Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Birlingham Wharf Tuesday 28 July 2015

Last night we walked to Rilys Indian Restaurant for a meal with friends who we haven’t see in some time, it is just across the road from the moorings and its an establishment that I would happily recommend.
I was a bit bothered mooring in a town, near both a road and a piece of park land with seats, but we had a very peaceful night with no problem. The nosiest thing was the road sweeper about  7 am this morning.

Today was dry but a good deal cooler, setting off at 10 am I let the bows swing round with the current before heading off downstream once more. It seems that Evesham has a now road bridge that wasn’t here last time we visited, so that’s a gain butDSCF9697 they have lost the free pump out facilities down by the railway bridge, really handy for giving the tank a good clean out. The first lock we came to was against us, not surprising considering the number of boats that had left Evesham ahead of us.

As we made our way downstream with both jumpers and coats on there was very little of interest to post on, We did pass this Cormorant who was displaying his skill at standing on one leg on top of a rotten tree trunk for us.DSCF9702 We stopped for lunch at the moorings by Wyre Lock, the moorings are just down the weir stream and moored opposite was this boat with their own floating BBQ area complete with Astra Turf.DSCF9703Several boats went both down at up the lock while we were there and when we were ready to leave there was a cruiser just turning the lock to go down, so I asked if he was happy to share which he was. I suggested that I went in first, this is not the easiest of locks for a Narrowboat as it is diamond shaped and only the bow and stern touch the walls, which makes it a bit difficult to a hold it with a cruiser beside you and also to climb back aboard when its time to leave as the steps ate half way down the lock in the angle of the diamond. I let him go out first before I loosed any ropes and reboarded, but we still caught up with him at the next lock while he waited for two boats to come up. There were free moorings in Pershore had we wanted to moor there, but I wanted to get a bit closer to Tewkesbury for the night.
Above Tewkesbury lock there were a couple of groups of canoeists, the first were in Canadian  Canoes on the main riverDSCF9704 by the end of the town moorings, but the second lot where in the weir stream so I suspect they had been shooting their way down to below the lock.DSCF9705 One of the views that is always with you on this stretch of the river is Parsons Folly on the top of Brandon Hills. As you makeDSCF9709 your way down stream this tower appears at every angle from the boat, from dead ahead to dead a stern both by the port side and the starboard. It is actually due south of Comberton Quay.

At Nafford Lock there is a swing bridge across the lock and this has to be left in the closed position when the lock is not in use but opened to use the lock. One side of the lock is the weir and the other side the sluice, the sluice is on the line of the river soDSCF9712 you have to do a dogleg into the weir stream you enter the lock, here we met a family on a hire boat doing their first river trip and they were very apprehensive of the whole thing, maybe that’s good. We only did about another half mile mile before mooring for the night on the outside of a very tight bend known as “Swan Neck” or Birlingham Wharf. You can see why its called “Swan Neck” from this piece from “Waterway Routes” map.swan neck Once moored Diana went for a walk and took this photograph of Harnser moored on the bend, which I might add is very wide and an official mooring place, from the other side of the river. DSCN2051For a change its Harnser’s better side.

Today’s Journey map 10  17 Mile, 5 Locks  in 5 hours

Monday, 27 July 2015

Evesham Monday 27 July 2015

I think it rained most of the night, it was every time I looked out but miraculously it stopped dead on 10 am as we were about to set off and even the sun came out, so all the waterproofs were pealed of and we made our way down through Welford Lock (Cadbury), I had been to turn it in the rain ready. For some reason this lock has flowers on it, we have not seen this on any of the other locks.DSCF9680  Most of the locks on the upper Avon, above Evesham have overnight moorings above the lock at the end of the lock moorings and really in a lot of cases its the only place to moor. Some are 48 hr and some only 24 hr but they are very welcome.DSCN2042 After this we met a continuous stream of Narrowboats so all the rest of the locks were with us.
This is the first time we have been on the river since the upper and lower river trusts became one and one thing that is very noticeable is that the signage has improver.DSCF9681 Also the water level indicator boards are all very visible.DSCF9682

There was a notice at the lock warning of ongoing work at Bedford road bridge and to proceed slowly, when we got there the ongoing work was well clear of the navigation arch,DSCN2045 but even with the low water levels the flow still made the back of the boat twitch as we passed under the arch.DSCN2048 I think I may have had the coat on again now as we had some very fine drizzle and its easier to put it on sooner than later. Robert Aickman lock was looking very splendid, the new trust hasDSCF9685 stopped using the names like this given to the locks after restoration and only refer to them on their signs as Harvington New Lock etc. I suppose that it gives a better idea where the lock is situated. Some of the lines of approach to the locks on this river are shall we say, interesting.

Beside Offenham Lock ( George Billington) there is a somewhat interesting structure and I would really like to know what it looks like when its open, so if anyone can point me to a photo of it I would be grateful. DSCF9687

At Evesham Lock there was a boat approaching the lock from below so the lock was against us, I put the bows in against the top gates to let Diana off and the stern was immediately dragged down to the right. There is a small notice warning of a strong current and what I didn’t know was there is a hydroelectric generator in there to the right hand side of the lock and the flow is very strong. I managed to get the stern round a bit and reverse from the gates, once in line with the I backed up to the visitor moorings and waited there, It still took quite a bit of power to cross into the lock. The Trust assistant who was on duty checking licences told me that they had received a high water level alarm for Warwick from the EA this morning, but level here had not moved at all.
We have moored for the night against the gardens in Evesham where the town river festival is held each year.

Today’s Journey map 9 11¾ miles, 7 Locks in 4½ hours

Welford on Avon Sunday 26 July 2015

The first job this morning was to rig the anchor before considering going on the river.As we had the bow sticking out into the basin we needed to turn round, as we were doing this a boat left the moorings so I was able to run into his vacant spot with the bows against the pontoon. This made it possible to lay the anchor, chain and rope out on the ground whilst attaching it to the boat and storing the rope and chain in a bucket on the front deck.

At 1030 am we headed down the lock out of the basin on to the river. Did I mention it was raining again and would only stop when we moored up for the night. The day we chose to go up the river was the same day as Stratford decided to hold its raft race. I am not sure where they were starting from but we kept meeting them as we went up the river towards Warwick. We only went as far as the winding hole just over a mile and three quarters.

DSCF9666 DSCF9667

The reason for not going further was the weather and I didn’t want to be reversing down with a raft race going on around me. On our way back down stream towards the town we stopped to fill with water at the Old Bathing Place and all I can say was its disgusting.DSCF9670 This is not mud on the path leading up to the rubbish bins, water tap and Elsan disposal, its toilet paper and dried raw sewage that has overflowed down to the river and this is not dry grass cuttings but again sewage.DSCF9669

There has been a lot of development along the river banks with chalet parks and caravan sites since we were last this way, one place that stuck out was this hotel/restaurant which I think is called Riverside.DSCF9662

I have seen more Giant Hogweed today than I have ever seen in my life before, its all over the place on the river banks and on the islands.DSCF9675

While the raft race was on an organisation called Central Rescue UK who I guess were there as safety backup for the rafts but they seemed to be spending most of the time wising up and down one even had his blue light flashing. I wonder if they are exempt from the speed limit.DSCF9673

We stopped for a bit of lunch in Stratford moored to the park, as we were leaving a hire boat was about to set off so we shared a few locks with them. As we approached Colin P Witter lock the Avon Trust has a Narrowboat moored, not really setting the best example with the mooring line run to a nearby sign, even theyDSCF9676 recognised the danger in doing this and hung a flag on the line to try to prevent people tripping over it.

It continued to rain as we made our way downstream, we only had one lock with us and that was Gordon Gray lock. When we reached Stan Clover lock the lock was empty and all gates closed, what we didn’t notice at first was both bottom paddles were up, maybe the last boat going down thought the notices about leaving gates open when you leave referred to the paddles. Once sorted it was onwards to W A Cadbury lock were we decided to moor for the night, there was already a hire boat above the lock setting it to go down so the boat who was with us still had someone to share with. Needless to say within 10 minutes of mooring up the rain had stopped completely and an hour later the sun has come out.

Today’s journey map 8

10 Miles, 4 locks in 4½ hours

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Stratford upon Avon Saturday 25 July 2015

We woke to sunshine this morning and somehow managed to be on the move a bit earlier at ten past nine. I met a boat just through the first bridge who just stopped about 70ft the other side of the bridge directly in line with the bridge so it wasn’t easy getting round him and we just cleared the hire base as they started to play dodgems.DSCF9653 There was plenty of room to access the aqueduct but I still don’t understand the notice pointing to the aqueduct saying 48 hr moorings. I could see a day boat ahead but it was well gone by the time we crossed the aqueduct. We were to see it again at the Bearley Lock where there were two of them on the lock moorings enjoying a cup of tea. a boat came up the lock and they didn’t move so I went passed them into the lock giving them a friendly wave and hello. Its not often I am pleased to see boats moored at locks by today it was great. The decided to follow us down after I pointed out that the boat approaching from below had priority. Next on the agenda was Edstone Aqueduct with itsDSCF9657 low level towpath. Like the Pontcysyllte this is a cast iron trough aqueduct spanning both a river and two railway lines. The lines have to part to go each side of one of the supports.DSCF9656 We had a bit of rain for a time, enough to require the rain coats on again.

We caught up with a boat at Wilmcote top lock but we were to meet several boats in the flight so it didn’t make it too much of an inconvenience. Some of the lock beams have notices saying to lift fenders as the locks are narrow and looking at the worn brickwork in this one they are not wrong. DSCF9659You can see the groves worn by the base plates of modern Narrowboats. The view from the top of these locks is quite spectacular as you go straight down the hillside. DSCF9660

One of the interesting things about this canal is the bridges, they arte quite narrow as they don’t have towpaths, the horse went round the bridge not under it and the tow line passed through a gap in the cantilevered bridge deck. Most of them seem to be built on a slight bend so you have to be well to one side of the canal to line up on them.DSCF9658 The boat we were following stopped for water above Bishopton Lock so we were able to pass them, we thought this would give us a good run into Stratford but we caught up with another boat at Birmingham Road Lock, he had just left the moorings at the boat yard just above the lock so that meant the last 4 were also against us, we did have help from a CRT man at Maidenhead Road Lock as he was there refilling the pounds which was very helpful. We arrived at Stratford Basin at 1430hrs and it was full, there was just one space down the far end by the CTR/River Avon information boat, its bit of an awkward spot to get into right at the end of the lock mooring pontoon which is probably why it was empty, but we slid in backwards with no problem and what’s more it a short walk to go and buy our river licence ready for tomorrow.

This evening my son and Grandsons came over for dinner and we walked up to Jimmy Spice’s for an all you can eat international buffet.http://jimmyspices.co.uk/ which was good value for money with the kids being half price.

Today’s Journey map 7 7 Miles, 17 Locks, 2 aqueducts in 5½ hours

Friday, 24 July 2015

Wootton Wawen Friday 24 July 2015

Overnight the wind dropped and with it the sound of the motorway, a Kate hire boat came up late in the evening, it turned out they had left the river at 8 am that morning. We also had a boat drop in behind us and they set off at 8 am this morning, I am not sure if it was raining then or not as I hadn’t looked but it was before 9 am.

We set off at 10 am with full waterproofs, I started the engine and went out to set the lock only to see a young lady there waiting for a boat to come up which was very useful and we had a good but wet run all the way to Lowsonford where they and the other boats we met had overnighted (new word).

By the few spaces in Lowsonford it must have been quite full, we were then met by the Gormley statue by the lock.(it the one on the right)DSCN2039 I am surprised that CRT didn’t insist on a lifejacket and Hi Vis Jacket being painted on as it is so close to the lock. I must say it looks a very well made piece of work and a novel idea but I still think its in the wrong place and could well distract boaters who should be concentrating on on the boat in the lock.

Below Lowsonford all the locks were against us and we decided to pull over for lunch below Bucket Lock, this lock is directly on the end of Yarningale Aqueduct with its cast iron trough. While we sat eating lunch and hoping the rain may stop another hire boat came passed and then a little later one came up. It was a long lunch break and about 5 pm the rain stopped so we set off again. Lock 35 was still with us and we met a hire boat coming up just after 36 so that helped us on our way. It wasn’t long before the rain started again but I wanted to be at Wootton Wawen tonight so that we are ahead of the hire boats tomorrow. One of the looks is in urgent need of a good bricklayer as it has a couple of courses missing at the lower water level. DSCF9648 I like the mirrored glass in the windows at the house by Preston Bagot lock and couldn’t resist taking this very poor photograph of myself in the window.DSCF9650 A house a little further along has even got a sheep on their balcony but it didn’t appear very lively, maybe it was due to the poor weather.DSCF9652 We carried on in the rain to Wootton Wawen and as I poked my nose through bridge 53 I could see that the visitor moorings looked pretty full and were all under trees, I hate the sound of rain dripping on the roof from trees, it just goes on and on, I am OK with rain, but drips are something else so we reversed back almost to bridge 53 and moored there for the night.

Today’s Journey map 65¾ Miles, 15 Locks in 4½ hours but we started at 1000 hrs and finished at 1830 hrs.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Kingswood Junction Thursday 23 July 2015

Well its not actually Kingswood Junction its 2 locks below.

We set off at our normal 10 am in the sunshine meeting a steady stream of boats all morning. The development at Dickens Heath is much larger than last time we were this way and this morning the water feature was running, it was off last night. There is someDSCF9629 very interesting architecture in the complex but the build quality, well I have seen better, lots of slates missing or slipped on the roofs. DSCF9631

It wasn’t long before the M42 was with us soon to be followed by a much smaller bridge indicating this was once the boundary of two Water Authorities, it may still be the case. DSCF9637 There is a similar notice on the bridge at Swallow Cruisers number 27. These notices are on several bridges in this area.

I got off to do the two lift bridges at Hockley Heath as I remember they were quite difficult last time we were this way but it seems they have been rebalanced and work much better. Next was lock Number 2, Number one is the “stop Lock” at theDSCF9621 beginning of the canal that we passed through yesterday. This was against us. Just as we were about to leave I spotted a boat approaching No. 3 so we left the gates open for them. They in turn radioed there friends who were following to say a boat was coming down so the gates on 4 and 5 were also open and ready. at 5 a boat came below as we worked down so again no need to close up. I am liking this.
A slow run down to 6 while we had a sandwich for lunch. Approaching 6 we can see a boat coming up so that will be ready for us, not only that there are 4 volunteer lock keepers assisting them.DSCF9641

As we arrived they all walked back down the flight, I guess it was their lunch time, so no problem there, but they might just have opened the top gate on 7 as they all walked passed it for us. After this the locks were very hit and miss with most of the locks having leaked off a bit, but there was plenty of water running down the flight.DSCF9642 The next boat we encountered was just setting lock 14 so we were able to leave the next 3 open, below here the locks were against us until we met one leaving lock 19

At Kingswood Junction we went straight ahead down the South Stratford Canal. As we were leaving the first lock, No.22 a chap with a windlass wandered down, he looked a bit familiar, It couldn’t be a volunteer locky as he didn’t have a life jacket on, it turned out to be the Waterways Chaplin for the area, We had a chat and he helped us down a couple of locks, last time we met him was last July when we were on our way to the AWCC rally at the  Black Buoys Cruising Club. As we locked through lock No. 23 we realised there was a boat directly in front of us and as the next decent mooring in our view was some 8 locks away we didn’t feel like following them so pulled over for the night. Since we have been her two more boats have gone down,but no one has come up yet, lets hope they do in the morning.

Today’s Journey map 5 7 Miles, 2 lift bridges, 22 locks, 1 Junction in 5½ hours

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Dickens Heath Wednesday 22 July 2015

Interesting meal last night, we had a takeaway from the Indian Street Food cafe Shobhas  http://www.shobhasonline.com/ We didn’t know exactly what to order or how big the dishes would be so we ordered 3 hot and one cold, its all vegetarian and the 3 hot’s were just right for last night, leaving the cold one for lunch today.

We set off at 10 am, no sign of the pedalo man. I decided that we would reverse to the junction and then go up Aston locks asDSCF9603 its a shorter route and we timed it just right. As we made our way up towards the bottom lock we passed a boat watering up at Cuckoo Wharf who looked as if he had just come down and all the locks were with us. We had just left a very sorry bottom lock,DSCF9609 as you can see the top beam is snapped right through,  when we saw a boat following us up, so half a hour latter they would all have been against us.

About half way up the flight it started to drain, not just drizzle but rain and it only stopped when we reached the top of Farmers Bridge Locks. Just before the rain started there is a fine view of Birmingham up the locks.DSCF9614 As we approached the bottom lock of the Farmers Bridge Flight we met Sandra on “Golden Boyz” coming down so we knew we had a good run, what she didn’t tell me was that the Homebrew boat was a short way behind her and when I run up to the first lock they were about to come out so I had to back up and picked up a right load of rubbish round the prop. They were heading off to an event at Digbeth this weekend. A CRT Volunteer had assisted the Home Brew boat down the flight and as he walked back up he opened half of the bottom gates for us which was a great help. Somewhere around lock 7 we met a hire boat coming down and we had a bit of trouble getting round each other, This was after they had walked down the pound to enquire if we were coming up. Behind them was another boat and behind that two small boats sharing the locks that moor at Napton where we use to moor. After this a strange thing happened, A volunteer lock keeper looked down below the next lock, saw us coming and proceeded to turn it. Diana shot up while I finished locking out of the one we were in. He had got so use to boats coming down, 6 this morning that we had seen he was turning the lock for us, but we were going up. Lots of flying around, paddles down, paddles up and the gate opened just as I arrived. he then assisted us all the way to the top.

Once at the top I pulled over and while Diana topped us up with water and I tackled the weed hatch. Today’s catch was a new one for me, old clothing including elastic mixed up with a couple of beer cans, these were fully shredded and tangled in all the cloth making it very difficult to get hold or as it was very sharp. Once both jobs were complete it was off through Birmingham via Gas Street and down the Worcester and Birmingham. The NIA now has a top window that is also a video screen. I shot a few seconds video but its not very good.

As we passed the Birmingham University moorings their Hydrogen powered boat is still there as well as someone making “Pod” boatsDSCF9619 DSCF9618 Our plan was to stop at Bournville visitor mooring for the night and when we arrived they were empty although there were boats moored adjacent to them so I suspect that CRT are enforcing the stopping time. By now the sun was out, the locks were finished with and we decided we would look for a mooring that wasn’t beside a busy rail line. At King’s Norton Junction it was sharp left and through the now unused stop lock. DSCF9620Its carrying a bit of graffiti but still looks in reasonable condition following a total overhaul a few years back.

Brandwood tunnel was next on the list with its confusing signage,ban one says no unpowered craft and the other says make sure its clearimage

We arrived at Shirley Draw Bridge at about 5-30 with a good flow of traffic crossing the canal from both directions. In the end Diana gave up waiting for a lull and pressed the button which changed the traffic lights, lowered the barrier and raised the bridge for me to pass under. After she had lowered it again I had to wait several minutes before she could cross the road to join me. We continued for another half hour to moor at Dickens Heath for the night.

Today’s Journeymap 4 15 miles, 4 Junctions, lots of canal, 24 locks in 8 hrs