Go to Allan's Page Gloucester 2007 Canals Home Page Part 2. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal Go to Deb's Page
Gloucester 2008 View Slideshow Part 3. The Rochdale Canal

Across the Pennines, four times

Part 1 - Milton Keynes to Gloucester

We were supposed to be heading for the Pennines to take advantage of the new arrangements which would allow me to steer Keeping Up through Standedge Tunnel myself - so whatever were we doing in Gloucester again? It all started at a party earlier in the year, when we arranged to meet an old school-friend of Debbie's on the way to Yorkshire, then discovered that she lived near Gloucester. But never mind, we like Gloucester, and anyway it would give us the opportunity to meet some good friends who live on their boat near Stratford-on-Avon. So, after a brief delay to hold a grand "Bus pass party" to celebrate our 60th birthdays this year, we set off on our travels.

Our first port of call was Napton Bridge, where we stopped for a wonderful evening's performance of "Tales of the Thames" by the Mikron Theatre company. We moored with their boat Tyseley's huge bows towering over ours, and chatted to the crew as they prepared for the show. What a talented company they are, and as always the show was a fantastic evening's entertainment!

We had an easy journey up through Warwick and Hatton, soon to find our friends' boat moored at Wootton Wawen. Mooring near them we spotted a tremendous commotion in the water; it seemed as if there was an underwater battle taking place, of such ferocity that it even moved our boat about. We were told that a number of Zander had invaded the area, and were having a tremendous battle with the local carp.

 

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Keeping Up was moored nose-to-nose with Tyseley
A busy afternoon on the Avon at Stratford. The chain ferry was packed all afternoon
On the river Avon. Offenham Lock even has its own lighthouse
Evesham. This unique A-shaped house will have be demolished after it was damaged in the floods
The same shape occurs again at Evesham. This is a whale's jawbone in the riverside park

We spent a few days at Stratford, enjoying the delights of the town but not visiting the theatre this time. The hot sunny weekend, moored just below the chain ferry, was just wonderful. There were hundreds of people everywhere, and the river was alive with boats as the ferry, the trip boats (including a wedding party), the outboard dinghies, the rowing boats, the cruisers, and the narrowboats all jostled for space with varying degrees of success while several people and dogs variously fell or jumped into the water. Marvellous!

We then drifted slowly down the Avon, stopping for a couple of nights at the Fish and Anchor pub at Offenham. We'd not been able to get on to their moorings in previous years, when we'd had to moor in the lock-cut which is a good mooring but whose only access to the pub is via a deep ford, but this time the moorings were free and in good condition so we had no problems. The pub has recently changed ownership; we found it friendly and helpful, with good beer, excellent food, and free WiFi access. Our only grumble was that the historic name is being changed to just "The Fish". Some good friends joined us there too, and we spent a happy day cruising on the river and spotting kingfishers.

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Evesham. Note the 2007 flood-level marker on the gate
The other working ferry on the Avon is just below Evesham
The Avon is a most picturesque river ...
... with a number of excellent pubs
Excellent moorings at Gloucester Docks

Carrying on down the river we were looking forward to revisiting the Anchor at Wyre Piddle, but this time we were rather disappointed. This pub had also changed hands since our last visit, and we did not feel as welcome as we always have done in the past. The beer was in poor condition, and we weren't able to walk the dogs without making an appointment in advance because the landlord's rottweiler dog continually patrolled the gardens next to the mooring. We didn't stay there any longer than we had to, and made our way rapidly down the river to Gloucester instead.

 

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The docks were even more interesting than usual, as there were a number of tall ships moored there and in the dry docks. It was awe-inspiring to study their ropework, and also to be able to admire their underwater lines..

Walking across the docks we stopped to visit  the old mariners' chapel, which is simply delightful, and then for a contrast I had a ride on the Ferris Wheel which gave an wonderful birds-eye view of the city in general and the docks in particular. The friends whose fault it was that we were in Gloucester at all, managed to find us in the docks quite easily; and our stay in Gloucester was rounded off by a fabulous meal in the Tall Ship pub by the docks, which serves the best seafood imaginable!

 

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The Mariners' chapel
Inside the chapel
A birds-eye view of Gloucester ...
 ... from the Ferris Wheel
Beyond Llanthony Bridge, the new road bridge opens for a Tall Ship

Finally we decided to spend a few days on the Gloucester & Sharpness canal, but half an hour outside Gloucester we were hit by a tremendous thunderstorm and decided to moor up for the night. That evening we heard a disturbance outside the boat; at first we thought it was just the ducks, then we looked out and thought there was a firework display, and finally we realised that there was in fact a raging fire in the industrial estate opposite us. A factory was blazing hard, with gas bottles exploding everywhere, and then we heard the sound of sirens and saw the blue lights as the emergency services arrived. Turning on the radio we listened to traffic reports about the roads which were closed because of the fire, and then we listened to weather reports which told us of the threat of torrential rain for the next few days leading to possible flooding. Having experienced the Avon and Severn in flood in past years, we decided that our best plan was to try to outrun the weather back up the river rather than risk being trapped in Gloucester until the weather improved.

So first thing the next morning we turned around and presented ourselves to the lock keeper. "Can we go up the river?" we asked. "Certainly," he replied, "as long as you sign this disclaimer first". The river was in flood already, there had been 2  inches of rain overnight and the Avon was already closed, but we could 'exercise our right to navigate the River' if we wished, and could 'demand to be allowed to navigate' against the advice of the lock keeper. Did we proceed? Read on to find out ...

 

 

Gloucester 2007 View Slideshow Part 2. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Go to Allan's Page Gloucester 2008Canals Home Page Part 3. The Rochdale CanalGo to Deb's Page

 

 

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