Is water liquid gold? (Or the right and the wrong sort of water)
Monday 20th June: Evesham to Bidford-on-Avon, 9.25 miles, 4 locks
Since being on the Avon boaters coming downstream towards us have complained vociferously about poor facilities. To cruise on the waterways you need a licence and a BW (British Waterways) licence grants you permission to travel far and wide on the canals. Separate licences are required for waterways like the River Avon, the River Thames, the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse (and others). So a BW licence holder needs to purchase an additional short-term licence to cruise this river. The complaints are about lack of or out of order sanitary stations and lack of places to fill up with water. Cleddau, since her February 1997 front deck and cabin alterations, benefits from of a very large water tank. However, by yesterday afternoon (previous fill up at Tewkesbury on Friday) it was deemed that she was probably getting a bit thirsty. We passed a closed down facility. Next we drew in on the Evesham visitor moorings, found the tap, then read the words that declared that the water was unfit for drinking. Locating water was to be a priority today.
It was a sparkling morning in Evesham today. We cruised under Workman Bridge towards Evesham Lock, which is mapped as having water. We spotted what might be a tap on a landing stage and spoke to the cruiser owner beside it. “Oh, it’s new; don’t know if it’s working.” An unconvincing tale, but a convenient mooring place! He turned the tap, lo, there was water, but neither of the two fibre glass boat owners would welcome 60 feet of steel against them… Assurances were made that the next lock up had water. So Cleddau made the thirsty onward journey, in glorious balmy conditions. Two locks done and a tap, once discovered, cleverly hidden as it was beneath a willow tree, was connected to a hosepipe which was connected to the water tank. A cup of tea and a good long chat with the lock side caravaners was had. (Time, too, to photograph the lighthouse beside this, the George Billington Lock).
At the next lock folk on a downcoming hire boat were ranting too. “We’re desperate for a pump-out, there are four of us on board and it’s been eight days…” Bidford Boatyard turned them away, Evesham Marina was closed on Monday; it was quite a distance to the next pump out station. Was this the moment to promote the virtues of a composting loo? Probably not!
One further piece of watery need today: just moored up at Bidford the Captain called for the camera. Towards us slowly was being pedalled a craft, more like a rickshaw on water than anything else. (Story later). The crew of four pedalled and paddled in, tied up and asked if we might have a kettle! We did, a spare, the one with the faulty whistle, donated it – and boiled a kettle full of water for them too!
So drinking water might well be regarded as liquid gold.
But then – what about impure water in the wrong place? Evesham Lock is unforgettable. Above the old disused lock chamber an A frame lock keeper’s house and office was constructed, probably in the 1970s. Idyllic situation, much photographed. Before the Upper and the Lower Avon Trusts combined this was where boaters would buy their licences for the next stretch of river. This morning the lock lady was scuttling between the house and a narrow boat (now her home) moored behind it. The house is to go, to be demolished. Support timbers have rotted after floods in April 2003(?) but inspectors after the 2007 floods declared it unsafe. She pointed to me where the flood waters reached, four feet above floor level, and floor level is about twelve steps above ground level. “Glorified shed is what it is now,” she said. Stark reminder that this magical river, so benign, so tranquil today, can become a ferocious monster.
There are few boats on the Avon at present: hence being approached today by not one but by two home-made rafts proved all the more entertaining. Crew of the first just had time to say they were heading for Evesham; from the second it was established that they are on a charity event, from the Nexus Music College in Coventry ( see http://www.nexustrust.co.uk/news/44-front-page-news/188-newsletter-winter-2011). There are four teams, all craft are made from what could be found or scrounged!
Here we are at Bidford, scene of another (damp) nostalgic memory. It was here, on a Spring Bank Holiday Monday, sometime in the early nineties, in front of crowds of happy picnickers on the lovely recreation ground, that Boatwif took an unplanned fully clothed swim. A stretch too far for a rope – and splash! She swam, she survived! This is an idyllic mooring, with views forwards of an eight arched medieval bridge.
Tomorrow to Stratford-upon-Avon
EXTRACT FROM TAILOR MADE IN GLOUCESTER, WEDNESDAY 15TH JUNE:
Moored by the lock is a lovely looking boat, one you might wish to hitch a lift on: called Life, the Universe and Everything its back cabin is emblazoned with No.42. A passerby along the pontoon cannot help but notice a navigation chart spread out on a table in the cabin; odd, a guidebook would seem more likely…!
Tonight nb Life, the Universe and Everything is moored behind us. The owner wears a Number 42 emblazoned shirt. Why the name? In 1977 he took a first canal boat holiday. Someone on board had radio cassette tapes of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, since which for him boats and Douglas Adams are inextricably linked!