Drunken Bidford

Drunken Bidford

The river is getting narrower and there is more current against us. The locks have strangely extravagant follies attached to them, like a lighthouse with no light…
… and a bridge with no way to get across it.
Meaningless bridge
The Upper Avon Navigation Trust were a strange bunch.

A: What does this lock need? How about ground paddles to make using it safer?
B: No, let’s put up a lighthouse, so people can find it in the dark.
A: But nobody uses the lock in the dark.
B: That’s great, we don’t have to bother with the light then. Think how much money we’ll save on the lighthouse.

Margaret took a turn at the tiller…
Margaret at the tiller
… while Nick played figurehead at the bow, and honed his guitar skills.
Nick playing guitar

We moored up at Bidford-uopn-Avon, which has a very pretty waterfront.
Did Shakespeare really write this travel guide to the villages west of Stratford?

Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillboro, Hungry Grafton,
Dodging Exhall, Papist Wixford,
Beggarly Broom and Drunken Bidford.

Probably not. It’s attributed to him, but it wasn’t published until over a century after he died. Bidford has been assiduously cultivating its reputation as the place where Shakespeare had too much to drink for hundreds of years, though.

The pub that Shakespeare would have drunk in has been converted into flats, but the bridge he would have thrown up from is still there.
Bidford Bridge
It dates back to the 1480s, though it has been hacked about over the years, by everything from civil war demolition to drunken drivers. It currently carries a single lane road controlled by traffic lights. There is no room for pedestrians, except for a series of bays where you can hide when traffic is pouring over from one side to another. It takes about three breaks in the traffic to get all the way across the bridge.
Bidford Bridge

The legend goes that Shakes and some companions walked the seven miles from Stratford to Bidford for a drinking competition, lost ignominiously, and fell asleep under a crab apple tree on the way home. He woke up in the morning with a hangover and improvised the doggerel above. The crab apple tree later became famous, and survived until the 19th century. In some versions this was the youthful Shakes, before he went to London to make his fortune, in which case why would anyone remember which tree a bunch of drunken kids slept under, let alone the bad verse that one of them wrote the morning after? In others this was the elderly and successful author whose night in the rough give him a chill that lead to his death. In that case do you really think the Bard of Avon would want his last poetic utterance to be Drunken Bidford?

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