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.

Planning Our Next Trip – The Avon Ring

We have been planning our first summer trip as a narrow boat owner, when we first hired from Black Prince we had planned to do the Avon Ring.
Unfortunately, that had to be abandoned this due to the rivers being very high after a few weeks of rain and not being recommended at that time for canal boats.

Avon Ring
Avon Ring – Starting Point Droitwich Spa Marina

The route is approx 110 miles and over 130 locks, if we count the three to get on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal from our base at Droitwich Spa Marina.

This time we have almost 3 weeks to complete our trip, which should give us plenty of time to slowly meander the route, we may even take a slight detour to Birmingham.

The only major question is do we go clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Repainted Roof

Today we went to collect Floydtilla from Black Prince at Stoke Prior, she had been returned to them to have a problem with the roof paint fixed, from what we can see they have stripped off the old paint and reapplied the primer and yellow topcoat, it now all looks beautifully smooth.

New roof paint

We had a lovely sunny day for our trip back to Droitwich Spa Marina, the only problem was the wind whipping across the marina, which made the slab sided canal boat into a sailing pushing us sideways when we tried to approach our mooring, after two attempts going up wind and turning, we decided to reversed past out berth and tried going downwind which made things a lot simpler. We are learning all the time.

Returning back to Black Prince

If you have been reading our blog you will know we had a little problem with the paint on the roof, we purchased the boat from Black Prince only a few weeks ago, they have looked at the peeling paint and are going to repair it.

Paint Problems on roof
Paint Problems on roof

It is an odd problem, looks to me, a non-expert, like some surface contamination under the primer as caused it to lose adhesion, I have seen similar problems this caused by the oil used to lubricate the air tools used when removing the old paint.

 

Worcester to Stoke Prior

We have been on a trip to Worcester and are going to drop the boat off at their base in Stoke Prior before we set off home.

We broke the trip up this time, turning around at Diglis Basin just in front of the Diglis Lock, we had decided to try and get past all the locks and then rest up  for the night just after the M5 bridge at Tibberton, we would then have a simple trip to our mooring at Droitwich Spa Marina the next day, before heading off on the Saturday to the Black Prince Base at Stoke Prior.

Sonia and Obi the dog collected the car from the marina and drove to Stoke Prior while Mary and I moved the boat. Once Sonia had arrived at Stoke Prior, she let them know we were coming and check where they would like us to moor before walking down the canal to meet us.

The trip took us just under 3 hours at a leisurely pace,  with just the 3 locks at the top of the Droitwich Canal and then 7 on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We finally arrived and moored up next to another Black Prince customer boat, “Pub Trawler II” which was known as Ava when she was a hire boat.

We have since heard that they will completely strip the roof and repaint it, should be ready in a couple of weeks. Furthermore, we are hoping to get a battery monitor fitted while she is with them. I have selected the Victron BMV-712 as I can talk to this via the onboard monitoring system I am developing (More on this later).

To Worcester the slow way

The Droitwich Junction Canal

Our trip this week was to Worcester to meet an old friend. So, once we are out of the marina, we turned right towards the Hanbury locks 1 to 3. Restoration of them was completed in 2002 and a sign can be seen on the locks dedicating the restoration to Neil Pitts.

These 3 locks are often manned by very helpful CRT volunteers, as locks go they can be a bit confusing, if you have not seen locks with a side pounds before.

The side pounds are used when the locks are emptied to hold half the water by opening some extra paddles that can be found halfway along the lock. Once they are filled, these extra paddles are closed and the rest of the water is emptied in the normal way downstream.  The water in the side pound is then used to refill the lock when needed, saving half the water.

Floydtilla on the way to Gloucester
Floydtilla on the way to Gloucester

The Worcester and Birmingham Canal

Then we turned a very tight left turn onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal towards Worcester. Sonia then took over the helm, and we then have a leisurely potter for just over a mile to the Dunhampstead Tunnel which at just  216 m long was a nice cool down from the baking sun. Then another couple of miles to the M5 bridge at Tibberton before we descend the short 6 lock Tibberton flight, locks 16 to 11.

City of Worcester Sign under A449
City of Worcester Sign under A449
We pass under the A449 and passing a stone sign marking the outskirts of the City of Worcester.

We then continue our descent to Worcester through:-

  • Tolladine Lock 10
  • Blackpole Lock 9
  • Bilford Locks 8 & 7
  • Gregory’s Mill Top Lock 6
  • Gregory’s Mill Bottom Lock 5
  • Block House Lock 4
  • Sidbury Lock 3

City Centre Mooring

We decided to moor on the 48-hour moorings just before Mill Street Bridge. This trip had taken us just about seven and a half hours, or about 30 minutes in the car. We then had a short walk into the city where we found The Burger Bar Five Guys in Cathedral Square. We tried, in vain, to empty the bottomless drinks machine, before going on the search for an Aloe Vera cream and some factor 50 sun block. It had been a very hot day.