Wednesday, 31 August 2011


A bright sunny morning (it was a changeable day but generally pleasantly warm and frequently sunny) - here is what the church we saw floodlit last night looks like in the day time!

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford
The plan was to move up to the water point near the chain ferry, fill up the tank, then find a spot to moor close to the bridges whilst we went shopping. Well, we did the first part but estimates of space availability proved rather optimistic and we ended up turning around and going back almost to where we started! At least it was entertaining for the onlookers!

Pedestrian Chain Ferry

After a suggestion from another boater we opted to take the pedestrian chain ferry across to the town centre. It was not far to the main shops but we really only wanted a paper shop and Sainsbury for a top up of our stores. Christine also visited M&S to replace a broken cafetiere.

Gongoozlers at Barge Lock
Back at the boat and, armed with a mug of coffee we set of to make our encounter with the gongoozlers at the Barge Lock which controls the entrance into the basin. There were indeed plenty of people to watch and several youngsters happy to give Christine a hand to work the gates.

We then began the long ascent towards Wootton Wawen where we hoped to be tonight. The locks on this canal have single bottom gates but also many of the gates are out of balance and open (or close) when not looking! This often entails a quick sprint from one end of the lock to the other to open a paddle whilst the gate is still sufficiently closed. We did not always make it first time!

Christine found a ladybird which much intrigued Jess!

Just above lock 52 we spotted a boatyard with diesel and, although we were not desperate, we took the chance to fill up again. This was also the elsan point and we stayed on the mooring long enough also to have our lunch (which we had started to prepare anyway). At least there was no alternative demand for the space!

Soon after we set off again, Jess settled down for an afternoon snooze and stayed that way all through the next flight of eleven locks.

The bridges here are almost as narrow as a lock entrance, which makes for interesting steering - especially when you meet another boat coming through on a blind bend!

The Wilmcote Locks are hard work and there were at least four boats on the way through one after another. Still, that meant that we did help each other a bit, especially useful with these gates that do not like staying put!

By the time we reached the top, Jess woke again and was by now thirsty and then hungry and made considerable inroads into the scones that mike and Christine were having for tea!

The next long pound includes the Edstone Aqueduct. This is quite spectacular to navigate but probably even more impressive from the ground below. It passes over both a road and the railway line into Stratford. It is made from a narrow iron channel, much the same as the Pontcysllte Viaduct near Llangollen. The sun was shiuning so we could watch our shadow cast on the field underneath.

Edstone Aqueduct

After the single Brearley Lock we looked for a mooring and managed also to obtain a tv signal for only the second time on this trip!

6.1 miles - 17 locks

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Mike and Jess had a short walk after breakfast - down to the lock keeper's lookout and also the one-time ford across the river - and then we were ready to leave. It was not far to the next lock and Jess was ready to help.
Lock Keeper's Lookout - George Billington Lock
Former Ford adjacent to George Billington Lock

The Upper Avon is a very pretty river and there are few interruptions, other than the occasional lock and a couple of ancient bridges.

IWA Lock
Bidford Bridge
Above Pilgrim Lock we pulled onto the overnight moorings to have lunch. Afterwards, Jess and Mike walked back across the lock to take a look at the waterfall (aka weir).

Weir alongside Pilgrim Lock
On again and before long Jess fell asleep and rested for the main part of the afternoon, coming back to life for the last couple of locks.

This sign amused us - charter for £75 and for a whole family?

The stretch below Luddington Lock (now renamed the Stan Glover Lock) is especially narrow and shallow - it was surprising how much our speed fell, more like some of the narrow canals.

All of the locks and many of the lock landings and bridges have been given names to commemorate a significant donor for the restoration or someone who worked particularly to achieve it. Hence most of the locks have longer names that replace the historic names such as those found in Edwards.

Old Railway Bridge
We passed under the old railway bridge that connected Stratford to the south - its line to the north remains so it is quite easy to get to Birmingham but much more difficult to go to London. If the connection had been retained it linked in with the Worcester to Oxford line which we travelled on yesterday.

The last lock has large girders to deal with the particular ground conditions

The final couple of locks, quite close together which we came up in the company of another narrow boat, brought us finally to Stratford and there was room to moor alongside the open park area.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Whilst Mike finished preparing the roast dinner, Christine and Jess walked, passed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and (to Jess's delight) a bandstand, to the town centre to find our where best to go shopping - but they decided to leave that until the morning when we could moor a little closer.

As we sat down to eat, a practice bell-ringing session at the nearby Holy Trinity Church started up. At first it seemed that one person was being introduced to ringing but then the whole peal started up and went on for some time . . .  (they finished at 9) Christine wanted a picture of the flood lit church but the best out little camera could manage does need you imagination as well:

Floodlit Holy Trinity Church
13.6 miles - 8 locks

Monday, 29 August 2011

Change Over Day

Up sharpish this morning Change Over Day. Just after half past eight, Mike and Alice set off to walk to the station. Having bought our tickets we realised that we still had about half an hour to wait! However, the information panel said it was on time and the 6, 4 and 2 minute message were duly broadcast.

But 9:30 came and went with no sign of the train - which disappeared off the panel. Had it been a ghost train, we wondered? Then came an announcement of a delay but only 16 minutes so we were not too worried as Mike had an hour for the changeover.

However, by the time we left Moreton-in-Marsh it was at least half an hour late and finally arrived into Reading almost 40 minutes late! (We discovered from the internet that the cause was the theft of signalling cable!) Joanna, waiting with Jess, was beginning to get a bit frantic because of the short term parking restrictions.

Furthermore, it was the last day of the Reading Festival and platforms were wall-to-edge full of young (mostly) people going home. Jess and Mike waited for their train which came in on time but by the time it left there was barely any standing room left. We were fortunate (because Mike made sure that we stood on the platform right opposite a door) to get one seat for both of us and it was a bit of a squash. Jess was overwhelmed at first but behaved exemplary. At Oxford about half of the passengers alighted and we could breathe again.

Although on time at Moreton-in-Marsh we then heard an announcement that there were still delays and eventually we arrived at Evesham almost 20 minutes late - to find Christine waiting for us.

On the way back to the boat we called at Tesco to buy a magazine for Jess. As soon as we reached the boat, Jess quickly orientated herself and obviously remembered where everything was, especially her bed. First task was lunch but then we were off, back up the stretch we unexpectedly covered last night.

Hampton Ferry
Handsam Too
We passed the Hampton Ferry - not easy to photo as we have to stand off whilst the rope is lowered, but at least managed a snap of it waiting at the side. We also saw the well-known Handsam Too out on a trip.

After passing under the new(er) road bridge and also Workman Bridge we reached Evesham Lock where we used the same facilities as last night - just in case we had difficulty finding them further upstream.

Workman Bridge
A boat started to come down the lock just as we were ready to set off again but, alas, it found itself in trouble by becoming caught on the cill and lifting the rudder out of the skeg cup. The crew were a bit fazed by this and it was some time before they could be persuaded to leave the lock. Of course, as this was happening other boats arrived and there was no shortage of advice. Eventually they backed out of the lock onto the mooring above the weir and we could all make progress. By the time we were through they were able to ell us that they had sorted out the rudder, much to their obvious relief.

George Billington Lock
Our problem now was to find a mooring, not helped by the fact that the first two we hoped to stop at that were listed in Nicholsons no longer seemed to exist. As a result we had to press on to George Billington lock where there were four places marked. As it happened (it always does, doesn't it?) that all the spaces were empty so we were spoilt for choice.

4.1 miles - 2 locks

Sunday, 28 August 2011


 We did not need to be up quite as quickly as some days as we planned to walk into Eckington village for the morning service at the ancient church. At first, Alice read another story to Mike. It was a pleasant morning and it took us less time than we thought so we were able to find the shop and buy some milk to replenish the one item in our food store that was running low.

Half timbered Houses in Eckington
Holy Trinity Church, Eckington
After the service we walked back to the boat and, by midday, made an immediate start on our journey to Evesham. Earlier this morning, Christine rang Sankey Boatyard just outside the town and booked a paid-for mooring. It might not be needed but the certainty of knowing that we had a place for the night that was suitable for the station next morning was worth it. (Their claim to be only 400m from the station was a bit of an exaggeration!)

Swan Neck Bend
It was a mixed day, an occasional light shower interrupted otherwise bright sunshine although there was at times quite a cool breeze.

We had five locks to negotiate and the latter three were all manned by volunteers from the Avon Navigation Trust. At one of them a lady who organises some of the volunteer rotas was bemoaning that a number of her regular volunteers had defected to the new Waterways volunteering schemes - but will they return?
Pershore Lock
Pershore Lock had an unusual ground paddle set back a little way from the lock.

The river is very scenic almost throughout the Lower Avon section - the original two trusts (Upper and Lower Avon - now combined) had very different approaches to the technical specification of the restored navigations. Sadly, almost all of the water and sewerage facilities were handed over at some stage to the Environment Agency who have decided that they are too expensive to maintain. As a result, there are almost no facilities at present between Tewkesbury (paid for) and Evesham.

Former Mill at Wyre Lock
As we cruised along the longer sections, Alice read a couple of Horrid Henry stories and made a presentation box with wrapped toffees as a holiday gift to her family.

Railway Bridge just outside Evesham Station
 By the end of the after noon we arrived at Sankey boatyard and checked out our mooring. We also learned that the sanitary stations we planned to use just a short distance away was now closed (ironic since it was attached to a sewage works!). As we were in need (let the reader understand) we had to make the much longer trip up to Evesham Lock. On the way we passed a party boat as well as the rope ferry at Hampton (where we spotted one of the volunteer lock keepers we had met earlier in the afternoon)

Party Boat at Evesham
We emptied the elsan and partly filled the water tank before turning around and setting off back to out overnight stop. Whilst Christine helped Alice ready for bed, Mike walked to the railway station - the ticket office was closed but at least we now know where we have to go ion the morning and how long it takes. Oh, and yes, the estimate of how far it is from Sankey was out by almost a factor of two! On the other hand it is a straight walk and not too far.

Saturday, 27 August 2011


Although we set off in good time, we were behind several other boats which let the moorings just ahead of us and so we joined a queue. The couple of boats ahead of us went down quite slowly - although it is not easy to work these huge barge locks speedily!

Between Diglis Basin Locks
In case we do not know where we are!
Out on the River Severn again, we picked up good speed even though we were far from the fastest craft on the water. There was a steady stream of narrowboats coming up as well as some cruisers - more as we closed in on Tewkesbury.

View Upstream from below locks
Diglis Lock, on the river itself, is mechanised and simply huge, even with two boats. It seems as if the second lock is not now in use.

Below Diglis River Lock
Alice was in reading-mode and sat down with Mike to get through two Horrid Henry stories at a single sitting. An occasional heavy shower passed overhead and some stretches were exposed to a chilling breeze.

A strange turretted house makes an appearance and dominates the skyline for some distance.

e had planned a short lunch stop at Upton-upon-Severn but the only space available was almost right under the bridge and look somewhat uninviting. As Alice had already started on her sandwich so we all had ours 'on the run'.

Aggregate Barges at Unloading Wharf
Loading Wharf
Commercial barges are still used to transport aggregates a couple of miles along the river - fortunately we did not encounter any on the move!

Mythe Bridge
Early afternoon we passed under Mythe Bridge - one of Telford's structures - and shortly afterwards made a sharp turn into the River Avon. Several boats were already waiting at the lock landing but we learnt later that one of the crew on a larger boat coming down fell off into the water and had to be helped out.

Below Avon Lock
In addition, the lock keeper only collects the tolls once boats are in the lock and it takes some time to process each one. As we were making a through passage, the only option was for a 7 day licence - £50.

The scenery is different now as the Avon is on a wide plain as it meanders around. Villages and churches even a mile away can easily be seen - unlike much of the Severn where quite close places are easily missed.

Coventry Water Main
Alice made some cheese straws with some of the puff pastry left over from the chicken and bacon pie that Mike had been asked to prepare.

Above Strensham Lock
By the time we reached Strensham Lock - and its swing bridge just below - we were becoming concerned about moorings. There are no visitor moorings at Strensham at all. We were planning to go into Eckington tomorrow for the morning service at the village church and hoped that we would find a space at the first 'proper' mooring space at the former wharf close to the ancient bridge.

It was with some relief as we passed through the bridge to see that there was enough space for three narrowboats and only one was occupied.

After dinner, Mike and Alice went for a walk along the river bank - the first part of a circular walk which is described in an attractive leaflet available from the car park.

23.8 miles - 5 locks

Friday, 26 August 2011


We awoke to realise that there was a Waterways maintenance team at the lock just below us. Mike went down to find out what was happening and learnt that there was a very short stoppage whilst they looked at a possible problem with one of the top paddles. Mike was pleased to watch as they 'ashed' (with Severn Valley Steam Railway Ash) the stop planks - something he had read about but never seen before. It stops the flow of water between the stop planks incredibly quickly.

In fact the paddle seemed quite OK but they took the opportunity of cleaning out the top gate cill area so that it is less likely to create a problem for boaters. There was a wide range of rubbish - although they only recovered just one lock key! But there was a shoe, a tea strainer and several bottles! By nine o'clock their time was up and they removed the stop planks and a boat waiting below was soon on its way through.

Lock 7
Not long after we set off and continued down through the remaining eight locks into Worcester. We used the usual services at the basin before moving back a short distance to moor on the short term visitor moorings. At least at this time of day (around lunch time) there was plenty of space although we slotted ourselves in between a couple of other boats on the 'better' section.

Worcester Cathedral from College Green

Worcester Cathedral Main Entrance
After lunch we set off into the city centre. Our first destination was the cathedral. Christine showed Alice many of the historic features including the tomb of King John. Afterwards we went to the Chapter House so that Alice could do a brass rubbing.

Brass Rubbing at Worcester Cathedral
From there we looked around the shops and collected supplies for the next few days. Apart from a Co-Op store we found a specialist greengrocer and a good butcher.

Back to the boat and Alice was keen to try making toffee - this arose from a complicated discussion about caramelisation last night. In the end we were a bit timid and it ended up as a rather tasty fudge!
After reading a story from Horrid Henry, Alice helped to make the pizza for the evening meal.

3.7 miles - 8 locks