Retrospection and anticipation

There’s been a Grand Tour.

The Cleddau crew’s recent ‘Grand Tour’ involved a fair mileage across England and out to West Wales. It was not so of course for the fine young men of wealthy backgrounds in the eighteenth century, who would tour the cultural sights of France and Italy to broaden their minds. This isn’t to say that the minds of the Cleddau crew weren’t broadened during their recent Away Days.


First though, it was to Worcestershire, where the Tentatrice First Mate gave a splendid illustrated talk to a capacity packed village hall. Her subject? The Summer Cruise of 2015.  6B-17    In the company of 60 WI members Boatwif relived the thrills and near spills of surging down the Severn, chugging (more slowly than would have been preferred) along the Kennet and Avon Canal, river cruising on the Thames and the Wey, ‘doing the London Ring’, all before the boats and crews headed north back to base.  Ah, how the heart swelled to be reminded of the capital’s skylines  6B-02

and fine bridges… 6B-03

Onward the next day into Warwickshire, to Stratford-upon-Avon, to be exact. Tickets had been secured for two Swan Theatre performances. Try seeing Doctor Faustus – you know that Faustus sells his soul to Lucifer, but yet his journey through the intervening 24 years disgust and appal. In this production two actors share the roles of Mephistopholes and Faustus: the flicker of a flame at the outset of the performance determines which actor should play which role…   6B-10

Has ever there been a more repugnant impression of Gluttony – or loathsome portrayal of Lechery… This is an RSC production and, not surprisingly, whether performing in chorus, creating a tapestry of powerful movement or voicing individual roles the supporting cast are magnificent. (Doctor Faustus plays until 4th August).

Don Quixote, a second Swan Theatre production, was in sharp contrast.   6B-09   Here the rather elderly book-loving hero assumes the role of a chivalrous knight and accompanied by his portly squire, he sets off on a quest to defend the weak and to slay the wicked. It is hugely funny, the stage settings are wonderfully effective and there is a powerful uplifting ending. (Playing until 21st May).

Stratford-upon-Avon is pretty familiar territory. There have been high summer visits,   and visits in midwinter. Never before though has the bandstand in the park been an island rising above winter floodwater,  6B-07    or the Bancroft Basin water level been the same as that of the river,  6B-06    or the red DO NOT NAVIGATE flood marker boards at the lock be almost invisible,  6B-04   later submerged!  Sports grounds and car parks were transformed into lakes while two men in chest waders struggled to prevent damage to the rowing boats.   6B-08   What had fallen as heavy rain the day before in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire was now a torrent racing downstream towards Tewkesbury and the Severn…

At the start of the week there had been reminiscences galore in Worcestershire with the Tentatrice crew.  Two nights in Stratford allowed a different sort of catch up with Brum Cuz.  Onward then to mid-Wales, and yet more catch up with Senior Sis and Salty. Snow still clinging to the higher crevices of the Brecon Beacons was a reminder that winter in some regions was not entirely past.

It would be a rare thing for the Cleddau crew to travel to South Pembrokeshire and not to gaze out west across the Atlantic rollers. Here surfers  6B-11 and kayakers  6B-12 braved the waves, while a few miles further east, where the old red sandstone gives way to limestone,  6B-13   the sea sparkled in the sunlight. 6B-14

When in Wales in early March it’s safer to be a patriot – daffodils bloom, there are reports of school Eisteddfodau – and Welsh flags flutter for St David and for the national rugby team. On Welsh streets on the morning of the annual England –Wales Clash it’s not “Will you be watching the Match?” but “Where will you be watching the Match?” With impeccable timing the newest member of the family had delayed his arrival until the morning of St David’s Day but on Match Day (far away in England) eleven day old Dylan Rhys, dressed in match colours,   6B-01  slumbered his way through the afternoon in the arms of his English supporter father…

After more “catch-ups” in Pembs it was an eastward heading towards Gloucester. This was the Severn Crossing  6B-15   (last seen from far below in June last year). No narrow boat convoy or commercial vessels were spotted from the road deck, but then visibility isn’t easy from far above the estuary.

There was to be another reunion near Gloucester. The Chouette crew (co-Wash crossers in July 2014 ) are experienced boaters and have much to impart about Boating in the North. This coming summer the Cleddau crew are planning a boat trip to Liverpool and over the Pennines into Yorkshire. Chouette went  to York (in fact up to Ripon) only last season, her crew are familiar with the Trent and the Yorkshire waterways so here was an excellent opportunity to get in some cruise preparation! Many thanks, Chouettes!

And on the eighth day of the ‘Grand Tour’ there was just one final catch up to do. North east from Gloucester en route back to Bedfordshire a roughly midway point is Warwick – and nb Valerie. How good it was to see Jaq, now with her new knee , and to exchange summer cruising plans with her and Les.

The Stats below say it all – people, plays and places – a grand trip, and on return the daffodils were in full bloom here too!


  • 1 lock (with very high water)
  • 1 cousin
  • 1 nephew
  • 2 plays
  • 3 boat crews (Tentatrice, Chouette, Valerie)
  • 4 sisters (3 face to face, 1 via facetime)
  • 4 relatives in law
  • 4 beds
  • Visits in 5 counties
  • …and 571 road miles

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1 Response

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    A lovely post Sue–little Dylan Rhys is gorgeous! I really had no idea Pembroke was that far beyond the border of Wales until I viewed your map, so I’ve learned a bit more about Welsh geography. The pictures of the ocean were lovely and I could smell the bracing ocean air from here. I didn’t realize one could drive through the Brecon Beacons. That actually sounds ridiculous now that I se it in print however if it doesn’t involve getting there by narrow boat, I am practically clueless! Thank you so much for stopping in for an afternoon visit with us. It always lifts our spirits and fills us with joy to spend time with you and Ken. xxx

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