The Avon Ring Travelogue – Part 3 back to Droitwich Spa Marina

6th August – Today we waved good bye to the crew of the Harry Hudson, I held centre line and they slipped away to go into the last lock and onto the Seven to continue their journey. We will miss our brief time as lock buddies, they have a way to go back to Kate’s boats in Warwick.

Coffee was the start of the day for me with a quick trip to Costa while Sonia cooked breakfast, bacon and sausages in the long roll. Then a trip to the poo bin with the dog, and we are off to explore.

Mary initially stayed on the boat, but when I called and explained we had found a few book shops and cafe called “Cafe au Chocolat” she was soon with us.

This afternoon we are being visited by Jason and Alfie. They went with Sonia to the park while I cleaned up the boat, we had a little water collecting in the bilges.

We finished the day with a takeaway from The Great Wall Chinese, far more that we could eat.

7th August – We were going to send another day in Tewkesbury, but looking at the weather forecast, it was not looking very dry for the next few days, so we decided it was time to head to Worcester, as there was more to do there in the rain.

Tewksbury Lock with Arthur Owl
Tewksbury Lock with Arthur Owl

We backed out of the mooring and waited for a boat to exit the lock, then at 9:30 am we joined another Droitwich Spa Marina based boat Arthur Owl in the lock. It is a very smart looking hire boat from Cafwin Cruises. This was the only time we had our Avon River Licence checked, so glad we had printed it out.

After the lock we took the link to the Seven where we turn right towards Worcester. I had planned on this being a one or two day trip to Worcester, but we did not see any public moorings and we made excellent progress up the river. We soon lost Arthur Owl into the distance, our engine has many hours on the clock, so I did not want to put it under too much pressure and the river was not flowing fast.

The Seven is a wide river and a few hours later we were passing Upton upon Seven, which looked very smart, at the time they may have had some public moorings, but if they where, they already had a collection of narrow boats there so we motored on.

Diglis Bridge
Diglis Bridge

At about one thirty we could see the Diglis bridge coming into view and just past this was the River Seven Lock 5 Diglis, we held station a few hundred yards before the lock and then the green light appeared on the right hand lock and the gates opened.

Diglis Lock on Seven
Diglis Lock on Seven

This lock is massive, the lock keeper advised that we should be OK just using the stern rope, and the gates closed and we very gently rose about 8-10 feet before the north bound gates opened and we slipped gently out of the lock, a much nicer experience that any of the Avon locks.

About ½ a mile upstream is the entrance to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, these two locks lift you up to the Diglis Inner Basin where we moored up to the water point, we had run out of water during the trip up the Seven, so that fill took a while.

A quick hop passed the Mill Street bridge where we took the last set of rings to moor up for the night.

8th August – Not an early start, so we walked into town and had breakfast at “House of Coffee”, I had the Mr Worcester which is their take on a full English and that set me up for the day, then back to the boat.

We planned on doing two locks, locks 3 and 4 and then a quick trip into ASDA for supplies, before setting off again, very quiet on the canal today. We only saw a few other boats and then mostly at just one lock, after that we got into our stride and we seemed to be at lock 16 very quickly before passing under the M5 motorway.

In the past we would have tried to moor near bridge 25 so we could frequent The Bridge Public House, but this time we continued to just before bridge 30 so we could breakfast at the Fir Tree Cafe and Farm Shop.

9th August – After walking the dog, we headed to the Fir Tree Cafe, which is just a hundred yards to the left in Trench Lane. This all looks very well kept, the Farm Shop is a little small, don’t expect to much, but the breakfast was excellent, all good quality fare, the only disappointment if any is the Cappuccino which tasted a little like filter coffee with a little froth on top. Still highly recommended and good value, we even took some extra cakes for later.

Fir Tree Cafe and Farm Shop
Fir Tree Cafe and Farm Shop

Just a couple of hours and not a boat insight till we reach the turning for the Droitwich when another boat appeared, very kindly they waited before the bridge, as the gap was very narrow with boats moored on either bank.

A multi point turn and then under the bridge that I seem incapable of getting through without tapping the side we arrive at the last three lock before the marina. The excellent volunteer lockies make this complicated set of locks with side pounds very simple and 20 minutes later we are turning into the marina to pump out and refuel. Diesel for the trip cost us about £100.

Getting into our mooring is always interesting, we have never made it look simple, the wind always makes me give it at least 2 attempts, but we are now tied up and secure, we have completed the Avon Ring.

We have travelled over 109 miles and been through 130 locks.

I am glad we have completed this our first ring, the only thing I did not enjoy was the locks on the Avon, the rest is a great way to unwind. While this could be done in a two week trip, we had up to 3 weeks to complete the trip and if it had not been for the rain we would probably taken all three weeks and stayed longer in Stratford, Tewkesbury and Worcester to soak up the history.

The Avon Ring Travelogue – Part 2 to Tewkesbury

1st August – We are staying in Stratford for a few days, and today (Sunday) they are setting up a market by the basin, lots of hot food and market stalls, all very upmarket Sunday in Stratford fair.

Today we meet up with Sonia’s Youngest boy and his family, and then had an early dinner with them in “The Encore”, most of us select the trio roast, which was excellent.

Being just outside the Red Lion, I did expected it to be a bit noisy, instead it was quiet but still busy, most of the noise we could hear was traffic going over the bridge just ahead of us.

2nd August – Much quieter in Stratford today, the market and crowds have gone. A McDonalds breakfast was the start of the day. Just after 9am I started the engine for a bit of a battery charge and to get some hot water. Then it was mopping the areas of hard floors and the rear deck while Sonia and Mary walked up the canal to the Maybird Shopping area for some more clothes for Mary,

With the engine on I also switched on the inverter and charged the laptop so I could type this entry and go online and purchase our licence from the Avon Navigation Trust. We do not know how long this trip was going to take us so I selected the 7-day licence for £50.00, this arrived a little while later by email. I also ordered a PDF version of their map, which was on special offer of FREE.

Sonia did a second trip out to M&S for supplies, and when she got back we walked the dog around to Stratford Footbridge Marina that is behind the Clopton Bridge to see about a pump out. They are very helpful and explained how to get the boat around. That will be our first port of call tomorrow.

3rd August – We are off on to the Avon, via the lock in the basin, we then turn left to go upstream and through two bridges while trying to miss the flock of little rowing and outboard powered hire boats. After the second bridge we turn and enter the marina, that is just behind the second bridge, if feels like a tight fit, but I am sure that wide-beams can do it so in we go.

Leaving Stratford
Leaving Stratford

The pump-out costs £14, with everything carefully explained including the best way to turn the boat about. After a multi-multi point turn, we exited the marina and we were off down the Avon past the wire ferry.

At Stafford Trinity lock we had to wait while some rowing lesson completed their turn and get instruction, before we could fill and enter the lock, compared to the Stratford Canal, theses lock are massive.

Travelling down the Avon, we were joined and assisted by a wide beam, who gave us some useful local knowledge, and in one of the locks there was room enough for both of us. We were later joined by the “Harry Hudson” from Kate’s boats and we shared locks.  We both wished to stop at Bidford, but all the public spaces were full so we had to continue on, finally stopping for the night just after Havington New Lock at about 5pm, it was a long day but M&S Pies and roasted veg soon put us ready for bed.

4th August – Not an early start, but we where ready to go at 9ish, and we followed our friends from the “Harry Hudson” down the river.  We planned just two locks for us today Offenham lock was simple and we then cruised down to Evesham to find Evesham Lock, with the lock landing being at the top of the weir, with some help from our friends we got moored up, the lock is at about 90 degrees to the landing and the river also flows past the lock entrance. I did make a bit of a pigs ear getting into the lock, it was all looking good, but them the stern was pulled around by the current and all attempts to look cool and professional were lost.

Lock Buddies with Harry Hudson
Lock Buddies with Harry Hudson

In the lock we also found that a 70’ boat like “Harry Hudson” is the max that it could accommodate and we had to exit the lock first so they could fit diagonally and open the second lock gate. At this lock we had help from another boater, which meant we could get back on the boat while in the lock as both lock landing where in use at the time.

On again under the Evesham bridge and we moored up alongside Workman Gardens which has rings, this would be our home for the night, but we walked into Evesham for coffee and a little extra supplies at Waitrose.

Evesham, looks a little tried after the thriving Stratford-Upon -Avon, but it may just be the street we entered the town on, we did walk through the Riverside Mall, which was mostly empty shops. I do hope it recovers, the local architecture and parks look lovely.

5th August – Off to Costa for a coffee before setting off for 8am via the water point. The locks on the river are defiantly not designed for narrow boats, the entry angles are often between 45 and 90 degrees to the river, lock landing are a random assortment of sizes, positions and heights, some are even too short the get our boat on before having to turn away to join the river. I got better at touching either the bow or the stern on the lock landing long enough to allow the crew and dog to leap aboard.

One of the locks interior was a diamond shape, with the gate hinges perfectly position at the bow and stern exits.

What we had calculated as a 7 ½ hour trip turned into an epic 9 hours with bright sun, converting to driving rain and all stops in between. When we finally arrived in Tewkesbury it was raining and we could not see a space on the mooring, luckily we found our by now old friends on Harry Hudson had arrived earlier, we had separated at Evesham the day before and they had continued to Pershore while we remained in Evesham.

They already had a mooring, and told us about the very jolly lock keeper who organised the public moorings, they said they would be happy if there was not more spaces for us to tie along side. A quick chat to the lock keeper, who was indeed jolly and very helpful, we ended up along side Harry Hudson.

Moored at Visitor Mooring Tewkesbury
Moored at Visitor Mooring Tewkesbury

Cold and wet we quickly retired inside to dry, before all idea of cooking diner were abandoned and fish and chips became the order of the day. Tomorrow we will swap positions on the mooring as we intend to stay a few days here to have a look around.

We have now travelled over 84 miles and been through 115 locks.

The Avon Ring Travelogue – Part 1 to Stratford-upon-Avon

26th July – A Late start today, a few jobs needed doing before we left Droitwich Spa Marina, first of which was a coffee and cake at Muffin Break, then some shopping in Waitrose.

Everything packed away in the cupboards and fridge, and we are off for a pump out and refuel. Oddly, after all this time, this is the first pump out we have done by ourselves, all be it with a little bit of helpful instruction, we are now truly boat owners.

It is now 2pm and we are heading to the last three locks on the Droitwich Canal and up onto the Birmingham and Worcester. Our plan was to get to Stoke Prior and try the Boat and Railway Inn, as this had been recommended by fellow Droitwich Spa Marina moorers Gillian and Steve (Hope I have the names right).

The beer and food was good with a table available by the canal.

27th July – Today was a much earlier start at 7:30am as we wanted to complete the Tardebigge Lock flight. It is a tough set of locks but we have completed it a few times before so we know what to expect, but before we got to there we had the six Stoke locks to complete.

Most of the locks went without much problem until we reach lock 52 where a canal boat had become grounded at the edge of the pound. Lucky for us there was enough water for us to get into the empty lock and then once we had exited the lock we released the water into the pound and they made their escape.

For the last five locks our daughter Mary decided she would have a go at locks, and she was a bit of a natural, hardly a bump on the way in. My reign as lock supremo my be fading fast.

After that she stayed in the helm for the Tardebigge Tunnel and the Shortwood Tunnel. Then we moored and I cooked a Green Thai curry from a kit we got in Waitrose.

28th July – A completely lock free day! Mary with her new found skill guided us through the Wast Hill Tunnel, the longest of the trip at 2493m, and she made it look simple.

Wast Hill Tunnel
Wast Hill Tunnel

We continued along and I nearly missed the Kings Norton Junction, we would have been in Birmingham tonight, but at the last second Sonia mentioned the sign said Stratford was a right turn.

Sonia navigated the Brandwood Tunnel, then we had some spectators, watch us at the Shirley draw bridge. They had seen it on Robbie Cummin’s TV series and the grandma had walked the children down to see it.

We paused at Dickens Heath for a bit of shopping and a coffee and toastie at Cloud Coffee, and almost made it back before the thunder, lightening and downpour kept us undercover just a few hundred yards from the mooring.

The evening was spent at the Blue Bell Cider House, not al a carte, but it is all good when you are hungry.

29th July – A late start today, but after breakfast we got away by 9:30am leaving the mooring outside the Blue Bell Cider House then under the M42 it is quite away to Lock number 2 Lapworth Top Lock.

Then they seem to come very quickly and we find ourselves at Lapworth Junction and lock 21, this is a very popular place as you have the option to go down the Lapworth link and onto the Grand Union Canal, we did that a few years ago, or as we have done stay on the Stratford Canal.

Front this point on the lock are a little more worn and delicate, with some of the paddle gears slipping and the locks leaking quite quickly. We where very luck that we saw a couple of boat returning from Stratford, so a lot of the locks where set for us.

I think I have walked almost the whole distance today, and after Lapworth junction, we finished the day just before Lock 31 and the Fleur De Lys Pub, which had been recommend to us by a passing boater earlier in the day.

30th July – Today started with breakfast at the Fleur De Lys for me, we needed to hang about and use the pubs WIFI to complete a video Dr’s appointment. I do recommend the breakfast, great sausages, the coffee could be a little more generously sized, but tasted good.

The rain was pouring as we returned to the boat, but we wanted to get moving, so we headed off into lock 31. Today I wanted to do the locks while the girls handled the boat; the locks on the Stratford were not the easiest with the gears often slipping.

After lock 33 we traversed over the mini Yarningate Aqueduct, which passes over a small stream and at just 42 feet long our boat easily straddled it.

Yarningate Aqueduct
Yarningate Aqueduct

Seven locks later we moored up just past lock 38 and dried off, we kept the engine running for a bit so we could put the wet clothes through the washing machine on the 30 minute quick cycle.

We had in mind possibly going to the local pub, The Crabmill but we where all ready for an early night.

31st July – Nice long chug to lock 39 which included traversing the Wootton Wawen Aqueduct and then another over the much longer Edstone Aqueduct as we chugged to Wilmcote Top Lock, Lock 40. Ten locks in quick succession and we had reached Lock 50, Wilmcote Bottom Lock, then we chugged into the outskirts of Stratford.

We stopped for water at Western Road Wharf, and a fellow boater told us there were spaces in the basin and also outside the Red Lion Pub, so we decided to continue into town.

Lock 52 McDonalds
Lock 52 McDonalds

While we waited for lock 52, Mary collected our lunch from the McDonald’s. I do like their coffee. On to the final push , we were only delayed at lock 55 which was leaking excessively, but a couple of very helpful CRT volunteers guided us through and when we turned the next corner there was one space left outside the Red Lion pub.

Bancroft Basin - Stratford-upon- Avon
Bancroft Basin – Stratford-upon- Avon

We did walk to the Basin, just a few hundred meters away and it had a few spaces, but as we where not sure how long we wanted to stay we remained outside the pub.

So far we have travelled over 41 miles and been through 98 locks.