Oliver’s Grand Llangollen Adventure comes to an end

After 6 fantastic weeks, today is Oliver’s last day of his grand adventure to Llangollen and back.

 

We started with a beautiful sunny morning, the perfect start to the last day.

The day started bright and sunny
The day started bright and sunny

In no time at all we were coming up to Braunston junction

Ironwork bridges at Braunston
Ironwork bridges at Braunston – we took the right hand fork

Braunston is one of our favourite places to stop and gongoozle, but today we didn’t stop and went through the locks and up to the tunnel. On the way we came across this strange sight:

The poor horse was clearly tired of pulling boats and wanted to hitch a ride instead
The poor horse was clearly tired of pulling boats and wanted to hitch a ride instead

The tunnel is long and dark, but thankfully as there’s been so little rain recently it was relatively dry for once so we didn’t get soaked like we usually do. Sarah had great fun trying to get some atmospheric photos in the dark, here’s a small selection of them

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After the tunnel we were soon back at the junction to Buckby locks, our nemesis. Fortunately we met up with another boat, (The Denby Rose also from Heyford Fields Marina) so shared the work and got through them in good time, before refuelling at Rugby boats and finally returning back to where it all started. Little did we know Dad was keeping tabs on us all the time, and took careful note of our arrival

Someone's spying on us!
Someone’s spying on us!

It feels strange to be back in the marina, but we were delighted to find our neighbours Razamataz back in the water after 6 months of refit after a fire, and it was lovely to see everyone again.

Now we must start planning the next great adventure…. watch this space!

Two by two

A sticky night on the boat and it’s fair to say I was not looking forward to today and another 21 locks. We had a good hour before we hit the first lock and found  ‘Bones’, a single handed chap called Ray waiting for us.

The delights of Leamington Spa
The delights of Leamington Spa
This one is for Peter who likes his poppies! We passed many a poppy field on our travels, this is the best shot so far.
This one is for Peter who likes his poppies! We passed many a poppy field on our travels, this is the best shot so far.

It’s fair to say that I wasn’t impressed as it’s more effort for no reward.  How wrong could I be.

Ray and narrowboat Bones (called in honour of his dog)
Ray and narrowboat Bones (called in honour of his dog)

We only opened one gate.  Toby would go in first and I’d be on the other side with my trusty rope on a Karabina dangling down, Toby would then pass through the centre rope, and I pulled the boat across, Bones came in second.  I then opened one paddle and one gate and we carried on like this for the morning.

We did intend to stop for lunch but as the locks were in our favour, so we decided to carry on through the flight at Stockton Locks.  Ray was very trusting of Toby and suggested we tie the two boats together and Toby steer both boats into the lock.

Moving the boats together tied together at the bow and stern
Moving the boats together tied together at the bow and stern
Toby taking both boats in to the lock
Toby taking both boats in to the lock

All 21 locks done and I hadn’t even broken a sweat!  We pushed our luck a bit too far in the late afternoon in the hope of getting to Braunston; it started raining so we decided to moor up a bit early and watch some Wimbledon tennis!

A steam powered narrowboat
A steam powered narrowboat
A wonderful sight and sound, just like a steam train
A wonderful sight and sound, just like a steam train

Scorchio!

Today was a real melter. We set off at 8:15 to make a start before it got too hot, but it wasn’t long until the mercury started rising. We passed this cute little ‘house’ which made Sarah and I smile

An upmarket shed?
An upmarket shed?

We had some welcome relief from the heat when we went through Shrewley tunnel. What we hadn’t expected was quite such a cooling down from all the water dripping down, we both got quite wet!

Shrewley tunnel - cool and rather damp inside
Shrewley tunnel – cool and rather damp inside. Note the separate tunnel for the horses.

The big challenge for today, other than the heat, was always going to be Hatton and its flight of 21 double locks.

The Hatton flight always looks rather daunting
The Hatton flight always looks rather daunting

Sensible folk would probably have moored up for the day and done it the next morning, but we don’t want to be sensible so we cracked on! Fortunately for us, another boat Verity turned up after we’d only gone down a couple, and with 5 20-somethings on board it made everything a lot easier, even if almost every lock was set against us.

Verity lends a hand
Verity lends a hand

Hatton is never easy and the heat was wilting, but after we refreshed everyone with some ice poles we eventually made it down to the bottom and said farewell to Verity and her lovely crew.

Farewell Verity and thanks for all the fish
Farewell Verity and thanks for all the fish
Sarah was pooped after all those locks in the sun!
Sarah was pooped after all those locks in the sun!

After that we were done in so moored up in the next available spot. We’re still melting, but things are gradually cooling down from the earlier 36C the thermometer was registering.

Cream Crackered

We awoke to blue skies and knew it was going to be a scorcher of a day. We left Stratford and a family of swans and signets decided to hitch a lift up the next two locks which slowed us down a little. The Wilmcote fight was a doddle with five volunteer lock keepers due to the Stratford River Festival, they welcomed the Cornish farings on offer.

 parting shot at Stratford Basin
Parting shot at Stratford Basin
A perfectly named lock!
A perfectly named lock!
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The family of swans hitching a lift down to their nest two locks ahead

A quick stop for lunch and we found ourselves behind a hire boat which meant emptying and filling every lock, we struggled a little with low water levels in some of the pounds.

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Bottom of Wilmcote flight of locks
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Tight bridges on the Stratford, there used to be a gap through the middle for the ropes to pass through back in the horse drawn days
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Old lock keepers cottages
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Low water levels in the pound on the left of the shot

The highlight has to be the Antony Gormley statue overlooking the lock Lowsonford, I took quite a few pictures but attach a couple.

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The Gormley statue
The Gormley statue

25 locks done today but sadly no day of rest tomorrow as we reach the Grand Union Canal and back to double locks and the dreaded Hatton Flight!

The home of Shakespeare

We spent a quiet day in Stratford, doing a bit of shopping and then sitting in the front cratch gongoozling the comings and goings in the basin.

Stratford basin
Stratford basin
After a tip off from Mum, we couldn't resist tracking down the new development of flats called Oliver's lock
After a tip off from Mum, we couldn’t resist tracking down the new development of flats called Oliver’s lock

On our meanderings we also went past Shakespeare’s house – this is a rare photo without any tourists in front of it!

Shakespeare's house
Shakespeare’s house

After chilling out in the afternoon

Chilling out in Stratford Basin
Chilling out in Stratford Basin

we met up with Richard and Jane for dinner at Encore and said farewell as we’d be setting of early the next morning whilst they were staying another day.

Gongoozlers Delight

A rainy night and a drizzly morning led for a later than usual start, we enjoyed the rest and listened to the radio and the start of the Archers omnibus. The cooler weather was a welcome respite from the previous day’s heat and we made good progress on the River Avon.  It was only after we had passed Bidford Bridge that we saw the extent of the lorry crash the previous week.

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Casting off after a drizzly morning
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Damage to Bidford Bridge after the lorry crash

Peter was following our progress and saw that we were close to Binton Bridge that had a webcam, we had great fun trying to find it and waving at anything and everything that looked like it could be a webcam.

Views from the webcam at Binton Bridge
Views from the webcam at Binton Bridge

Oliver at Welford 2

We seemed to slowly move away from the countryside and past some beautiful houses and gardens on our approach to Stratford.  Sadly my karabinaeron a rope for Toby to pass the centre rope was left behind at Trinity Lock, all was not lost though as Richard on Casual Water kindly donated a proper karabiner – no pressure on leaving that behind then!

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Couldn’t resist the taking a picture of the little boat called Toby
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Helmsman and woman deserting their tillers

Leaving the River Avon and joining the Stratford Canal is no easy task as there is no landing station at the lock entrance.  We certainly weren’t prepared for the number of gongoozlers that steadily grew as we entered the lock, it wasn’t something that either Toby or I enjoyed and prefer the peace and quiet of the countryside.  Toby did a sterling job of reversing the boat on to the Pontoon and we enjoyed the evening view over Stratford.

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How many gongoozlers??!!
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Moored in Bancroft Basin for the night

Pershore to George Billington Lock via Evesham

Yesterday’s entertainment with the Pershore regatta continued this morning with more fun on the river, with the start line right next to our mooring.

Pershore Regatta
Pershore Regatta

We had a lazy morning (well I did anyway!) and later meandered up into town to see the old abbey and have a mosey around some of the shops. The jam doughnuts from the bakery on the high street were a definite highlight. We also liked the wood carving in the abbey grounds and the local toy shop!

Pershore Abbey
Pershore Abbey
Pershore Abbey sculpture
Pershore Abbey sculpture
Toby's lego buddy
Toby’s lego buddy

We then set off mid-morning on a delightful sunny day up the river towards the George Billington Lock.  The old rope-ferry across the river is still in operation, and kindly dropped the rope for us to pass over it.

Rope ferry across the Avon
Rope ferry across the Avon

The fishermen were out en-masse for a competition – we lost count but reckon there were well over a hundred of them lining one bank for ages.  I managed one single friendly wave from the whole dour bunch of them!

Fishermen studiously ignored us
Fishermen studiously ignored us

After passing through Evesham we returned to the delights of the countryside

Wier at the old mill
Wier at the old mill
Obligatory selfie - whilst going round a tight bend! Compare the weather and clothing to yesterday - a marked contrast.
Obligatory selfie – whilst going round a tight bend! Compare the weather and clothing to yesterday – a marked contrast.

before eventually tying up just after George Billington lock, where there’s a lovely grassy bank perfect for sitting out on and enjoying a cold glass of wine with friends.

Moored up at George Billington lock with Casual Water
Moored up at George Billington lock with Casual Water

On to the River Avon

A prompt 8am start and Diglis Basin Lock, it’s hard to imagine that during the floods of 2014, the water level was higher than the top of the lock wall.

Leaving the lock
Leaving the lock

The River Severn was incredibly quiet with only a few boats and wide expanse of water.  We saw lots of wildlife although I missed the two kingfishers due to tea and loo breaks.

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Who’s steering the boat?!
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Not much of a summer holiday!

We very nearly missed the entrance on to the River Avon, there is a webcam on top of the lock keepers cottage and Peter was on stand by to take some screen shots (thanks Peter)

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Getting ready to leave the lock, I wasn’t quite sure which way the camera was facing – can you tell!
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Just leaving the lock with the lock keeper in the white T-shirt. I’m heading below to keep lookout

The River Avon kept us entertained with bridges, S Bends and Locks.

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Passing under Eckington Bridge
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It said an S bend on the map but we didn’t think it would be that tight!
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Going through the locks with Casual Water

We decided to moor up after the lock at Pershore as there is a large mooring station with plenty of room.  Little did we expect the rowing regatta, luckily a kind couple let us moor against their boat.

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Double berthed at Pershore

 

On to the river Severn

We made an early start out from Stourport basin
We made an early start out from Stourport basin

We had to navigate a pair of staircase locks – the pound between them was pretty small and they were at an awkward angle making the turn really tricky. Luckily nobody was watching as I made a hash of it on the first attempt, but we soon sorted it out and were on our way on the Severn…

There is nothing--absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
There is nothing–absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

Before long we hit our first lock on the Severn. We were well impressed as the gates were open before we arrived – turns out the lock-keeper has a webcam so he could see us coming!

The locks on the Severn are  a bit bigger than the canal ones.
The locks on the Severn are a bit bigger than the canal ones.
The Severn locks have steel cables running vertically up the sides for tying up to
The Severn locks have steel cables running vertically up the sides for tying up to

As well as the steel cables, we also liked how calmly the locks filled compared to the Thames – you could literally hold the boat in with finger and thumb. All in all the locks were a dream.

We passed some lovely houses
We passed some lovely houses
and went under some more great Telford bridges
and went under some more great Telford bridges

before we knew it we were in Worcester

Worcester Cathedral
Worcester Cathedral
Worcester Cathedral's  West window
Worcester Cathedral’s West window

Sarah also couldn’t resist taking a shot of this old postbox

Victorian postbox
Victorian postbox

The Stourport Eight

We awoke to clear blue skies and warm sunshine, I was keen to get going, Toby however, just wanted to doze! We ended up leaving at the same time as Casual Water, they’re a bit faster than us so we let them go in front at the first lock.

Morning view from the side cratch
Morning view from the side hatch

 

Richard and Jane on Casual Water
Richard and Jane on Casual Water

We continued on our way through the various locks as the canal passed alongside various rock formations including one with a little cave entrance.  We went right through Kidderminster, it was quite a shock to see all of those people, cars and big out of town shopping warehouses after the calm of the countryside.

Steep rock formations on the side of the canal
Steep rock formations on the side of the canal
Kidderminster Cathedral - one of my best photos yet!
Kidderminster Cathedral – one of my best photos yet!

We arrived at Stourport just after 1pm and moored after one of the bridges, we walked down to the basins, the staircase locks and the River Severn entrance just so we knew what we were in for in the morning.  There were some better moorings lower down so we went down the next lock, did a DIY pump out (never again, it’s no cheaper and it honks!!) and moored in the basin.  A quick walk in to town for an icecream and then a BBQ on the marina with Richard and Jane.

Stourport eight…eight locks down today (it’s doing wonders for my bingo wings!!)