We expected a peaceful stay at Bidford, a small town with no ground breaking historical Abbey to talk about. However as always we did learn something new. The only mooring was outside the pub (The Frog, very nice and to be recommended, lovely view from the window) but they were hosting an event that evening. Bell boat racing.
We first saw a ‘bell boat’ while we were at Woverly on the Staffs and Worcester canal. Although at the time, we didn’t realise what they were. Twin canoes catamaran style for 8-12 plus a helmsman. We’ve seen them several times since, always full of happy people having a good time. This time we got to talk to the person obviously in charge. Andy Train, his father, David created Bell Boats. Andy represented Great Britain as an Olympic canoeist in the 80‘s and David was on the coaching team. He wanted something motivational, to encourage team work, that everyone young, old and the less able could enjoy. The company has a strong environmental conscience raising awareness that the best way to solve a problem, be it global or local is to work together as a team. By working together we can achieve great things.
Unwittingly we were sharing this ethos as we were sharing a mooring with the same boat that had helped us up the locks on our first day up the Avon
Continuing upstream to Evesham for two nights, where the river is wide and busy with river trips, sculling rowers, and swans. the floodplain has been made into a pleasant park with mooring. Evesham is on the edge of the Cotswolds so has both a thriving tourist trade and a fruit growing tradition. So the parks are well used as a congregating point with a lot of the ‘no fishing’ signs written in Polish.
We decided to take a guided walking tour around the town and had an hour packed with information. Evesham town grew around its Abbey which was first built 700s when Eof a lowly swine herd was looking for his pigs in the forest. he looked up and saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. He rushed to tell Bishop Ecgwin of Tewkesbury, who saw the same vision. He persuaded Ethelred King of Mercia to create the Abbey.
The Abbey became a focal point for pilgrims, many seeking healing and as the monks had realised sick people often brought infections with them so built 2 more churches within the prosperous Abbey grounds, one for the local community and one for the pilgrims. Moving swiftly on a few centuries to the 1265, the battle of Evesham was the turning point in the second Barons war (I’m a bit confused but I think the barons were effectively trying to reassert the essence of the Magna Carter which would hold the King to account, please don’t rely upon any of my summarised history to be accurate). Simon de Montford, the earl of Leicester was defeated by Prince Edward resulting in a ruthless bloody massacre.
Bad King John was raising taxes to pay for fighting and loosing wars in France, the barons were being killed off both physically and financially by all these battles, Simon de Montfort recognised that people would be less resistant to paying more tax if they had a say in the matter and therefore Simon instigated a groundbreaking system of representation by a common man from every region gathering in a parliament for consultation.
In 1540 the dissolution of the monasteries saw Evesham Abbey plundered and sold to a entrepreneur who sold the stone and made a lot of money. The town was allowed to keep the two remaining churches.
Just in case you think we are only interested in historical churches, Evesham also has a nice leisure centre and we took ourselves off for a swim.