Wednesday 7 October 2015

The Avon Ring. Stratford upon Avon to Pershore

Monday 3rd August

It was just a short trip into Stratford-upon-Avon from our overnight mooring.  We found a good spot by the Red Lion pub, just outside the basin, a good place to explore from.  We tried to get tickets for the RSC (pictured above) but they were fully booked for the two nights we were to be in town.

After a wander around the very busy town, we hopped on an open topped bus for the tour, mainly centred around Shakespeare, naturally.  We alighted at Anne Hathaway's cottage and stopped at the pretty tea rooms opposite for refreshments in the sunshine.

The  following day Tony played Golf at The Warwickshire Golf Course with Richard (who drove over to pick him up), while I went shopping and stopped at Hooray’s for Gellato. Very nice!
20150817_125037                       20150817_125057 

The next morning we walked round to the basin & bought our license for the River Avon before setting off. The first lock out of the basin is very awkward with nowhere to moor up & very dodgy gates.  Not a good start!  It was plain sailing to the next lock, Trinity, then disaster struck! As we were gliding into the lock the throttle cable snapped, leaving us with no reverse to stop.  Tony just managed to throw a rope over a bollard on the lock side, and get a couple of turns on it, two of the three strands braking with the strain, before  the boat  stopped about 2” from the lock gates. Phwew!


Having had to pull the boat backwards out of the lock manually we moored up on the lock landing to await an engineer. Three hours later we set off again all sorted.


The river reminded me of the River Stort, wild and winding, although it did widen out in places like at Barton, a very pretty little village with a butchers & a bakers (didn’t find the candlestick maker though Smile ).

After a disappointing stop over at Evesham -  despite its wealth of history with it’s many medieval and Tudor buildings, a town in desperate need of a makeover -  we set off along the Lower Avon with it's mainly high wooded banks but Fladbury Locks produced an ideal picture with it’s tumultuous weir and grand Mill House.


The village of Wyre Piddle caused a smile and I just couldn’t resist this sign for the local B&B ‘PIESSE of PIDDLE’ !

On to Pershore, a much more pleasing town.  A vibrant little town with lovely parkside moorings, good services, ASDA 100 yard away, an indoor market and a ’Plum Festival’!  I never knew there were so many varieties of plum.

Orchards in this area produce tons of popular plums every year – Varieties such as Victoria, Majorie Seedling, Heron, Monarch, Pershore Purple, Pershore Yellow Egg Plum and Pershore Emblem are some of the most well known and sought after plums the Vale produces. Pershore and its association with the plum is not a new thing, the area has been famous for its fruit growing since medieval times. Early in the 19th century the Pershore Yellow Egg Plum was found growing wild in Tiddesley Wood and by 1870 records show that over 900 tons of the fruit were being sent to market during harvest time. - See more at:

I just love to include a bit of local info now & then :)  

7th August 2015

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Summer 2015 Part Two - The Avon Ring

20th JUNE 2015

Following our trip home after Mum's Stroke, Tony enlisted the help of a friend, Dave, to help him move 'Aylmer' from it's temporary mooring at the Peterborough Yacht Club to her new permanent mooring at Crick in Northamptonshire.

Dave at the helm on the River Nene
Their journey took them up the River Nene, stopping overnight at Woodford and Coggenhoe then through Northampton, joining the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Junction.  They stayed overnight at Bugbrooke and arrived in Crick after 83 miles & 68 locks in 40.5 hours over 4 days. Some going ! Thanks to Dave & to Grace for loaning her husband. Great job guys.

Dave at a Guillotine Lock
25th July 2015

After 5 weeks at home Tony & I set off for Crick to arrive for the annual BBQ.  Sunday was wet, so we stayed put and as Monday's forecast was for more of the same, we took the opportunity to visit old friends Lynne & Parker in Alrewas, only 45 mins away by car.  They have a lovely little cottage right by the canal and took us to the local pub for lunch.

We eventually set off on Tuesday 28th July having decided to change our route and do the Avon Ring.  Turning left  out of Crick Marina, onto the Grand Union Canal Leicester Section, we almost immediately had Crick Tunnel (1,528 yards) to negotiate.  I have to admit to not liking the tunnels, although I do stay aboard now, all be it down below, with the curtains closed and the lights on.  At one time I used to get off the boat and walk over the top of the tunnel!  But I did brave it for this photo.

Leaving Crick Tunnel
The weather remained mixed for the next couple of days but brightened up by Thursday when we buddied up with Pete & Anne on nb. Molly Coddle. Pete was very patient with me as I stayed aboard doing most of the driving following a lock handle accident the previous day which thwacked me and my arm remained painful.  We stopped at the Cape of Good Hope where I had the best Pimms & Pork Ribs ever. Worthy of a Tripadvisor revue.  The following day we did the Hatton flight in 3 hours knocking an hour off last years time.

The Hatton flight. 21 locks, 3.2 km, with a 45 metre rise
On Saturday 1st August it was warm and sunny as we turned onto the Stratford-upon-Avon canal to start the Avon Ringl.  A funny thing happened to me on the cut!  We stopped at the Kingswood services and as I was topping up the water a young man appeared, with a towel wrapped around his middle, dripping wet & covered in soap bubbles. Apparently the tap I was usingto fill our tank was reducing the pressure of the water in the shower block and he was unable to rinse off.  I wish I'd had a camera to hand.

Kingswood Junction
  We stopped at the Fluer de Lys at Lowsonford, for lunch. They were holding the annual fete in the grounds and as we left the pub the heavens opened, I did feel sorry for them all. Nearby on the lockside was an Antony Gormley sculpture, one of five placed in beauty spots chosen by the artist to mark  50 years of UK building conservation charity Landmark Trust.  see .

Antony Gormley sculpture at Lowsonford, Warwickshire
The lock cottages on the Stratford-upon-Avon canal are unusual & rather sweet. The construction of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal began in 1793, during the heady days after the French Revolution. Its projecteers did not foresee the credit squeeze that followed the opening of hostilities against Napoleon, but fortunately, an astute local land agent called William James stepped into the breach to complete the southern stretch of the canal, which includes Lowsonford. Working with engineer William Whitmore, James cut costs dramatically. His engineers, more accustomed to building bridges than houses, simply adapted the techniques they knew best to house the men who worked on the canal, building them snug, barrel-roofed cottages next to the locks they supervised.  The cottage at Lowsenford can be rented as a holiday let.  see

Lock Cottage with barrel roof
The bridges are rather small and quite cute too.
Bridge on the Stratford-on Avon canal
We moored at Wooten Warwen for the night and woke to a beautiful warm & sunny morning. After a short walk to the local farmshop for supplies and refueling  at the nearby Anglo Welsh base we set off for the Wilmcote locks.  This flight of 11 locks are situated a short distance from the village of Wilmcote which is where Mary Arden's house and farm is located - Mary Arden was William Shakespeare's mother.  
Top of the Wilmcote flight
From the top of the Wilmcote locks we could see Stratford-Upon-Avon laid out below, but it was a long tough journey to get there. However there was a nice mooring at the bottom of the locks and the sun was shining so out went the washing..............

and on went the BBQ.  The first one on this trip, partly because of the weather & partly because when the weather was good enough, the towpath was too narrow!  

This time there was a convenient gate to a pathway leading down to a little stream.  Perfect !  Tomorrow Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sunday 2nd August 

Sunday 9 August 2015

An eventful few days!

Having rejoined Tony at Ely, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the Dolan's to celebrate Stan's 3rd birthday on Aylmer.

Tony, Stan, Jasmine & Lily
Birthday spread
Stan's new bike
The Band played Happy Birthday to Stan

Stan has fun in the park
Jasmine learns to ride a two wheeler
Leaving Ely the next day we had a rather splendid view of the Cathedral from the river,  but not much else except a wide expanse of river, high banks and lots of reeds.

Ely Cathedral from the river
We took a short detour up the Little Ouse to a small marina for some fuel, at a bargain price of 75p a litre. This was a much prettier stretch of river with lots of small craft and crystal clear water

Crystal clear water of the Little Ouse

Little Ouse Moorings
 Whilst Tony was refuelling, I wandered around with my camera and managed to get this lovely photo of a blue damselfly.

Blue Damselfly
The end of the journey (for now)

The rest of our journey along the Great Ouse, through the Middle Levels and onto the river Nene was fairly non eventful, until we reached Peterborough on the 17th June.  We were just rafting up against Aria when I received a telephone call to tell me Mum had had a stroke & was in Southend Hospital.  Yes, the very same place I had made a dash back to only one week before to see my brother, who was in a coma following a medical procedure. I needed to return. Quick!  We couldn't leave the boat on Peterborough Riverside as they were having their Riverside Festival that weekend.  Martin, friend on nb. Aria, quickly contacted a local boat club and secured us a temporary mooring, while Tony sorted a hire car to meet us there.  The boat club was a bit up river and we had to go through a lock, which we had negotiated on our outward journey.  

Martin & Karen, once again, came to the rescue and kindly offered to accompany us to the lock to help speed us on our way.  That would have worked had disaster not struck.  On the approach to the lock was a shoal (poorly marked it has to be said)  right in the middle of the river.  Instead of taking the logical route to the lock Tony decided to follow his previous route to the left of the shoal.  Only he miscalculated.  As he was in a hurry he hit the shoal hard and wedged the boat on top of it.  No amount of revving or reversing was going to move it and even the barge pole was having no effect.  We were well & truly stuck!  To make matters worse a large audience was beginning to collect, to watch while we were marooned in the middle of the widest section of the river. As I looked up at the crowd on the bridge I saw someone walking across it with a very long pole held aloft.  It was Martin . Bless him, he waded out to us, water up to his chest, to board Aylmer, and between them, after 45 minutes of being stuck, they managed to free us. So so grateful to Martin who waded through stinging nettles mud & dirty water to help us. Unfortunately I was too much in shock to take any photos, but I think you can imagine my despair.

We eventually made it to the boat club and moored up. They even provided us with electricity and offered we could stay there as long as we needed.  The hire car took such a long time to get to us.  Unbeknown to us the boat club was down a long, private, gated drive with a self operated railway crossing.  The poor driver had had to wait for someone to come along who could unlock the gate and let him through.  Then Tony had to return to the hire office in Peterborough to complete the paperwork before he could return to collect me.  Unfortunately Mum passed away before we had even left Peterborough.

17th June 2015

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Meeting The Eel Catcher & a quick visit to hospital

Saturday 16th June

Our next stop was Peterborough where the moorings are pleasant and plentiful and only a few minutes walk from the town centre. 

Leaving Peterborough behind we made our way to Stanground Sluice, our gateway to the Fens. Here we had to go through a tidal sluice to enter Kings Dyke which is part of The Middle Levels that will eventually take us to the River Great Ouse.

Waiting to go through Stanground Sluice
As soon as we left Stanground Sluice the scenery changed. We were now travelling through a series of Dykes, Ditches and Drains which have been used to drain the Fens,  to provide arable land, since before the Civil War (see These man-made waterways are shallow, narrow and in the main fairly straight and surrounded by vast swathes of arable land as far as the eye can see with only the odd church steeple  or wind farm for interest.  After all this is the land of Big Skies.

Kings Dyke
In Well Creek we came across the Eel Catcher who told us it was a bad day for eels but the previous day had yielded many.  Back in mediaeval times eels were part of the local staple diet as well as a valuable income. I have since read about Peter Carter, the only commercial Eel Catcher who still uses traditional methods to catch eels on Well Creek. (see  Maybe this is him!

The Eel Catcher
Our next mooring was in the little town of March, right next to the Fish & Chip shop.  That's dinner sorted then.

Mooring in March
Leaving March the vista really opened up, miles & miles of flat open land.   Bleak and empty apart from the Wind Farm, and boy does the wind blow across the fens. 

Wind Farm on Well Creek
At Marmond Priory Lock a lovely lady called Maureen acts as a volunteer lock keeper & has done so for over 30 years. She was telling me the story of how as young newly weds her & her husband bought the redundant lock cottage after the creek had fallen into disrepair.  Then in 1975 the route was revived, the lock repaired and boaters once again were let through.  Since then, first Maureen's husband and then herself have acted as volunteer lock keepers.  Now it really is a family affair with Maureen's daughter and now her 7 year old grandson helping boaters safely through the lock.
Maureen at Marmont Priory Lock
We stopped at Upwell on the Well Creek Trust mooring, which is very well kept.  There is a beautifully tended garden on the bank, growing fruit & herbs, which we were encouraged to pick for a small donation.

Teresa, Karen & Jan sitting in the herb garden.
It was a fresh, windy trip across the Fens to Salters Lode taking us onto a short tidal stretch before going through Denver Sluice and onto the Great Ouse. We had to wait for high tide and got in the queue with three other boats.  As we approached Denver Sluice we spotted Dave a very good friend, who lives nearby, up on the bridge to welcome us.  We spent the afternoon on board catching up with Dave & Grace before retiring to the Jenyns Arms for dinner.

Leaving Salters lode
 Wednesday dawned still windy and cold.  We decided to take a trip on our own up the River Wissy. It was very pretty, opening up to lake-like proportions at one point.

River Wissy
The river was very pretty and tranquil but very remote, we only passed one small village and then this great monster appeared in front of us!.

Sugar Beet Factory
We travelled 10 miles down the Wissy to Stoke Ferry where we moored alongside a caravan park and watched the cute little ducklings .............

Ducklings at Stoke Ferry
..... until I received a phone call from my sister-in-law.  My brother was on life support in Southend Hospital after complications set in when he was under anaesthetic for a dental procedure.  At this point he had not recovered conciousness.

Tony quickly arranged car hire for me for the following day.  Later that evening Gary regained conciousness but they were keeping him under sedation in Critical Care.  I set off for Southend on Thursday  while Tony set off on the long, lonely journey back down the Wissy and on to Ely on his own. I spent two days in Southend, stopping off at home on the way back to meet Tony in Ely.  It had taken us 5 weeks by boat to get to Ely but only 1 hour by car for me to drive from Leavenheath to Ely!!!  

Gary is now recovering & hoping to return to hospital for his next chemo session soon.  He's determined to beat the cancer which has invaded his body and is so positive about it all that I can only admire him.

Friday 12th June

Monday 8 June 2015

Facing the Guillotine

Saturday 30th May 

As we left Northampton behind and moved onto the River Nene, pronounced Nen hereabouts, the sun was shining, the river wide and the scenery beautiful. 

Leaving Northampton behind us.
The locks though were a different story.  None of us had encountered Guillotine Locks before and to be honest were all a little scared of them. The name alone was enough to put us off even before we caught site of them.

Guillotine lock in the closed position.
We were travelling down the locks and all guillotine locks had to be left in the UP position. That meant that at every lock we had to lower the guillotine, raise the paddles at the other end to fill the lock to the level of the river where the boat approached the locks (as in picture above), open the gates & drive the boats in, close the gates, lower the paddles and raise the guillotine, to let the water out so that the boats would then be the same, lower level , as the river the other side.  

Open & all ready to drive out
Now the really scary bit where we had to drive the boat out under the raised guillotine!  Most of the guillotines were electrically operated but we still had to hand wind the gates, with some taking 75-80 turns to open or close the paddles and we did 10 of these on the first day!

Next day, Sunday, started wet so we had a late departure and travelled on our own.  We had earlier read a blog by another boat, No Problem, who mentioned an old customer of ours at The Thatchers, Chop Wales, who we knew moored his boats (yes he has two) in these parts, so Tony sent him a message on fb and arranged to meet him at Ringstead where we had a cuppa with him in the Woodford Mill Tea Shop, and he told us of his involvement with 'Friends of the River Nene' and recommended a mooring for the night in Woodford.

Chop & Tony in the Woodford Mill Tea Rooms
Chop & his unconventional mode of transport
We took Chop up on his recommendation & moored up at the FOTRN mooring at Woodford. We had trouble getting alongside the bank as it was very windy and blowing us across the river, however we eventually managed to get tied up.  The bank was very uneven but it had all been mown, we had it all to ourselves & the views over the Northamptonshire countryside were picturesque.

Woodford mooring
We followed the footpath from the mooring which took us through the very pretty village to the pub The Duke for a drink.

Woodford from the river
Monday 1st June dawned bright and sunny, a beautiful morning if a bit nippy.  We only had a short journey to our next stop Thrapston where we were to meet up again with Aria & Teezy. The town moorings were located just before the Medieval 9 Arch Bridge and very tricky to see let alone negotiate. 

Thrapston Town mooring
Soon Teezy & Aria joined us and we all moored up securely as the weather forecast was for 52 mph winds the following day!  By the evening there were 5 boats rafted up, all battening down the hatches against the strong winds.

All three in
 Later a friend of mine, Maureen, who lives nearby came by for lunch & we had a good catch up.

Maureen & Jan
Tuesday we stayed put while the winds raged and went for a walk along part of the Nene Way taking us round Islip and Thrapston and dined at The Woolpack in the evening.  The following day, having used up our 48hr stay at the Town moorings,  we moved just a short way to a mooring just below Islip lock which .we had spotted on our walk. Here we had our first BBQ of the holiday, sitting on the bank in the sunshine & enjoyed the sunset.

Tony G,Teresa, Jan, Tony A, Karen & Martin
Sunset at Islip
Thursday was a beautiful warm sunny day & we made our way to Fotheringhay, another picturesque village with a very imposing church overlooking the river.  The farmer here allows mooring  against his meadows for a very reasonable £4 a night which he collects in his old Treacle tin and assures us all goes to charity.
There once was a castle nearby ( only the mound and earthworks remain) which was the final place of imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scotts who was tried and executed in the castle in 1587.

Moored at Fotheringhay
Friday dawned dull & wet but it brightened up later and we made our way to Alwalton where we moored in a by-water, beside the lock, overnight ready for a final push into Peterborough on Saturday morning.

Friday 5th June

Since starting this journey at Hallingbury Marina we have travelled 184 miles and done 167 locks.  It has taken us 4 weeks and we could probably get home by car in about 2 hours!