Last night we ate at the Dirty Duck (also known as the Black Swan) just beyond the theatre, where we sat on the front terrace with a river view. They were offering two main courses for £9.95, and they were pretty good. As we walked back, we watched lots of young kayakers training on the river, then sat in the cratch as the sun went down, and the almost full moon came up.
This morning, we needed to shop for food and a few other things, so walked the short distance into town. In a couple of cases, we were waiting outside for the shops to open! Once that was done, we got the anchor out of the locker, then I went to set the lock down to the river, while Adrian left our pontoon and went into the wide part of the basin to turn around. When we'd just gone into the lock, a member of Avon Navigation Trust staff pointed out that our Avon licence appeared to have expired on 3 June. As we'd bought it yesterday (and the start date was given as today) this was clearly wrong so I went back to the floating office and he tipexed out the old date, and put the correct one in.
From being fairly quiet, the bridge over the lock was suddenly thronging with people, including a Stratford walking tour group whose guide asked for permission to watch us work through the lock! Once we'd reached the river level, Adrian took Briar Rose out of the lock past the theatre while I walked across Tramway Bridge down to the first lock. At the same time we had an unforecast shower of rain.
The rules of the Avon say that fore and aft ropes have to be used in the locks, and both gates left open on exit. However, as we're going downstream and the locks are very gentle, we've found that a centre line is fine; upsteam it's a different matter, as I discovered when I had to refill a lock later in the day. Also, it seems to be common practice to leave just one gate open if you're locking alone.
Many of the locks have narrow angled entry chanels, and there's often a pull from the accompanying weir. Most also have overnight moorings above the lock. They're quite hard work, as the gates are big, heavy, and a job to get moving, and while the mechanisms for lifting and lowering the paddles are smooth, they also require almost forty turns. We stopped for lunch on the mooring at Pilgrim Lock, which appears to in the middle of nowhere, and where we heard a cuckoo.
After lunch, we continued through Bidford, making sure we used the correct arch of the bridge (which is well signed, so you'd really have to be in a world of your own to take the wrong arch, even if the middle one is the biggest).
The river is sometimes narrow and winding, sometimes wide and deep. Briar Rose seemed to love the experience, and as we passed Cleve Hill, with the right bank in Warwickshire and the left bank in Worcestershire, the sun came out.
We'd passed very few boats all day, but two arrived as we left Robert Aickman New Lock. We decided to moor for the night above the next lock, George Billington Lock, as black clouds were rolling in. In fact, we've had only one short shower, and the sun has made a couple of appearances. Four boats have come up the lock while we've been here, including a wooden one, a plastic one, and a widebeam.
Finally, a note about the ANT's guide to the Avon, which we bought for £6.50 from the floating office at the basin. In some ways it's very good, with detailed maps of the locks showing where the moorings and landing stages are, as well as where the weirs go. But the format is a summary page for each section of river, followed by detailed maps of each lock. That's fine if you're travelling from Tewkesbury to Stratford; going the other way, it proves to be very confusing. Also, all the locks are named after benefactors to the restoration of the navigation. Those names appear in the Pearson's guide, the Nicholsons, and on the signs at all the locks. Yet the Avon guide insists on using the geographical names for the locks, only mentioning the current names in parenthesis, and then only on the detailed maps.
14 miles, 9 locks. (62 miles, 92 locks)