River Avon 2012
Strensham to Evesham
25th August 2012
20 miles - 5 locks - 6 hours
The thunderstorms ratted on all night, dumping gallons of water on us but finally came to an end as we polished on our breakfast bacon butties, with the sun peeping out from a water washed sky.
With a forecast for more of the same we set off on our long circumnavigation of Breedon Hill, its summit shrouded in brooding mist. At it's foot the River Avon is sublime, winding its serpentine route up the valley via en endless series of twists and loops. All along its path the banks are lined with pollarded crack willow and offering frames for a thousand photos.
The locks on the Avon are slow fillers, really slow, but demanding attention and offering a wide variety of design. But they are not the main attraction. That honour has to go the bridges, some of them hundreds of years old. The first bridge of the day was Eckington Bridge, narrow and achingly pretty in the early morning light. Note for next time - there is a great mooring just upstream from the bridge.
Getting our ducks in a row
I had wanted to climb up Breedon Hill to its 1000 ft summit, but the weather was poor and the visibility hopeless so we pressed on passing Tildesley Wood just south of Pershore, home of the Pershore Yellow Egg Plum. By the time we got here we had travelled eight water miles, but only achieved 2.5 miles as the crow flies. Then its the old and new bridges of Pershore immediately before the deepest lock on he river, gateway to the town.
Now there was a reason we had pressed on to Pershore - the Pershore Plum Festival. 2012 has not been a good year for plums, first there was a late frost in May which destroyed most of the blossom, and then the endless days of cloud and rain meant that the fruit which survived refused to ripen. All this resulted a small, late crop which was in direct contrast to 2011 when there was bumper crop early in the season.
This left the plum festival high and dry without a crop to display, so it was all very low key, just a handful of stalls in Plum Alley. But to compensate, just about the whole town was decked out in purple. Even the local library has dressed its windows using books, you guessed it, with purple covers. No 50 Shades of Grey here! The most distinctive product in Plum Alley was the Pershore Tricolour Jam - Red, Amber and Green achieved by layering three types of plum jam.
Gathering Damsons at Wyre Piddle
But for all this Pershore left us cold, so we moved on from our mooring near the football ground, through Wyre Lock, to the exquisitely named Wyre Piddle. Wyre Piddle's crowning glory, has to be an island in the river called Tiddle Widdle Island. I am not joking - check the map! Actually Tiddle Widdle Island contains lots a Damson trees overhanging the river, so we pulled in and collected a big basin full.
Evesham rope ferry
All afternoon thunderstorms were bowling up the valley, each missing us but when we were collecting yellow egg plums below Chadbury Lock we were finally caught out and endured a short but torrential drenching. The rain killed of what little boat traffic there was and then we had the river to ourselves. We expected to see a line of boats on the Evesham visitor mooring. but no, there were only four boats moored below Evesham Bridge and we had out choice of spots, selecting one directly opposite Abbey Park and the site of the Evesham Angling Festival.