Wednesday 29 August 2018

23-30 August: Avon Adventure (no pictures yet)

Thursday 23 August: Stratford upriver to the Old Bathing Place and then downriver to Luddington (4 ½ miles, 3 locks)

We had a pleasant morning in town. John caught up with our blog in Costa, then bought a week's Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) license for £50 from the ANT boat in Bancroft Basin. A leaflet gave charges and list of mooring places. ANT now charge for mooring at places like Stratford riverside and Evesham Lock moorings, which we think is a bit rich, having just paid for a license.
The trip boat man kindly helped Liana at the river lock, letting her get on Annie in the lock. :)
Annie in Bancroft Basin, Stratford
locking down onto the river

looking upriver at the Tramway Bridge

choose the right arch!

notice at Bathing Place services

other notices at Bathing Place services

the mooring for services is basic and they are set back from the waterside

the services

We travelled ¾ mile upriver to the services at the limit of navigation for narrowboats, the Old Bathing Place. We emptied loo holding tanks and got rid of rubbish there. The water point is not too close to the water, but a hose should reach. On this sunny day, loads of dinghies, motor boats, canoes and nippy trip boats were around, so John had fun avoiding things, including colliding rowing boats and motorboats on the S bends!

Reaching the tramway bridge, we found a narrowboat across the river wanting to enter Bancroft Basin, a trip boat trying to pass it, plus the big trip boat trying to leave the river lock! John managed to thread his way past, avoid loads of little boats and the little chain ferry which operates most days, crossing the river for 50p by Trinity Church. John let Liana and Ali off before Trinity Lock (the ugly metal C.P. Ritter Lock – they often have memorial names of patrons, too).
setting up the 3d effect using masking tape yesterday

chaos on the river

the hand powered chain ferry by Shakespeare's church

3d effect completed

Lyrebird and Annie in Colin P Witter lock
We shared the lock with young actors from the Attic(?) fringe Theatre on NB Lyrebird, admiring the new 3D lettering completed after we watched the masking tape going on the other day. They stopped at Weir Brake Lock (anonymous/Gordon Gray lock) to return to act later, but we had others to help. The two miles to moorings above Luddington (Stan Clover) Lock is pretty: We didn't hurry. We squeezed in between two narrowboats at the moorings, with fenders overlapping, thanks to one of the boaters, who moved as much as he could. The other boaters on NB Latis couldn't move, as they said the owner of the boathouse at the end of the moorings had told them not to overlap his land. Liana watched tv while John had a short circular walk around this small but quite scenic village. There were anumber of thatched cottages and expensive houses: Clearly, not a place we could afford to live in!
Luddington village

Luddington a short walk from the lock

ANT information board near the church

pretty mooring above Luddington Lock, overlooking the weir

Friday 24 August: Luddington to The Four Alls at Welford-on-Avon (2 miles, 1 lock)
We got up early and repeated the walk John had done yesterday. The church was closed, sadly. We decided to head for Welford-on-Avon while it was sunny. Stan Clover Lock was THE lock of the day, but a kind ANT Volunteer, who John had been chatting to, helped us through, as the grass had not grown enough for him to cut. We reached Welford quite soon, and the newish concrete mooring was empty, although it was only about twenty feet long, and only twenty yards from the stone bridge. John came alongside very carefully and used stern and both centre ropes plus the fat fenders to moor the back half of the boat, with the bow sticking out downstream.

riverside mansions

approaching Welford-on-Avon: Bear left and stop before the bridge to moor

the solid but short mooring close above the bridge

I used fat fenders in the right places to protect Annie

mooring was secure, not ideal, but the pub and village were worth it
the view from the Four Alls pub
Once he was happy Annie was secure, we found the pub had a wood fired pizza oven: The pizzas were brilliant! The beer was, too. We had a long walk around the very affluent village, with lots of personalised number plates and Porsches. We decided to walk back using a riverside walk, but had to find the path by walking UP a hill! It was bosky but pleasant, and we had to shelter from a shower. Eventually we found ourselves in a field near the sports ground, climbed a fence and found our way back. After toast, we watched tv.
Welford has some fancy houses

Saturday 25 August: Welford to Bidford-on-Avon (4 miles, 3 locks)
Cool but sunny, we set off early to take advantage of the good weather.

you can see the Four Alls jetty here

you don't see this until you are close to the bridge, because of a bend

Annie going through the correct arch. The ducks are standing up under the other one!!
We soon arrived at Welford-on-Avon Lock, helped by a friendly boater. Although the lock island is very close to the village centre, there is no bridge to provide acces to the village, sadly. ANT, Welford-on-Avon residents, here is an opportunity to work together?
At Pilgrim Lock a cruiser was exitting ahead of us, and a narrowboat came upstream and up the lock, helped by Liana and caravanners, who chatted to Liana while Annie went through the lock.
We cruised on to E&H Bullington Lock. As we descended, a trip boat arrived wanting to ascend. The man came with no windlass and no clue, Liana said! Liana and boaters who arrived behind us helped them through. We had a lovely time chatting to every one. Reaching Bidford-on-Avon, John turned and squeezed Annie between two GRP Cruisers, leaving the bow sticking out, until they departed a short time later. Then we moored properly, chatted with a large family having a BBQ next to us, then walked across the old stone bridge into town. John enjoyed watching football at the pub by the church, which has Sky and BT satellite channels.
Ali and Scott arrived, we ate at the pub and shopped at Budgens, using the car. After Scott left, John watched Liverpool FC beat Brighton 1-0 in a hard match at the pub (ok, ok, yes, he admits it, he had a total of five pints!!). We played Settlers of Catan twice.

Sunday 26 August: Sheltering from the rain at Bidford-on-Avon
What a horrid, wet, windy day! John tried the keep fit apparatus close by, but had to dash back/ hobble quickly as more rain arrived. Bidford has plenty of pubs and eating places, plus a decent Budgens foodstore. The Recreation Ground is a good place to moor, with plenty of play equipment for adults as well as for children!We read, watched tv, chatted with passing folk and played Settlers of Catan: Ali points out that she has STILL not won!
A Valley Cruises (“Excellence Afloat”) hireboat arrived at noon, trying to moor going downriver, hitting our bow, making us jump. We helped them moor. Two similar boats arrived and they breasted up together, as they were all friends. We had several pleasant chats with these friendly Geordies, some of whom had boated before.
Ali lost again :( …... but enjoyed her white wine :)

Monday 27 August: Bidford to below Workman Bridge, Evesham (7 miles, 4 locks)

Apart from the odd short wet squall, the morning was cool, windy but mainly dry, so we set off, letting the current turn us as John held the stern rope. Our boat bumping friends followed us and shared all four locks, making life easier and more fun :)
We weren't rushing, enjoying the countryside and riverside scene as we passed through Maricliff (IWA) Lock, Harvington (Robert Aickman) Lock and Offenham (George Billington) Lock. We used the open air Elsan point here to empty four loo holding tanks so quickly that we had finished as our companions arrived! John saw no floating fenders to salvage, and no Kingfishers, though. The moorings above Evesham lock, opposite the weir, looked a biut uncared for, As the ANT pamphlet stated they charge here, we descended the lock, with its attractive lock keeper's house, and moored below the town bridge.
Evesham has loads of shops, plenty of history and things to look at: The riverside, parks, Abbey remains are nice. The Almonry museum is quite small, but excellent (£5 adults, £2 concessions), with lots of interesting stuff to enjoy in this ancient Abbey pilgrims' guest house.

Tuesday 28 August: Evesham to Pershore (11 miles, 3 locks)
We slept in, popped a few hundred yards to LIDL for supplies, passing lots of eastern european grocery shops on the way. We set off after 1100. John held the stern rope while Liana pushed the bow out and let the current do the work turning us. Evesham is quite a pretty town, with plenty of flowers evident. We passed Abbey Park, and complimented an ANT Volunteer cutting back weeds on the ANT mooring near Abbey Bridge, which Pearson's Guide states has water and rubbish bins. Hampton's chain Ferry, a small affair, was moored but not working. Sankey Marine seemed busy, with diesel and boats for sale.

The river through Chadbury Lock to Fladbury is very pretty, with reeds. Lilies, Oaks and overhanging willows. Sadly, there is no bridge connecting Fladbury Lock Island to the village, just a small wire foot ferry, which looked like it is operated from the shore. As there didn't seem to be a village mooring, despite Pearson's Guide 2011 stating ANT were trying to sort one, we had to carry on: A shame, as the village and butcher's sound enticing :(
Two boats emerged as we reached Fladbury Lock, which was helpful. These locks, with their weirs, are lovely to see. Passing Cropthorne, the millionaire's mansions on the left had huge gardens, parks, really! Again, the river is very scenic, and we took our time. John finally saw a Kingfisher.

We moored at the Anchor Inn (48 hr moorings for patrons), Wyre Piddle, after passing Smith's Island and Tiddle Widdle Island! John HAD to have a pint of 'Piddle! He did return it before leaving :P The food seemed expensive to we midlanders.
Wyre Piddle has a nice little church, St Anne's, which was open, plus several pretty thatched and timber frame houses. Piesse of Piddle is a newish wine bar with a good concrete mooring near the Anchor. It helps to have a lavatory sense of humour here!!

We decided to carry on the short distance to the good Pershore Recreation Ground moorings. Wyre Boatyard has pretty much taken over the shore and weir stream above Wyre Lock. Below the diamond shaped lock, is the large mill building, Wyre Mill Boat Club moorings and the ANT offices.
Once moored near ASDA at Pershore, John used more classic wood oil on the wood/resin surfaces in the semi-trad rear. This seems to go on like varnish, which John didn't expect, and improves the tired-looking surfaces. Ali cooked mince & tatties, while Liana watched Tipping Point.

Wednesday 29 August: Pershore to Tewkesbury (12 miles, 3 locks)
Pershore presents quite a pretty face to the world: Hanging baskets of flowers prevail in the streets, where there are plenty of decent shops, including an indoor market next to the ASDA store close by the moorings. We visited the abbey church remains, now the parish church, with magnificent quire as its nave, and a scary ringers floor supported by four wooden beams, a hundred feet above the ground.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

17-22 August: Stratford Canal Sojourn

Friday 17 August: Gas Street to before bridge 19 Blue Bell Cider Pub on the North Stratford Canal (12 miles, 0/1 lock)
We used the services by the Mailbox, which have water, loo and Elsan, but no rubbish bins. In sunshine we enjoyed a leisurely 12 mile trip through Edgebaston Tunnel, past the universities, which are being redeveloped, to Selly Oak.
elsan and water services opposite Mailbox

Edgebaston Tunnel

Aqueduct by University

on the aqueduct
Here, there is nothing marking the old junction with the Dudley No 2 Canal: The brick buildings opposite are flattened and huge new buildings are nearly complete. We hope there will be a stub of canal there, eventually. Through Bournville, with its Cadbury coloured station, we turned at King's Norton Junction and waited for a boat coming through the two open guillotine gates in the old stop lock.
King's Norton Junction

Guillotine lock 1

Brandwood Tunnel

Lyon's Boatyard

Liana operating Shirley Drawbridge
The canal feels quite deep, mostly, and weed free, great after the Wyrley & Essington Canal! The North Stratford Canal is still overhung by lots of mature trees, mainly ash, oak, willow. It feels quiet and rural, despite passing housing on both sides. Its twisty contour course and sharp bends meant we had to take care: We had a VERY near miss with a motoring hire boat: John accelerated and turned fast to avoid it – just! Brandwood Tunnel is tight for two boats to pass, so we waited for two oncoming boats – we had to back up as the first boat came out, so the second boat couldn't see us waiting and entered! Strangely, the sign near the North portal says “Check tunnel is clear before entering”, but as we left the other end, it said “two way traffic”! A cyclist applauded John's singing in the tunnel – he must have been tone deaf! Past Lyon's boatyard, Liana operated the electric lift bridge 8, on a busy main road. A sign said to bring the boat close to the bridge to minimise road traffic disruption, which John did. Once past the back gardens of Major's Green and Dickens Heath, we entered cuttings but saw no kingfishers, sadly. As there were lots of boats moored by Earlswood Motor Yacht Club, we passed by and stopped between bridges 18 and 19, well known for the Bull's Head and Blue Bell Cider Pub, respectively. We had a delicious Linguini Bolognese on board, and watched tv.

Saturday 18 August: down Lapworth locks to Kingswood Junction (5 miles, 19 locks)
The weather warmed up as Annie passed day boats from Swallow Cruisers, the Wharf Tavern and two manual lift bridges, which were easy to operate with windlasses.
Wharf Tavern and its arm
The coal boat ahead of us was singlehanded, so we were pleased when a CRT volunteer arrived to help him. Once a cyclist arrived to help him, the volunteer helped us! He passed us on to a lady volunteer, who helped us and chatted all the way to Kingswood Junction: Thank you, volunteers, you were great! Apparently, they can help here, Hatton flight, Knowle flight, etc, but these narrow locks are easier. Liana helped the boat behind by leaving a top paddle open to fill the lock for them, as she left each lock. There are a number of faulty paddles, though, CRT!
the manual lift bridges were ok to operate

our helpful lady CRT Volunteer at Lapworth Locks

John took Annie through lock 20 onto the Grand Union, reversing to visitor moorings between the junction and the nearby Navigation Inn, so we could watch boats negotiating the junction and set off easily next day.
Grand Union lock 20 left, Stratford lock 21 right

looking back at lock 19 and the small marina (ex-reservoir)
We enjoyed the evening sun, read and John watched Match of the Day (Man City won 6-1, Man Utd lost 3-2, so coach Mourinho was NOT happy!).

Sunday 19 August: down the South Stratford Canal to before Preston Bagot Locks (4 miles, 15 locks)
It's busy here: A boat passed early, and we were second in a queue behind NB Smaug at lock 21, the first on the South Stratford Canal, so we had to fill every lock: It was an overcast but pleasant day, though, another chance to enjoy life at a leisurely pace :)
our mooring

classic Stratford Canal split bridge to allow horse ropes through

classic stratford Canal lock keepers house

we passed the Fleur de Lys pub, Lowsonford

the Landmark Trust's lovely cottage they rent out

the first baby aqueduct

The locks gradually spread out as the valley flattens. Bridge holes can be very narrow, and many show damage, unsurprisingly. Modern repairs seem to last a short time. We crossed over with oncoming boats at a couple of locks, which helped, and arrived feeling fit at the Fleur de Lys pub, Lowsonford, so Liana volunteered us for a few more locks. Once through Yarningale Locks, with a short iron trough aqueduct before lock 44, we soon moored on a right hand bend with straight steel piling and a lovely country view.

Monday 20 August: through Preston Bagot and Wootton Wawen to Wilmcote (6 miles, 4 locks, 2 aqueducts)
We were up early and off at 0800 in the sunshine, avoiding overhanging trees around the three Preston Bagot Locks.
At Wootton Wawen, we paused and walked up to the Yew Tree Farm Shop, where the cafe was open for a coffee and tasty cake and Eccles cake for us :) The lady cook there had opened the shop (normally closed Monday but ask at cafe) so we bought milk, moroccan lamb pie (sounds good) and smoked bacon to keep us going until Stratford.
Setting off just behind one boat, we found another came through the bridgehole behind us, honking as John slowed for a photo on the short iron aqueduct over the busy main road. As Bearley Lock is a mile ahead, and we would need to wait for the first boat to descend, John didn't think there was a need to rush, but there you go! We had a pleasant chat with the lockwheeling lady as we operated the lock, and the steerer kindly closed the bottom gate for us.

traditional lock keepers cottage made from bridge arch support

moored for Yew Tree Farm shop visit

Base by Wootton Wawen Aqueduct

crossing the aqueduct. 
Edstone Aqueduct is always amazing to cross, with the water level high above the towpath, roads and railway, like a mini Pontcysyllte.
Hill Farm now has a brand new marina!
Hill Farm marina

We moored at Wilmcote, before bridge 59, famous as the cause of canal closure threats which triggered the first canal restoration movement.
Edstone Aqueduct is impressive

the towpath is lower, which makes you feel even higher up!
We revisited Mary Arden's Farm, scene of John's 65th birthday family celebrations this May, as our ticket lasts a year :)
After watching reenactments including a tudor meal, John was so hungry that he tried Frumenty (like risotto but with barley instead of rice) in the cafe: It was very tasty with salad! :)
Morroccan Lamb pie for tea!

Tuesday 21 August: down Wilmcote Locks to Bancroft Basin, Stratford on Avon (3 ½ miles, 16 locks)
Overcast but not cold, the weather gradually improved as we followed someone down the eleven Wilmcote locks, so every lock was empty, sadly. We weren't rushing, just enjoying the countryside and working the locks together. With single bottom gates and gate paddle, plus top gate ground paddles, John was able to enter each lock, close the top gate, drop paddles and open bottom gate paddle before getting back on Annie, while Liana set the next lock down and open top gate if possible, then returned to open the bottom gate for Annie to continue. It worked well, without us rushing. John even had time to fish for windlasses etc with our seamagnet – while explaining to an interested walker, John pulled up a brand new, shiny windlass! As we passed their new-looking brick building, three CRT Volunteers arrived, although only one helped us with one lock gate before disappearing! Later, the folks on NB Smaug told us they were letting three boats up their locks, then three boats down! They were not impressed!

passing Valley Cruises base

After Wilmcote bottom lock, we passed several moving boats near the CRT depot, which has water and rubbish skips, and took time for a cup of tea. With just one lock, we could chill and enjoy the tree-lined passage to Valley Cruises base. For the first time, we met an oncoming cruiser leaving the lock and had an easy time! Lock 53 has a very odd L-shaped bottom gate balance beam, like one at Penkridge, which was hard to close.

that weird bottom gate at lock 53

entering Bancroft Basin, Stratford on Avon
We decided to pass the visitor moorings and moor on the pontoons in Bancroft Basin, which are MUCH more fun! The roof flowers were just ok as we went through the tunnel, and John reversed Annie into a space opposite the trip boat, with a grandstand view of everything going on around us. Hundreds of people were enjoying themselves, on and around ruver, basin and theatre. We tried for theatre tickets, unsuccessfully, so shopped, had Big Mac meals for a change (honest!), watched the crowds, read and watched tv later.
Annie moored in Bancroft Basin

the view back from the river lock

Tudor Costa's!

Wednesday 22 August: in Stratford on Avon
We have had a rest day: A walk by the river, Costa, reading, walk around the town, followed by Costa and blogging. Plenty of boats coming through Bancroft Basin, on off the River Avon, including the wide trip boat, which copes admirably as it turns, moors and sets off again.
Liana on the tramway bridge

Shakespeare's church

Lovely working boat on the river Avon selling ropes and fenders

clever young man creating 3d effect with masking tape, before painting