Friday, June 24, 2022

Up off the river.

Well, that's clean water and wide spaces left behind for the time being. We left the Luddington Lock moorings yesterday morning early, on the move at soon after eight.

There's a tribute to another restoration giant, David Hutchings, on the path to the village from the lock. You may need to enlarge the pictures to read the text....

 

The Victorian parish church of All Saints replaced an earlier one destroyed by fire. It was there that Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway, according to local lore.

This is disputed, as is a lot of The Bard's "history". Worcester, Grafton Regis and Shottery also claim the distinction. What is agreed though is that he was eighteen and she was 8 years his senior and 3 months pregnant with their first child. Naughty lad. Not a shotgun wedding though, they weren't invented until 300 years later!

The village is chocolate-box cute...



Anyway off we went, aiming to get tied up on the river at Stratford in plenty of time for our visitors.

Big houses, large lawns, efficient mowers!

The Gloucester to Stratford railway crossed the river on an iron truss bridge.

The track is gone, the bridge now carries a cycleway.

Just two locks today, the first Weir Brake (Gordon Gray) Lock was empty with bottom gates invitingly open for me.

Leaving Weir Brake.

Shakespeare Marina is open but not quite finished just above the lock.


It's not far to Stratford Trinity (Colin P Witter), past a large area of parkland on the right and the start of the built-up area on the left.



A boat was just getting ready to leave and another was waiting above so that was a quick turnaround too.

Stratford Holy Trinity Church above the lock.

I'd planned to moor opposite the theatre but the moorings there were full so I turned around and pulled in near the chain ferry.

We had a good afternoon with Kay, Paul and Sue, passing showers kept us inside but they enjoyed watching the boats and the swans through the side hatch. They left us late afternoon and I toyed with the idea of heading up into Bancroft Basin but decided to leave it till this morning.

Heading towards the lock up off the river, Tramway Bridge and Clopton Bridge ahead.


The lock is to the left, this side of the bridges, but the river navigation continues for another 3½ miles for shallow-draughted boats, but only 1½ if you want to turn a narrowboat!

Looking back at the "interesting" architecture of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

We went up the lock into Bancroft Basin, closely observed by the tourists on the tail bridge, then pulled in on one of the pontoons facing the Gower Memorial to the man himself...

Heading off up the Stratford Canal tomorrow or Sunday. I'll have to remember to shut the lock gates behind us!

Locks 3, miles 3

  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Old bridges, new(ish) locks

I have two sisters, one living near my Dad, and the other on the other side of the world with her husband in New Zealand. Well, the NZ one is over for a visit, after Covid put the mockers on the last 2 planned trips.

They are coming to find us, and I thought Stratford Upon Avon would be ideal. A call yesterday told us they are coming tomorrow (Thursday) and we were still 13½ and 8 locks away! So at half-one we untied and set off from Offerton Lock, leaving our friends Carolyn and Ian (and Milo) there.

A fine evening for a spot of ballooning on Monday.


  






Leaving Offerton Lock moorings.

I rambled on about the restoration of the Upper Avon yesterday, mentioning the fundraising and donations. These locks above Evesham have often been resited as the old chambers were in an advanced state of dereliction. They all have a secondary name to reflect these sponsors.

Offerton Lock is aka George Billington Lock, named for the chap who paid for it's construction. He didn't have long to live, the structure was completed by volunteers in six weeks and was opened just a week before he died.

Similarly Harvington Lock is also Robert Aikman Lock, one of the driving forces behind this and several other restoration projects.


 The river follows a fairly straight course for a while, passing under Cleeve Hill before heading east towards Bidford.

Shouldn't have left the sunroof open - it's wet through inside now!







Marcliff Lock aka IWA Lock was next, then we headed into Bidford.

Bidford Bridge with St Laurence Parish Church beyond.

The church dates from the 13th century, the bridge, which was built in the early 15th century has been rebuilt or repaired a few times since. Charles I's supporters demolished part of it to protect his  retreat to Oxford from Worcester in 1644, and more recently a tractor did significant damage to the parapet and central pier. It's a bit of a mixture in the style of the arches...

Out of Bidford we motored on for another half hour or so, but I called it quits above Barton (Elsie & Hiram Billington) Lock as it was getting very hot.

Moored at Barton, pleasant enough moorings but nowhere to walk... 

After yesterday's hot trip and wanting the option of heading all the way to Stratford we were on the move at half-eight this morning.

Leaving Barton Lock.

A bit narrow and overgrown along here...


Only a mile upriver is Bidford Grange (Pilgrim) Lock.

Financed by The Pilgrim Trust the lock chamber is of hand-laid concrete blocks, built by volunteers from Gloucester Gaol. Much better than the sheet piled sides of some of the others. Lovely 48hr moorings here too!

Welford Lock is 1½ miles further up, another lock with very pretty moorings above. Sorry, no photo, I was chatting with a boat crew waiting to go down.

The river does a long loop to Binton Bridges, passing lengths of moored boats, some of which haven't moved in a while...


It's worth having a look at your cruising guide as you approach Binton Bridges from downstream. The channel isn't immediately obvious, you have to keep to the right of an island, then take the left hand arch.

Another bridge built by commitee... "What shape shall we make the arches? I know, let's have one of each..."


 





I caught up with another boat at around the site of the old Luddington Lower Lock, the river is shallow with a rock bed along here, making the flow quite noticeable. We shared the new Luddington Lock (Stan Clover) but separated above. Amber needed a comfort break, I needed a brew and there are "facilities" here.

Luddington Lock.


I watered up and got rid of the rubbish and recycling, then decided it was too nice a mooring to pass by so pulled forward a bit and tied up for the rest of the day. I'd told the chap on Lazy Lad not to wait for us anyway.

With full batteries, plenty of hot water and bright sunshine I managed to get three loads of washing done this afternoon, all running off solar. In between washes the solar dump kept the water up to temperature. Win, win ! Most of it is dry too!

Into Stratford tomorrow morning, aiming to moor opposite the theatre. Our visitors are due before lunch.

Locks 6, miles 11.

Monday, June 20, 2022

On the Upper Avon

 When we first used this waterway, way back in the 1980s, we had to buy two licences, one for the Lower Avon from Tewkesbury to Evesham, and another for the Upper Avon up to Stratford Upon Avon.

Now at least both ends of the river come under one authority, the Avon Navigation Trust.

A proposal by local businessman William Sandys in 1636 to improve the river for navigation was approved by Charles I and he used his personal fortune to build locks, sluices and dams to open the river to boats from Tewkesbury to Stratford Upon Avon. By 1758 the navigation had deteriorated to such an extent that a new owner, George Perrot, had to close it for several months to effect repairs.

A common story as the railways became more widespread, the structures on the river were neglected as tolls decreased, and by the first half of the 20th century it was impassable above Pershore, and the navigation was effectively closed due to the poor condition of Strensham Lock. 

The Lower Avon was the first to be restored, a massive undertaking that saw the first boats arrive at Evesham from the River Severn in 1962.

With the dereliction of the Stratford Upon Avon Canal, which linked Stratford with the edge of the Black Country, there was less incentive to rebuild the Upper Avon Navigation until the canal was adopted by the National Trust, with a remit to restore it to usable standards. The canal was fully navigable again in July 1964, and this provided the impetus to consider the condition of the upper section of the old navigation. A new organisation was established, the Upper Avon Navigation Trust, but considerable obstructions had to be overcome, the locks and weirs were in a dire state and some riparian landowners were uncooperative. But the problems were resolved and the navigation was once again a through route from the Severn to Stratford in 1974. LANT and UANT were officially amalgamated in 2010, and the navigation fell under one authority again for the first time in 300 years.

This is a brief summary, but I must mention the tenacity, hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness of the volunteers, fundraisers and supporters who made the undertaking possible, and gave us access to this beautiful waterway again.

So - we left Craycombe Turn on Saturday morning, expecting a damp trip to Evesham but, although there were grey skies and the odd spot of rain we made it to the town without getting wet.


 Wood Norton Hall, now an exclusive hotel, in the trees on the slopes of Tunnel Hill.

 During WWII it was taken over by the BBC and used as a listening post for enemy radio transmissions and emergency broadcasting centre. A nuclear bunker was constructed here as a backup to London in case the worse happened. The mast on the hill above the hall dates from this period.

Just one lock to do between our mooring and Evesham, Chadbury Lock.









   

Arriving at Evesham we pulled onto the almost-deserted moorings below Workman Bridge. The rain came on in the afternoon and it was wet on and off overnight and through yesterday. So we stayed put.
A different day today, bright sunshine from the word go. We were later getting away than usual, shopping to do, tanks to fill and Calan Lan needed diesel and a pump-out, but we weren't going far.
 
Workman Bridge on this fine, sunny morning.

Evesham Lock marks the change from Lower to Upper Avon, and lies just up from the bridge.

The fine chalet-style lock-house to the left is being renovated and there's no lock-keeper on duty.

The large weir above the lock must be hazardous when the river is running fast.

In fact the flow is faster now than it was, after the wet weekend. This is emphasised by the river now often being narrower and shallower than the lower reaches.

We were aiming to moor at Offenham Lock, hoping that there would be space on the attractive moorings above.

The rebuilt Offenham Lock, with a dalek-shaped lock-keepers cabin.

Plenty of mooring above the lock. That'll do!

Locks 3, miles 8.
   

Friday, June 17, 2022

Wow weather!

 It's been much too nice to sit inside typing, and it still is, but I thought I'd better have a catch up...

We moved on Tuesday and Wednesday, heading upriver to Pershore with a stop at Eckington Bridge, then today we pushed on to stop at Craycombe Turn. We'll wait out tomorrow's wet weather here before heading for Evesham. Two short days and a slightly longer one.

Leaving Eckington Bridge on Tuesday morning.

The river alternates between narrow, twisty sections and broad, open stretches.



Nafford Lock was the only one we dealt with, we had to wait while a boat dropped down and Mags popped up to see what was happening...

Misfortune in floods, I guess, above the lock.


 
We stopped for the night at Comberton Wharf, a fine, quiet spot.

From here to Pershore the river gets into one of it's lazy moods, long gentle curves generally heading north, as it's pushed to and fro by the gently undulating countryside.


It was an hour to Pershore, passing under the two bridges downstream of the town. 

Looking back, Pershore Great Bridge C1700, and the modern replacement from 1928.


Pershore Lock, above here is a broad reach with fine moorings and walks around the water meadows between the river and the town.

We stayed here for two nights, on Wednesday evening we had a small celebration for our canines, Amber had reached her third birthday and Milo his eighth!

Dog-friendly home-made birthday cake.






The dogs wouldn't stay still though!


Leaving Pershore this morning we didn't have far to go before passing the impressive Wyre Mill and arriving at Wyre Lock.

Pershore moorings, very quiet.

Wyre Mill, now a social club for the Avon Navigation Trust members.



I wonder why it's diamond shaped...?

Out of the lock and the river skirts the village of Wyre Piddle. (Enough tittering , thank you...) Thatched roofs have the thatcher's trademark, often an animal, on the ridge.

This one's a fox...


Lodge on Osier Island, only access is by water... 


Poor picture of a buzzard enjoying the sun.

An hour and a half of delightful wiggly river saw us arrive at the picturesque Fladbury Lock, with two mills alongside. The river branches here to provide water for the mills and the lock cut.


We had a pause to allow a boat to finish going up ahead of us and to let another come down. It's a deep lock too, so takes a while to fill. I'm not going to mention that I opened a paddle too fast and flooded the well deck - whoops!

Twenty-five minutes above the lock and we pulled in on the moorings at Craycombe Turn. A bit of traffic noise from the nearby A44 but it'll do us.

Ian pointed out that we're about half-way to Stratford now.

I normally wear a black baseball cap while cruising, but it's been too hot for that these last couple of days. So I've taken to wearing Mags' straw hat...

What do you think? Dashing, eh!

Locks 4, miles 13¼ over three days.