It’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.
After 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just 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.
The 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.
Today 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!
At 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.
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.
While 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.
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.
Just 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.
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!
Another 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can you spot that heron?
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.
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.