Couldn’t put it off any longer, we’d overstayed in the basin until the Thursday morning (as had the hotel boat), and we had to head down to that well known tautology the River Avon.
Just down a little you come to the first lock, hiding in the trees below Holy Trinity Church, where his Bill-ness was apparently buried.
This River Avon was restored to navigation by a trust, and all the locks are named after people or organisations who contributed in some way or another.
The first lock, with it’s strange RSJ reinforcements is oddly intimidating: even Biggles didn’t know what to make of it. The Upper Avon lock gate balance beams are made of scaffolding poles, which bend and wobble slightly in a rather disconcerting manner; the paddle mechanisms are highly geared and fitted with counterweights, making it easy but tediously lengthy to raise or lower the paddles. All very different from normal canal paddle gear. At the first lock, one of the paddles was counterweighted to excess, and wouldn’t stay down and shut, creating an interesting challenge when trying to fill the lock.
Anyway, a gentle pootle through a winding river and pleasantly wooded scenery brought us to Bidford-on-Avon for the night. And there’s another difference: you can’t just moor pretty-well anywhere you like, as you can on the canals – you have to use the approved moorings. There are usually some “overnight only” moorings at the locks, and sometimes some in a village or town.
The next morning the gentle meander continued, bringing us to Robert Aickman New Lock. Named for a founding father mover and shaker in Inland Waterways matters, it was a pleasant spot to moor up for lunch, but we were rather bemused by the almost-but-not-entirely-unlike a bridge contraption that straddles the lock. Looks like someone nicked some brick steps at each end. The lock is also very wide, and would clearly take three narrowboats alongside each other. All very odd.
And so to Evesham for a Friday night on the town. The approach to the lock is a bit scary, with the lock layby a pontoon at the top of the weir. Must be exciting when there’s “fresh” water in the river!
Just below Workman Bridge (named after Mr, Workman, it seems) there were plenty of moorings just a short walk from the centre of town – after two days of steady river cruising in variable weather, winding hither and thither, a pub dinner and early night beckoned: we’d hit the Evesham high spots properly on Saturday morning. Moored just up a little from us was another Piper narrowboat Nice Butt, who we’d seen last year somewhere – on the Thames we think. Could hardly forget a name like that…