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.

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.

Selecting our first marina

Over the past year, while we have been waiting to collect our narrow boat we have been looking at marinas. We wanted something that was friendly, had enough facilities and was near enough to a town so that we can get supplies and go for the occasional meal out while we are working on her.

I have scoured the published lists of marinas. I made a list ones in the area we would like to be based at the start our narrowboat experience.

During the summer we had the opportunity to hire Chloe (Soon to be Floydtilla) for a week and decided we would head down to Droitwich and onto the river Severn and then into Worcester and back up the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to Stoke Prior. Not a very long adventure and we had plenty of time to stop and look about.

Droitwich Spa Marina

Droitwich Spa Marina

Our first stop was to look at the Droitwich Spa Marina, where we had a Covid safe look around. The place was well equipped with a slipway and machinery capable of pulling us out for blacking etc. There was also a small chandlery which luckily for us sold ice creams, they even had one for the dog (no a common thing for him).

We also liked the shower block and they even had a dog shower..  as well as a laundry room with washing machines and dryers.

The marina was mile or two from the town, which has a Waitrose and a very nice coffee and muffin shop, amongst other things,  to recommend it. We tried the food at the Eagle and Sun pub which is just a short walk away.

We decided we would put ourselves on the waiting list and see if a space became available.

Diglis Waterside & Marina

Diglis Waterside and Marina
Diglis Waterside and Marina

Next, we stopped in Worcester and had a look around the city, it looks a very nice place to visit, and at the junction with the river Severn was the Diglis Waterside & Marina which is part of the Aquavista group of marinas who have sites around the country.

This looked also very interesting as a base for our boat, unfortunately at the time the office was closed, but we had a good look around and liked was we saw. Our only concern was that noise may be an issue once we were post covid.

I emailed the contact details on the website to ask if there was any availability for 2021.

Hill Farm Marina

Earlier in the year, Sonia visited Hill Farm Marina on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal which she was very impressed with and was put on our shortlist for ‘not straightaway’, a possible for future years.

A lot of the smaller marinas we contacted did not know if they would have spaces for next year. With the Covid-19 pandemic, owners did not know what would happen and may stay moored up through this period.

Our Selection

Just a few days after our visit to Droitwich Spa Marina we had a call with the potential offer of a space for 2021 which we decided to accept. This was one more thing ticked off my todo list for owning a canal boat. In December we sent completed the application form and sent a cheque for the deposit.

Edit: We finally heard from Diglis Waterside & Marina in October 2020. They had been having a problem with email/website and this delayed them answering. They expected to be fully booked for March 2021 so that did not matter, you never know, we may give them a try in the years to come.

A week on Chloe 2020

As part of our purchase of Chloe, we were offered a weekend on her to make sure she was what we wanted. As there was a week available in the August we decided to pay to extend the offered weekend for the whole week.

We feel very lucky, as when we booked, we didn’t expect the Covid-19 to be such a big thing but by the time our week came around we where still able to go.

We picked Chloe up at Stoke Prior and headed toward Droitwich as we had not been that way before, we had also planned to drop into Droitwich Spa Marina to start our look for a mooring.

Left to Droitwich Spa
Left to Droitwich Spa or straight on to Worcester

Our plan was to turn onto the Droitwich Barge Canal to the river Seven, and then down the Seven to Worcester and back on to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal returning to Stoke Prior.

I knew that the Droitwich Canal passed under the M5 Motorway and that it would be a tight fit, but it still came as a bit of a surprise.

Oddly we did not take many scenic pictures on this trip, but we mostly seemed to be taking pictures of other boats with interesting colour schemes. Many of the normal shops and restaurants where shut or had seriously limited spaces.

However, we again really enjoyed our time on Chloe, a few highlights were looking around Worcester, there is a lot there to explore in the future, and Droitwich where we stayed at the Vines Park Moorings for a couple of days as our Daughter needed a visit to the Doctors.

Droitwich while smaller than Worcester had all we needed including an excellent Coffee and muffin shop, and a fantastic pet shop where Obi our Sprollie (Spaniel Collie Cross) helped himself to a chew (We did pay for it and a few others, I am sure we will be back there again).