Sunday 9th July; Evesham to Elsie and Hiram Billington lock
It was going to be another hot day so I went for an early run through the parks on the other bank. Later on there was going to be a 10k race and all the setting up was going on as I trotted past. I’m not fit enough to do the distance at the moment, more’s the pity. The weather was glorious as we set off, the trip and hire boats waiting in the sun opposite Workman’s Park
and the scullers were out too. Some of the boats from the Festival had already left.
At Evesham Lock, the Lower Avon becomes the Upper Avon, though nowadays they are run by a single authority. The lockie is now technically a ‘site manager’ rather than a lockie but as he lives above the lock on his boat he still looks after it. The paddles on the top gate are very fierce, as many are – but these fountain up quite spectacularly if you open them too slowly. He explained that you need to open them two full turns, and quickly, so that the water will come out flat. If you don’t the bottom gates won’t seal properly and the ‘fountains’ could swamp your boat.
Just before the lock, one of the washer things on the lens of my camera came adrift when I switched it on. It’s still under guarantee so I won’t try to mend it myself. But the rest of this trip’s photos will be from my phone or Dave’s camera. Some might even be of me!
Soon we passed under Simon de Montfort bridge. Not particularly interesting except that when we drive up to Calcutt, where we have often left the boat, we cross the Avon on this bridge which carries the A46. We have never yet spotted a narrow-boat on the river.
There are some remarkably pretty stretches along here. At George Billington lock we stopped for water and the Elsan point. This is the lock with the strange ‘lighthouse’ building.
We have a printout of info from the Avon Navigation Trust website listing the locks and facilities; they use what must have been the old names before the restoration, when the locks were renamed for people who had been involved in the restoration. The old name for George Billington is Offenham.
We came round the bend immediately before the Robert Aickman New lock, where we saw one of the bottom gates was open, and had lined up to go in when the gate started to close and we could see someone about to open the top gate paddle. We shouted and tooted and eventually the gate re-opened. A large day boat was moored on those convenient bollards below the lock and there was nowhere for us to go! It was all sorted out satisfactorily in the end.
This lock was new; the old lock (Harvington) off to the left, has been converted into a dry dock. We later met a woman who had just been blacking her boat there. The river above the lock was pretty but narrow and winding; we were tootling along minding our own business, keeping to the outside of the bends as you do and only going at 4 mph, when a ‘Canalboats.com’ time-share boat came round the bend at some speed. Yes, we were going upstream so it was his right of way, but we had very little time to take evading action and although we were already well over to the right of the channel he came rather too close for comfort before waving cheerily and zooming off on his way.
We had hoped to stop at Bidford but the only available mooring was outside the pub so we went on. The bridge is long (wide I suppose from our perspective!) and the traffic across it is one-way, controlled by lights.
You can see some smashing properties around here – if they are not completely hidden behind the trees.
We moored below Elsie and Hiram Billington lock (Bidford Grange I think is the old name) for a rather late lunch at 3 o’clock. Quiet, plenty of space and no other boats, although eventually there were four moored above the lock. We took the footpath across the fields and walked into Bidford for some milk. While Dave went to the shop I took Meg over the bridge to get a drink from the river. It’s great for families over that side – a large car park but with access to safe areas for little ones to paddle and play. One small boy solemnly informed me that there was fish wee in the river! Ooh, I said, and is there fish poo too? I hope I didn’t shock the little soul (or upset his parents!)
Back at the boat, we watched two teenagers swimming and floating about. They had climbed down from the far side of the weir, where there is a footpath, before we went for our walk. The river was not particularly deep – about chest height - or fast-flowing, even by the weir, and it seemed quite safe. The bottom apparently was gritty but weedy.
Once they had gone, Dave got his fishing tackle out and spent a pleasant hour or two catching small roach.
8½ miles, 4 locks