Summer Holiday

Summer Holiday

The first leg of our 2022 cruise.

Last year, we were late leaving Droitwich Spa Marina because we were helping to organise and then take part in the Ortomarine Electric Propulsion Trials Event, which took place at the end of May 2021. This year we were delayed by a family event. Our only son’s wedding! This was a long awaited event, having been postponed 2 years running because of the dreaded pandemic. Even in the final run up, we could not quite believe it was actually happening. But it did. And was the most prefect day imaginable (aside from the grey drizzly weather). I spent most of the day in tears of happiness. It was well worth all the pre-wedding prep and post-wedding clearing up, after the happy couple had jetted off. A real day to remember and we can’t wait to see the photos. Here is a taster photo of my son and new daughter-in-law.

George and Bethany
George and Bethany

But! Just as soon as we had put everything away, been to the tip, done a few loads of washing and tidied up the flat, ready for their return from honeymoon, we were off. Stopping only to get the boys’ annual booster and a chip check on the way, we set off on the journey back to Droitwich. We were so excited to get back and depart on our 2022 cruise. It seemed like all our Ortomariner friends had left us weeks and weeks ago, but now it was finally our turn to leave.

We left the marina at lunchtime (5th May) with full water and fuel tanks, full batteries and an empty toilet. Paul spent his lunch hour helping us through the locks to Droitwich and then I maintained a lonely vigil at the helm while he got on with work.

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at the Ladywood flight, stopping for a chat with the old lady who lives in the lock cottage at Porters Mill Lock. Slightly more cordial than the last time, when she had accused us of dumping litter in her garden. Something we would absolutely never do.

From this point on particulaly , the Droitwich Barge canal is an absolute delight, especially at this time of year. Rural and quiet, the peace only disturbed by the intrusion of the A449 as you approach Hawford. It’s a lovely place to moor and the road roar does die down at night. It’s one of our happy places.

Paul carried on working, once we had moored up and then, later, we had a visit from Rob and Caroline (from Ortomarine) and a good catch-up over supper. They left quite early as they had a lot to do before going off on their very rare and hard-earned holiday at the weekend and we had an early start planned.

After a lovely, quiet night, we got up at 7 am, (6th May) had our breakfast and made our way down the remaining two locks that drop you down on to the Severn. As we approached the second of the 2 locks, I could hear the boys barking. When I rounded the corner, I could see the cause of the commotion. An, I think elderly, and very brave Muscovy duck was perched on the bottom balance beam. He hopped off as I entered the lock and made his way towards me, where he deigned to eat a morsel of bread for his breakfast, He was a grand old chap, as you can see from the picture below.

Mr Muscovy

Once through Bevere lock (rather weirdly pronounced “Bevverray”) on the Severn, Paul repaired to his desk and I was once again left to helm solo. Not that it was a hardship, It was a beautiful morning and we arrived at our intended mooring in Worcester at around 09:45. Luckily, there was an Old Nick shaped spot on the pontoon, as moorings for Worcester can sometimes be tricky to find. I set to, doing some cleaning of the boat and generally pottered the day away while Paul worked. We were meeting my cousins (Alison and Peter and Jonathan and Christian) for dinner at the lovely Anchor in Diglis basin.

We had a lovely evening with great food and even greater company. We reminisced about old times and recollections of grandparents and childhood and the like and it soon got late enough for all of us. Sadly, no picture of the event, we were too busy chatting!

We set (7th May) off towards the Diglis river lock, by whose weir we had moored, at around 10 am, after a delicious and very filling breakfast from the Cafe Afloat boat in Diglis basin (bacon, egg and sausage sandwich). It was another stunning morning and we had no deadline other than being at Tewkesbury Marina, on the River Avon before 5 pm.

The river was at its best in the sunshine and we took our time, enjoying the peace and solitude. We saw a rather large fire at one of the moorings on the way down, which we hoped was under control, so fiercely it was burning.

Big fire
Cap’n Sumps

The views across to the Malverns were beautiful and looked almost Scottish. We very quickly realized that we had better put on some sunscreen as the sun was pretty intense. Sadly I didn’t give my legs a thought and I ended up with a very rosy right knee! Paul’s new Sterkowski hat also got an airing. This hat has been the subject of much to-ing and fro-ing from Poland, but it was worth all the hassle to finally find a hat that fits him and is comfortable on his big bonce.

We arrived at Upton on Severn at around 1:30 and stepped ashore to give the boys a pee break. This is the downside of rivers. On canals, it’s very easy to stop and get them off for comfort breaks. Much less so on rivers. Upton is famous for its festivals, hosting a folk, blues, jazz and a Glasto style music festival to boot. This year’s line-up includes the Wurzels. Woo hoo! It’s also famous for The Pepperpot, a distinctive tower, once part of the church, but which currently houses the tourist information centre. All in all, it’s a very pretty little riverside town with a good assortment of pubs, a good butchers, a chippy , a couple of small supermarkets and a nice assortment of independent shops. Well worth a stop.

We had never seen Upton so deserted. We have memories of mooring three or four deep under the bridge and waking up to a roof thoroughly bespattered with pigeon poo. And I mean thoroughly! But today was very quiet – indeed we hardly saw another boat the entire day. Which is just the way we like it!

We arrived on the outskirts of Tewkesbury, passing under the very elegant Mythe Bridge, fashioned from cast Iron and with a single span of 170 feet. It was designed by Thomas Telford, a name almost synonymous with canals and rivers, and has graced the river since 1826.

Shortly after that is the turn onto the River Avon Navigation and Tewkesbury town. We turned, being careful of the sand spit, where the rivers meet, and made our way to the lock, which allows you access to the managed, navigable part of the river – aptly known as Avon Lock. The Avon Navigation is roughly 8 feet above the Severn.

The lock is at right angles to the channel and you sound your horn to alert the lock-keeper to your arrival. The lock-keeper had a very cute and hairy Border Terrier bitch, which I would happily have taken with me! You exit the lock, again a right-angle turn, and immediately the multi-arched King John’s; bridge. which is not as old as it might sound, although there has been a bridge on that site since the 13th century.

You can only pass through the centre arch and it’s quite a tight fit and totally impossible at times of heavy rainfall, when the Avon is overly swollen. Luckily it was a doddle today and we were soon tied up at our mooring for 2 nights at Tewkesbury Marina. Whether it was all the fresh air or the early starts, I don’t know, but we were both shattered and in bed by about 10, which is very unusual for us.

Sunday (8th May) was a little cloudy to start, which was annoying as we had old friends coming to visit. But we were up and showered and breakfasted all ready for their arrival at around 10:30. We hoped they would be bringing the sunshine with them!

The friends were Mark and Maxine Hallet, whom we hadn’t seen for quiet a few years. Mark had been on a boating holiday aboard Sam Gunter, my Dad and stepmum’s boat 20+ years ago, He moved to the Cotswolds and we remained in touch only through Facebook, until today, so we were quite excited.

They arrived and we set off, back down Avon Lock onto the Severn and through the big Upper Lode lock, which is the only lock with a basin (see pic in link) inside its chamber, which allows a tug and its whole tow to use the lock in one operation. Pretty amazing. The sheer size of the lock is illustrated by the picture on this link. I tried to find out how many gallons of water are used to fill the lock but drew a blank. I can only, thus, conjecture. It’s a lot!

We went downriver, past the Lower Lode Inn and by now the sun had come out. Mark and Maxine had to be back for their dogs, so we turned round and came back to the pub, where we bought drinks and had lunch. We had a very nice Chicken and Bacon Caesar prepared by moi and Maxine had made a Lemon and Mascarpone Meringue Roulade, which was absolutely delicious.

Maxine and Mark
Maxine at the helm – a natural!

We had such a lovely time, catching up on each other’s lives and vowed not to leave it so long next time, especially as we live fairly near one another, these days. We waved them off, had dinner (including left over roulade, lucky us!) and went to bed – once again an early night.

We shall be moving on up the Avon – already a very different river to the Severn – and hope you will travel along with us, up the 17 locks to Stratford upon Avon and possibly beyond, over the next couple of weeks.

9 thoughts on “Summer Holiday

  1. How lovely is this!!!
    Yes, George & Bethany’s day was perfect (sod the weather!!!) in every way. Tears of happiness very much the order of the day!
    Have a fabulous, well deserved, trip! Guess we won’t be seeing you on the south Oxford, next week :))
    Will definitely meander up with the camper van, when you are back .
    xx

  2. Missed these blogs – glad you are enjoying your travels and the weather is being kind. X

  3. I SO enjoy accompanying you on your travels – thank you for your descriptive, interesting narratives. Till next time, enjoy yourselves 🤗xxx

  4. Glad that you’ve had such lovely weather for the start of your 2022 cruise & that all is going to plan – & you’re packing in visits/meetings already!!
    Memories flooding back of the Anchor in Worcester, now much changed, Upton upon Severn & many folk & jazz festivals, the huge locks on the Severn (which we first encountered on Slat Mill!) & the Lower Lode mooring – very misty early mornings & the sand martins circling overhead . . Have a great trip up the Avon. X x

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