Celebrations—a little late!

Published: Thursday, 02 June 2022

THE heavens finally smiled on Avon Navigation Trust’s long-planned VIP event to celebrate a very special award for both Tewkesbury’s Avon Lock and the town.

Cancelled twice because of floods and then kiboshed by Covid, the flags were flying when the Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Edward Gillespie OBE, unveiled National Transport Trust’s Red Wheel plaque, a heritage honour conferred way back in 2019.

A double delight

The Lord-Lieutenant marked a double delight for the town, when he also officially cut the ribbon to launch the Trust’s new River Avon Welcome Centre (RAWC) during Tewkesbury’s water-borne BIG Weekend.

The William James, once permanently moored up river as the Stratford Waterways Information Centre, is now based at Tewkesbury and will tour the Avon to support river towns’ events, with Avon Navigation Trust Chief Executive, Clive Matthews, explaining:

“The RAWC gives us the opportunity to promote the Avon and our towns, who are eager to banner the river to visitors and their communities.”

The coveted Red Wheel

The coveted Red Wheel is the National Transport Trust’s version of buildings’ blue heritage plaques and celebrates Avon Lock’s history, engineering and importance.

The lock, nominated for the award by former Lock Keeper Nicola Lancaster, forms the junction between the Warwickshire Avon and the River Severn.

There has been a lock there since King Charles I granted the charter in 1635, whereupon it was the gateway to attempt to extend the navigation to Coventry and then to a huge 20th century engineering project to restore navigation to Stratford-upon-Avon.

“It’s a historic site of engineering prowess, a once flourishing trade route and now welcomes thousands of visitors and boats every year,” adds Clive.

VIP party

The VIP party also included Clive, Tewkesbury Town Mayor Cllr Simon Raywood, Vice President of the National Transport Trust and ANT Patron Tony Hales CBE, plus ANT’s Chairman Jack Hegarty, Director Roger Clay, Deputy Chairman Michael Hodges and Volunteer and BIG Weekend Riverside Organiser Paul Cronin.