We started our journey to Saul on Thursday June 22 from our home moorings at the top of the Napton flight. We headed down the flight, followed an Ownership boat all the way with nothing coming up, as we left the bottom lock there were 3 boats waiting to start their journey up. As we approached Braunston we came up behind a boat doing about 1 mph following an ex Canal Time boat. The chap on the back boat kept looking back at me so I signalled that was planning to pass. He then passed the ex CA boat but I was stuck behind for another 10 minuets before it was clear for me to get through. At Braunston we went into the Marina to finish the business that I had called there for last week when his pump out was bust and also bought another token for the next time we require to use his facilities, We left the marina to go to Midland Chandlers, Just as we were level with the cafe boat the ex CT boat pushed off from the water point and blocked the cut completely, thank goodness they were going up the GU. After buying bits and bobs from MC we headed on to Hillmorton, One of the top locks is still out of action and it's surprising how the weeds have grown on that side of the pound. If BW doesnít get the lock reopened soon it could become an SSSI. Moored below the flight on the visitor moorings for the night.
The next morning we set off towards Sutton Stop in good weather. We met one or two working boats on their way to Braunston. There are still notices about the duckweed but saw very little of it compared to previous years. There is a new towpath bridge being constructed in the area of bridge 44. I take it this is part of the old canal route? There is a lot of work going on at Newbold by the tunnel; it must be giving the pub trade a bit of a wring. A little later we met Eric on Sefton chugging back towards Braunston. BW have made it very obvious which stretch of the bank at Ansty is no mooring with about 7 signs over 50 yards, its a shame they have to be there at all! Just by The Rose and Castle, Ansty we were waved down by friends on a Rose Narrowboat. It was Colin and his wife who are members of the IWA Ipswich Branch with their friend, Nick from Australia. After a glass of wine we transferred the Ipswich IWA magnetic signs to Harnser. Just as we left them it started raining, stopped just as we arrived at the lock, there were several boats waiting for the lock in both directions. We turned into the Coventry canal and headed for Fazeley Junction and it really started to rain. Just past Nuneaton I saw a Mink legging it down the towpath with a fish in its mouth, it then swam across the cut behind me to the far bank. That night we ate at The Anchor Pub and had a very good all you can eat carvery, this is on every Friday and Saturday, on Monday they do curry for less than 2 quid and pies on Tuesday, Wednesday its steak and a glass of wine for 2 for £15. Outside was a Steve Hudson boat "Otis" It had nice clean fenders and no registration number.
Saturday was not very exciting day really, We made an early start for us at 7 30 and had a good run down the Atherstone flight with all but 1 lock in our favour and for about half, someone waiting to come up so saved closing the gates. Saw a boat moored in the flight that had a pair of roller fenders mounted on each side of the hull between the water line and the rubbing strake. I think these could well cause problems catching lock gates. By the time we reached Fazeley Junction and turned onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal the sun was beating down, unfortunately all the locks were against us and we didnít see any boats on the move. We had intended to make for Cuckoo Wharf for the night but decided to stop a little way past the Beefeater pub for the night and have a BBQ.
Sunday morning and we set off about 7, good run to Erdington Hall Bridge where I picked up a tyre on the prop, luckily only over one blade and not to bad to shift. The Aston flight were all with us until we reached number 3 where a boater not only turned it in our face, he then closed the bottom gate on 2 as he left. Next was Farmers Bridge flight, again they were with us. Just as we were leaving the bottom lock a chap turned up with a windlass and said there was a boat coming down. He wasn't from boat but just enjoyed doing locks and spent all weekend there, helping boats. At the top we turned into the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, just behind the trip boat. I waited in Gas Street bridge hole while he took his time winding and finally managed to get along side the towpath. When I went past, he didn't even acknowledge me. Perhaps I shouldn't have been on his bit of canal. In Gas Street Basin is Lawrence Hogg's old boat with the biggest garden you have ever seen on a narrowboat. At Alvechurch we saw Jeff's old boat "Coronation" up for sale, looking very smart. We moored for the night in the top pound of the Tardibigge flight after an 11-hour day.
Monday morning and it rained most of the night so we decided not to leave until 11 30 in light rain, giving the other boats a good half hour start. We had just cleared Tardibigge bottom lock and the skies really opened for about 10 minutes. We carried on down the Stoke flight and then the Astwood Locks. We moored at Hanbury Wharf for the night with two other boats and had a meal in the Eagle and Sun pub. They were doing 2 for 1 carvery meals, which was wonderful value; it would have been good value at the full price. When we returned to the boat all was quiet but at about 10 o'clock the occupants returned to the other boat and started a petrol generator on their deck, which continued until midnight.
Tuesday started with better weather and we took a walk down the Droitwich Arm. There are people working on this site full time and I understand it is about to come under the control of BW. We set off at 11 o'clock and had a good run down as far as Offerton Locks where construction on the Worcester Cycle Path is under way. Below the bottom lock the contractors have erected a safety barrier along the edge of the canal. Unfortunately this leaves nowhere for boats going up to moor to work the lock. Below this flight the level was well down and I managed to pick up a cycle tyre attached to a length of quarter inch copper pipe. We arrived at Diglis at about 5 oíclock just before it started to rain. We had heard bad reports about Diglis Basin but had a very quiet night dropping onto an almost stationary Severn at 9 30 am. just as another boat bound for Gloucester passed b, so we remained together for the whole journey. I rang the lock keeper at Gloucester Docks about 2 miles before the dock and he had the gates open and the green light on when we arrived. The flow increased dramatically once in the narrows below The Upper Parting, I was glad I made that call to the lock keeper. We are moored end on to the floating pontoons outside Pizza Plazza, during the evening we were treated to a rescue display by Gloucester Fire brigade from the warehouse roof. Later we ate at the Pizza Plazza having a rather expensive but enjoyable meal before turning in for good nights sleep.
After a quiet night in Gloucester Docks we started the day with a bit of Shopping in town, setting off just before lunch towards Sharpness. The first bridge had to be opened for us to leave the dock, but the next three are high enough for a narrowboat to pass under without being opened. All the rest required opening. We past through the rally site and saw our moorings, several boat were already in place. At Splat bridge we pulled alongside Fair-Fa with only Pat onboard. We stopped for a tea and then continued to the end of the navigation where we met up with John and his wife off "Stokie". At his suggestion we went for a meal at the Dockworkers Club just above the locks which was very good value.
The next morning we retraced our steps to the rally Site at Saul Junction were we stayed until Monday morning leaving with Wend and Andrew. We were making good progress towards Gloucester until a medium size cruiser pulled out in front of Andrew. It was too high to pass under the 3 bridges without them being opened so we had to wait as well. When we arrived at Gloucester lock it was open ready for us and we followed the cruiser in, what we nor the lock keeper realised was that the cruiser would need the bridge open at the tail of the lock to get out, this left us all sitting in an empty lock with the gates open like a bunch of lemons for some minutes Once out of the lock we made our way up the Severn, there was very little flow on the river and we were able to make good progress, stopping for lunch at New Inn Haws Bridge. This could be a good venue for a small rally with mooring for 12 to 16 Narrowboats, a camping field and skittle ally The landlord owns a Narrowboat and would like to see more steel visiting. After lunch we carried on and turned onto the River Avon at Tewkesbury where I was relieved of £42 for a 15-day license. We went upstream to the Fleet Inn where we ate and stayed the night. Just after we moored an 18-foot cruiser arrived fitted with a Bow Thruster.
Tuesday morning and we moved off at 9 o'clock heading for Evesham. At Pershore Bridge there was a boat stuck fast, he had been coming down stream and taken the wrong arch, a couple of boats had tried to pull him out with no success. We moored on the Evesham Town Moorings and walked back to Andrew and Wendy's house for a BBQ. In the morning we filled with water. The tap was so slow that Di managed to go shopping while I was filling the tank. At the public moorings was a new Sea Otter. The owner said it was the only one on the market at the moment and has centre wheel steering and a ragtop. Evesham is a very clean town with no sign of litter in the shopping centre; it puts the towns around where we live to shame. Moorings have greatly improved on the Lower Avon since we were that way last, but on the Upper Avon there are still only 24 hour moorings at locks, fine for the cruisers but a bit awkward for Narrowboats. The Upper Avon is both shallow and quite narrow in places, this leads to quite an increase in the flow of the water making it hard work going upstream. As we approached Stratford there were an awful lot of Stratford Court Cruisers about, I did consider starting to collect heir names, but some have not been named/sign written yet. Stratford Basin offers a lot more moorings with the new pontoon fingers and even at 6 o'clock there were several spots to chose from had we wanted to moor there, but we decided to push on a bit and do the first 5 locks up the Stratford Canal mooring just below the flight.
Thursday morning I waited until the first boat came down the flight before setting off. We had one or two locks turned on us as we approached by hire boats or Stratford Court Cruiser time share boats but we didn't see a boat going up in front of us until we passed Fleur-de-Lys when we joined the end of a short que. From here we had to wait for each lock to clear, sometimes with a boat coming down. I wouldn't want to be go down the flight tomorrow as all the SCC boats were mooring at Fleur-de-Lys for the night and heading home in the morning, they will be nose to tail all the way down the flight.
We left the Stratford canal and turned down the GU stopping at the Tom o'The Wood quite early for dinner, I felt it was a bit on the expensive side. After eating we moved on to moor for the night on the embankment at Rowington, further away from the road and railway. It was here that we saw what looked like a Snowcat cutting the grass on the off side embankment. If you want a job with thrills that's the one to go for, slithering down steep grass banks at unbelievable angles.
Friday was a bit of a back and forth day. Following a phone conversation with my daughter last night we set off just before 9 down to the winding hole just above the Hatton flight, we then retraced our steps to the Tom o' the Wood where we picked up my daughter and two American friends of hers and took them up to Kingswood Junction, here we went one lock up the North Stratford, turned very sharp left, one lock down the South Stratford and then left again through the Lapworth Link, before stopping for a picnic at the junction and taking them back to the Tom o' the Wood. We continued down Hatton, with the first quarter of the flight in our favour, the rest against us. We moored in the Saltersford Arm, which was quite full, and we breasted up to a Swan Line hire boat in the winding hole. As we moored up a lady from another boat came up and introduced her self, as she is also a member of the Ipswich IWA. We set off at 9 just in front of the hotel pair Hart and Hind and worked the first locks by ourselves stopping off at Tesco to replenish low stocks. We had just moored when H&H past, I hadn't realised that they were both motors. We carried on alone until the bottom of the Radford flight, where we waited for a boat following to join us. At Bascote locks there were 2 boats in the lock ready to come down and one at the bottom waiting to go up, but nothing was moving. It turned out there was a calf in the pound above the locks and they thought it might drowned if the came down. I tried to explain that emptying the lock would have no effect on the pound above and they were holding things up. It then turned out that the chap off the boat on the towpath side had gone across the fields to call the Fire Brigade and find the farm. His wife didn't do boat driving and the chap on the other boat said, "well you'll all have to wait" The wife then agreed that if we pulled her boat out she would work the gates. By now the other chap had disappeared into his boat, which had drifted, to the back of the lock above the cill. His wife finally persuaded him to move forward and we emptied the lock. As I pulled the boat out the husband appeared with the Fire Brigade, O and the calf had climbed back out of the pound and was elsewhere. We finally persuaded the second boat to come out and the boat that was waiting at the bottom finally went in. This had take three quarters of an hour to archive. As we worked up the next lock a single boat turned the staircase round in front of us, we could have past him in it if he had waited another few minutes. With all the excitement over we moved to just below the Two Boats pub at Long Itchington and went for a pint followed by a BBQ. I forgot to mention, the calf was back in the pound happily eating the reads when we came past.
Next morning we tagging on behind a Kate hire Boat to work up the locks with, they were experienced hirers and we worked well, Sean was painting Laplanders roof as we came by but we didn't stop for long as he needed to push on due to the heat. As we progressed we met more boats coming down which helped things on a lot, Near the top of the Stockton flight we met Buzz's old boat coming down and at the top "The Black Pig " with J P onboard was waiting to enter the flight. We pulled over by Thorn and watered the herbs and continued on to Calcutt where we waited for the Kate boat to catch up. The old boats that use to be moored on the offside at Peter Nichols's old yard at Napton are now moored opposite the winding hole just before the Folly and the sunken boat has been removed. We stopped for water at the Folly which took quite some time at the tap is dead slow, just as we were about to leave and I had just loosed the ropes a boat came by and set the lock, a couple of minuets latter a Napton Narrowboat hire boat came along and went straight into the lock that the first boat had set. I didnít hear the comments as a hotel boat followed them and I'm still trying to get off the water point. I had just pushed off when the second hotel boat came along. We let them pass us so they could keep together and they back set some of the locks for us as we climbed the Napton flight to our home moorings.