Thursday 31 May 2018

Which lock names should we use?

Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th May; Bidford to Barton lock, then on to Stratford

While Dave and Meg had a lovely game of ball I went for a run along part of the Avon Valley Path which goes from Stratford to Marlcliff.  It was cloudy and damp but very hot and humid.  I was glad of all the dog walkers I met partly because it meant I had an excuse for a breather but also because one told me about the Marlcliff Loop, which is a lovely path looping away to the tiny settlement of Marlcliff and back to the sports fields.  While I had a shower Dave went to get a paper and get his prescription from the excellent pharmacy – no trouble, no fee.  What a great spot to moor!  Convenient in so many ways – shopping, places to eat, dog walks, water, quiet and peaceful, and a lovely outlook too.

1 bidford mooring

Bidford bridge was its usual attractive self in the sunshine as we left.  I don’t know why my photos of bridges and other structures so often seem to come out a bit on the slant.  Perhaps it’s just not so noticeable when there are no straight edges.

2 bidford bridge

We went up the next two locks which are not deep and quite gentle, and pulled in on the ANT moorings above Barton (Pilgrim) lock for lunch.  It was so beautiful we decided to stay overnight.  The afternoon was hot but Dave cleaned out the engine hole, and I washed the roof to remove the mess from the Bidford ducks and the aphid honeydew from the trees.  This is the view from a few hundred yards north up the Avon Valley path.  Wonderful.

3 beautiful avon above barton lock

Futurest joined us later in the afternoon.

2 locks, less than 2 miles

Thursday morning dawned cool and damp, with intermittent light rain.  The rain died away during the morning as we made our way through the deep Welford and Luddington locks with their fierce paddles.  I was wearing too many layers to be comfortable climbing ladders with rope and windlass, so it took quite a time to get off on the lock landings, then for Dave to throw the ropes up so I could secure them.  And of course both bottom gates had to be closed too.  But we know how to treat these locks and if you do things properly you go up very smoothly.  I still don’t like them though.

4a fiece luddington

Between these two locks the river makes a big loop northward, crossed by Binton Bridges. With the gloomy conditions and drooping willows it was hard to see which side to go to start with (should have looked in Nicholson’s, it’s perfectly plain there). 

Lots of arches to choose from ….

1 binton bridges

The navigable channel is on the south side of the island.

2 binton bridges

We filled up the water tank and emptied a cassette at Luddington then moored on the ANT mooring for lunch.  Dave cleaned that side of the boat – the windows were covered in dust.

There are some smashing gardens on the run into Stratford.  We have admired this pergola before, but this time we are just a bit early to see the roses in their glory.

3 excellent pergola

We passed under the old railway bridge, which now carries a footpath (Monarch’s Way I think).  The racecourse lies behind the old railway on the upstream side, but can’t be seen from the river.

6 stratford racecourse behind old rly

At the last lock we had to wait for one of the trip boats to ascend, and I gave him a hand, while the passengers took pictures and waved.

7 trip boat leaves trinity lock

Nicholson’s labels the Upper Avon locks using the names given for major players or donors in the restoration – various Billingtons, Robert Aickman, for example.  Last time, I was chatting to an ANT man taking a work boat through a lock and he used the original names.  We noticed this year that the ANT boards all use the old names too – has this changed recently or have we just not noticed before?  Nicholson’s has the last lock as Colin P Witter, but not so the board.

9 back to old lock names

We moored on the park (lucky Meg!) just before the water point.  We took the footbridge below the lock into Bancroft Basin, and went up to eat in the Golden Bee, the Weatherspoon's – very disappointing after the excellence of the one in Gloucester.  On the way back we walked round the basin and there were Cathy and Michael, the couple on the Angle-Welsh we had met before.  We had an excellent evening enjoying their hospitality and discussing cruising routes and breakdowns (toilets were mentioned too, as they are proper boaters!  I know there is much disagreement about what constitutes a ‘proper’ boater but boo to the stuffy ones who insist you have to have a certain type of boat to be ‘proper’ I say).

4 locks 6 miles 

Wednesday 30 May 2018

A long day with a good ending

Tuesday 22nd May; Fladbury to Bidford

It’s still sunny but a fair bit cooler and more comfortable than it has been over the last few days.  As Dave returned from Meg’s morning stroll he spotted what was in the garden on the far side of the weir. It looks the sort of thing that would be taken to carnivals or fetes.

1 trumpton in fladbury

We needed to do some shopping so cracked on to Evesham.  Along the way we spotted some irrigation in progress.  The trouble with this method is that the water falling on the leaves is swiftly lost to evaporation.  The alternative is miles and miles of pipework of course, or parched crops.

2 irrigation

The oilseed rape is in evidence along the river bank, as it is in Evesham alongside the park with the Abbey in the distance.

3 evesham abbey behind oilseed rape washed down in floods

We moored at Workman Gardens.  Evesham has a market on Tuesdays where we got some nice veg.  While Dave tried to get a prescription sorted out I discovered something about the history of Evesham.  4 evesham legend

There is an interesting sculpture to illustrate the legend.  The swineherd and his pigs are lovely but I was less sure about the Virgin.  She looks more like an alien than a person.

5 sculpture  6 sculpture

The chemists didn’t come up with the goods – Boots were out of stock and the independent wanted an email from the GP unless he wanted to pay for it!  Luckily it’s not yet urgent.  We walked back through the park.  The first time we came here the original arch, of whale bones, was still in place but had become very brittle and likely to break so it was moved to the gardens of the original donor’s house, now the Evesham Hotel.  There is a new arch and wooden sculpture of the whale (Bowhead, aka Greenland Right whale, if I remember rightly).

7 whale arch evesham8 whale head

We had some lunch before setting off again, catching up with Futurest with whom we have been leap-frogging for a day or two. 

10 tree on workmans bridge

Evidence of recent floods at Workman Bridge.

They had been waiting at Evesham lock for a while.  The workboats going up had got jammed and the lock had to be emptied again before they could get themselves unstuck.  We went up together and then shared Offenham lock (aka George Billington).  We watered up and emptied a cassette.  Futurest was staying, and as the afternoon wore on we wished we had too.  Foolishly we didn’t take up one of the gloomy moorings below Harvington/Robert Aickman, then found the one above was taken.  We slogged on through the heat, passing these thirsty cows

11 thirsty cows

and were delighted to find plenty of room on the park moorings at Bidford.  Within an hour they were full.  Dave did some research on places to eat while Meg and I had a play in the park.  She doesn’t appreciate river cruising as there is little opportunity to get off and mooch about.

We looked at the pubs, which were offering pretty standard pub fare, and fancied a curry, but had a pint in the Bull’s Head first.  No 72 is the name of the curry house, on the crossroads.  We had an excellent meal with delightful staff.  Recommended, and they do takeaway too.  They use foil dishes rather than the single-use plastic ones – I know this because they were happy to put the leftovers in one for lunch tomorrow!

13½ miles, 5 locks

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Hot weather, lovely cruiser owners and power generation

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.

2 this lovely mooring

1 having a moment before we leave

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.

4 ever more sad

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.

5 bright sunny morning

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.

6 rape sowed by the floods

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.

7 rusty hire boat at defford wharf

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.

10 HEP at pershore lock

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 ….

11 lovely arbour at pershore

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!

13 helpful cruiser couple wyre lock

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.

14 how much are these at wyre piddle

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.

15 extracting water for irrigation

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.

17 robot mower

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.

17 robot mower

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.

18 moored at fladbury lock

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).

19 noisy place to live

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.

20 well into the green!21 a long way to the top of the red but

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.

22 look at the height of the floods

No floods for us tonight, just a few drops of rain and a bit of thunder in the distance.

4 locks, 11 miles.

Monday 28 May 2018

Smug, smug, smug

Sunday 20th May; Tewkesbury to Birlingham Quay aka Swan’s Neck

We planned an early start but overslept! While we had breakfast the swallows were visiting a vacant pontoon to collect nesting material – it looked like grass stuck picked out of the duck poo, lovely.

1 swallow collecting grass

It was already hot at 8.30 when Meg had her walk and I got the paper from the convenient little garage nearby.  As there was little risk of rain I had put all the washing out last night to dry in the open cratch and stern deck, on the airers and various bits of line, so all that had to be dealt with before we could leave. But it was so hot that everything had completely dried by early afternoon, even cotton t-shirts.

There was no crosswind on this little marina so we made a stately exit around 10 am and set off to try and catch one of the plum mooring spots we haven’t managed to get into before.  Lots of people were out enjoying the sunshine.  This female paddle-boarder looked very tense and nervous while the man was more relaxed, but he was the one who fell in (long after we had passed them I hasten to add).

4 paddleboarders

The hawthorns were at their magnificent best.  Quite a few round here have pink flowers (not the pinky-brown when they are going over, a proper pretty pink).

3 magnificent hawthorn

The M5 near Bredon was busy on a sunny Sunday.  We were happy, and smug, where we were!

5 bredon hill and m5

When we were last on the boat (the beginning of April), there was extensive flooding on the Avon.  From the motorway here we had a fine view of what looked like an enormous lake.  The north bank was for a time completely under water – now the water is pretty low.

6 the recent floods concealed this bank

At Strensham lock we hung back, expecting the cruiser that overtook us before the motorway to go through on their own, but they beckoned us through and then joined us.  They have a share in a narrowboat and reckoned we ‘looked as though we knew what we were doing’.  Wasn’t that lovely of them?  We were both tied up correctly and filled the lock gently, and it was fine.

We saw a rather unusual sight – a narrowboat and cruiser breasted up.

7 narrowboat and cruiser breasted up

Sort of, anyway.  Quite difficult for the narrowboat steerer I would have thought.

8 sort of

On the way to Eckington we passed asparagus pickers, at least we are pretty sure that’s what they were.  They looked very organised.

9 asparagus pickers10 pickers

We had to take a lot of care in places – there were kayaks and dinghies out, and with the lack of wind we just had to hang about while the dinghies moved to the edge.

11 not enough wind

The mooring at Eckington Bridge was completely full but we had a couple of spots still to check out.

14 eckington

And there it was – the coveted Swan’s Neck, properly known as Birlingham Quay, was entirely free, just in time for lunch.  A footpath goes by from Eckington Bridge to Birlingham but we hadn’t booked a table so didn’t get Sunday lunch at the pub, but still, what a lovely spot.

15a from round the bend There was plenty of shade to start with.  During the afternoon Dave got on with a few little jobs and I made a banana cake.  But after a while it was curtains drawn, all the window hoppers out for a bit of an airflow, and the black cratch cover drawn back to the top board as it was trapping the heat.  I rigged up a way of propping the side hatch open while still keeping the sun out involving kitchen implements and a bit of string to avoid losing things in the water.  Lots of kayaks and canoes with varying levels of competence went by.  Narrowboats too; this is a difficult place for an overtaking manoeuvre as they were all going downstream.  We don’t think the little tender made contact with anything but I heard a shout ‘it’s turning back towards us’.  Which, paddle-board or 16 tons of steel?

19 did tender make contact

We took the footpath across Asham Meadow to Eckington bridge in the cool of the evening.  We think it’s the Malvern Hills rising blue in the distance.24 malverns in the distance

And a shot of the bridge from the meadow.  Every so often as we walked we saw heaps of plant debris and the occasional chunk of tree washed in by the floods – the meadow is very much on the flood plain.

22 to eckington bridge At the footpath entrance to the meadow (but not the road entrance, strangely) is a warning notice – we’ve not seen one like it before.  Usually the notices are about the dangers to stock of dog poo.

25 helth and safety notice

This is a quiet spot with just an occasional walker on the land.  Apart from Worcester and Gloucester most of the moorings on this trip have been very quiet.

8 miles 1 lock