Preston Bagot (avoiding Norway’s high cost of living)

Sophie came up to stay for a couple of nights this week.  She was breaking her journey each way on a trip to Nottingham where she was giving a talk at the university there.  Buddy and I met her at Stratford station on Wednesday and it was really good to have some time together; we played a bit of crib too as is our custom when we are on our own.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, Buddy is fully recovered having missed meals for two and a half days last week.  On Friday, Buddy and I caught the train with Sophie as we had an errand to do in Oxford whilst Sophie carried on to Reading.

For some reason none of us remembered to take any pictures so there’s no photographic record of Sophie’s visit apart from a rather suspect one she took on one of the trains.

On our way to Leamington to change for a train to Oxford – Buddy was in his element having to go on five trains in one day

Matt and Marie had bought their wedding rings last time they were in Oxford so I was going down to pick them up for them.  It’s so much cheaper to buy most things over here so a lot of their wedding sourcing has been done in the UK.  Karen and I are off to Norway soon to meet Marie’s parents for the first time before the wedding so we will loaded up with items Matt and Marie have already ordered from over here.

When we left to get the train we bumped into Brian and Ann who were walking their dog on the park next to where we were moored.  They were mine and Karen’s bridge teachers and apparently walk their dog there every day.  They had noticed our boat but not realised it was us – it seemed amazing that we hadn’t bumped into them before as we had been there for two weeks.

On Saturday our plan was to go to the Beltane Bash at Preston Bagot; we were going to drive their but Karen convinced me we should get the boat up there as it was only nine miles and 18 locks.   It meant going back onto the Stratford canal for a couple of days before coming back to the river again. As we had lost over a week because of my back we have extended our river licence by a couple of weeks so we can do some more exploring.  

The Beltane Bash is a weekend festival organised by The Horsedrawn Camp; people dedicated to the horse and cart culture.  It has also become popular with families like those who live in converted horseboxes and furniture vans etc. so the events are frequented mainly by modern day hippy types. 

We set off at about 11 and first we had to get through the five locks that took us out of Stratford.  When we got to the top of town Karen and Buddy went off to get the car and do the food shopping and I carried on towards Preston Bagot.  By the time Karen had done her chores, moved the car to a village on our route to avoid parking charges for the weekend and walked back to meet me I had got through another seven locks.

One of the tight bridges coming out of Stratford…

…and another

Only on our fourth lock and Buddy is taking advantage to relax

When we crossed Edstone aqueduct we realised it was the sixth time in as many weeks that we had been over it.  We had been moored at one end of it for about three weeks and whenever we needed water we had to cross it to get to the nearest water point.

Crossing the aqueduct for the sixth time in six weeks

We moored up at Preston Bagot about six o’clock and decided to have dinner before venturing to the festival.  We were quite pleased as it had only taken us seven hours to cover the nine miles and 18 locks.  Another good reason for coming up to Preston Bagot is that wild garlic grows in abundance round there and we hadn’t used any yet this year.

It was about a mile’s walk across the fields to get to the festival so Buddy got some more exercise on the way.

Signs to the festival

Liz, one of our boater friends, was playing in her band, Dissident Noise Factory, on the Saturday and Sunday evenings so we wanted to get there to see her.  There was no sign of the band appearing at the planned time of 8 o’clock but we bumped into her partner Blair who explained there had been some sort of technical hitch but they would definitely be playing on Sunday at six – so we will be back.

It was great to be at such a large gathering that was totally self policed – no sign of outside authority at all.  We did wonder what would happen if one of the many camp fires got out of control and set light to a wagon or something.  It could also be problemattic if you wanted to get your vehicle out early - without organization people could pitch up and park anywhere so it seemd many people were boxed in for the weekend.

Buddy has been fast asleep so far this morning as he missed out on a good few hours coming to the festival with us on Saturday night.
Catching up on his sleep

Our mooring at Preston Bagot

Stratford on Avon (tramways and soul)

My back has still been bad so we’ve stayed put for the last couple of days with the odd walk in the fields or around Stratford. 

The tramway bridge a couple of hundred yards upstream from where we are moored

The tramway bridge was built in 1826 and carried a track which ran for 16 miles to Moreton-in-Marsh with a branch to Shipston-on-Stour.  The tramway used to carry limestone, coal and farm produce between the canal basin at Stratford, with its link direct to Birmingham, and the other two towns.

A guy called William James was the engineer and he planned to run steam locomotives on the tracks but Parliament wouldn’t pass an Act to allow it, so the wagons ended up being horse drawn.  As with the canals, the tramway became unviable once the era of the railway took hold.

Walking across the bridge

Having been here a couple of weeks we have become accustomed to the sights and sounds of the river changing during the day.  When Karen gets up for work we often hear ducks or swans pecking along the hull for algae but all else is quiet.  When Karen leaves for work there is no one else around either on foot or on the river but by seven o’clock it starts to change; runners and dog walkers are out on the towpath and rowers from the boat club are sculling up and down the river.  Their trainers ride up and down the towpath shouting out encouragement and commands – if moored boaters were still asleep that would soon wake them up.

Local commuters or workers in the town start walking past on their way to work after the runners and rowers have disappeared and then by ten everything changes as the tourists come out.  The river becomes full of little rowing or motor boats and those not venturing on the water are having picnics and feeding the waterfowl. 

During the day the odd narrowboat or plastic cruiser comes past but only one or two a day at the moment.  Later in the afternoon everything happens in reverse; the tourists begin to disappear; the little boats are back at their bases; the workers in the town start walking home and then the rowing club rowers start their evening exercises.  Finally we are left on our own with just the swans and ducks gathering around the boat hoping to be fed.

Restored truck and rails from the tramway

On Tuesday we had all sorts of weather including rain, sleet, hail and sun and it has definitely got colder so we had a fire lit all day.   

In the evening we went to Leicester to see one of Karen’s teenage bands, Shalamar, playing a gig there.  It was my first time out since doing my back in but as it was a standing only event it held up really well.  It took us less than an hour to get to Leicester, reinforcing once again how well positioned we are in the Midlands for reaching places that used to take forever when we lived in a house in Kent and always had to endure the M25 wherever we went unless it was to the ferry ports.

The bridge from the rowing club

Information mapshowing the tramway route

Stratford on Avon (Karen lost the car)

My back going into spasm last Monday has rather limited our movements over the last few days.  Each day has been a round of lying down with an ice pack followed by a brief walk and repeat.

It hasn’t bothered Buddy that he has been unable to go on long walks as he has also been poorly for some of the time too and didn’t eat for two days.  In fact, when Karen took him for walks on her own to give him the chance of going further, he wasn’t bothered about going too far.

Karen’s view of our mooring as she walked to the car early on Thursday morning before the tourists arrived

Things took a turn for the better on Saturday as we found some old strong painkillers so I took a couple.  Our doctor son, Matthew, did say that two of them would make him pass out and I must admit I was out of it for the day.  It did mean though that my body relaxed so the spasm subsided somewhat.

Buddy trying to steal a branch on one of our mini walks

We went to get water on Sunday which entailed a cruise of about 100 yards but it did mean Karen had to turn the boat round first which can be a bit tricky with so many rowing and trip boats on this part of the river.

Our new mooring at the other end of the RSC theatre

Bugle growing next to the boat

On Sunday evening Judith and Nigel popped in to see us on their way back from a weekend in Yorkshire.  It was nice to have a catch up and the weather was kind enough to sit outside (or stand for those with bad backs).  Nigel had hurt his back too so he was having to take it easy as well.

As we are still in Stratford, Karen left the car at a friend’s house over the weekend to avoid the car parking charges.  During the week it’s OK as most places are free between 6.00pm and 8.00am.  Anyway, on Monday morning I had a call from her at 6 o’clock saying she couldn’t find the car.  She had had to walk down the river, over a footbridge and then into a maze of houses in Stratford Old Town to our friend’s house but had somehow got lost.  To make matters worse it was raining but she retraced her steps and found it in the end.