Stratford on Avon (giant hogweed on the rampage)

It seems a long time ago since our weekend trip to Norway but we still haven’t moved on from our mooring outside the Avon Bowls club so nothing has changed back in England.  We’re thinking that we will probably have a cruise down to Luddington, Bidford on Avon and possibly Evesham this coming weekend.

We have been to Luddington before and it’s a great place to stay as far as walks are concerned and still close enough to Leamington for Karen to drive to work.  We’ve not been to the other two places by boat before but know they’re pleasant and still within easy commuting for Karen.  We’re not normally river people, preferring the canal system, but as it has been so dry recently the levels are low and we feel quite safe.  

It's not just the water levels that put us off rivers, it's the fact that they can be quite featureless - the high banks can mean that views across the countryside are lost.  Saying that, we really enjoy the smaller rivers like the Stort and Lea in London/Essex and the Soar in Leicestershire. Of course, it doesn’t take long for a day or two of torrential rain to change things but there doesn’t seem much chance of that at present.

On Monday one of our walks took us back down the river towards Luddington and I noticed how much the Giant Hogweed has started sprouting.

This is Sausage island and there is a large patch of Giant Hogweed starting to grow behind the dead tree

The sap can be a nasty irritant and children and pets are often treated in hospitals for the burns it causes to the skin.  For that reason, I must keep Buddy on his lead in infected areas.  When it’s being treated, the workers wear full hazard protection suits.  When we were on the Peak Forest canal a couple of years ago we saw patches that were over twice as high as us - that's getting on for four metres tall.

Closer up

Walking over the river Avon on the old Stratford to Worcester railway line

After crossing the river, the path goes alongside the race course and I was fascinated at the labour-intensive operation going on to treat the track.

Poles don’t just do house maintenance apparently

In the evening, Jo and Ileen came around for an evening of bridge.  I think one reason we carry on playing every week is because it’s a tradition that the host gets in luxury biscuits for the coffee break and gives the ladies an excuse to indulge.

Just as they turned up, Helen arrived.  She and I had arranged to meet up for coffee on Tuesday but her plans had changed and she came down to tell us that she was moving off.  She had to cruise up to Stratford Parkway as she needs to be near the station for a week or so.

Before Helen left she gave me some handy tips for single handing the river locks when coming back upstream.  The locks are really quite fierce here and you need to be very careful to avoid the boat bouncing around all over the place.  Generally, you only need a centre line to hold the boat providing the paddles are opened slowly and carefully but it is different on this river.  You need to tie both front and back lines to the lockside which is tricky when single handing.  I know you have to do the same thing on rivers like the Trent and Thames but the locks are not as fierce there so boats are easier to control.

As I mentioned before, we are moored by the bowls club and it certainly seems very active even if the players themselves don’t seem it.  On Tuesday I was nearly tempted to try out their taster session that was advertised but ended up having an ice cream instead.

Outside the bowls club

In the afternoon we followed the old horse drawn tramway which used to run from Moreton-in-the-Marsh carrying stone and lime to the canal basin in Stratford and on by boat to Birmingham.  Coal was carried in the reverse direction for firing the lime kilns.  The lines have been taken up but it makes for a pleasant enough walk, especially when wet, as the surface has been made up.

Tramway crossing an old road down to the river which is now an entrance to the rec

Looking back to Stratford

Heading out of Stratford

The weather continues to be really mixed and we are still lighting the stove most evenings.  Still, I have plenty of logs and coal so shouldn’t run out before next winter!

Sitting with the hatch wide open on Wednesday morning contemplating visiting the Bowls club.


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