Last year ’round about this time, Tewkesbury was holding what it calls “The Big Weekend” although last year it was probably more like “The Overcast Big Weekend”. What does happen is that quite a lot of activity centres around the bank of the Avon by the Tewkesbury Lock. It doesn’t really interest me though because it is really geared towards kids and families, and of course there are boats of all shapes and sizes. I am a ship enthusiast as opposed to a boat enthusiast, but I always have en eye open for something of interest. Last year my eye was drawn towards what looked like a telephone booth on a hull, but was actually a small tug that was berthed alongside and I did get pics but they really turned out poor because of the weather. This year it was a whole new ballgame because the weather was excellent.
The “vessel” in question was alongside again, her bow firmly shoved into the rear end of a barge/landing craft.
I decided that when I got back from Evesham I would pop in and see whether I could get pics of her moving.
Wind forward to 12H30 and I was back in town and headed down to the locks. By now things had woken up and the usual tables and rides had been set up. They did not interest me because I was after that tug. Unfortunately she was not where I had seen her that morning so I went and asked somebody at the Avon Navigation Trust (aka ANT) . She took me to a friendly fellow who said he would be happy to show me the tug and we could even go for a ride.
The tug was berthed on the opposite side of the bank and her barge from the morning was berthed nearby. And here she is:-
She is what is known as a “Bantam Tug” and she is a pusher tug as opposed to one that tows. They were used extensively on inland waterways moving barges and small craft around. This particular vessel carries the name “City” on it and a bit of digging reveals that she was built in 1951 for the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive in Watford and used on on the Thames at one point. Her builders were E C Jones & Son (Brentford) Ltd and she was number 17 out of 89 (number 13 and 15 did not exist). She was acquired by ANT in 1963. Her skipper proudly showed me her new engine which sits underneath the raised hatch area.
Apparently she was built with a 2 cylinder Lister engine and was not very manoeuvrable and took ages to go astern. She was rated at 30 BHP when built. The current engine is produced for IVECO and is a major improvement.
Further looking would reveal her builders plate in the “wheelhouse”, and that ties into the information I did manage to pick up while researching her.
Wheelhouse? its more like a telephone booth and was crowded with 2 of us in it, its actually crowded with 1 person in it. What I found interesting is that her helm drives the rudder through a chain system. No fancy hydraulics here I am afraid. If anything she is very minimalist and functional
And then we were letting go from alongside and the skipper took us out, handing her over to me. I will be honest, I did badly at making her go in a straight line because she steers very differently to a car and I was not too sure of how many spokes to give her to achieve a desired direction. And of course I wanted pics! I also learnt a bit more about this particular stretch of waterway that I did not understand before and really need to make a few changes in my pages to reflect what I now know.
Here we are sailing up the River Severn toward the Mythe Bridge. The gin palace ahead of us crossed our bows as we were coming out of the Avon into the Severn and she threw up a large wake that made our little vessel rock ‘n roll. I think I prefer the tug to the gin palace. I really wanted to film this part of the trip but my camera steadfastly refused to work in video mode. The skipper also showed me what she was capable of speedwise when he opened the throttle and it was literally one of those thrown back into your seat moments. ANT seems to be very satisfied with the performance of her new engine.
I am afraid that she does not have space for anything else down there except engine, no wardroom table, or heads or even a galley. She is literally a hull with an engine.
And then we were coming alongside again, my short trip completed, and a smile on my dial.
There is a lot that can be done to “give her character” but these were not built for the tourist trade or leisure activities, they are purely working vessels, and function over form is the watchword. I asked what her name was and was told it was “Goliath” but I do not see a name board reflecting that name, maybe it is more of a description? At any rate her original name is still displayed on the wheelhouse.
I was chuffed and gave a donation and continued on my my rounds, satisfied that I could add her to my list of ships that I have experienced.
On the Sunday I was down at the event again, to see if she was moving at all, and to my satisfaction she was. Apparently the reason the barge looks like a landing craft is because it was a landing craft and belonged to the Royal Marines who donated it. I believe that one of her sisters is at the Gloucester Inland Waterways Museum so I may go look her up if I get there again. I certainly do not recall seeing one when I visited originally
And that concludes my short look at one the peculiarities that live in the water. I believe she lives at Wyre Piddle near to Pershore. I wonder what else they have there of interest? I have seen a dredger before. She goes by the name of Canopus.
And that was my day. What a score it was too. My special thanks to the gent who took me for a spin, and for ANT who look after the waterways. They are always looking for volunteers so if you are interested drop them a line via their webpage
Another Bantam? I spotted another small craft berthed at this mooring in 2019, carrying the name “Eric” I could not find any confirmed info on her.
The best source of information on the tugs was by Jim Shead
The list of Bantam tugs is available at the Canal Museum Website
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