Friday 11th May; Worcester to Tewkesbury
We didn’t want to hang around for long this morning as we needed to fill the water tank before the long haul down the Severn to Tewkesbury. I locked Dave through Sidbury lock, then he cruised on down to the water points and I followed on foot, head down against the wind - the high walls either side of the canal effectively creating a wind tunnel. I started the water tank filling and left Dave to deal with the cassette while I went up to the garage above the canal for the paper. It was quite warm up there away from the wind.
Domestic tasks dealt with, I set off to prepare the top Diglis lock – quickly done as it was full. I gave Dave a wave to let him know (his mobile battery was flat) and got into position to take a snap as he brought Chuffed past the big ‘ship’ moored in the basin.
With no volunteer to close the gate, I did that myself and Dave had to pick me up from the pontoon below the lock. That all went smoothly, and we were soon through Diglis Lock and heading downstream. The flow was ok but the wind was strong in our faces. There wasn’t much going on – four narrowboats came upstream, and someone was cleaning his scruffy landing stage with a power washer, but that was about it. Not much bird life, and with the high Severn flood banks no view either. There was quite a lot of mistletoe
but with grey cloudy skies it was all, dare I say it, not very interesting. The river is too wide to see if anything is happening on the banks and it goes on for hours. We were heartily relieved to see Hanbury Castle finally appearing above the trees
as it meant we weren’t far from Upton. Now at last there was something more interesting to look at – Elver, one of the gravel barges, was loading up. You can see a digger on the bank – it fills its jaws from the massive pile of gravel (out of the picture on the right), and dumps it into a hopper which feeds the conveyor running up to the green cover above the hold, and the gravel drops off the end and down behind the red thing which seems to keep it falling in a controlled way.
Elver looks to be about half loaded. We were soon at Upton, where luckily there was a mooring free on the steps. Meg was keen to get ashore too! We had lunch as the gravel barges came and went – here is Pike, very low in the water.
We walked up to the village for some shopping before setting off again just after 3. We went into the Pepperpot when we visited last summer – you can see it rising up behind two of the many pubs around the riverside.
Not a lot happened on our afternoon journey apart from being instructed to pass the gravel barge Perch on the ‘wrong’ side as it waited to turn for unloading. The unloading procedure is the reverse of the loading – here is the digger waiting for the barge to arrive, when it will scoop up the gravel in its jaws, dump it in the hopper and the conveyor will carry it along to the waiting heap, or lorry, I failed to notice which.
You may think this is a lot of palaver to carry gravel just a few miles by boat, but there are no roads near the extraction site so this is clearly a better way.
We were getting a bit cold and fed up by now. The sun had gone and although there weren’t actual whitecaps the river was quite lumpy in places where it was exposed to the wind. Not much to see – there were these remains of a wharf further on from Ryall Wharf, where the gravel was being unloaded.
Everything is overgrown now, but once this must have received much bigger craft than we see nowadays. Our roof would probably not even come half-way up. We resorted to I-Spy to pass the time till finally Mythe bridge came into view and soon we were turning into the Avon. The lockie showed us where to moor for an overnight stay, below the lock but towards St John’s bridge.
The wharf side is high – almost level with the roof – so we were a bit worried about how Meg would cope. We had to lift her off the first time, but once she realised she could jump it all by herself there was no problem.
16 miles, 3 canal locks, 1 river lock