Monday 21st May; Swan’s Neck to Fladbury Lock
It was pleasantly cool this morning before we set off. We were lucky to get this peaceful mooring, though I think if it had been wet we would have found it a bit slippery getting on and off.
Dave and Meg having a moment while I cast off.
it was hot and sunny as we passed through Nafford lock, with its swing bridge and the sad remains of a narrowboat lost in floods years ago.
We much prefer the Avon to the Severn. It’s got more mooring spots, is narrower and hasn’t got the high flood banks which obscure the view from the Severn. And it’s much prettier, especially as the leaves on the trees are still vibrant with spring newness.
It is peak oilseed rape season. It has found its way all along the riverbank – I don’t imagine the owners of this large house have been cultivating it at the bottom of their orchard.
It’s all along the banks, presumably coming from seed swept off the fields in floods – either swept away before it had germinated, or spilt during harvest. I hope it’s not going to be a problem like the Himalayan Balsam which has spread along the waterways. Last time we were on the Avon we saw several hire boats with grandiloquent names, such as Transcendence, Omniscient and this one – Ostentatious, moored at Defford Wharf. The name doesn’t quite match the paintwork! We didn’t see any others of the fleet and this is on a private mooring, so I wonder if the company has sold them off and closed.
We were soon through Pershore bridges (one picturesque, one not) and into the lock. The bottom gates were open so we went straight in. It is deep, so up the ladder I went with rope and windlass. This only worked because I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt – if I had been wearing wet weathers or anything bulky, or if it had been windy, I would have needed to get off on the landing and Dave thrown me the ropes one by one. (You must tie the boat fore and aft in the Avon locks – the water flows from the gate paddles are extremely strong and would throw the boat around dangerously if you did not). The gentle ground paddle means you can quickly fill up to half-way, and spend less time slowly raising the gate paddles. The power generation screws were working well.
On the way to moor at Pershore park we passed some lovely gardens. Look at this arbour! just imagine sitting there on a warm evening with something chilled in your hand…. watching the river flow by, honeysuckle perfume drifting through the air ….
We walked up to the town for provisions, getting some local rhubarb, and lovely tomatoes grown in Worcester hothouses, and a handful of books from a charity shop. We decided to move on a bit this afternoon, as we want to have flexibility to hang about in Stratford, so set off again to Wyre Lock. This is diamond-shaped and is a bit awkward to get tied up in. A narrow-boat was leaving the top, and there was a cruiser on the landing so we hung about mid-stream to stay out of the way. The cruiser couple emptied the lock then called us in. They had let the one in front go ahead of them, now us – it turned out they moor in the marina below the lock and just wanted to stop on the little ANT mooring above the lock to have a cup of tea before going back down … whatever floats your boat, as they say! So not only did they lock us through, they said they would let the one coming up behind us through too. Just as well they weren't going far!
There is building going on in Wyre Piddle along the loop of the river. These must go for a pretty penny. And look, the garden is already planted up with flowers! oh, it’s oilseed rape again.
The irrigation pumps abstracting water from the river were hard at work. We could see the pipework snaking away over the field but no sprayers in sight.
On the way towards Fladbury lock there are various properties with vast sweeping lawns and we always wonder, do these people have staff? Not this one. Look closely at the rabbit in front of the tree.
Not a rabbit! A little robot mower. We hoped there was some electronic boundary to stop it ending up in the drink. What happens when it encounters a tree? it stops, has a little ‘think’, and changes course.
It looks impressive, a lovely well-mown lawn, but pretty barren as far as wildlife is concerned, apart from easy worm-hunting for the blackbirds. I’d rather see
weeds wild flowers and patches of long grass for the butterflies and other insects. We had thought of mooring at Jubilee Bridge, where a mooring is marked but we had a question mark against it in Nicholson’s – it is clearly a private house. We heard later you used to be able to moor if you asked the owner, but it seems to have changed hands and that is no longer the case. Nothing to tie to now, anyway. So we moored above Fladbury lock, on the weir side of the lock landing. The Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) moorings are clearly marked with blue poles, so easy to spot, but not so easy to reverse into when the wind is gusty.
There is a handy footpath for dog walking and it is easy to see the the weir. We often see sandpipers and grey wagtails here but not today. (I was going to say yellow wagtail, but thought I’d check and they are usually grey ones we see - a grey back not yellow-green, and one source said they are now much less commonly seen than the greys).
The river levels are low at the moment – the water is not even as high as the indicator below the lock. See how high the top of the indicator is, but still below the top of the lock.
Now look at the boards marking the flood levels – July 2007 is the top one. That’s a lockside bollard in front of the building.
No floods for us tonight, just a few drops of rain and a bit of thunder in the distance.
4 locks, 11 miles.