May Cruise Day 4 Upper Avon

Having arrived at Bancroft Basin the previous evening the morning, and some of the afternoon, was spent exploring Stratford Upon Avon or at least part of the centre. We set off mid afternoon and as there was a boat already in the lock we thanked them for waiting and lock-shared going down.

This was our first time on the Avon and whilst it was a sunny day, you notice the current as soon as you leave the lock as you enter at right-angles to the flow. First up was Colin P Witter lock, which is a strange affair as it’s encased in girders to maintain the lock shape due to high ground pressures ! As it was a sunny and warm day and Stratford a tourist magnet, there were plenty of people milling about watching go through the lock, before watching another come up, and then one go down, … After leaving the lock you come across a bridge round the corner, which is a multi-arched river bridge so its a case of ensuring you go through the right arch, especially in a deep drafted boat. Shortly after is another lock – its a case of peering in the distance and watching for a small directional sign (white arrow on a blue circle) telling you where the entrance is, lest you miss it. Anonymous Lock was set against us, so we moored up and prepared the lock, then waved in a boat that arrived at that point before following them in.

After these two locks the rest are further spread out, which is what you ideally want for river cruising as it gives you chance to enjoy the open water. Although we’d managed to find another boat to when passing through the locks, there seemed to be very little traffic about, so we really had the river mostly to ourselves. We had to set Stan Glover Lock when we reached it, but this time there were no following boats so we went down by ourselves. On the next stretch we did meet an oncoming boat, but with rivers being far wider you don’t pass close so I just waved to the other boat crew who then reciprocated. Binford bridges are up next, fairly easy to navigate as you just go through the central arch which is larger than the rest.

When we were back at Stratford I’d tried to purchase a guide for the river, but couldn’t find one (the tourist office sold us a license but didn’t have any guides etc, opportunity missed) but luckily we still had the Nicholson. You approach WA Cadbury Lock seeing just the safety buoys stretched across the river, so a quick glance at the map tells you which side the lock entrance is, otherwise it’d all be last minute manoeuvres! No boats around so again we went down alone, and on to Pilgrim lock a mile and a half down river. Again we went down by ourselves, but a cruiser moored up to come up as we descended. It was staffed by just two girls in their 20’s wearing shorts and black bikini tops, not what you need when you’ve got to navigate past them with the output from the weir insistent on trying to push you onto the bank – quick more throttle and eye’s straight ahead. We’d had to set each lock, so no one had come up since the boat ahead of us – but how far was that? It was possible no one had been on all day, or since the morning, or they could simply be a couple of bends ahead of us! E+H Billington Lock a mile ahead was set for us when we reached it (obviously by the cruiser we’d passed) so the “boat infront” was at least a while away.

We then reached Bidford-on-Avon, and initially we carried on but then decided to turn back. This was helped by the fact we picked something up on the prop, that I thought I managed to clear with a few blasts of reverse, but hadn’t and so made going through the next lock problematic – we got carried onto the safety buoys above the weir, but managed to get free with the help from a group of lads who at that point emerged from the lock on their hire boat. We went to the lock entrance and turned the boat and went back up to Bidford to moor and then go settle our nerves (cleaning the weed hatch could wait until morning).

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