The Avon continued…
Evesham to Pershore: 12 miles and 4 locks
Back to Evesham Marina to resume the floating life…
A week ashore had been packed with volunteer duties, meetings and social gatherings but by Saturday morning marina bills had been paid (for a Webasto servicing and a fruitless attempt to solve a bathroom problem, more on that another time).
To resume the cruise required re-joining the river, no easy matter when the Captain discovered a dire situation. It was never going to be easy to get away from the mooring berth where Cleddau had spent her sandwiched week – but overnight a wide beam had been moored behind, leaving absolutely no room for a 60 foot non-bendy boat to move anywhere at all!
The Captain went up the hill (yes, it is a hill) to the office. The wide beam’s owner, it transpired, had planned a weekend out on his boat, moved off his mooring, swiftly realised that his engine was overheating so tied it up at right angles to the moorings. Remember this was a wide beam (a fat boat). Discussions ensued; there was a waterside conflab with the owner and then the Captain, the chandlery manager and the owner hauled the wide beam back to its mooring, leaving Cleddau space to escape.
Mental geometry time. First, back, back, back until the bow was clear of the neighbours.
Adjust the angle. Then back, back, back until the bow was clear of the front ends of the three boats moored alongside the floating dock.
Another adjustment. Next, back, avoiding collision with the metal piling of the basin’s entry point.
Now back, back, back across the original basin until there was enough space to swing the bow towards the exit, then out and hard left (“port” for shippy types) onto the Avon.
Two minutes later and there was Evesham Lock to contend with.
Balance and care are required here as lock operators need to disembark on the narrow platforming above the weir. There ahead is the iconic, though now rather sad-looking A frame structure beside the lock. (It was flooded in July 2007). Time was when boaters would have to buy their respective Upper and Lower Avon licences here. Now though they are bought either at Tewkesbury or at Stratford (see current pricing below).
This is the most upstream point of the now defunct Lower Avon Navigation Trust. No smooth, easy-wind, French paddles on the gates here.
Down Cleddau dropped, downstream, under Workman Bridge, past the new apartments, the park and the Rowing Club, passing a flood level marker showing low levels of water, past moorings with high rising poles, past a modified house (complete with plastic sheep), then to meet the Saturday morning rowers…
Yes, the tree, the tree into which Cleddau had been plunged on that August day in 1994. How were the mighty fallen – to swan along, enjoying the sun, self-congratulating that the Daughter (aka Cheshire Mum) had secured the ‘A’ Level grades to read Meteorology at Reading University’s prestigious Met Department… when BANG! A rogue log did irreparable damage to the engine block and a mighty amount of money was required to make Cleddau mobile once again…Remember the tow back to the marina, being breasted up with Markland… (Photo from 1994).
Onward, past Hampton Ferry, past new housing, under the railway line, to pause at Sankey Marine for diesel.
Time and distance are odd companions: Cleddau and crew were under close observation while topping up with diesel just outside Evesham. The observer, a lady whose male companions had disappeared upstream on a tiny boat with an outboard motor, had driven across from Kidderminster. There was talk of cider-serving pubs on the Staffs and Worcs Canal, just a few miles east of Kidderminster. A mental map formed in Boatwif’s brain: hmm, down to Tewkesbury, up the Severn to Stourport, onwards on the Staffs and Worcs Canal towards Kinver – that was days and days away… Or, there is another way to arrive at Evesham – via Wolverhampton and Birmingham (Help! Hills! Locks!)
“Kidderminster – so how long does it take you?” Boatwif asked, conversationally.
“Oh, about 40 minutes,” came the reply.
So there you have it, dislocation of expectations, the clash of parallel worlds, road mode versus water travel…!
Onwards – next lock, Chadbury Lock. Another broad weir. And a mill. Yes, several of the Lower Avon locks are positioned beside mills. It was at the next lock at Fladbury that an insignificant little notice proved interesting:
Empowered by a charter granted to him by Charles the First on the 9th of March 1635 Wm Sandys of Fladbury made the river navigable…
A modern metal container seems an unexpected place for a reminder of a royal charter… Some folk in these parts would have been appreciative then of King Charles, even though just a few years later others chopped off his head.
Onwards to Wyre Piddle (it’s a real name, and Tiddle-Widdle ‘Island’ too). Houses, each with a mooring, crowd the access to Wyre Piddle Lock – and what a lock… it’s a diamond shape. Briefly a memory swam back – all those years ago, it was here that cruiser crews reprimanded Boatwif for the over-vigorous paddle-winding of her teenage offspring. It was in those heady days of novice enthusiasts tackling the Avon Ring on a hire boat in a week… But time means nothing to wildlife – perched on the end of the Wyre Piddle weir a heron studiously gazed at the waters.
Walk along Bridge Street and you soon reach the Pershore Bridges (the Old and the Modern) where you can ponder bridge structures, the damage of Pershore Bridge in 1644 in the Civil War (Ooh, King Charles 1 again) and bridge defences in World War 2.
The greatest surprise in Pershore though was Number 8: a Community Arts Centre, developed by volunteer effort on an old Co-op site, now a lively Art and Ceramics Gallery, Cinema (live screenings!) and 250 seat auditorium. It runs with four paid staff and 200 volunteers – an indication that this is a thriving self-help sort of community.
As for self-help, there was a fair bit of that on the next stretch downstream to Tewkesbury. More on that next time…
[Avon licences: 1 week – £50; 2 weeks – £60; 1 month – £70].
Stats since Higher Poynton: 237 miles, 4 tunnels and 147 locks
Monkton Moments*: 4 (latest 2: a family from Narbeth and a Midlands family with a mooring at Saundersfoot)
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)