockies who helped nb Woodham and ourselves down the first few locks before going back to assist new arrivals, one of which was nb Dipper who, we discovered had a group of Scouts on board, they chased us down the locks and helped us close a few gates as we left.

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We met boats coming up at some locks, although more would have been nice, one of those we did meet was nb Wand’ring Bark & The Jam Butty from which Helen Tidy sells homemade jams and chutneys which she makes on board trading as Wild Side Preserves. This was the first time we’ve seen their ‘new’ butty Montgomery looked resplendent in it’s livery.

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We got into a rhythm of working the locks which I might say were easier than those on  the Stratford canal yesterday and by 3pm we were slaking our thirst at The Cape of Good Hope where we are going to eat tonight.

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Kingswood Junction – Summer Cruise Day 25

WEJourneyMap-23271Just in case anybody wonders how that little picture pops up titled “Where are we now?” it’s all down to a website called Water Explorer where you can log your boat’s position, this can be done manually or by a gpx file which my phone produces with the GPS Logger App  and hey presto we have a map of our day’s progress. So as you can see we have progressed from Wootton Wawen to Kingswood Junction, near Lapworth.

 

DSCF5978The Stratford canal boasts just six Barrel Roofed lock keepers’ cottages, a couple of which are currently for sale, this much enlarged example was up for sale in April for a cool £640,000 or there’s a more modest example which is reported as being up for auction here. Or if you just fancy one for a week or so The Landmark Trust owns one which it rents as a holiday let.

So today? 5.89 miles 7h34m Locks:17 Bridges:17 and tonight we are moored next to a railway bridge, so here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep.

Summer Cruise Day 24

DSCF5943Today it was time to leave the cultured surroundings of Stratford and return to the familiarity of narrow canals, but first there was some DIY to tackle. One of the kitchen cupboard door hinges had broken and it needed to be replaced, I had found, on line, that B & Q stocked them, but would we be able to moor at the bridge nearest to there? In the end I decided to take a taxi there and back which cost less than a fiver, and so we were still able to be away by 9:15 in the company of nb Woodham, having fitted the new hinges before we left.

So it was up into Bancroft Basin and through the four locks out of town, of course there would have been room to moor next to the Premier Inn to go to
B & Q but c’est la vie!

DSCF5953At the eleven Wilmcote Locks there were volunteer lockkeepers on hand to assist us one of whom ‘set ahead’ while we emptied each lock for nb Woodham as we left whilst the other lockie helped them through. At the last three locks we started to meet boats coming down, one of which was headed back to Saul on the Gloucester & Sharpness canal and had lived in our home town of 30years, Dursley.

Oh, and I’d forgotten about those vicious by-washes and narrow bridges on the Stratford, but we were on the final stretch for the day over the Edstone Aquaduct (a mini Pontcysyllte aqueduct) which is hard to photograph whist you are on it so here’s one from Geograph.

  © Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Just ‘Odd Lock’ to do and it was over the even shorter Wootton Wawen Aqueduct and were just able to squeeze into the 24hr moorings opposite the Anglo-Welsh boatyard with nb Woodham breasted alongside.

Tomorrow is our 42nd wedding anniversary so we celebrated with a meal at The Navigation Inn along with Ian, Chris & Heather off of Woodham who generously treated us to bottle of sparkling wine.

Hello Stratford – Summer Cruise Day 22 & 23

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.

Summer Cruise Day 17, 18 & 19

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

Summer Cruise Day 15 & 16

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