The Upper Avon
What a busy few days since my last post. We made an uneventful descent into Stratford and made a bee line for the Avon Navigation Trust's floating base in Bancroft Basin to but a one week river pass for both boats. They don't see a lot of buttys and were grateful I had reviewed the website and identified that the un powered craft fee of £10 in addition to the motor boat £50 would be the most appropriate. I know this is pricey for a few days on the Avon but it must cost a lot to maintain the navigation structures - and its a lovely river with echoes of the Thames in miniature.
We have opted to make a descent of the river because I am not convinced we could make a passage towing upstream due to the swift currents in the shallow reached below the locks.
We stayed in Stratford on Wednesday afternoon, entertaining several of Helen's thespian friends, including Miles Richardson who gave us a wave from his dressing room between performances.
We did complete a bit of new water on this trip - up above the bridge to the services at The Old Bathing Place. The guidebook warns that its a bit tricky for narrowboats but with a bit of fresh on there was plenty of depth but the narrow channel made dodging the trip boats a bit challenging.
The Old Bathing Place Stratford on Avon
The elsan is fine but the tap is so far from the river our hose wouldn't reach! The journey back to town highlighted one of the perils of towing on this river - those pesky old bridges with their tiny arches, this time set on a left hand bend which is our Achilles Heel. We had the nightmare scenario of a trip boat close behind a a rowing boat which inexplicably came across in front of us and disrupted my approach. Wand'ring Bark came through cleanly but The Jam Butty slewed a bit and gave the bridge a bit of a bang.
In Thursday it off down the dreamy river, with mile after mile of valley rolling by, punctuated with locks built as part of the Upper Avon restoration.
The problem with these locks, as I remembered from our last upstream visit, was the "wild river" sections just below then there the channel is narrow, shallow and winding. We went down at a rate of knots, the boat at just over tick over to keep steerage but no faster because we were ferry gliding round the big corners, the bows close to one bank and the stern on Montgomery sweeping out to the other bank. We just played that there would be no one coming the other way at the crucial moments!
Robert Aickman Lock
We spent the night on the moorings above Barton Lock, far from roads and amazingly quiet.
Barton Lock mooring
If the lock approaches were not enough there were more of those bridges like the one at Bidford on Avon where the navigation arch is on the extreme left and the current twists around. Time for another power slide to miss both the cut waters and the following bank.
Bidford on Avon Bridge
Beyond that the Upper Avon slid serenely by with Evesham offering the only hiccup. They have installed a hydro power plant under the old lock house and this means that there is a massive current sweeping past the lock mouth. I could see the problem from the water flow and crept to the end of the lock moorings - applying power to dash into the jaws of the lock and rest against the downstream piles. Phase one went OK but then there was the 10 ton butty hanging outside and being grabbed bu the current so I powered in to the lock but had a good rattle in the process, putting a small tear in the new cratch cover for my pains. If they install hydro schemes they should but in some better navigation guide posts on my opinion.