Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Cleaning up the side ponds at Knowle

From Kingswood Junction we took the alternative route into Birmingham, on the Grand Union Canal. This starts off pleasantly enough, but above Knowle Locks the canal is in a cutting for many miles.

The side ponds seem to be getting some attention at Knowle Locks; this one has scrubbed up well.

The long summit pound above the locks was 6" - 9" low. A better photo to illustrate this would have been an overspill weir, but I neglected to take one.

Nearing Camp Hill - and out of the cutting - this warehouse dominates the scene.

It's still in use for something, despite many of the windows being broken. A steel mesh covers both broken and unbroken windows now.

We stopped for the night at Camp Hill Top Lock, on the secure mooring by the water point. The only boat to have come past while we've been here hasn't wanted to stop, so we haven't been in anyone's way. We hope the same will hold for tomorrow morning, when we have to go to a funeral in Birmingham. In the morning I shall investigate whether it might be possible to moor in the arm behind the boat already there.

To retrieve the car from Lapworth I cycled back along the towpath. This started well, with a good surface, but it began to get dark at the same time as the surface got rougher and rougher. In the end it took me more than an hour and a half to cycle the 15 miles, so my average speed was less than 10mph. I've managed to park very close to the basin here. There should be some car news in a day or two.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Fender the offender

We drove to MK to visit Ally, Ben and Josiah yesterday, hence no blogging. This morning we set off reasonably early (0830) from Wootton Wawen to get some locks under our belt. The first few were against us, and then we were asked to wait below a lock while a CRT man fished around in a bottom gate recess with a giant aluminium and steel keb. That's it, resting on the wooden bollard.

The gate had been reported as giving problems opening sufficiently. All that was dredged up was a pile of twigs and a broken fender. A boater coming down the locks looked at the fender so I told him it was "fenders keepers". That's him, walking away on the left. He didn't want it.

Still, now the gate opened fine for us, so we were off again. Now we were catching up with a boat in front - all locks having to be turned until we started meeting boats coming towards us.

These sunflowers might look pretty at the lockside ...

... but not to a single hander trying to haul their boat in or out of the lock.

We stopped to chat to fellow BCF members Maureen and Peter on Blue Roan - thanks for the tea and lemon meringue pie. Then we completed the South Stratford Canal, turning right at Kingswood Junction onto the link to the Grand Union. We tied up, and I cycled back down the towpath to retrieve the car from the car park of the Navigation at Wootton Wawen.

This is Wootton Wawen Aqueduct from below ...

... with its fine plaque.

The drive back seemed to take just as long as my cycle ride and was rather less pleasant. I ended up parking at another Navigation pub, just round the corner on the GU.

We shall see if the trains passing overhead disturb us tonight.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Where's the balance?

We had a "day off" yesterday, i.e. the boat stayed on its pontoon mooring in Bancroft Basin, Stratford-on-Avon. We walked around the town dodging (other) tourists in the day, and enjoyed a more peaceful walk along the river in the evening.

This morning I took a photo of our spot in the basin after some boats had left, then we left too.

The third lock up, Lock 53, has an unusual bottom gate balance beam. Actually, that's a misnomer. The metalwork at right angles to the gate - to avoid fouling the bridge - hardly balances the weight of the gate at all, making it very hard to move.

We watered up and emptied the Elsan at Valley Cruisers. The boatyard seems to share the CRT facilities. Then we moved across to the towpath side where we tied up, had lunch and went to the nearby Aldi. When we got going again we caught up with a newbie hireboat crew attempting their first lock. They did quite well, getting through the lock quickly, but they left the top gate open and a paddle up. At the next lock they'd improved - they just left the top gate open. The locks were all in their favour, and against us, of course, so it took four or five locks before I could gently educate them in some lock etiquette. Above Lock 43 we were relieved to see that they were tying up. The next locks were now in our favour - hooray!

I tried a different shot of the Edstone (Bearley) Aqueduct.

Just south of Wootton Wawen a new marina is being dug out. Very red soil here.

The rain held off and some late afternoon sun lit the trees nicely.

We stopped at Wootton Wawen and ate in the Navigation Inn. I had a good mixed grill (steak done to perfection: a proper "medium-rare" resulting from the requested "rare").

Look up in the lobby by the loos next time you're there and you'll see this rather good stained glass skylight.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Navigating the Avon upstream of Stratford

After a look round Bidford-on-Avon this morning we set off on the last leg of the River Avon. We saw more wildlife, including a sunbathing turtle ...

... and another stationary kingfisher. I think this is my best kingfisher photo so far.

It was stationary for a couple of snaps, and then it took off. I flukily pressed the shutter at that precise instant.

Its feet are still on the branch.

There was a lot more flow on the river today. Perhaps it was yesterday's rain working its way through the system. Together with the generally narrower river in these upstream reaches it meant that sometimes we were doing only 2 mph.

And suddenly there were people. Gongoozlers at the last proper river lock, people in the park and little boats on the river. Yes, we'd arrived in Stratford.

We carried on past the parkside moorings and under the Tramway Bridge to explore the Avon upstream of there. We hadn't done this bit before, so here was more new water.

A mile and a half from Tramway Bridge was this interesting modern structure, "Riverside", a conference centre.

The two guides we have suggest that it's best to wind before the last half mile to Alveston Weir, so we did just that, at a left bend. Ahead in the photo below is the bend ...

... and this is us mid-wind. Apart from one moored narrowboat near Stratford we were the only narrowboat on this section. Has any reader done this bit? How far did you get? Could we have got further than we did?

It was a lot quicker returning to Stratford with the current; we turned right under the Tramway Bridge to go up into Bancroft Basin.

We're back on a canal at last! With narrow locks! We've managed to get ahead of schedule - we could have saved ourselves £10 and got a one week permit for the Avon rather than two. It's a shame it's not transferable.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Wet Wednesday on the Wiver

Alliterative enough for you, Sarah?

We had a fair amount of rain overnight, which continued well into the morning. I put my waterproofs on and had a walk round Evesham; when I got back to the boat the rain had stopped. We set off, therefore, and the rain started again. Oh well, we were committed now. First up after Workman Bridge was Evesham Lock, the one with the A-frame house. This I remembered from 35 years ago. Before working through the lock we made use of the facilities - watering up and emptying the Elsan.

Having read Neil's blog the other day we stopped at Offenham, tying up at the Bridge Inn. As it was lunchtime we ate in the pub. It was rather a lonely experience. Apart from the barman and, presumably, the chef, we were the only people in there. I must learn to ask for my steak to be "rare", and then it might actually be medium-rare as I want. Here I ordered "medium-rare" and it came medium-well done. As always, though, by the time it came and I'd hungrily eaten enough to know it was overcooked, it was too late to send it back.

Walking up Boat Lane from the pub we came across the microbrewery Neil wrote about, the Boat Lane Brewery. Ian had two ales on tap to sample, PWA and Single Step, of which I preferred the latter. We weren't offered a tour, perhaps because Ian seemed to be on his own. I bought a couple of (small) bottles of Satsumo Stout and one of Single Step, and we walked into the village to look for the tall maypole. According to Wikipedia Offenham's maypole, at 64 feet, is the tallest of only six permanent maypoles in England. (But Wikipedia's entry for Barwick, Yorks, describes that village's maypole as 86 feet tall.) Anyway, here it is, with Jan standing at its foot for scale.

There are some pretty houses in Offenham. Can you see the straw finial?

I think they are boxing hares.

The last rain we had today was while we were doing Evesham Lock. The sky remained threatening ...

... but not enough to put off the gliders. I saw several being given an air tow.

At Marlcliff Lock we encountered a 70 feet wide beam which squeezed past us as we waited on the lock landing.

As expected, by the time we reached Bidford-on-Avon - at about 7pm - there was no space on the recreation ground mooring. We breasted up to a hire boat whose crew was out, but a neighbouring boat assured us that they wouldn't mind. Happily, this turned out to be the case.

This was the view from the bow when we'd tied up.

I cycled back to Evesham to get the car and passed lots of apple orchards. The sunset was dramatic, with that black cloud still there.

Tomorrow should see us in Stratford and back to good old canals at last.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Two impressive buildings, a wooden boat being cut up, a poser and flagrant fishing

The rain forecast for today held off until 8pm which worked well for us. From Pershore I took the car and bike to Evesham, left the car there and cycled back. Then we cruised to Evesham and were tied up by 6pm.

A mile after setting off from Pershore we came to Wyre Lock and its impressive grist mill.

Grist is merely wheat before it is ground to make flour.

Another imposing building we passed was Wood Norton Hall. The Avon Navigation Trust's (Nicholson-sized and spiral bound) guide to the River Avon describes it - accurately - as a hotel and conference centre and gives one or two historical pieces of information but ignores its main significance to me and hundreds of other BBC staff who passed through "ETD Wood Norton" as part of our training. (ETD: Engineering Training Division.) When I was there, for two periods at the beginning of the 1980s, I looked at the narrowboats cruising past and promised myself that, one day, I would be doing that. Well, that day came a couple of years later when we moved a boat from Tewkesbury Marina to Cowroast Marina. Today's cruise was only the second time we've been past. (My 2012 Nicholson does mention the BBC's association with Wood Norton, but it is out of date. The BBC left years ago.)

At Sankey Marine, upstream of Chadbury Lock, work was being carried out on an old wooden boat.

It looked like it was being cut up, but with care. Perhaps it is being restored.

Approaching Evesham a kingfisher posed nicely for us. This is the best I could do with the camera.

We are on the Town Moorings in Evesham, just below Workman Bridge. All along the moorings are signs in English and Polish forbidding fishing unless you have a permit from the council, and are under 16 or disabled. Seemingly flouting the rules was someone who appeared to be older than 15 (yes, that is a fag in his mouth), who didn't look disabled (yes, I know not all disability is visible) and who I had earlier heard speaking in an east European accent. He was fishing with a lure a few feet from one of the signs.

Let's hope it doesn't rain too much tomorrow as we navigate the eight miles and four locks to Bidford-on-Avon. Shall we take up the Herbies' suggestion of stopping at Offenham en route? We'll see.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Not the right angle for a narrowboat

We stayed in Tewkesbury from Friday until this morning. We had enjoyed some great singing in the abbey, including Mozart's Requiem and Messaien's O Sacrum Convivium, both of which I have sung myself. But it was time to move on. This was our mooring in Tewkesbury. (A cruiser is just coming out of the lock, which is at right angles to the river.)

A couple of minutes upstream, beyond Tewkesbury Marina, we were passing a line of sailing boats. A very different scene from the Caldon Canal, say.

The River Severn has high banks and few scenic views (in our recent experience), whereas the River Avon has low banks and a view round every bend. Bredon Hill followed us all the way to Pershore.

Eckington Bridge was built 400 years ago and is still doing the job.

As we left Nafford Lock we saw this boat on the wrong side of the weir boom and at definitely the wrong angle.

A victim of the 2007 floods? Surely not.

We tied up by the football ground (and Asda) in Pershore and had a barbecue.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Lock shuffle with large hotel boat

We are now back in Tewkesbury after a mostly uneventful run up the Severn from Gloucester. I'll start with one of my favourite photos of the day, houses on the Mill Avon in the evening sun.

The Severn upstream of Gloucester is rather featureless. This view did present itself at one point, though.

I said the trip was mostly uneventful, the one piece of excitement was when we encountered the hotel boat Edward Elgar wanting to leave Upper Lode Lock as we waited to enter.

The skipper of the hotel boat considered that our position on the piling below the lock wouldn't have given him sufficient room to swing round after exiting the lock. He therefore asked us to come alongside him before he left.

This all worked well. I steered in (to a compliment on my skippering from the hotel boat - he doesn't know how many narrow locks I've done, and there was more space here!) We hung on to the lockside cables, I waved to the passengers having their lunch, the Edward Elgar went and the lock was filled for us.

I was expecting the flow on the river to considerably reduce our speed, but this was not the case. At 1200 rpm we made 3.6 - 3.8 mph, with very little difference at 1100 rpm. Maybe 0.1 mph slower. The weather was much better than of late, with hardly any rain, much less wind and even some sunshine. We arrived at Avon Lock during the lockie's lunch break; at 1400 he appeared and got us up the lock. After paying our fee - £60 for two weeks - we took on water and tied up just below King John Bridge.

After tea on board we went to a Requiem Mass in Tewkesbury Abbey where Mozart's Requiem was sung in the context of a communion service.

Then we walked down to the river and I took the top photo and this one, of the weir control building (?) at sunset.

We intend to stay in Tewkesbury for another couple of days to take in some more of the festival of sacred music at the abbey.