Saturday morning dawned bright and gloomy, and we set off, starting with locking down through Avon Lock onto the Avon link, then a left turn onto the River Severn proper. Very shortly we came to Upper Lode Lock, below which the river is sometimes tidal (at high Spring Tides), and hence bad news for little boats. There was to be a Spring Tide on the Sunday morning, so we really needed to get tucked up in Gloucester before then.
Upper Lode Lock is ENORMOUS. Safely descended, the far gates were opened, and Song & Dance was fully up to deep river cruising speed before we even reached them. And there’s also a wide pool at that end fully big enough to wind/turn a 58ft narrowboat round or moor a flotilla of sailing yachts.
Just down the Severn from Upper Lode, you come across the premises of the Avon Sailing Club, but that’s all right as the Severn Sailing Club is situated near Bredon, about 6 miles up the Avon from Tewkesbury. Must be something in the water.
Making good time we stopped at The Boat Inn at Ashleworth for lunch and a short wander. Although the village itself is a way off, just behind the pub is a fine collection of 15C buildings huddled together: a manor house, church and tithe barn.
This barn is still seemingly used for storing useful things like dead sinks, but at least there was little in the way of guano underfoot. More impressive were the giant “half doors”. Don’t know about lifting one off so you can clog dance – these are big enough to hold a small ceilidh on! An instant hernia at the mere thought.
The church had an unusual – but probably not 15C – stile, and their bell ropes matched the chief cook’s fancy mooring warps, so if we need some more we know where to come.
And just around the corner were some Gloucestershire Old Spots – an early inspiration for several other Morris sides and the Morris movement in general – one even looks suspiciously like Ken Langsbury…
During the pub lunch break, the Captain had braved the open weave pontoons for a good rummage around in the bankside weeds and woods. Needing to get going, and after watching him seemingly sitting quietly in a chunk of long grass for some while with no sign of wishing to go boating again, the navigator picked him up as per normal. Only to find him in mid wee. After a wash, and a clean shirt, we set off with a very grumpy Skipper muttering to himself.
We’d been warned about the approach into Gloucester Lock, which takes you up from the River Severn into Gloucester Docks: it was as interesting as promised, and we were glad of the detailed briefing; even gladder there wasn’t actually much flow on the Severn that afternoon, or it could have easily become exciting – something we try and avoid.
With us as the only occupants, the lockkeeper filled the large lock very slowly, and before we’d made it all the way up to the busy bedlam that is Gloucester Docks on a sunny weekend afternoon, our friends Moira, Graham and family were peering over the edge and forming a welcoming party. We’d seen them all several times in passing last weekend at Chippenham, but never got a chance to chat, so tea and buns at the narrowboat cafe rapidly ensued.
All in all, we’ve had worse days, even if the Captain was still sulking, and The Guv’nor was nowhere in sight.