Sunday, 5 September 2010

Gloucester 2010 - Calf Heath to Greensforge

Calf Heath to Greensforge
21st August 2010

7 miles - 16 locks - 9 hours
Having only just returned from our London trip we find ourselves on the water once again.

Circular drop shaft on the Staffs and Worcester

This was something of an unexpected and last minute trip, replacing a planned visit to Tenerife. With 11 days at our disposal we had a number of options to cruise new waters, and settled on the Avon Ring with a couple of days in Stratford. But this plan was itself revised later on but more of that as the story unfolds.

This first day was dominated by the weather, and our "band of the day" would have to be Wet Wet Wet, or perhaps the Weathergirls who were coincidentally performing at Rewind in Reading. It was either raining, just finished raining or just starting to rain, but nowhere as bad as the gale force wind and torrential rain I witnessed form my office window yesterday.

We arrived in the late evening and slept on Wand'ring Bark setting off at a respectable 9.00am and meeting few boats, and they were Viking Afloat hirer's scurrying the last few miles back to their base at Gailey. Boaters were clearly being put off by the weather forecasts.

No play at Bratch

We endured the soggy drizzle as we made our was down off the summit pound, buoyed by the sight of disconsolate cricketers at Bratch kicking a football around a squelchy outfield in the vain hope of a break in the weather. The covers were on and looked like staying that way. 

We had one fleeting glimpse of the sun as we descended the Bratch which allowed us to enjoy the picturesque setting in all its glory. The short flight of three are always a joy to operate.

Bratch Locks

On our way down we started to hear tales of woe and delays on the Severn where something was seriously wrong with Bevere lock. Divers has been sent in but couldn't fix it and instead huge pumps were being used to fill the lock. This process was apparently very slow and the lock was only being operated once per hour. This was worrying but at least the route appeared passable with patience.

The rain returned and we assumed wet weather routine which essentially means that I run single handed. But there is no point everyone getting wet. Progress is a bit slower but we were in no particular hurry. We were following Viking's Freyia down the canal, which was kicking out huge plumes of ominously black smoke. Their passage was much delayed by their insistence of taking a cat on a walk with a lead at every lock, and then stopping below the lock and employing three crew to carefully manhandle the said creature back aboard. I am not sure that anyone, least of all the cat, enjoyed the experience. It says something when a single hander is tripping over the heels of a crew of six.

The helipad and hanger

At Swindon I came across nb San Miguel with its now complete helipad on the bows (I posted photos of this under construction a few weeks ago). This is an amazing structure perched high up on the front of the boat, overhanging the front, sides and so high is completely blocks the steerer's view. I couldn't resist a closer peek and even lifted the tarpaulin to see what mechanical marvel lay beneath. I know this was very rude of me but I really couldn't resist. Rather than the Chinook I half expected, there was actually a quad bike. I admire the engineering skill in  making a swivelling pad but I have to say that the downsides appear to far ooutweigh the advantages. My suggestion would be to get a  boat with a tug deck and simply park in on the front but as an alternative how about a small "trailer" which is pushed / pulled along? Ingenious but hopelessly vulnerable.

And I complain about the flowers obscuring my view!

We finally moored at Greensforge at 6.00pm - having made good progress in dismal conditions.

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