Flore Wharf & Home

On Saturday August 27th we left Braunston and made our way through Braunston Tunnel to Norton Junction where we took on water. It was busy, being a Bank Holiday weekend, but we negotiated the tunnel without incident. There were several boats at Long Buckby Top Lock, some taking on water. One hire boat caught our eye. They appeared to have no control of the boat and the adults in the party also had no control of their children. They were running up and down the roof and hanging off the sides. A nearby boater shouted "get those children off the roof" but this had no effect. When they entered the lock one of the adults considered it helpful to stand on the roof with a boat hook in his hands. Heaven only knows what good that did. Most of those assembled around the water point expressed sympathy for anyone who shared a lock with them.

Our journey down the locks was, however, straightforward and a pleasure. We were accompanied by NB Plato which is actually written in Greek - Πλάτων. I gather being written in Greek can cause consternation on the Thames where they expect Latin script names. Plato was being operated single-handed. Nevertheless, the three of us made good progress down the Buckby Flight and we had lunch at Whilton. With good weather by early evening we made it to a favourite mooring of ours just below Flore Wharf. The rain then came down in torrents! A typical August bank holiday.


A curious and hungry duck in the rain at Flore Wharf


August Bank Holiday weather

On Sunday we had a straightforward journey south to Blisworth but in the tunnel we met over eight boats going north. One boat caused us consternation since some of its crew were on the roof inside the tunnel! A very foolish idea ignoring the warning signs placed by the tunnel portal. We had a good Sunday lunch in The Boat and watched the Belgian Grand Prix on their big screen television. We then went down the Stoke flight singly and finally got to Kingfisher Marina in the late afternoon.

According to Canal Planner AC, the total distance of our trip was 271 miles with 269 locks. There were at least 46 moveable bridges, 15 small aqueducts or underbridges; 13 tunnels and 1 major aqueduct.

We covered around 43 miles of narrow canals; 107 miles of broad canals; 31 miles, of commercial waterways; 42 miles of small rivers; 46 miles of large rivers; 105 narrow locks; 158 broad locks and 6 large locks.

A great trip! Very memorable.



Weed Hatch Adventure

This post concerns what happened to narrow boats Penny from Heaven and Albert going up Bascote Flight on Friday August 26th. Both boats reached the bottom lock of the flight, not the staircase. The pound was shallow and we waited for the lock to empty in mid channel. The water was very murky and full of sediment.

As both boats moved to enter the lock the engine on NB Penny, a Gardner 2LW, just stopped - obvious signs of rubbish around the prop. Jim opened up the weed hatch and could find nothing around the propellor and the propellor shaft solid. It was not easy to sort out the problem there and then so NB Penny breasted-up against Albert and we took both boats through the lock and up the flight. We then moored up by the top lock where there was more water in the pound.

It was not easy to see what had happened but by poking the area around the propellor with a pole we eventually found that there was something solid below the prop covering most of the area of the weedhatch. It was clear that Penny had picked up a large flat object of some sort that was lodged between the skeg and the prop.

Jim set about trying to dislodge it. Eventually, after hitting the object with an iron bar, in the direction it probably came in, it moved. Jim then moved what he then discovered was a large plank and the end gradually appeared through the weedhatch. It came out wih some difficulty, but finally the whole plank came out. It was a 4' 9'' long by 1' wide 1 1/2'' thick plank and had obviously been in the water for some considerable time.


Jim discovering that he has just released a plank from below the prop



Jim holding the plank he has just removed through the weedhatch!



Marks on the plank made by a propellor

You have to imagine that the plank was caught in straight across the boat blanking off the whole of the bottom of the area of the weed hatch! It would have projected out from the boat profile.

Long Itchington and Braunston

On Thursday, August 25th we left Warwick and travelled towards Braunston along the Grand Union with NB Penny. It was good boating weather, bright but not hot, and we made good progress until we got to Bascote Locks. The adventure we had there will be the subject of another blog. However, we managed to moor up by the Two Boats Inn which we visited for drinks. It was resonably full but by the time we left, only 10.30, it was empty. The landlord was a bit pessimistic about the pub trade.

The next day was quite rainy. We got up early and made the Stockton Flight relatively quickly. The rain came on heavily as we approached Calcutt Locks. At the top of Calcutt NB Penny took on water. We pressed on to Braunston and found that it was jammed packed with boats. We suspected the rain had forced many boaters to stay put for the day. It was also Bank Holiday Weekend and Braunston was having a village celebration. This accounted for the range of trading boats, including The Cheese Boat, that were moored up.

We finally decided that we were not going to find a mooring in the centre of Braunston and so moved up two locks to moor up by the Admiral Nelson Inn. We had arranged to meet up with Jim & Mary from NB Penny at Poppie's Cafe in the village. We had delicious tea and cakes. NB Penny did find a mooring. Jim & Mary had not found any available and had turned around by the Stop House and were making their way out of the village when a mooring right opposite The Boathouse pub became vacant. What luck!

We met that night with Jim & Mary for a farewell meal. They were going on the North Oxford towards Hawksbury Junction and the Ashby Canal and we were going East towards Norton Junction and home. We will miss travelling with them.

Robin in a tree

Whilst passsing through Preston Bagot lock I noticed that there was a Reliant Robin placed in a tree. I gather that others have noticed this.


Reliant Robin in a tree - Preston Bagot

The big question is why? An art installation? Answers on a postcard to...

Warwick (Again)


Wednesday (August 24th) saw us going down Hatton with Mary and Jim on NB Penny. It was bright and sunny and although many locks were set against us and we were not in a hurry it took a creditable three and half hours. We moored up at Saltisford Arm.


Hatton Flight

In the evening we all visited the Aqua Lebanese restaurant in Warwick. The food was excellent and the service friendly.

Rowington

On Tuesday (August 23rd) we left Wilmcote under cloudy skies. Rain had been forecast and it duly arrived about half an hour after we left. However, it was short lived and we were soon cruising under clear blue skies. The rest of the day was, in fact, delightful both in terms of weather and cruising.


Getting through a narrow Strafford Canal Bridge

The section of canal between Wilmcote and Kingswood is charming. The first notable feature we reached was the Edstone Aqueduct. Taking our cue from Mary on NB Penny, Maggie went down onto the lane below the aqueduct and photographed Albert crossing above. It is not often you find a suitable location for doing this.




Crossing the Edstone Aqueduct


Wootton Wawen Aqueduct


Preston Bagot

We passed numerous barrel-roofed cottages and crossed the very short cast iron aqueduct at Yarningale. It has everything the Pontcyslltte has – only in miniature!


Yarningale Aqueduct

There were a group of friendly geese occupying the side of Lock 27.






For the last few locks were accompanied by a very friendly family who were investigating the local towpaths. The three young boys helped with all the gates and asked a lot of questions. As we were leading our pair of boats we arrived at Kingswood first, we took on water and waited for NB Penny to arrive. The weather being just perfect we had a welcome cup of tea.


Kingswood Link

We turned down the Grand Union and moored up on the Rowington Embankment. The views over the rolling countryside in the evening sunshine were delightful. As we settled down for the night we heard and saw a barn owl.

Wilmcote

We decided not to leave Stratford until the afternoon of Monday (August 22nd). This gave some time for shopping. The weather was again bright and sunny. It was quiet along the river until about 10 o’clock when the visitors started to arrive.


At the water point at Stratford-upon-Avon

By the time we left (1 o’clock) it was heaving. Our passage through the Barge Lock into the basin was watched by a large crowd – locking in goldfish bowl.

In contrast, after we passed under the very low bridge that marks the start of the canal, all the crowds had disappeared. The entrance to Lock 55 was very tricky. We got under the very low bridge and then discovered a boat coming down the lock. We backed up and waited. After the boat passed us, we went again under the bridge but this time we went solidly aground. It took quite an effort to get us off. We were helped by group of people including Geoff Caine who runs canalscene.com. (Have a look at his site.) We finely made into the lock after two attempts.

The passage up the first few locks was also tricky. At one lock the bottom gate refused to stay closed and managed to stay open even when the top gate paddles were opened. We left a message about our problems on the gate for Jim and Mary who were following. They thought it was amusing. When they passed through they managed to get three passers-by to hold the gate.



Signs of National Trust Ownership a lock-side sign near Wilmcote

The bright sun stayed. As we reached to top of Wilmcote Locks we looked for a mooring and managed to squeeze into two places at the visitor moorings by Bridge 59. There was quite a happy crowd there. Bridge 59 is course famous in the restoration of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. It was that bridge that caused the local authority to seek permission to abandon the canal for navigation back in 1958. The famous struggle to ensure that it survived then began. Tomorrow rain is forecast and we hope to get to Kingswood (or there about).

Stratford upon Avon

On the Sunday (August 21st) we left Evesham, again with NB Penny in bright sunshine. The rowing club were quite active with lots of scullers. We had a glorious day’s boating but it was quite late when we finally got to Stratford.

Around George Billington Lock I saw two kingfishers. One was chasing the other which had the fish.


Robert Aickman Lock, Harvington

We stopped for lunch on the visitor moorings at Bidford-on-Avon. It was busy with families parked up by the river enjoying the weather and picnics.


Bidford-on-Avon


Negotiating the bridge at Bidford


NB Penny from Heaven on the River Avon

After lunch the weather continued bright and sunny and we enjoyed some of the particularly fine views along the river near Welford.
Stratford was busy and the Bancroft Basin moorings were fully occupied. We did, however, find some excellent moorings just below the chain ferry.

Evesham

It was sunny and bright when we left Eckington Bridge with NB Penny for Evesham on Saturday morning (August 20th). However it soon clouded over and then it rained as we went through Pershore. It was also quite busy on the river, being a Saturday.

We passed Wyre Piddle and noted that a new bar has opened using a play on words on the name of the village.


Bar at Wyre Piddle


The Anchor Inn at Wyre Piddle


Cropthorne Mill – Fladbury Lock

All along this section of the Avon there are many reminders of the floods in 1998 and 2007 with markers showing flood heights, some in extraordinary locations.


Flood Markers at Fladbury Lock


Leaving Fladbury Lock

We moored up for the night at Evesham just above the Workman Bridge and went for a meal at Rily’s Indian restaurant which is just by the bridge. It has been there for 21 years and appears to be flourishing. We had visited the same restaurant just after the 1998 floods and found that they had been recently refurbished. At that time, despite the floods, the proprietor was quite upbeat because the insurance company had paid for the redecoration. At the time he actually said that he wouldn’t mind a flood in about a decade so he could keep his restaurant up to date. He of course got his wish in 2007. The food at Rily’s is quite varied and our meals were delicious. We can recommend it.

Eckington Bridge

Early on Friday morning (August 19th) we left Gloucester Docks, locking down with two other narrow boats and a cruiser. It was misty and very still following the heavy rain of Thursday.


Misty morning in Gloucester Docks


Three narrowboats and a cruiser entered the lock. However, one of the narrowboats locking down stayed in the lock and went up to the docks again because their dog was on the dockside and was unable to get on board outside the lock. The cruiser shot off into the distance, so this left ourselves and NB Penny from Heaven to travel up to Tewkesbury as a pair. The weather was clear a bright and the journey uneventful and pleasant.


Negotiating the bend where the River Chelt and Coombe Hill Canal join the Severn


Haw Bridge Inn


We arrived at the Avon Lock at 1 o'clock just as the keeper went for lunch. Over the hour a clutch of cruisers and a third narrow boat had arrived. NB Sammy Jo had come from Gloucester Docks but their journey had also included a trip down to other River Avon from Bristol Docks, an overnight mooring at Portishead to wait for the tide, and a trip up the tidal River Severn to Sharpness. They had accompanied another boat and shared the services of a pilot; very intrepid!

After paying our temporary LANT navigation fees (£50 for seven days)to the lockeeper, we locked up into the River Avon with NB Penny from Heaven. They suggested going up river sharing locks and we readily agreed. The wind was quite strong as we left Tewksbury and a narrow boat attempting to get into the narrow entrance of Tewksbury Marina was having great problems - they were being blown crab-wise upstream away from the entrance. Last seen they were fending themselves off moored boats.


On the Avon, passing under the M5 near Tewksbury

The river was delightful. In the afternoon sun I spotted another kingfisher on the reach below Strensham Lock. We moored up at Eckington Bridge along with Penny from Heaven. According to the crew of Cecilia, who had been there sometime, we were lucky to get the moooring because until just before were arrived the moorings had been packed with cruisers.


Eckington Bridge Mooorings


Eckington Bridge under repair

In the evening we went aboard NB Penny for drinks and a sociable evening with Jim & Mary.

Gloucester Docks (Again)

By Wednesday morning (August 17th) the wind had dropped and it was a very pleasant trip back to Gloucester Docks. Around Quedgeley I saw a kingfisher flying down the reach in front of us.


Tall Ship Phoenix moored up at Monks Meadow, Gloucester

After a stop at the Sainsbury’s superstore near Llanthony Bridge, and taking on water near the Victoria Warehouse, we moored up on the floating pontoons in the main basin.


Taking on water outside the National Waterways Museum

We stayed put on Thursday (18th) as the weather was predicted to be wet. The forecast turned out to be correct – it was not the day to go up the Severn. We investigated the Antique Centre and discovered Gloucester Quays shopping outlet. Dinner at the Pan-Asian restaurant on the docks, the Vinery, was great – a good value buffet.

Saul Junction

On Tuesday August 16th we left our mooring near Slimbridge and travelled to the end of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. It was windy and with the wide open areas around the canal it felt a little like sailing.


Ferro-concrete barge near Purton

We moored up the junction with Sharpness Docks and investigated the “end of the line”. The views across the estuary are very fine and the remains of the old Severn Railway Bridge mark a reminder of bygone days.


Remains of the Swing Bridge section of the Severn Railway Bridge


Model of Severn Railway Swing Bridge section




End of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal


The remains of Mary, Severn Trow

As we had a cup of coffee, the workboat/dredger Sabrina came down the river, through the docks and up the canal towards Gloucester. The exit from the docks requires two bridges to be swung. The high level bridge was swung manually using a capstan.


Swinging the bridge at Sharpness Docks


MV Sabrina (Latin name for the River Severn)

We walked over the areas where TS Vindicatrix(the training ship and camp) was located. The “end of the world” feeling was broken only by the sound of trucks loading a ship in the docks. As the tide went out we saw the remains of the old railway bridge piers in the river mud.


Sharpness Docks

The Docker’s Club overlooking the docks was recommended, and looked interesting, but we decided not to sample it. After lunch on board we left Sharpness and travelled back via Purton to Saul where we moored up overnight. The location, just after the junction, with views of the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds, was idyllic.
We investigated Saul Junction, including the new marina and the Canal Heritage Centre. It is certainly a boating “honey spot” like Braunston and Fradley.


Saul Junction




Stroudwater Canal - Saul Junction

We watched a superb sunset over the Forest of Dean. It looked like a case of red sky at night – shepherd’s delight.


Sunset over the Forest of Dean