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River Avon and Stratford canal, spring 2003

river avon lock
River Avon lock, with flood-proof mooring poles

A 1-week trip from Bidford Boats on the River Avon via Stratford upon Avon and the Stratford Canal to Hockley Heath, and return the same way. Total 50 miles and 120 locks.

Diary extract...

Sat 2003-05-03 {17918}
Arr at Bidford Boats 14h30, loaded and away at 15h15. Dull and light rain while cruising. Incident with a gondola at 1st lock, I stopped, losing steering control; they guessed the wrong side; no damage done. Lock cuts not clearly signposted, and at one point I started up a private branch by mistake, reversing out. Eve moor at Binton Bridges at a private marina, 2.20GBP. Despite pay-for, it's a grotty mooring alongside the bank and we have to use our spikes. Eve eat on boat, and later to Four Alls pub for a couple. Boat is "Swan", BMC powered, diesel powered radiator heating, hot water from central heating and engine. Quite nicely fitted. Today 4.5mi, 3l, 2.5h.
Sun 2003-05-04 {17919}
Walk into Welford village, for washing-up stuff that we forgot. Off at 08h45, after watering at the mooring. Bright start, soon warm and sunny with a fair breeze. Through the last Avon locks with Malcolm, white-bearded, giving his crew constant instructions, which they conspired together not to carry out. At one lock, we'd just come up to the landing stage but had not tied up when the lock bottom paddles were opened, which sent our bows swinging across the channel. Moor on the river opposite the theatre at 11h30, dodging the canoes, dinghies and skiffs. To eat in Stratford, the Old Thatch Inn, which did the dirty by not doing the advertised sandwiches ("Sunday, can't get the bread"), persuading us to eat more than we intended. Then through the river lock onto the canal. The basin now has pontoons in it, so lots of space, at least 13 spare spaces today. On up the locks out of Stratford, always with boats in front and nothing coming the other way. The sticking lock of 1999 seems to have been fixed. Moor N of br 59. Eat on boat, then to Masons Arms in Wilmcote, the Mary Arden Inn being full. Today 8.75mi, 20l, 7.5h. Good views looking back over Stratford as ascend the flight.
Mon 2003-05-05 {17920}
Bank holiday. Sunshine to start, but a very strong wind. Start 09h, the wind whipping up the water in the Bearley aqueduct, the boat leaning away and hugging the side of the trough. Then a succession of locks, painfully slow, not only because the locks themselves are slow, but a crew two ahead didn't know what to do. They had no map showing locks or other canal essentials. When a top gate seemed hard to open, they tried closing the top paddles to see if that helped. When another crew offered to close up after them they didn't suss that they could just get onto the boat and go. They rode on even when the next lock was in sight 200 metres away. Anyway, we got to the Fleur de Lys at Lowsonford at 14h15, mooring on a dubious pitch just right-side of a sign indicating long-term moorings and just not blocking the water point, below lock 41. The Fleur now appears to be a Wayfarer, with its beams painted pink, and a typical chain eatery menu, a long wait (a little under 1h) for mediocre food, and not cheap. No longer the huge home-made pies. Onwards at 16h, after water, still sunshine, still windy, shorts on to prove it, but long-sleeve top. Stop above lock 25 at 17h45, eat and eve on boat. Walk eve up to Kingswood Junction. Today 8.75mi, 15l, 7h.
Tue 2003-05-06 {17921}
Again, contrary to our expectations from the forecast, sunny and warm most of the day. We decided to have a tough day, so we went up the Lapworth flight, turned just above it and had lunch there at the Wharf Tavern, by br 25 in Hockley Heath. Turned in the old arm, which was OK for our 50ft, but possibly not for a full-length. 09h15..13h15. Following an old couple up the flight, but going well until we found a low pound near the top, where he went aground in mid-stream just outside the lock; got off by his wife running another lock-full from above. Pub was excellent, a real pub, excellent food served properly. Back the same way to exactly the same mooring as last night, 14h15..18h15. This time we had a crew of first-timers in front, from Alvechurch, confronting their first locks, but they learned quickly and didn't hold us up, especially as I was setting a lock in front of them when possible. Eat on boat eve. Today 6.5mi, 44l, 8h, 4 lift bridges. Water 10min by lock 19 on the way back. Lunch pub had guest beer Arundel's Hard Willie, which no-one had yet asked for by name.
Wed 2003-05-07 {17922}
An excellent day. Mostly in sunshine, but not excessively hot; arms and legs visible in aft. Start 09h15. Held up at lock 26 where the bottom gate wouldn't open fully. Unable to clear ourselves. BW men mending the towpath called out the lockkeeper, who pulled out a lump of rough concrete. By this time, one waiting behind us and one to come up. 30mins wait here. Water 5mins at br 41. Stop at 12h45 above Preston Bagot bottom lock. Lunch at the Crabmill, a bit flash in the food area, but OK for lunchtime when lighter menu available. Nicely converted mill; good service. On again 14h. Intending to have a long day today, to get to Stratford before lunch tomorrow to meet vistors coming by bus. They were originally coming on Fri morn, but we decided we didn't want to rush the river bit Fri aft. This time the Wilmcote flight was deserted so we could set ahead, got down in 65mins, mooring at the bottom at 17h45. So the same cruising time today as Monday, but today included the 11-lock flight and the 30mins wait for a lock to be fixed. That's the delay for crawling behind a slow-coach. Eve eat on boat, and sitting out in the evening sunshine. Today 10.25mi, 26l, 7h. Two runs of about 3mi each today, possibly the longest clear runs on this trip, certainly if excluding the river.
Thu 2003-05-08 {17923}
Walk back up the flight taking pix. Away 9h. Water and a pump-out at Stratford Court base before lock 52, lots of rinses through and a "poo-stick" to remove a stubborn paper "pyramid" in the bottom. 10GBP. Stop on a pontoon in Stratford basin at 11h. Visitors waiting for us. Not so many gongoozlers here before lunch on a Thursday. Walk in Stratford, then lunch at the Civic Hall, cheap. Then afternoon at liberty. Walk out to Anonymous lock taking photos. From the path can see several navigation signs not visible from the river, as trees have grown up in front of them. Sitting by the river lock, re-meet several of the crews we've seen during the week on the canal. A little sunshine today. Eve to Taming of the Shrew at the Shakespeare Theatre, along with at least 3 other boat crews.
Fri 2003-05-09 {17924}
Another warm sunny day. Walk upstream to the Old Bathing Place. Start 9h, through the basin lock and out onto the Avon. Signage is better going downstream. The first 3 locks to ourselves, then we caught up with two narrow boats, and we did the next 3 locks with a taciturn Brummie on a noddy boat. Stopped below Billington lock at 13h for lunch and boat cleaning. Walk into Bidford from here, but thought to be too far to walk for tonight, so go on to the public mooring at Bidford, opposite the boatyard, 14h45..15h. Mooring here, as normal on this river, to sliding rings on 2m-high poles, to allow for floods. Today 9.5mi, 7l, 4.25h. Later we have to juggle the moorings to fit 3 narrow boats and a cruiser into the limited space. Eve to local Indian, which was very good. Liqueurs on the house. Clouded over towards eve, and maybe a little dampness, framing an excellent week.
Sat 2003-05-10 {17925}
Untie from the public mooring, chug a few metres downstream and turn to make a bow-first upstream mooring against Sandpiper, which was already alongside at the boatyard, at about 08h45. Our deposit returned in cash. Overall a good canal trip. Enough physical work. Food and drink were OK to good. DAB didn't work well anywhere, and not at all at some moorings. Total for trip 50.25mi, 120l, 37.75h, 4sb.
Day    Date    Hours    mi     Locks    SB      morn    aft     Water
Sat    030503   2.5      4.5     3      -               N       
Sun    030504   7.5      8.75   20      -       C       K       mooring
Mon    030505   7        8.75   15      -       S       C       br 41
Tue    030506   8        6.5    44      4       N       K       lock 19
Wed    030507   7       10.25   26      -       S       C       br 41
Thu    030508   1.5      2       5      -       N       -       at pump-out
Fri    030509   4.25     9.5     7      -       K       S       -
Sat    030510   -       -        -      -       N         
Totals         37.75    50.25  120      4  

Day     Lunch                           Evening
Sat     -                               Binton Bridges, Four Alls
Sun     Stratford, Old Thatch Inn       Wilmcote, Mason's Arms
Mon     Lowsonford, Fleur de Lys        lock 25, on boat
Tue     Hockley Heath, Wharf Tavern     lock 25, on boat
Wed     Preston Bagot, Crabmill         bottom of Wilmcote flt, on boat
Thu     Stratford, Civic Hall           Stratford, theatre
Fri     Billington lock, on boat        Bidford, Indian
Sat     -

©nib 2003-05-10..2004-10-17

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