Monday, 8 June 2015

This Bath is rather crowded

The thickly tree lined Avon and nowhere to moor
Tonight we find ourselves in Bath – somewhat accidentally as we didn't mean to come all the way up river from Bristol but the moorings along the Avon are few and all were full.
So we are here and startled by how busy the placce is with boats.We are moored on the river moorings below the first locks of the K&A. Two years ago we were one of only three or four boats here; tonight there must be 20 plus. Everything from little old wooden ship's lifeboat to great big Dutch barge. And all of us on what are theoretically 48 hour moorings. Hmmm.
In Bristol waterside development rushes on
We were sad to leave Bristol behind but at £26 a night time is definitely money. From the water is the best way to see the scale of the floating harbour – not just its huge size but how little of the original commercial docks remain. After the swingbridge that marks the exit from the main basin, there are more survivors of the old waterside warehouses but those that haven't been apartment-ised are in the throes of conversion – and the process continues on up the river to the very edge of town. Here the vast concrete skeleton of a Parcelforce office block awaits the wrecking ball as the next in line.
The concrete shell of an old Parcelforce block waits its turn
Once through Netham Lock that guards the inland entry to the floating harbour, maintaining its consistent height against the tides, we met the River Avon once more for a virtually entirely rural route towards Bath, cutting through steep sided valleys rich with trees.
A couple of miles upstream Hanham Lock marks the start of Canal & River Trust territory and time to ferret out and dust off windlasses unused since way back at Stourport.
The Avon locks are on a grand scale – 75ft long and 16ft wide and built out of rough stone blocks, as stately as stately homes. The big gates are not so much heavy as slow; they'll move but at their own measured pace.
The elegant yachts and fancy cruisers of Bristol were well behind us now: we soon saw our first ex oil rig lifeboat and the inevitable strings of timeworn moored craft.
You're never far from an ex-lifeboat on the waterways
We did spot some wildlife, though. No kingfishers, sadly, but a riverside deer and, remarkably, a huge terrapin the size of a dinner plate basking on a tree stump. So, a chance for some mega x65 telephoto work with the new camera.
Avonside: a terrapin the size of a plate and a young deer
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at rough mooring we pottered on to Bath where frenetic waterside development returned on a grand scale. A huge 2000 home development is underway and even a river bridge has been chopped out and moved as part of it.
We've caught our first glimpses of the gorgeous Georgian stone architecture of Bath. Tomorrow it's time for a proper look around.

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