Thursday, 26 July 2018

Down "Cleethorpes" locks, through the basins and onto the River Severn.

Well, that was a mistake!

We were up nice and early, showered and ready to go. Then we remembered we needed to dig out the anchor. This lies buried in our bow locker, which also contains numerous other handy sometimes items. So we emptied it onto the bank, then heaved out the anchor itself. Not an easy task as it is fastened to a length of heavy chain, then to a rope.

By the time we had done, with the anchor in place for deployment if required, we were knackered!

This lock has the award this year so far for the stiffest paddles!

Mistake number two. We needed water, quite badly. Now the water point was just below the first lock. We dropped down into the upper basin, to find a boat already on the services watering up. Not a problem, we could empty the cassettes and rubbish whilst we waited. Only one tap here unfortunately.

But, it was still early and it took us a little time to realise that the all male crew of said boat, whilst moaning how slow the tap was, were also in turn, taking showers!  After a good half hour wait, in which time two other boats joined the queue , embarrassment finally saw them leave. The tap was slow, it took us another half hour to fill up!

Then across and round the basin to the first staircase of two locks. It takes more time to set these up than descend them, but down we went. There is quite an awkward turn from these locks diagonally across to the second staircase, accessing the river. As we descended the lower lock of the first two, another boat was ascending the second staircase from the River. He ran across to us, rather agitated as to where we would go, almost as if we shouldn't be there. When I told him I would pull over for him (as the instructions say), there was palpable relief on his face.

So down the second staircase, assisted by a grandad and grandson. Think grandad was the more interested in the process though, then out onto the River Severn.

It was nice to have a bit of water depth under the boat. Whilst this river, like many others is somewhat down depth and flow wise, it is a lot deeper than many canals. We were soon at our first river lock. These are all manned and entry is indicated by traffic lights. Green on, gate's opened and in you slot. There are steel cables running vertically down the lock walls at intervals. So one on the bow, one on the stern and loop your ropes onto these to hold the boat as you descend. Very easy.

The river is broad and tree lined, but there be the problem. It can also become somewhat tedious. Because the river is prone to flooding, sensibly our forefathers did not build villages on the flood plane. Therefore, all these are out of sight from the river, which also has high banks shrouded in trees. Now personally, I like Willow trees. But, when apart from the odd Alder or Oak, when its all you can see, it does become boring.

At least our first day on the river had the odd lock to break the tedium, but there was no habitation to speak of, few if any bridges and apart from the odd fisherman, no people! Come to think of it, no boats to speak of either. We didn't have to share a lock! Most of the boats that were moving, were narrowboats, with just a few yogurt  pots. Not what we expected on a Sunday in late july.

It was though very very hot. Even on the water there was ner a breath  of wind. We were frazzled by the time we reached Worcester and moored up twixt the footbridge and the railway bridge near the racecourse. Unless you want to ascend the locks into Digilis basin, there is limited mooring here.

It was sweltering by early afternoon. We walked along the river,  around the basin and through town via the cathedral. A pleasant place. Just had to "Lager up" at Brown's bistro on the waterfront, then back to the boat to chill out. It had been a wearisome day and we were hot, bothered and knackered.

at least someone likes the willow!

Next day, we decided an early start was in order, to try to beat the forecast heat. Now we don't normally travel with the pram hood up, but in this environment, with high bridges when you occasionally pass one and very hot weather, it does give one shade.

Out through Worcester and to our only lock of the day. As we approached, we could see another narrowboat waiting on the lock landing. This had a water point! A rare thing on this river, but we were ok, so followed the other boat into the lock. Down we went, then let him go ahead of us. We are in no rush.

If anything, our second day was even more tedious. Only the one lock, very few bridges but loads and loads of Willow. The sun shone, but there was quite a stiff breeze, which did keep us cool under the pram hood. We even managed a wash load! Something to break the boredom. Again, very little in the way of boat movement.

Don't get us wrong, it is in no way unpleasant, with the Malvern hills visible at times, but it's relentless. After seventeen miles of mainly willow, we turned onto the Avon at Tewkesbury,  finding a mooring below the lock for the day. It's a bit of a high bank and a scramble to moor up, but we did it. £5 a day for the privilege though.

Get some bigger boats along the river, loved the guy in the deckchair on the front 
enjoying the trip 

Quick walk around town and to the beautiful Abbey. A gem of Norman architecture, with all the normal later additions. So cool and tranquil inside. Then, back to the boat, which remains a cool sanctuary.

As dusk was falling, I went onto the back deck for a vape, like you do! I was aware of something rolling in the water a boat length or so away, and then followed a trail of bubbles towards the stern of our boat. Suddenly, a head appeared. It was a large Otter! I looked at him/her, it looked directly at me, then with a swift flick it was gone. All of course too rapid to reach for a camera. Pure Magic though.

The next morning it was time to make for Gloucester. Totally new territory for us. As we left the Avon back onto the Severn proper, another narrowboat was heading south towards Upper lode lock, so we slotted in behind them.

Hotel boat leaving Tewskesbury just before us nearly £1000 for a 6 day cruise!

Below this lock, you are on the tidal section of the river until reaching Gloucester lock and rising into the docks. After an informative chat with the keeper, we were soon down and out. The river here is little different as the tide patterns made our passage with no discernible change in the river level. So same old same old really. The odd pub or farm visible near the river and the banks a little lower, but still preponderantly Willow.
Egret, Cormorant & Heron sharing a fishing spot (heron flew off as I reached for the camera)

At River parting, were it divides into two channels, Ali phoned the Gloucester lock keeper to advise of our imminent arrival. He made us aware of a large vessel coming out towards us, which we fortunately met just as we entered the East channel, where it is a little wider than further down.

Narrower and more meandering in its course now, Ali made a second call as requested approaching the first bridge, allowing the keeper to ready the lock for us. So in we went, luckily for us as it turned out, against the left hand wall, whilst our travelling companion secured to the right. Then a wide beam slotted behind our companion. The gates closed and the paddles opened. This is quite a deep lock. As we slowly rose, it became apparent that the water was swirling and causing a considerable current, forcing those on the right hand wall to hang on for dear life. It was  too much for the lady on the bow of our companion boat, she had to let the rope go, their bow then resting against ours. But we rose up and were soon out into the basins.The main basin was a little busy for our liking and we needed to use the services, which were just beyond Llanthony lift bridge, so we did this, then found a mooring on the floating pontoon on Bakers quay, directly opposite the services.

We are in the realm of the Seagull now.  There was me thinking pigeon shit was bad! Anyway, a nice central location, if not that scenic, but suiting our needs nicely. A wander around the city in the afternoon, visiting another beautiful cathedral then a rather nice meal out, completed our day.

For some time we have had , how can I put this delicately, a slight toilet issue. More annoying than anything else. When withdrawing the cassette, there was a certain anount of "water" on the top. Not nice! Doing a little research, it appeared that fixing plastic shims in the base, so to slightly raise the cassette, could cure this. So I ordered a meter lengh of pvc flat bar from screwfix to try to solve this issue. Only trouble what it was a 40 minute walk there, and the same back. After completing a wash load, we set off. It was hot. Collected said item, walked back and cooled down. After a trip to a Greek taverna, which was excellent,  we returned to do battle with said bog. Cut the strip into equal lengths and glued them into the base. The cassette now seemed to fit a lot more snugly.

some amazig modern stained glass

The next day we made an early start,  before the lift bridge began operating at 0800. Swung across to the services and a bog test. Yippee, the fix has worked, bone dry. Time will tell though!

Then a short hop to a very convenient Sainsburys. We moored virtually outside this. Ali went shopping whilst I made a start cleaning the Gull poo off the roof!  My life seems to revolve around excrement at the moment.

Then we began down the canal proper and out of the city confines. It's broad, deep and the many lift or swing bridges are manned, so very easy to navigate. It's also very straight, only deviating occasionally .

Only one drama, when the second of two gin palaces rounded a bend. His wash was overtopping the bank and we rode the waves like being at sea. A poor lass trying to put on the tiller on a moored boat, was almost thrown in. Sorry, but he is a tosser ...

Our original plan was to stop at Saul junction, but it was busy, with little if any moorings free, so we carried on. It's not difficult cruising here and as the estuary comes into view, very pretty . Upon reaching Shepherds Patch, we found a good mooring so hopped in. This is the best place to stop to visit Slimbridge, home of the Wildfowl Trust, a visit we hope to make on the morrow.

This barge obviously has is own SSSI

Correcting posts

Then the BBC thwarted our plans somewhat!

They are filming for Philip Pullman His Dark Materials, 
not seen anyone we recognise

 Total 53 miles 11 locks, 13 moveable bridges.

(11 miles commercial waterway, 41 miles of large river, 5 narrow locks and 6 large locks).