Nick and Karen are joining us today. Hooray!
By the time we had got up and done various jobs, Nick was walking to the boat, having set off early from Lincolnshire!
After a drink and transferring their stuff to the boat, we drove to collect our car and have lunch at the Pilot Inn, Quedgeley, who had been happy to let us use their car park. M5 junction queues held us up, but we had a lovely meal together. John drove our Volvo to The Navigation pub at Kingswood Junction. The landlady served an excellent Guinness and kindly agreed to me leaving the car until Friday, when we would arrive on Annie and have lunch. Meanwhile, Nick dropped the girls off at Annie and came to collect John. Karen and Liana shopped at Asda, then had coffee and cake! Having sorted out cars, we found The Angel Inn was not available to park Nicks car, so he drove to Wyre Piddle and parked there, while we took Annie the short distance upriver through lovely scenery to Wyre Lock, then past very smart houses to moor outside The Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle.
Monday August 23 Wyre Piddle to Offenham Lock (4 locks, 13 Miles)
A nice morning saw us leave the Anchor Inn mooring, with John and Nick steering and Karen sat at the front enjoying the view, which included some very expensive houses. Liana’s bacon and egg butties were lovely!
We soon reached Fladbury lock. Liana and Karen had to close the top gates before emptying the lock, so Liana is not convinced the Avon Navigation Trust guidance to leave exit gates open (the old working boat way) is easier nowadays! It was the same at Chadbury lock.
We stopped opposite Abbey park , where there are water taps at the moorings, but with moored boats by the taps our hose wouldn’t reach (there is no actual designated water point mooring). We found a clear water point below and to the left of Evesham lock to top up the tank, and emptied loo cassettes at the Elsan point.
The triangular lock house above the wide bywash weir is a real feature. Not sure about the chap there, who watched the girls do the lock, then wiped the handles with COVID spray!
We moored in a favourite visitors mooring yards away, facing the scenic lock and Evesham weir, and very close to the town centre and Abbey Park.
We visited the charity shops for books, wine glasses and Liana found a lovely mobile for grandchild Hope.
Karen bought us all tasty Italian Cornish pasties out of her last pay cheque before retirement!
We walked around the Abbey Park and churches before setting off again, mooring above George Billington Lock. The white bollards/poles are lock moorings and blue bollards are visitor moorings on the lock cut. John checked out the moorings round the corner by the pub, but they turned out to be owned by the caravan park, and £15 a night!
We got table, chairs, wine out, and had chicken and rice for tea in this quiet country location.
Tuesday August 24 Offenham Lock to Bidford-on-Avon and on to Welford (5 locks, 7 miles)
John got up early, and saw a deer and covey of partridges in the nearby field, plus a hot air balloon riding early too! At Robert Aickman Lock, we met a boater blacking his boat in the old lock, now used as a dry dock, now rented out by its lady owner.
John set off the two miles to Marlcliff Lock, and we enjoyed bacon and egg butties again, en route! We shared this with Ken and Astrid on NB Susie.
Karen jogged and Liana walked the mile from there to Bidford, while Annie chugged along close by. Once moored at the good recreation ground mooring, Susie breasted up as it was full, after which we visited the small town. Karen used daughter Rachel’s donated slow cooker to start off pork loins in cider with carrots and onions for tonight.
Nick found good wine at reasonable prices at the Coop, while the two shared platters at The Frog filled us up for lunch. The ice cream van at the recreation ground provided lonely 99 cones for dessert.
As the weather was good, we carried on through Barton lock, past moorings and along the narrow, winding Avon here to Bidford Grange lock and Welford Lock, above which we moored on blue bollards/poles again, like last night.
Chairs, table, wine on the bank, plus Karen’s meal went down well.
Wednesday August 25 Welford Lock to Stratford-Upon-Avon and on to Wilmcote (20 locks, 8 miles Miles)
John had gone to bed early and got up at 0730, getting the boat ready while the rest of us dragged ourselves slowly out of bed (Liana’s words!)
The several miles before Luddington Lock passed quickly. John showed Nick the short Two All’s pub mooring we have used before, by the arched stone Binton Bridge. They also enjoyed their bacon and egg butties again.
At Witter Lock, Liana answered questions from two couples interested in boat hire. It wasn’t easy for her to rope up Annie with all the girders around this lock.
Past Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, Nick and Liana climbed off the bow at the mouth of Bancroft Basin river lock with care, and operated it with help from the trip boat man, who asked us to leave the top gates open. John moored Annie, reversing onto a finger pontoon in the basin, giving us great views of the busy scene as we ate a snack.
We walked to Trinity Church, and returned through the town via WHS and Sainsbury’s Local.
We had decided to go up sixteen locks to Wilmcote today. John took Annie through the low road bridge tunnel, but had to reverse back to let a boat out of the bottom lock round the corner.
We lock wheeled our way up, meeting a couple of boats coming down , and following a boat up the last couple of locks.
Some pounds were low, so we let some water down from the long pound by the Premier Inn.
After a quiet mile, we moored at Wilmcote, close to Mary Arden’s Farm, finished Karen’s pork meal and played cards again.
Thursday August 26 Mary Arden’s Farm to Lowsonford (9 locks, 7 miles)
We were all tired after yesterday, so had a coffee before walking into Wilmcote past Mary Arden’s farm, while Karen did her morning jog ahead of us. The farm was closed, apart from for school parties. Back at the boat, Karen showered, Liana made bacon and egg butties and the men steered us to the impressive Edstone aqueduct, 158 yards long and 28 feet high above rail and road. It certainly feels high (and we have crossed Pontcysyllte). Nick took photos from the walkway, which is at the level of the canal bed.
At Wootton Wawen, you cross a short aqueduct with a boatyard and wide basin at the end.
At lock 35, we found ourselves third in a queue, as the pound above was nearly empty and being filled by CRT staff after mending a gate paddle, which wouldn’t close fully. They were filling it using just one half raised gate paddle at lock 34, so the flow didn’t raise silt to block the top gates of lock 35. The long pound above lock 33 was used to supply water. Unlike on a motorway, all the boaters had amiable chats while we waited an hour or two. The queue soon cleared as boats went up and crossed over with boats coming down, conserving water efficiently.
We passed several of the unique barrel roofed lock cottages, said to be made from the wooden arch formers for Stratford canal bridges.
The lovely one with a green door is rented out by the Landmark Trust charity.
Once moored opposite the Fleur de Lys pub, we had phone chats with daughters Sarah and Jo, then visited the pub and had different £12 pie meals, all good, plus tasty crime brûlée sweets.
We enjoyed cards later, playing Hearts/Mucky Liz, which John won.
Friday August 27 Lowsonford to Kingswood Junction (10 locks, 3 miles)
The ten locks up to Kingswood Junction are all a few hundred yards apart at most, so we lock wheeled up them, with Liana or Nick going on to set the next lock. This speeds up the ascent and fills the pound you are about to pass along, keeping it deep, hopefully! Under the noisy M40, John squeezed Annie through the narrow bridge holes before a number of the locks. We have had a great time together!