Sunday, 27 May 2018

Cruising down the Warwickshire River Avon

As I type this on Sunday evening we are west of Evesham heading towards Pershore.  In the last few days that we've come down the river it has gone up and now down and the weather has generally gone down in the sense that we have lost the brilliant summer weather we've had for the last couple of weeks.

So last Thursday we set out from Stratford downstream as far as Bidford Grange Lock.  We stopped here because we particularly wanted to get to see Welford on Avon.  The problem with rivers is that you can't moor just anywhere, like on the canals, and sometimes the mooring is on the wrong side of the river with no bridge for miles.
Stratford Trinity Lock has these beams over it to stop the lock collapsing in the soft terrain it is built in.

Binton Bridges is one of a number where you have to be particularly careful in a strong stream to avoid being swept into the bridge arch.  On Thursday levels were low and we had no problems.  Going downstream is worse because you have less control.

Here is our mooring above the lock.  The high flood poles give you a good idea what can happen with this river!

We cycled back a few miles into Welford.  Some parts of it are delightful.

Welford's claim to fame is that it has the tallest maypole in Britain at 65 feet tall.  It was originally made of wood but the present one is aluminium.  And, yes, it is used at the annual fair.

Friday started with rain and we delayed our start.  We came down a couple of locks into Bidford on Avon where we had lunch and looked around before cruising on to Harvington Lock:
This is Bidford Bridge, another ancient structure.  The arch for boats is indicated by the arrow and is, oddly, the lower one to the left, not the high arch in the middle.

We filled up with water at Bidford and took this shot looking along Leo and up the river to the bridge.

This is a bit of fun at the Frog Inn by the bridge where we had lunch.  In case you can't read the sign on the wall it says: "FROG PARKING ONLY, ALL OTHERS WILL BE TOAD".  Well it tickled Ian anyway!
Down below Marlcliff Lock the River Arrow joins the Avon.  Though the main river was quite calm, the Arrow had a lot of water in it and the flow below the confluence was a lot stronger and made it tricky to steer round the bends.

As you approach Harvington Lock there is this long weir, part of whose length is protected by a walkway above it.  More about this in a minute.

Here is Leo moored above the lock on some moorings which are at right angles to the direction of travel, so a bit of a surprise when you arrive and nearly pass them heading for the lock.  You can see the weir walkway in the distance.  The idea when boating is to stay away from this in case the flow of water washes you onto it.

There is a large lock island at Harvington and an old mill there is largely overgrown.

However if you creep round the back you can peer inside what is an old water mill.  I wouldn't dream of trying to go inside (even if it was permitted which it is not) as the building looks pretty unsafe.

Here you can see the drive wheels for the mill.

The first lock restored here was not a success and so it has been converted into a dry dock which you can hire from the owner.  Ingenious!

Yesterday (Saturday) the river was higher because of the rain and the warning signs were showing 'red' which means 'stay where you are'.  So we did and walked into Harvington village in the morning.  This painting of local buildings decorates the inside of the bus shelter.

Like Welford, Harvington has its share of fine timbered buildings.
That evening a narrowboat became jammed against the weir walkway mentioned above.  Working with Dan and Kate another narrowboat team, we went to see if we could help.  We tried all sorts of ways to push and drive the boat off the weir but the flow of water kept bringing it back on.  We had one final go pushing the bow with two poles and with the skipper using full forward throttle we managed to free the boat.  But it was rather touch and go.

So, after a day staying where we were and an evening with its own excitement, we've come on downriver today through Evesham:
We've seen this before but it continues to fascinate us.  Here we have at least two families of goslings all looked after by a group of adults.  It's like a school party of goslings.

Coming downstream to the lock at Evesham is a bit of challenge!  You have to moor on a similar weir walkway to that at Harvington and then turn sharp right into the lock when it is ready for you.  And, to make matters worse, there is a strong stream flowing to the left and beyond the lock.  So quite a puzzle but we did it with only a bit of a bump against the lock gate.

Four years ago we came through Evesham in flood conditions and had to stay 4 days on the only flood moorings available which were the 3 taller poles where the first boat is moored.  Now there is a sea of tall poles to ride out the floods.  Well done Avon Navigation Trust!

Some of the weirs on this river are quite fierce.  This picture is taken from the back of Leo leaving Chadbury Lock seen up the stream to the right.
Our mooring tonight is on a big bend of the river so we can see boats coming from both directions.  It is a nice spot though there is traffic noise from the road which is a bit too close.  We are hoping to see our friends Maurice and Carolyn tomorrow so not sure of the plans for the day, but our progress over the next week will be down the Avon to Tewkesbury.

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