Severn go to Sharpness

We took 99 photos today, don’t worry, we’ve only chosen a few to share!  We had already decided to detour slightly off The Avon Ring and visit Gloucester, we then decided to carry on down the end of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and as far as we could go before hitting the sea.

Cast off at 8.45 and Toby came in to the lock beautifully, in front of quite an audience of other boaters.  Everyone was turning right on The Severn and to Worcester, we bucked the trend and turned left.

Leaving The River Avon and joining the River Severn

It wasn’t long before we hit the first lock, although the drop was only 4 feet, the lock was huge.  We did a good job at getting the ropes in behind the chains, and not looking like a pair of muppets.

Upper Lode Lock

We left the second lock at 9.30, and didn’t reach Gloucester until 1pm, it was strange just steering, and no slowing down for moored boats. Toby used the dremmel to remove a broken rivet on the front cratch and I listened to the radio (all about men having liposuction!). We called ahead as instructed at Gloucester Dock and with a rise of 16ft, it’s one of the deepest.  We slowly rose up the lock and saw the wonders of Gloucester Docks and the mills.

Leaving Gloucester lock in the docks

We then saw on the map lots of swing electrified swing bridges, I thought I was in for a busy afternoon hopping on and off – we were really surprised that they’re all manned with traffic lights.  Red – wait. Flashing Red – I’ve seen you and I’m opening the lock/bridge.  Green – go.  It’s the closest we’ll ever get to a formula 1 grand prix start as we’re idling up to the traffic lights, they turn green and you welly the throttle – all of 4-5mph!

One of the 22 swing bridges opened for us, it was like we were royalty with the traffic being stopped to let us past
This reminds me of the egg shells and the cress seeds we used to grow as kids

We needed to fill up with water, but all the water points had moored boats.  We reached the last water point and a new fat boat was moored – it only arrived from the docks this morning.  No-one was aboard, so we gently came alongside and moored up.  It took nearly an hour to fill the tank, so we had a good nosey in through the windows and in the lockers.

Filling up with water

After turning around, and some 30 miles travelled, we finally moored up at 6.30.  It’s not often on a canal, you have such a view – in this case the River Severn.

A quick dinner (salmon – never again on the boat, it honks) we walked along the estuary to the old lifeboat station.  You can still see the old locks and paddles from World War II.

The old lock, the white building in the background operated the paddles. I don’t fancy climbing down that ladder
The Severn Bridge is in the background, blimey we’ve both caught the sun

 

Up close with a wind turbine, I’m standing at the bottom of it. You’ll need to click to enlarge to see the full version to see me (and it’s not often I get to say that!)
Check out the size of that mooring ring

A long day, but I’m glad we made the decision to visit Sharpness.

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

We agreed last night to set off at 8.15, as a number of the boats were heading to Tewkesbury, and we wanted to get on the moorings before the lock – rather than those after the lock which would have required a fair bit of reversing.

It was with some effort, that Toby was ready for 8.15!  Only three locks today, but some five hours cruising time.  The lower Avon views are far reaching, and yet more fishermen to wave to!

Travelling through one of the many bridges
No need to worry about oncoming boats here

We’ve been really lucky with the wildlife on display, I’m not so sure about our photography skills, but we’ll keep trying!

Cormorant on the top of a dead tree, had we got the whole tree, it would have been a fab photo
Another Heron!

Under the last bridge and there were free moorings before the lock, just enough for us and the boat we were travelling with.  A tricky place to moor though, as there is a step up and it was quite windy.  I’ve still not found my mojo since falling in, and struggle with any small jumps.  It did feel a bit like groundhog day, with the boat in front getting caught by the wind and the lady unable to hold the boat in – Toby ran over and came to their rescue.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Lunch on board (we’ll be dining on the leftovers from the weekend for days!) and then a walk into town and Tewkesbury Abbey, where we lit candles for loved ones past and present.

Check out the size of this tree in the Abbey’s grounds

We returned to  Oliver and Toby set up the aerial ready for the England football match tonight – much to the annoyance of the boat in front who can’t get any reception!  So an earlier blog entry than usual – nothing can interrupt the footy!

Farewell friends

We awoke to a lovely morning, if a little chilly, and Sarah took this fine shot of Oliver still on our pub mooring courtesy of the Fish & Anchor. It was a great place to stop overnight and the food and beer was good too!

We had some breakfast on board and then set off through the Offenham lock, where we met our companions from the day before on ‘About Time’ just heading in as we arrived. It later transpired they’d been waiting ready at the lock for someone else to come along to help.

A lighthouse on the river system?!

From Offenham the next lock is at Evesham. We’d been told very clearly by the lady at the Avon Trust boat in Stratford to moor up on the landing stage to the left by the weir, and open both gates as there’s a strong current. We did as instructed and all went well, but apparently quite a few people insist on doing their own thing and make a mess of it.

Evesham lock, in the floods of 2007, the river levels reached the bottom windows of the lock house

Everyone had a go at steering, Joel and Simon even had a go through some of the locks too. We had a few little bumps but that comes with the territory!

Anne-Marie on the helm
Joel, Simon, Anne-Marie and Toby – and ‘About Time’ still sticking close behind!

The scenery on the Avon is really something else, full of picturesque scenes. We tooted the horn as we approached Hampton Rope Ferry, and after both boats had passed got to see the old rope-ferry in action; the boat is winched across by the ferryman on the shore via a rope that normally sits under the water. Sadly they were too far off to make a good photo.

The mill and weir at Fladbury; a popular scene with photographers but we weren’t hanging around for the perfect shot.

A few more locks and we arrived at Pershore, just in time to see ‘About Time’ attempting to turn around, but actually managing to T-bone the bank of the Avon at quarter-speed. We heard the thump from 200 meters back. We then got ourselves moored up, only to hear a cry of ‘Help me!’ – I looked up to see the lady on ‘About Time’ desperately trying to pull the boat in against the wind and clearly losing the battle as the centre rope slowly slipped through her hands. Luckily I was able to get there in time and lend a hand (with the help of a  couple of turns around a mooring post) and soon all parties were safely secure.

We then had more entertainment, this time from the local swans. One of the cygnets had hitched a ride with mummy, something I’ve  not seen before. It looked very comfy!

You’ll struggle to find anything cuter than this on the river!

It wasn’t long before Esmee texted to let us know she was on the way, so we lit the Cobb (a kind of BBQ) and got some burgers going. All too soon dinner was done and it was time to say farewell to our friends; we’ll miss their camaraderie, not to mention their help steering and opening locks! The boat feels a bit empty now without them.

Apologies to Joel for my big head getting in the way!

Perhaps the next time we’re on the water together it might be in a dragon boat!?

Guest post by Joel

Today’s post is courtesy of our new helmsman for the weekend, Joel…

Today tells the story of how fishing lines were cut by props, the scoffing of an entire pringles can (that was me) and a perfect demonstration of separation anxiety.

As soon as we exited the lock out of the Stratord-upon-Avon basin we stumbled upon a regatta that was taking place all day, we were originally told that it would be completely fine to waltz straight through… upon second though the shouty man on the safety boat for the regatta decided we would need to faff about a little more before we could leave.

Pictured above is my dad and I helming, I liked it rather a lot and ended up doing I most of the rest of the day (except for locks).

One other exception to my helmsman-ship was a tricky bridge that had been damaged by a lorry and repaired, nevertheless there were still bricks and debris in the water meaning that there was only one safe arch through the bridge.

Here are some welcome sweeping s-bends through the reeds as the river meanders it course through the British countryside.

As we edged closer to our final destination at a blistering 4 mph, we entered yet another lock with our unscheduled boat-buddy for the day the lock ended up being so large that their was space for a yoghurt pot to squeeze in.

Moored up for the night, all that needs to happen now is for the duck outside to stop yelling!

Making an Entrance

Today was supposed to be an easy pootle in to Stratford basin, it just didn’t quite work out that way. We left before 9am, wanting to make an early-ish start so we arrived at Stratford Basin late morning in the hope that those that were leaving had left, and those that were arriving were still to arrive.

How many ducks on the tyre?

Through the first lock, and I was steering.  I wasn’t concentrating and went too close to a hawthorn bush which resulted in two scratch lines all the way along the starboard side (knock to confidence part 1).  We stopped below the next lock and Toby went to Halfords to purchase some polish and oil for the oil change later on the holiday.

Olivers Lock heading in to Stratford

We made it in to the basin and Toby was doing a fine job in reversing on to the pontoon.  I was at the bow swapping the centre line to the other side, I don’t know what happened, but I slipped.  I tried to hold on – at this point hanging down the side of the boat with my legs in the water.  Toby came to help, but I just couldn’t get up, so there was only one thing for it, and in I went!  I held on to the fender rope while Toby reversed the boat in to the pontoon, a lovely couple on the boat next door (Taktimu) came out to help, the lady keeping the boat away from the pontoon and me, and the gentleman helping Toby to man haul me out of the water and on to the pontoon – all in front of quite a number of  Chinese tourists, and a few other folk takings pics (knock to confidence part 2). Toby was awesome, coping with mooring the boat, and me falling in – I married a good’un!

A rather soggy look after falling in – luckily only the walkie talkie was in my pocket and lost to the Bancroft Basin

We walked in to Stratford and had icecream for lunch, ferrero rocher sundae for me, and a chocoholic waffle for Toby – yum.

We came back and spent some time trying to polish out the scratches with some success.  Fish and Chips for tea – what else do you do on a Friday night?!

Our mooring in Bancroft Basin

Duck Bombed

We heard noise on the roof in the morning, and assumed it was branches from the trees overhead falling in the aftermath of Storm Hector.  We opened up the back hatch to find the back of the boat covered in duck shit – blimey does that stuff stick when it dries!  We removed what we could, and cast off about 9.30

It was a chilly morning, as seems to be the case most days so far.  It soon warms up with Toby starting off in jeans, then lightweight trousers and then shorts…all in one day!

Toby sweeping the roof (an almost daily chore), ready for washing the roof

A quick stop at Anglo Welsh and a pump out, I’m always slightly embarrassed at having someone else dealing with our waste, but it never seems to bother the marina staff.  Then over the two aqueducts, the first one is fairly short, the second one is called Edstone Aqueduct and is 475ft long and 28ft high.  It was surprisingly windy as it’s quite exposed,

On the Edstone aquaduct – hold on to your hat!

It wasn’t long before we were approaching the 11 locks of the Wilmcote flight.  It was almost lunchtime and we had to make the decision either to stop and risk the boat behind catching us up and having to set the locks, or to crack on.  We decided to crack on and had a piece of mum’s chocolate cake to keep us going.

Through the narrow locks of the Wilmcote Flight

It worked in our favour, with most of the locks set for us, we passed through the last lock and moored up just after 2pm.

CRT staff bow hauling a barge, this was the end destination, they’d moved it some three miles

Toby pipes up that he wants to wash the boat.  I reluctantly agree to clean the inside, and Toby washes the outside – he managed the roof and the towpath side, to many compliments by the numerous passers by. Toby’s reward – a big glass of pimms, chicken curry followed by bananas and custard.

Toby near the end of cleaning the boat

Role Reversal

A later than usual cast off as we wanted to ask in the canal shop if we could moor outside on handover day, as we can park the van really close.  It didn’t open until 10.15, so I had a slow mosey up the towpath,  and purchased two homemade cake slices (apple sponge and bakewell tart) to show good will before asking.  The owner was lovely, and happy to help.

We cast off just before 11am , to more glorious sunshine.

Stratford canal bridges with the gap in the middle for the horse ropes

We took on the usual roles of Toby steering, and I was on lock duty, I felt like a bouncing tigger with these single locks, blimey they were hard work and took some force to open some of the paddles.

Toby lining up for the next lock

After 4 locks (we did 17 in total today), we swapped, this gave me plenty of practice at dropping Toby off (front or back – pot luck!), and picking him up.  I just got the hang of it and then the towpath changed sides – well that confused me!

Toby waiting for me to exit the lock
An action shot of me steering

The Stratford locks are narrow and we had to lift the fenders, we did get stuck in one lock as we couldn’t get the gate fully open.  After a bit of prodding and poking with the hook, and Toby opening and closing the gate, we made it through, although I did feel like a champagne cork out of a bottle.

Toby pulling on the lock gate, he’ll have popeye muscles by the end of this holiday

 

Steering under one of the narrow bridges – full of concentration

We decided to moor up after the last lock, Toby didn’t like the look of the first mooring, so we motored on and Toby tried five times to come alongside but it was too shallow.  Lucky for him, there were some lovely visitor moorings just around the corner.

Our out in the sticks mooring for the night

Just The Two Of Us

It was somewhat sad waking up and mum not being on board, we’re still reminded of her presence with her towel and hat ( not forgetting our daily ration of chocolate cake too!)

mum’s leftovers

A later than usual cast off at 9am,  it was quite chilly and very quiet with only a handful of boats on the move all day.  It was a lock free day and in the countryside, it felt like we had the canal to ourselves.

A view that’s not changed much in the last 100 of so years
Shrewley Tunnel and Toby in the dark (he’s always saying he’s in the dark!)

Our first water stop, and then the sharp left turn on to The Stratford Canal.  Toby is trying to get me to steer a bit more on the awkward bits, so I had the pleasure,  and would you believe, no boats for ages, and then two boats coming out of the same junction!  We moored up at 11.30am…….yes, you read that correctly!

Toby repairing the kitchen window and the glued lock that fell off

We walked the mile or so to Baddesley Clinton, a National trust property,  it’s got a number of hidden rooms for Catholic Priests who were hunted in the 1590’s.  We liked the moat around the house and the kitchen garden.

Baddesley Clinton

We’re well in to our ship’s routine, and it feels like we’ve been on Oliver for longer than four days.  Thoughts turn to ‘is the lock set’ or ‘where are we  going to moor’ and of course ‘when is it tea and cake time!  Narrowboating is  good for the soul.

 

You can leave your Hatton

We made an early-ish start to the day, with the aim to get as far as we could through the Hatton flight of locks before the sun got too hot. With that in mind we got dressed and set off straight away, with teas and coffees on the go, followed by some cereal for breakfast.

A morning cuppa to help Rosemary and Sarah wake up first thing
The morning commuters and school run

We soon hit the outskirts of Leamington Spa, and it felt good watching people commute to work and knowing we were on holiday!

Heron shots are something of a tradition on this blog… the new camera’s zoom lens makes it a lot easier!

There are a few “warm-up” locks before the main flight proper begins

The daunting Hatton flight

We hit the locks just after another pair of boats had started going up too, so unfortunately we had to reset each lock before we could go in. We easily kept pace with the boats in front though – one was clearly a learner driver, and the other liked to take things at his own pace shall we say.

Fortunately our luck turned for the better when another hire boat caught us up – two parents, two grown up children and their partners, who hire a boat every year so knew exactly what they were doing and helped run ahead and get the locks ready for not just us but the boats in front too.

In other breaking news, after the first few locks Sarah decided to have a go at helming us through the locks. This was very brave as Sarah doesn’t normally like to steer in locks, let alone with an audience. Naturally she did it all with aplomb – a magic bean to Sarah for such an excellent job!

Proof I’m not making it up – Sarah at the helm
The sun was on our backs, so we left our hatton

Once we were through the locks we moored up to have a late lunch, and then walked up to the train station to say farewell to Rosemary, and thanks for all her help – it was very much appreciated, along with the chocolate cake too!

Farewell Rosemary!

Scorchio Sunday

We cast off at 8.30 to some cloud, we had a good couple of hours of lock free cruising ahead of us. Sausage butties appeared and disappeared just as quickly.

A boat in need of some much needed TLC
On the other hand, here is a boat with lots of TLC

We turned off the Grand Union Canal and on on to the Oxford canal, it’s a lovely canal, and seems so peaceful with very few buildings and signs of civilisation.

The Oxford Canal – a view that’s not changed much over the narrowboating years

 

Three locks done, and we met up with a 69ft hire boat with four people – what a result with all the locks ahead!  We managed another ten locks and made swift progress with suggestions such as would you like to stay here and finish this lock, or would you prefer to prep the next lock? Mum said that she preferred these types of locks, although let’s see if she thinks the same after Hatton Locks tomorrow!  It was lovely to meet the couple from The Old Stoker travelling the other way, we had the pleasure of their company last year at Caen Hill.

A healthy lunch? The pringles were moved out of shot!

We stayed good to our promise and stopped for lunch, and a much needed rest.  We cast off for the afternoon’s shift and caught up with the hire boat from this morning, another ten locks done, by which time we were all starting to flag with the warm weather.

Mum enjoying the new style lock
Not another lock gate to pull on!

 

A staircase lock with two locks joined together

We moored just after the last lock at 5.10, Toby topped up the greaser while mum and I sat in the front cratch and cooled down.  I think we’ll all be tucked up in bed early, after 23 locks today – we’ve got at least 22 to do tomorrow!