Just Around the River Bend

Just Around the River Bend

Leg 3 of our River Avon Cruise – Evesham to Stratford upon Avon

Back to just we two and the boys, we left our mooring (having settled up the previous evening) just after 06:30 (23rd May) and cruised down to Evesham lock, where we again dumped our loo and took on water.

This had been our first trip away from our home moorings with guests on board. Although we have a spare 22 litre base for the loo, we find it’s best to empty it whenever we get the opportunity. So far we have not had to resort to the spare but it’s there if we need it. You never know when an Elsan disposal point might be out of order, so it’s really vital to have a spare.

It was quite a chilly morning, compared to the previous day. Warm when the sun peeped out from behind the clouds, but coatworthy (I think this might be a neologism!) when it didn’t. We soon completed the domestics and proceeded through the lock. Paul spotted a Canada Goose – one of many here – but this one was sitting on her eggs. He took a quick pic and let her be.

There were some moorings just past the lock, opposite the large weir, and we popped ourselves on there for the day. It seemed quiet enough, even though just on the edge of town.

There was some footfall but it was, indeed, largely quiet. I was sad to see that the almost iconic A-framed house (a former lock-keeper’s cottage, built in the 70’s) that sits by the lock had fallen into disrepair and it seems as though nobody currently lives there. I hope someone restores it to its former glory. Further investigation showed that it has been damaged by a couple of floods and was scheduled for demolition. However the ANT hope to restore it for use as a centre for its volunteers and for young people and,indeed have had a grant approved to assist with this. Let’s hope so. It does look as if something is happening as it is clad in scaffolding.

As we had stopped early, I had plenty of time to blog and also to make a very tasty supper – Smoked Haddock and Spinach Gnocchi. If that sounds tasty to you too, the recipe follows:

Smoked Haddock & Spinach Gnocchi

Serves 4

2 packs fresh Gnocchi

0.5kg smoked haddock

Pack of fresh spinach

Grated cheese – anything tasty, but a mix 4 parts extra-mature Cheddar to 1 part grated mozzarella works very well

300 ml tub double cream (could use Elmlea and not know the difference!)

Method

Butter a gratin/lasagne dish and place haddock in with couple of knobs of butter. Cover with foil. Cook for about 20 minutes at 18

While this is cooking, Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water (it’s cooked when all the bits have risen to the surface).

Cook the spinach until tender. When cooked, drain well, chop and add cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Lift the fish out onto foil lid and put the gnocchi into the dish.

Flake the haddock and put on top of the gnocchi. Pour the creamed spinach over the top and then top with the grated cheese.

Cook for a further 20 mins, until golden and bubbling.

Serve with a green salad and bread if required.

I halve the gnocchi but retain the fish, cheese and spinach quantities and use about 1/2 to 2/3 of the cream for two servings. Paul always says he would pay good money in a restaurant for this dish.

Smoked Haddock & Spinach Gnocchi

Unless I say otherwise, I can confirm that we always have a quiet night. We tend to choose moorings for their peace and solitude! There was a bit rain overnight, but not enough to disturb our slumbers and we left Evesham – finally! – at around 07:00. Breaking new ground.

We were planning on going through the next lock, Offenham, and then mooring for the day. Which is exactly what we did. It was another morning of sun and cloud, much like the day before – except I kept my coat on all morning – I’d been fooled before!

The turn for Offenham lock is quite sharp and once you’ve made it, there isn’t much room to moor to get the lock ready. Maybe a boat and a half in length? Oh – and it has a lighthouse! Well – it looks like a lighthouse, but I’m given to understand that it is a flood proof lock-keeper’s shelter! Whether that’s true or not I don’t know, but the idea has some merit. Heavy rain? Just move up a floor!

The moorings here are plentiful and also have the bonus of a water point, a sanitary station and refuse bins. But no access to the pub, although that does have its own moorings. We chose our spot with care (plenty of solar – between showers) and there was nobody else around. Lovely. And the boys absolutely loved it. On a river, the dogs don’t have as much freedom as they would on the canal, where it is a very easy matter to let them off for a pee and a sniff. On a river, they have to cross their legs until the next lock. But here there was plenty of room for them to run around and they had a great time chasing and fighting and just generally being dogs. It was lovely to see.

Not that long after we had arrived, moored and set down to work, another boat came up through the lock. The first that we were aware of him was his radio, Our initial thought (hope?) was that he was getting some water. Then we realised he was tying up, dead opposite, radio still blaring. Our lovely peaceful spot.

We waited a while, hoping he would turn it off, but it wasn’t to be. Paul eventually went out and asked him to turn it down and, to be fair, he apologised and complied. We had both half-expected aggression and verbiage, so it was quite a relief. He beetled off shortly after that, though, so maybe we’d upset him, which was not our intention by any means. I fully believe in live and let live live, but I am also averse to people who inflict their choice of music on you, whether you want it or not. It seems a bit arrogant and I would never do it to anyone else. Anyway, peace restored, we settled down for the day.

A few hours later, another boat drew up behind us. None other than Andrew, on Stannator, another Ortomariner. We had a cuppa (provided by us) and some ginger cake (courtesy of Andrew). He was with another friend and his dog and all the dogs got on very well indeed, leaving us free to have a good catch up – especially about the events that had taken place at the weekend , near the Marina, where a crowd of drunken louts had managed to sink a boat in one of the staircase locks. The story even made the Daily Mail! – although it’s not an entirely accurate account.

It was a beautiful evening and we decided to go for a walk and take the drone with us. Sadly, it was a tad too windy to do any serious flying, which is a shame, as I’d love to have shown you the great location from the air. But Ted had fun chasing it and barking at it, while Bill just looked bemused.

We very much liked the mooring here and would be – as is often the case – reluctant to leave. An early night called and we drifted off to sleep, lulled by the noise of the weir. It’s a very peaceful feeling.

We got up extra early on Wednesday (25th May) as we had a slightly longer distance than usual planned. Our route took us through two locks – the first, Harvington, is also named Robert Aickman Lock. Aickman was a leading player in the restoration of canals and waterways and was co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association. He was very involved in the restoration of the Upper Avon (Evesham to Stratford upon Avon) which was only completed in 1974. Most of the locks on the Upper Avon are named after their benefactors. The second lock was Marcliff lock (AKA IWA lock).

As we cruised up river, we saw another car, buried nose deep in the river and we actually saw a cuckoo calling from a tree top. Too late to grab a picture sadly, but it’s a handsome bird as the pic here shows.

Oops again!

It was a bitterly cold morning and by the time we arrived at our planned night stop, in Bidford on Avon, I was glad to get indoors as my hands were frozen. I actually couldn’t wait to wash up and warm them up! We met another boat as we approached Bidford and they remarked that it was more like November and I could not help but agree!

Bidford is an attractive little town, with a surprising array of shops, including a proper hardware store – one of my passions. There are several restaurants, takeaways and cafes too, plus a cafe and even a bridal shop.. And if you need a haircut, that’s taken care of as well. The town was reputedly one of Shakespeare’s drinking haunts. Being not far from Stratford, that may well be true. But let’s face it, a story like that can only enhance a town’s reputation, right?

As we were only scheduled to do a very short stretch, though one lock, we didn’t leave Bidford until lunchtime, which meant a lie-in for Paul and an even bigger one for me. Very nice too. We set off under the charming Bidford Bridge with its narrow arches, only one of which is navigable and pressed on to Barton lock. We were overtaken in that short passage by a diesel boat, which we thought was a tad impatient. He did however, have the good grace to apologise, saying that he hadn’t realised the lock was so close. We were best buds by the time the locking up was done and he was very interested in Old Nick.

We spotted some very nice moorings as we left the lock and I added them to my database for future reference and then almost immediately we had to turn right into Barton Moorings, where we planned to spend a couple of nights on hook-up and get some groceries delivered to carry us through the weekend.

We had hoped to eat out that night, but the local did not serve food on Thursdays, sadly. I had to improvise. I turned the left overs from last night’s Bolognese into Chilli, added kidney beans and serve with rice. And very nice it was too!

Friday (27th) promised to be wall to wall sunshine, so as we were in a marina, we used it as an opportunity to catch up with the washing. It was a fab drying day and we had soon washed clothes, towels and bedding and the boat was duly festooned like a Chinese laundry! Lots of lovely solar too. And we were terrorised by two very proud swans and their brood of four cygnets. I say terrorised but it was a delight. Loads of pictures ensued.

The Swan family

Once the groceries had been delivered and Paul had finished work for the day, we set off on our bikes across the fields to Bidford. The boys had great fun as usual, chasing and fighting. After a good cycle round the village, all decked out for the Jubilee, it was time for a drink and we popped into The Frog. This is one of the two adjacent pubs on the riverfront and the drinks couldn’t come quick enough. It was hot! Not complaining though. Not after recent chilly temperatures.

Bidford Bridge from The Frog

On arrival back at the boat, we got chatting to the couple on the boat next door, who had arrived in our absence, They told us about an Australian couple who had been there a couple of weeks before and that they had an electric hybrid boat. We really could not think who that had been! Jokes! Of course it was our mates Jonathan and Karen on board Watt Knot.

The road outside the moorings, which is underwater at times of flood, is full of people driving way too fast. But at night, it’s absolutely silent. I woke up a couple of times and heard precisely nothing. Other than the gentle snoring of my beloved. Before we leave Friday behind, I must mention that we christened it “Fluffy Friday”. The willows were discharging clouds of seeds by the score. We had experienced it the previous weekend too, but this was a turbo charged version. We had piles of it on the carpet, floors, work surfaces and up our noses! It was literally everywhere. You can see in the picture what it looks like on the tree – it’s just the very finest fluff. Awful. It will need a good clear up but that could wait until the next day.

Willow “fluff”

We had quite a slow start to Saturday (28th) and eventually left the Moorings at around 11. Everything clean – including us – and full tanks and batteries. It had been a very pleasant stay and we would be very happy to return, should we pass this way again.

Today would have been my Mum’s 90th birthday, The loss of a parent is something you never really get over. You learn to live with it, but the grief is always there, just below the surface. Anyone who’s ever lost a parent will know this, only too well.

The weather was looking better than forecast (I quite like a pessimistic forecast – promise less, deliver more!) and we set off in the sunshine. We passed through Bidford Grange Lock and then through Welford lock, which is quite a deep one. We decide to stop at the Four Alls pub for a cooked lunch for a change.

It was a tricky approach onto a very small mooring, as it was quite shallow and rocky. We threw a line ashore to a chap who had volunteered his services. Once moored, we realised that it was a massive step up to get ashore, so I volunteered to remain on the boat. And it saved closing and locking everything up. Paul returned looking very downhearted. The place was absolutely heaving – a combination of pleasant weather and location and an event – possibly a wedding – meant that they were at full stretch, or even over-stretched. So – something from the fridge for luncheon it was! Shame, as the menu had looked quite nice.

We planned to stop at the ANT moorings at Luddington Lock and we were delighted to find it was a) free of other boats and b) absolutely delightful! With water and sanitary station and refuse, to boot, just the job.

We arrived at about 3 and had a cuppa and a morsel of cake to fortify us and then set about cleaning the exterior of its fluff. That done, we had another cuppa (but no more cake – boo!) and then began de-fluffing the inside. Work done, we set off for a walk round the beautiful village of Luddington. It has a cute church and some lovely choccy box cottages; I picked out mine!

As I was cooking dinner, another few boats came by and each time we hoped they would not stop – we wanted our lovely mooring all to ourselves! Selfish or what?? And then a lovely, shiny new-looking boat approached and by their line, I knew we were going to get company. As they passed, we realised that they too were electric and it turned out that they – Sunflower – were on their maiden cruise, doing the Avon Ring. Inevitably, we got chatting and they told us that their boat had been built by Mothership Marine and that they also knew Rob and Karen on Mordiford Dragon (another Ortomarine boat). It was great to meet them and we wished them a successful and stress free cruise.

Narrowboat Sunflower

Oh – there were a couple of very shiny Ford Mustangs parked at the lock. Paul said I had to include them in the blog. So – all you petrol heads – here they are.

Is that a Mustang, Sally?

We had another lazy morning (29th May), getting away at around 11. Just as we left we were treated to an aerobatic display. Barrel rolls, loop the loop, stall turns, you name he did it. It was brilliant. The guys with the Mustangs had told us that there was a “Classic Wings and Wheels” event at the airfield in Bidford on Avon and we guessed it was connected to this. We had considered, briefly, going back but felt it might be heaving there so decided against.

It was a grey and chilly morning as we passed through just two locks on the way to Stratford. The last – Stratford Trinity Lock (our 17th Avon Lock) – had steel girders, over its structure – presumably for strengthening purposes. It was quite unusual.

Stratford Trinity Lock

We passed the new Shakespeare Marina – officially opened on Friday by Timothy “Contact Sport” West – where we have a berth booked for 2 nights next week and proceeded on through Stratford, which was jumping! A funfair, some event going on including a choir, loads of stalls and people! Lots of people! It was a bit of a shock to be honest. This river has actually made hermits of us! We’ve seen so few boats and it’s largely rural. It’s been blissful – every one of its 47 miles – and we will be very reluctant to leave. It was also a bit hectic ON the river with trip boats, hire boats and rowers so we had to concentrate a bit! Hence not many photos – but we’ll be back.

There is a lock through which you pass into Bancroft Basin and which gives access to the Stratford canal, of which we did the Northern half last year. But not today. Instead, we passed under the ancient Clopton Bridge, and headed further upstream, towards the current end of the navigation. There are plans to extend the navigation to Warwick, where it would join the Grand Union. We crossed over the Avon on an aqueduct last year on our passage through Warwick. But it’s a long way from plans to fruition. I doubt it will be done in my lifetime.

The navigation gets shallower and we felt it was prudent not to go any further than the Old Bathing Place moorings – even though the wide trip boat goes a bit further. The skipper clearly knows were the shoals (or shallow bits) are, We spoke to one of the skippers who said we’d be fine to moor there. So moor we did.

Old Bathing Place Mooring

We have just a week left of our Avon licence and plan to stay to the bitter end. We have friends joining us again next week for the Jubilee weekend and we will need to be off the river before they leave us, so we’ll probably make at least a start on the Stratford canal. But who knows? Plans can be made but they can also be unmade!

PS – disappointed that nobody got the lyric last week, Just one entry! But what Disney movie does this week’s song/blog title come from?

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