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Whispers on water - a photo journal of our life on the 'cut' dedicated to keeping family and friends informed of our whereabouts.
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1. Pam pipes Bob back aboard after his 'little' accident ably assisted by the ambulance crew.
2. Barton Lock.
3. Park moorings, Stratford-on-Avon.
We left Offenham on Wednesday morning of last week, following Bob's return from hospital the evening before, knowing that both he and Pam would soon be in capable hands when their friends arrived to help crew 'Jam Pudd' to Tewkesbury Marina.
After stopping Wednesday night at Barton Lock, we continued winding our way upstream to Stratford with the weather improving such that the sun was becoming overly generous with its attention.
We finally arrived below Stratford and moored between Holy Trinity Church and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Here we spent a glorious four days enjoying the unexpected company of Brian and Catherine aboard their narrowboat 'October', who arrived not long after we had and became firm friends over the few days we were together. It was certainly entertaining watching everyone messing about on the river.
Come Tuesday it was time for us to leave the River Avon after what had been a month of leisurely cruising and near solitude, enjoying the splendour of the Warwickshire countryside as Spring takes hold.
10th May 2013, 17:00
9th May 2013, 14:04
I can't make life any happier or simpler than it is for us, even if I wanted to, other than maybe add a) a cabin in the woods, b) a tree-house in a 'great oak', or c) a tepee. And all accessible by water of course.
Living aboard has taught us much more than I thought it would when I first set out to become a near master of my own destiny after retiring early. Living life akin to the path I set for myself as early as when I left school, is one I knew I couldn't financially or psychologically afford to follow if I stayed anchored to a fixed abode in a place I had grown weary of. For me the expense and boredom of living conventionally would also have tethered me to working longer and for what, to pay more tax to robber barons?
Living 'off-grid', no car, no utilities, no home base, no one health provider, no fixed abode, no guarantees and free to virtually do as I please is, for me, living a life full of change and challenge that really does bring home how precious my own resourcefulness is.
If I could actually use a horse as motive power rather than a diesel engine I would. However, canal banks, towpaths, landscape, grazing access and pace of life has changed irreversibly, such that there's no going back to a time when horse-drawn barges were easily accommodated and accepted. I love 'steam' and as much as my hero Fred Dibnah did, he too was happy to dip in and out of other projects covered in coal dust to the horror of those he shook hands with. I think Ginny would have something to say about that side of it too. But boy, would I love a small stationery steam engine to run a genny from. There's time yet.
Many ask, 'what if?' I don't have or want a crystal ball and care even less about what the future may bring. I just know we'll get by and on our terms.
The 'olde' has much we should and could learn from. I just love making, mending and adapting useful bits and pieces; simple, practical and entertaining things using what nature provides. Bird-tables, bird-feeders, kites, fishing tackle, small engineering projects etc pass through my hands on a near daily basis. Even my axe blade is honed to a bright edge Dad would have been proud of. Things that as a kid imparted a real sense of achievement. The only difference now is that I have a jack-of-all-trades knowledge that allows me to do and make things that are useful and more inclined to work.
As for boat maintenance and diesel spannering, nothing could be simpler or cheaper. A little knowledge isn't dangerous, it's a start 'There's no such thing as can't' my dear Mum used to say.
When you look at what we used to be proud of, yet have allowed mass production to take away, the fun, inventiveness, craftsmanship and ability to turn a hand to most things in life, 'Olde' for me is good and I'm as curious as ever I was. Make-do-and-mend should be taught in schools.
Time now to indulge myself in that olde english tradition of drinking tea.
29th Apr 2013, 19:22
1. Walking the slopes of Cleeve Hill.
2. The vale of Evesham.
3. The Offenham Maypole (64' tall).
4. The Malt House, Offenham.
5. Market garden country.
6. Saint Mary and Saint Milburgh, Offenham.
7. Us and Narrowboat 'Jam Pudd'.
We arrived here at Offenham on Thursday and moored above the weir where we were welcomed ashore by Fiona and John who also live aboard their narrowboat 'Epiphany' (#boatsthattweet). They had moored for the night on their way downstream to Tewkesbury. The next day after bidding Fiona farewell, narrowboat 'Jam Pudd' arrived and tied up off our bow. After introducing ourselves, Bob and Pam went about settling in for a couple of nights, much as we had.
Three hours later a worried Pam knocked to say that Bob had fallen through an open hatch onto the engine and could I help to get him out as she thought he'd broken his leg. As it turned out, after getting him out and calling an ambulance for what looked to be a broken ankle, he was taken to Redditch Hospital, twenty miles away, where yesterday he had to have surgery and a metal plate inserted to put his ankle back together.
We've decided to stay and give Pam moral support until Bob gets back, hopefully in a couple of days, then their friends arrive to help Pam crew the boat to Tewksbury where they'll lay-up in the marina for Bob to convalesce awhile. Good job he's a fit seventy-year old as it could so easily have been a lot worse.
In the meantime, while out with Gunner, we've walked the length of Cleeve hill and visited Offenham village, where King Offa (757-796) of Offa's Dyke fame once lived, and admired the terraced thatched cottages along 'main street', which leads to one of only six permanent Maypoles left in England.
28th Apr 2013, 17:25
Offenham, River Avon. Friday 26Apr13.
1. Looking southwest from Craycombe Hill on the edge of Craycombe Coppice. The orchards hereabouts provide apples for Bulmers Cider. I also came across wild deer foraging in the woods, which Gunner took great delight in chasing.
2. Leaving Craycombe Turn.
3. Wood Norton Hall.
4. The site of a ruined Benedictine Abbey with St Lawrence Church in the foreground, All Saints Church spire behind and to the left, and the Abbey Bell Tower rising above to the rear.
5. The Bell Tower in all its glory.
6. Looking upstream towards Workman Bridge.
7. Leaving Evesham.
We continued our journey on Monday, arriving in Evesham where we stayed three nights before continuing north to Offenham.
Evesham is a pleasant market town with much to admire in the way of timber-framed buildings and stone architecture harking back to the craftsmanship still so admired today.
We arrived as the demolition to replace Abbey bridge, which crosses the river, began in earnest. A few local people even muttered their annoyance at the inconvenience of the detour to cross the river by car. The river is closed to boat traffic on Sunday to allow a temporary footbridge to be swung into place. It amazes me how townspeople have allowed themselves to become slaves to their cars to get about rather than walk or use public transport. Some will reach their four score years and ten knowing less about their home town than I do having only spent three days there. Sad!
There is a large eastern european community in and around Evesham, both working and waiting for the fruit and vegetable picking seasons to begin. As always, I found those I met while out and about with Gunner to be friendly, polite and engaging (even with a can in their hand). I sometimes wonder at 'our own' who haven't travelled and experienced living or life outside of their own back yard, yet deride people who have or do through necessity or choice.
Let a good heart be your guide and life will be your adventure!
26th Apr 2013, 15:28
Craycombe Turn, River Avon. Sunday 21Apr13.
2. These Lambs brought a smile to our faces as they followed us along the bank.
3. Just arrived at this picturesque spot known as Craycombe Turn and decided to stay a while.
4. A Turner moment.
5. For all those doubters out there.
6. It's been a hard day.
7. We're moored behind the trees to the right of centre.
We left Pershore on Thursday morning and continued upstream, passing below the village of Wyre Piddle (where I enjoyed a fine pint of 'Directors' at 'The Anchor' while out walking Gunner one evening). We then passed by Tiddle-Widdle Island (don't ask), at least Wyre Piddle has an excuse; it's named after Piddle Brook! Only in England.
The river was a delight as it wound its way through the flood plains and pastures that border it. By early afternoon we'd stopped at Craycombe Turn where we'll dally for a while
22nd Apr 2013, 00:54
Craycombe Turn, River Avon. Sunday 21Apr13.
1. The river above Comberton Quay.
2. Uncharted water (for us).
3. Leaving Pershore's 'Great Bridge' in our wake.
4. Moored at Pershore.
5. I opened the curtains one morning to find we'd been adopted by our young friend here.
6. A lovely spring afternoon.
7. The Anchor pub mooring at Wyre Piddle.
On Monday we left Comberton Quay and headed upstream for Pershore where we moored until Thursday morning, spending time to stock up on a few supplies and exploring the riverside walks.
For a few days the wind seemed to keep all but us hardy folk in port as we only saw six boats pass us in the four days we were there. It even disturbed our afternoon slumbers as we rode the rise and fall of the swell it had created by occasionally bumping the boat against the moorings. Out and about, the rain, driven near horizontal by the wind, felt like being speared with the force of a pressure washer.
Then the wind dropped and the sun came out.
21st Apr 2013, 17:38
Comberton Quay, River Avon. 08Apr13
1. Leaving Gloucester behind.
2. Heading up the River Severn wearing 3 layers of fleece plus a waterproof jacket and over trousers against the cold. Photo courtesy of our sometime travelling companion Terry Humphries.
3. A casualty of the November floods at Healings flour mills wharf, Tewksbury.
4. Tewksbury Town moorings.
5. Eckington Bridge.
6. Comberton Quay.
We left Gloucester Docks on Thursday and headed fourteen miles up the River Severn to join the River Avon just below Tewksbury. A journey that took just under five hours. A near freezing 18mph headwind accompanied us most of the way along with the occasional accompaniment of sleet that gave us both wind-burnt faces as a consequence.
Upon arriving at Tewkesbury lock we opted for a £70 permit to travel the 43 miles up the River Avon to Stratford over the course of a month. This gives us plenty of time to enjoy what the Avon valley has to offer.
We moored for three nights (£3 per night) just above the lock at Tewkesbury and on Sunday began our journey upstream where we moored overnight on the wharf just above Eckington Bridge, built in the sixteenth century. Today we continued on and tied up at Comberton Quay. This is a delightfully secluded mooring where buzzards can be heard calling to each other and the smallest of birds can be heard singing amongst the trees.
We very much enjoyed over-wintering on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. The experience has further swelled our knowledge of boating through into our ninth year of living aboard. Nine years that have passed all too quickly and treated us to the best of actually living a much fuller and rewarding lifestyle away from the madness that is the pace of 21st century living.
8th Apr 2013, 22:38