Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Gloucester 2010 - Stourport to Upton

Stourport to Upton on Severn
23rd August 2010

21 miles - 9 locks - 7 hours

As predicted, there was constant rain all night drumming its steady rythm on the roof of the boat. In fact it was the rain stopping that woke us up and by 7.30am it was all fair and clear - but very wet.

Stourport visitor moorings

With a longish stretch ahead of us we were off and away by 8.30am, working down through the Srourport Basins and out onto the river via the two narrow staircase locks. We passed a boat exiting the top lock, its sides all shiny and black only to discover it had been floated out of the dry dock a mere 15 mins earlier. Hmm, blacking - I need to start thinking about that for the end of the 2011 season. As it happened the Limekiln staff were gaining access over the lock and they advised me that the charge of £250 for a full week, including the use of a very powerful pressure washer. Not bad but the location is a bit distant from Sutton Coldfield.

Stourport Staircase Locks

Stourport fairground

And so it was out onto the Severn and into the rain, and rain it did all the way to Worcester three hours later. Soggy, cold and a bit miserable we tied to the visitor mooring pontoon above Diglis lock and has some lunch.

A wet Worcester

A rare glimpse of blue sky south of Diglis Lock

The rain eased and we were off again, passing the end of the Droitwich Barge canal which is still roped off. It has got to open soon! At this rate it will be too late in the season to get any river traffic at all. All this rain seems to have saturated the fields and the land drains were spewing torrents of water into the river. Not a good sign.

Land drains

Eventually the Malvern Hills emerged from the murk, their tops wreathed in cloud and looking rather forbidding, only to disappear behind fresh bands of rain.  Our mooring options were Upton or Tewkesbury, but given the weather we deiced on the former only to find nb Caernarfon (also from Calf Heath) edging into the last outside spot on the pontoon. However, there was one shortish space on the upstream inside edge, but it has a very tricky approach. We had to get stationary in the flow, edge in close to the bank and then let the current push us backwards into the slot. The theory is good but the current moves at an angle away from the bank so the success of the manouver was aided by other boaters who grabbed our ropes and hauled us into position.

Upton on Severn parish church

Then the sun came out and we made a forray into this curious little town, which is well worth a visit. It is very old and is dominated by its bridge, rebuilt during the second world war. There is an impressive church tower near the river and a fine operational church on the road out of town, built in yellow sandstone which looks warm to the touch as though it has absorbed the heat of many summers.

Upton tower

The town is full of little shops as well as the smaller Co - Op type mini supermarkets, which provide both interest and the essentials. Two shops are particularly interesting and worth a visit:

The Old Fashioned Sweet Shop which sells sweets from big jars. They were very happy to sell sweets by the qarter pound, which for our generation is the only way to buy loose sweets. We settled on some chocolate toffee nuts for Jeff and some Cough Candy Twist for Belle (who really does have a cough!).

The other "must visit" is the second hand bookshop. It does not have a name but is an absolute treasure trove of the unusual, all presided over by an elderly gentleman for whom the enterprise is a labour of love. Dont expect any fancy presentation, or a well defined ordering system. Its a bit of a pick and mix but there is a very well stocked waterways section to the immediate left of the door as you walk in.

Our eye was grabbed by "Shakespeare's Avon" a 1984 facimilie reproduction of Charles Showell's 1901 record of his journey from Source to Severn, including nearly 200 amazingly accurate pen and ink drawings of the things he found. The book provides a fascinating look at the Avon valley over 100 years ago - and deserves a post of its own in the future. £17.50 for an ex library book seems a lot but it was worth every penny.

I have realised that I cant do photographic justice to Upton upon Severn in this post so I will run an extra one tomorrow.

The town also offers a good fish and chip shop so we concluded the day with a take away meal and a couple of hands of 6 handed rummy in our ongoing tournament - its a bit addictive.

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