Wednesday, 26 April 2017

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

Monday, 24 April 2017

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.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Stratford on Avon (those French have fancy stanking plank stores)

Having gone down to Luddington on the River Avon at the weekend we came back to Stratford on Monday as we were having guests.  We play bridge once a week, diaries permitting, with a couple of ladies from Stratford.  We alternate between their houses and have always promised them that we will host when we are in Stratford.  It was finally our turn on Tuesday, hence the return to Stratford.

Moored near the old tramway bridge where limestone used to be transported across the river

Our mooring with the eye in the background

Both ladies were vehemently opposed to the eye being erected over the summer – the townsfolk believed it would encourage the wrong sort of people.   It was quite ironic that we were playing bridge in full view of it.  The evening went well apart from the fact that my back started playing up.

By Tuesday morning it was really in spasm, the first time since we have been living on the boat so I suppose that’s not bad as it used to happen two or three times a year in the office based days.
I spent most of Tuesday resting my back and having the odd short walk to ease it.  Coincidentally Buddy is also under the weather so he has been happy with short walks and spending most of the time curled up in his bed.

Aileen and Mike are well into their first year’s cruising the French waterways and Aileen sent me a picture of a stanking plank store.  Rather posh really as it even has a tiled roof – don’t think the tiles would survive vandalism over here.

Store on the Lateral de la Loire - thanks Aileen

Later in the afternoon, whilst I was resting my back, there was a knock at the door.  It was Wendy and Austin paying a surprise visit.  They had moored near the top of the Hatton flight and caught a train to Stratford for the day.  As usual we had a pleasant catch up and our paths should cross at the end of May as they are heading down the Stratford canal then which is probably when we will be heading back up.

Before my back had gone I was going to cruise back to Luddington but it seems we may well be stuck in Stratford for another day or two.