Friday, 31 July 2015

Racing to Worcester

Tricky looking cute

Morning All

Have you had a drop of rain where you are? We've been dodging the showers all week and the boat's taken on that wet dog aroma that I remember so well from 2012.

We've left the Gloucester and Sharpness canal far behind us and we'll be back on the narrow, shallow Staffs and Worcester Canal by tomorrow evening. We've had two weeks of wide, deep water with few locks and bridges to trouble us. Its one of the few remaining places that still have lock-keepers and bridge-keepers to do all the hard work – the bridges open as you approach and when you enter the big river locks the lock-keeper peers down from on high to make sure you're tied on before they press any buttons.

When I closed the jottings last week, I promised to let you know all about Sharpness – well, I'm afraid there's not a lot to say really. We moored on a grassy bank overlooking the estuary which delighted Tricky, as she was only a short walk away from our friends on the Naga Queen - they do spoil her with bits of steak and other luxuries and she's quickly learnt to associate Pat's voice with food. Tricky is hard to resist when she looks so cute! But I'm wandering off the subject – I was telling you about Sharpness. There's not much to say except they do have a terrific view of the Severn estuary. It was raining again as we set off to explore and we huddled under our hoods and brollies and watched the sea rushing in past the Coastguard Station looking very grey and forbidding. We followed the path around the marina, up the lane and past the Dock Workers Social Club (closed), found a tiny shop (open) and followed a footpath in search of the sea lock (no public access). We found an open gate and slipped through to watch a large vessel rising slowly in the lock, it was so slow that we gave up waiting and wandered off. I googled the IMO number from her stern and found out she was a general cargo vessel from Antigua - marvellous what you can find out from Google! The most interesting thing we saw was a strange building in the garden of a house by the shop. The house was called The Bee Hive and the building in progress is an enormous 2 storey shed which will look like a Beehive when it's finished. I wondered if they should just convert a VW camper van – paint it yellow and put a dome on the top – job done!

Concrete boat beached at Purton

Next day, we turned the boat around and started back towards Gloucester. We stopped off at Purton on the way, to visit 'The Final Resting Place' where the banks of the Severn have been reinforced by the hulks of old working boats. On a bright breezy morning, we walked down to the memorial and read the names of the boats marooned on the estuary and looked out at the wide, muddy Severn close by. The concrete hulls have silted up and grass paths lead almost to the waters edge – what a sad ending for those once proud boats. Malc found a few blackberries that looked the right colour for eating but were very sour – I don't want to think about Blackberry Crumble just yet, it reminds me of Autumn and I'm still wanting a bit more summer.

The mooring fairy was with us on our return journey and we snagged the prime moorings opposite the boatyard in Saul. We were rewarded with ring-side seats for the entertainment next morning. First a man in an inflatable dingy whizzed across to a very large boat just down the tow-path from us. He flung a couple of ropes aboard, waited for them to be hooked up and then took the ends back across the canal. Several strong men appeared and started to haul on the ropes, pulling the large boat across the water towards the boatyard. There was a strong crosswind blowing and I expected to see the boat setting off on a collision course with the swing bridge, towing the husky young men along behind – but, of course, it just glided across like it was on rails and was soon tied up safe and sound ready for work to begin. I hope they change her name while she's out of the water – HMS 69 isn't very dignified is it?

With one eye on the weather forecast we hurried back to Gloucester to fit in a visit to the Waterways Museum and the Folk Museum before we make the long journey back up the Severn. Heavy rain was predicted for Friday and Sunday so we thought we'd travel the 29 miles from Gloucester Lock to Diglis Basin in Worcester in one go on Saturday. It proved to a be a very long day! We set off at 8.30, stopped at Lower Lode to water up the boat and de-water the dog and arrived in Diglis Basin at almost 7pm. Phew – what a day! We saw 2 Kingfishers, several herons and some very exciting ripples that might have been made by Nessie herself (probably fish – not quite so exciting!). It's rained on and off all day here so we made the right decision to have a long cruise yesterday. We've had a couple of soggy jaunts into Worcester, it looks very interesting and on a sunny day, I'm sure we would have spent longer exploring. It was good to get in and light the stove to dry off – we were OK, it was Tricky who looked bedraggled and woe begone!

Our hidden gem this week is a little place called 'Peppers' which we stumbled upon down a little side street in Gloucester. We ordered coffee and were directed to the courtyard for it to be served. We're a bit wary of these outside spaces - courtyard can mean ant-infested concrete yard with rusty, warped tables. This was an absolute delight– painted walls with large parasols to keep the seagulls off and a colourful knitted blanket on every chair. A large psychedelic sheep stood in one corner and hand-painted wooden birds decorated the pots of lavender and hebe's.

Pepper's Courtyard

Psychedelic Sheep

I tried to go on 'Trip Advisor' to review it and now my Ipad thinks I'm someone else! If you understand that last sentence then you will also understand how frustrating it is to be caught up in the mysteries of the superhighway. That's all from me for this week - have a lovely week everyone

Love as always
The Floating Chandlers