Monday, 17 August 2015

Small earthquake in Chile, not many hurt

A narrowboat struggles to untangle a rope round the prop
Today was the sort of day that reminds me of that famous Times headline summing up a very minor news event in terms that made it even less attractive to readers. It was, in short, a day that was neither quiet, nor exciting but mildly diverting all the same.
We seem to be running out of river quite quickly now. Today we covered eleven miles from Evesham down to Pershore, dropping through only three locks on the way.
It was easy cruising on a generally wide and smoothly flowing river but there was something of interest at each lock. At the first, Chadbury, we discovered narrowboat Cider with Rosie stuck just outside the bottom gates with a rope wound round the prop.
We patiently waited in the lock while they tried to free it, wondering why they didn't move across to the landing stage to do the job. Eventually they realised it wasn't going to be a quick job and we helped them pull the boat across.
The previous day, out on a cruise-about with friends, we'd come the same way and been helped through the next lock, Fladbury, by Avon Navigation Trust volunteers who were collecting cash for the Trust at the same time. Good idea.
Three's a crowd - and there's another round the bend
The river was so quiet we moored below the lock for our picnic lunch and not a boat came past. Today we came through the lock and no less than three narrowboats and a plastic cruiser were crowded into the narrow exit channel waiting to go up.
It was a long, east run from here down past the handsome houses of Cropthorne straggling high above the southern bank, then a rather bleak stretch between flood banks before coming into open country again. It was here we came upon another narrowboat trying to rescue a sheep which had got itself in the river (why do farmers not put some electric fencing up along their banks as sheep regularly fall in while stretching for tasty nibbles?). Shortly afterwards, historic boats Thea and Owl passed us heading upstream.
An odd shaped lock at the oddly named Wyre Piddle
The entertainingly named village of Wyre Piddle straggled along the northern bank, with a hotch-pox mix of old and new, large and small riverside houses and then we were at Wyre Lock. This is a curious diamond shaped affair, reminiscent of one or two on the Oxford Canal, which leaves one wondering how to position the boat – or get one's lock wheeling crew back on board.
Pershore's Abbey tower had been in view for a while now and there was a good length of moorings along the side of the recreation ground, though we couldn't get Harry's deep stern into the edge.
Elegant Georgian buildings in elegant Pershore
What a contrast Pershore is to the rough and ready Evesham. It's a handsome, classy town of Georgian and Victorian houses, many with balconies or side archways for the horses and carriages, and a rich mix of independent small shops from secondhand book sellers to interiors to ironmongers.
Just a portion of the Abbey survives
Beautiful carving by Tom Harvey
It also has an Abbey which survived Henry VIII's ravages a little more intact than Evesham, with its fine tower and the stump of its nave still sound. In the grounds of the Abbey the trunk of an old elm tree has been exquisitely carved by Tom Harvey into the form of a monk reading.
A traditional Romany encampment on the edge of town
The day was rounded off by another vignette when we came upon a traditional Romany gypsy encampment on the roadside verge by Pershore bridge. Two horse-drawn caravans sat quietly there, a couple of men relaxing in one while a woman tended a fire on the ground and horses grazed there and across the road. Around them were some small tents, a trotting cart and a few dogs.
It was a scene that could have been played out across many years. We were intrigued to know more about them but, if boaters can get irritated with the often tiresome questions from passers-by about life on a boat then the widely disliked gypsies must feel even more defensive and resentful of intrusion. And I wasn't about to buy some 'lucky heather' to pay for a few minutes of their time so we left them alone.

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