Thursday, 30 July 2009

Mixing with the Big Boys!!

Hurray! After about a week and a great deal of hastle we again have internet connection! Fingers crossed that things are now back to normal!

We are about half way down the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal at a place called Saul Junction where there used to be a link across the Cotswolds to the River Thames. The canal is under restoration. I only hope I live to see the restoration complete!
This canal was built to by-pass the shallow, tidal section of the lower River Severn so that big vessels could safely get to Gloucester Docks and then back out to sea again. It is only 16 and a half miles long but it is wide and deep and so, despite not having a current, it feels more like a river. There are no locks but there are lots of swing bridges operated by BW staff.

It is SO my kind of place!!
  • A huge variety of craft to see going by - narrowboats, widebeams, all sorts of different barges, large sea-going cruisers, sailing boats and - the chance of a fabulous tall ship as seen in the picture.
  • A wide, well-maintained towpath with, in places, fantastic views over the Severn estuary and the Forest of Dean to the West and the Cotswold Hills to the East.
  • Lovely quiet lanes and villages to explore either on foot or on the bikes.
  • Masses of footpaths (not always maintained that well I have to say!) for walking Maggie.
  • Mandarin ducks visit the galley window every day.
Just as well we like it because we need to spend about a month here!! After the appalling rainfall of yesterday I was beginning to think that we would be stranded here all Winter!

Looking across the Severn Estuary towards the Forest of Dean.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


"Dr Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain
He stepped in a puddle right up to his middle
And never went there again."

Well, clearly he did because he has been making a very good living in the catering trade here at Gloucester Docks.

The Dock area is really interesting. Thankfully, most of the old, magnificent warehouses
have been saved. The Inland Waterways Museum is housed in one of them. LOTS of ££ are being invested in the re-development of the dock area. A big attraction is a very posh retail outlet centre called "Gloucester Quays". Already coach loads of punters are coming here. From a tourism point of view the area still has lots of untapped potential which I hope will be handled appropriately.

Gloucester City itself is within easy walking distance of the docks. Mark (as in Henry) didn't have a good word to say about Gloucester and I don't really know why. From an architectural point of view the cathedral is absolutely beautiful. It is a huge city! There are SO many shops! All too big for me really. I even went into my first Primark today!! (Just to see what all the praise was about really.)
There were lots of flower displays about and the pedestrianised streets seemed to be clean and tidy. We did, however, notice a high presence of police and community officers so what is this saying?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The 'Mystery' of the disappearing blue marker

It's not a mystery really! We are now experiencing something new - being on tidal waters on our own boat. We have left Tewkesbury and are now on the Mighty River Severn heading downstream towards Gloucester. Being the responsible people we are (!) we have dusted off the life jackets, Maggie's included. No point having them and not using them.

And:- it is pouring with rain!
And:- high tides are expected over the next few days!

Why do these things always seem to happen to us?

A 'cheerful' bit of news on the local radio this morning reminded listeners that it was two years ago today that a month's worth of rain fell in 24 hours causing all that devastating flooding in this area!


We have:-
  • 'big' skies which I know Mrs Elliot would like
  • a wide, empty river very condusive for easy steering (Mr Elliot would like this!)
  • turbulance, waves and water going the wrong way twice a day and this is accompanied by the temporary disappearance of John's blue marker!
  • ducks desperately trying to swim against the current when the tide is not coming in, getting no-where until they turn around and then ....... whoosh! Gone!
  • a complete absence of any other boats on the move and this is really quite spooky!
We are aiming to make our way into Gloucester on Wednesday. We have been told that we need to arrive when there is minimum turbulance and little debris created by the tide. Watch this space!!!

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Well, despite initial concerns about yet another river festival we have had a really nice weekend here in Tewkesbury.

Ken (Lord Kenneth) & Sandra (Lady Sandra) on Kesandra ("The Floating Palace") caught up with us on Friday afternoon and, whilst we were out and about in Tewkesbury searching for brass knobs (!!!) breasted up to us. Ken later said that it was a new experience for him and one that he didn't much like!!!

I must say that I think all this living on such a palatial vessel is somewhat going to their heads and that they are now getting a little carried away!

They are even beginning to think about getting a royal guard dog!

Sorry Rebecca. Sorry Samantha. They simply can't have this one because she's ours. She has, however, been welcomed on board "Kesandra", and, you never know, she might just have left a royal flea behind on that big back deck somewhere!

All joking apart - we had a really good weekend together. The Water Festival was quite low-key - local people have spent the last two years trying to pick up the pieces from all the devastation caused by the floods of 2007. It was, however, a really good Family Fun Day based around the water. There were water based races for children, mums and dads and teachers! There were fun-fair type stalls, some live entertainment, an illuminated boat competition which was really well supported and an excellent firework display to end the event.

Over the weekend Sandra & I went to have a really good look around Tewkesbury Abbey - the architecture of which is simply phenomenal. Whilst we were away Ken and John drank too many beers and, in the evenings, we all drank too much red wine!!! Thank you Ken & Sandra for your good company, your support re our boating shortcomings (!) and your great sense of humour.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

In Search of the Perfect Sausage

PERSHORE - I think it's lovely!

We had read bits and pieces about it in the posh pack with which we were presented at the Evesham River Festival. When we came past in the boat we were unable to moor so, having eventually managed to get into a place called Comberton Quay, we cycled back in.

The High Street is lovely - old fashioned buildings and lots of individual shops apparently still doing good trade. Clothes and shoe shops were very exclusive (in other words, expensive!) However, it was the Indoor Retail Market that was the biggest lure to us. The fresh food stalls in here are fantastic - fruit and veg, butchers, cheeses to die for, home made meat pies and pasties, cakes, more cakes, tarts, buns and more tarts!!! etc.

The quest for the perfect sausage is not really our quest - it is that of Joan Peace (mother of Gill) who has been pursuing this now for many years. Abbey Butchers in the market were selling at least a dozen different home-made varieties. We have bought quite a selection to assist her!!

The NOT so good news is that we have just found out the on Saturday it's the Tewkesbury Water Festival!!! WE ARE PLAGUED!!! As much as I enjoyed Evesham I don't want to embrace another one so soon after the last! What IS annoying is that this will mess up our planned stay at Tewksbury. Again, it really is a lovely old market town full of history and I was looking forward to a mooche around! Sharon (whom we met in Evesham - n/b "Janus") told me of a pair of blemished old bed knobs she had seen in an antique/collectibles shop and I wanted to go in search of them. Oh well, looks like we will be doing some more to-ing and fro-ing - this time backwards and forwards on the River Severn! We are about an hour's cruise away from Tewkesbury so I think we will just have to carry on and see what happens!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Who's bright idea was this then?!

Today ................. we climbed a hill!
WHY? you might ask.

This is why.

Bredon Hill to be exact. 991 feet above sea level with apparent views of 8 different counties:-Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire - definitely.
Others? Don't know. We had to cycle about 4 miles to get to the start of the climb - well a mixture of cycle and push uphill actually! My goodness gracious me!!! We will be so fit and healthy!! AS IF!!!!

We are now on the Lower Avon and mooring opportunities are few and far between. Last night we wanted to stop at Pershore - no chance! Not one space to be had. Mind you, we did what we said we would never do again on a river and that was go on too late into the evening. We have learned that, on rivers, you really need to start looking for a mooring about 4pm at the latest.
We have time to go back and try again so, depending on the weather, I think that is what we will do.

We are at a place called Eckington Bridge and it really is lovely - the river is quite wide, open aspect to one side, fabulous old 5 arched stone bridge and lots of ducks and swans.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Just something else!

At last, John and I may have found a riverside residence that we can afford!

It is for sale!

So Glad we Stayed

Evesham River Festival - what a fantastic event!

And John moans about my flowers!!

Everything has been so well organised and co-ordinated and there has been masses to do and see. On the Friday night there was a beer tent and free entertainment. All day Saturday there was a huge variety of more free entertainment - Punch & Judy for the children, comedy sketches akin to the Edinburgh Fringe, a folk band, a rock band, 200 Morris Dancers the like of which you have never seen before!, (I could definitely take to it!), Line Dancing (I definitely couldn't take to it!) and the local radio broadcasting live. There were also lots of stalls selling crafts, novelty toys, old fashioned sweets (Gill would not have been able to resist!) and, of course, lots of food outlets. I so take my hat off to all those who have participated to make this such a fantastic town event.

This was one of the comedy sketches and it was really funny.

There were also boating competitions and the local boaters entered with 110% support and commitment. The theme for the boat decorating competition was "The Circus" and entries were amazing!
It was really good to see cruisers and narrowboats joining in together. In the evening there was a boat illumination competition and ....... WOW!! John moans when I ask for one
little strip of lights at Christmas time!! To finish off the Saturday,
Evesham Council provided a fantastic firework display. The rain was dreadful during the evening but boaters are hardy folk and stuck it out! All of this only cost us our entry fee.

A few more things went on during Sunday - silly games, prize awards, thanks etc and a brass band. What an excellent community spirit there is Evesham Riverside - I envy them. This is the sort of thing Staines should be doing. I'm so glad we decided to 'give it a go'!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

This & That

We have had some serious downpours of rain since last weekend - I wish the warm weather would return!

The Warwickshire Avon is a really beautiful river. We came through Evesham Lock yesterday and I think the Lower Avon is even prettier than the Upper. It is certainly popular with fishmen! I think fishing must be one of the most popular pastimes. All along the banks of the river there are fishing platforms - there is obviously a lot of money to be made - there was even a special campsite for fishermen! The picture is taken from Evesham Town Moorings looking towards Evesham Bridge. The festival is held along here. I have been talking to locals and they have described the scene during the 2007 floods - unimaginable to you and I!!! Whole static caravans, cars, boats, sheds etc floating downstream and then
crashing into a bridge! Apparently, a lot of this type of debris is still on the riverbed.

The Evesham River Festival is on at the weekend and we have organised ourselves a booked mooring so that we can stay and find out what it is all about! John has worked out that there's a beer tent so needs no other encouragement! Me? I'm just after The Punch & Judy Shows with all the 'other' kids!

Today we got on the bikes and went for a cycle around some of the villages which I had read about and sounded lovely. This part of Worcestershire still has lots of thatched, half-timbered properties. The village of Cropthorne was especially gorgeous - take note Gary & Joan!
We saw lots of properties like this!! Lottery ticket?? Actually, where one is born, bred and reared is such a lottery isn't it? Having discovered lovely counties such as Worcestershire and Warwickshire I feel I definitely got the short straw being reared in Staines! I should have married a farmer or run a riding stables!!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

It only takes a second!

It only took a second for Maisie to drop a favoured chew overboard and a second for it to sink.

It only took a second for Maisie herself - halfway along the gunnel when the boat was midstream of the Avon - to fall in!! For a little dog who will not swim voluntarily, she swam REALLY well! When she reached the stern (with the help of the current) it only took John a second to hoist her out by the scruff of the neck! It took her several hours to recover from the trauma - she was SERIOUSLY upset! I don't think she'll do that again!

It only took a second for our lovely Buckby Can to be knocked off the roof of the boat by an over-hanging willow branch. It floated whilst we stopped and reversed but, as I reached out to grab it, it only took a second to sink in the deep water to the river bed. I know it was only a possession but I loved that can! We tried hard to find it with the magnet but to no avail.

Megan had no trouble finding us moored at Luddington Lock and she, Maisie and Grandma were all safely back in Staines by 5 o'clock in the afternoon. It's ironic isn't it? Last year when John's mum spent time with us it was too wet and sometimes cold with it. This year, if anything, it was too hot!!!

The Avon is a really beautiful but temperamental river. As with most rivers, the lack of mooring places is an issue. We are now at Bidford-on-Avon and intend to walk into the little town tomorrow. At this moment in time the river is anything but busy with boats.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

94 degrees fahrenheit in the shade of the boat!

It's 4 o'clock in the afternoon and we have just arrived in Bancroft Basin, Stratford. We are here with a million, trillion others - boaters, locals and tourists from all over the world. John and I have never even been near a canal or river festival before - we usually do our utmost to avoid such things because we don't like being amongst crowds and crowds of people but this festival must be a very popular one judging by the amount of attention it is attracting.

The Basin is as special as I remember it to be - lots of statues of Shakespearean characters, fabulous floral displays and interesting trade boats. Since we were here four years ago a new bridge onto the Avon has been erected - apparently the old one didn't allow wheelchair access.

We have been SO lucky - a boat pulled out of a pontoon mooring slot just as we arrived so we grabbed it! We can stay here tonight and tomorrow but Friday, Saturday and Sunday other boaters have paid to moor so that they can be here for the duration of the festival. I think we will probably start to make our way down river then.

Talking of floral displays - the nasturtiums which I thought were only going to be leaves have decided to erupt with orange and yellow flowers! Thanks Glynis.