Right,we are nearly there,just a little under two miles and half a dozen locks to go and we will be on the River Avon in Stratford upon Avon.We’re here for the River Festival that starts this Friday afternoon and to make mooring etc. a bit easier,we’ve been asked to arrive tomorrow about lunchtime.
After our last blog we continued along the Grand Union Canal,enjoying the ease of operation of the broad locks and also the speed they filled and emptied,all without a lot of the turbulence that we have experienced when using wide locks on other canals.We also enjoyed the company of other boaters as we traversed the locks because most days there were quite a lot of other boats moving so there was always another boat to share with.We went down the ten Stockton Locks with a hire boat who’s crew worked for Stagecoach in Carlisle.They hadn’t been on a boat before but the Helmsman did better than I did on my first time on a narrowboat.Lisa and I stopped for the night at the bottom of the locks and walked into the nearby village of Long Itchington,a nice village with half a dozen pubs.We only went into one of them though,the Two Boats,and sat outside next to the towpath and watched the world go by.
From Long Itchington we moved along The Grand Union for another ten locks and six miles,sharing with Stewart and Jeanette on NB Kestral,till we got to Leamington Spa where Lisa and I went for a walk into town in the late afternoon.Leamington Spa looked quite an interesting place so we are looking forward to our next visit when we hope to spend a bit more time there.I had a craving for a Chinese take away that night and fortunately there was one just a couple of hundred yards from the canal.We only stayed moored by Bridge 40 at Leamington for the one night,changing our plans as we often do and travelling on a bit farther to Saltisford on the Thursday morning.We had a couple of things we wanted to do and we needed a Railway Station that wasn’t too far from where we could moor safely and Saltisford Canal Centre on the Saltisford Arm fitted that bill exactly.It’s only ten minutes or so to walk to Warwick Parkway Station from there and the moorings are superb,having water and electricity and it’s locked at night, there’s a Supermarket only a few minutes walk away too.
Looking down the Saltisford Arm,a lovely mooring just outside Warwick.The Sensory Gardens on the arm which is open to the public during the day.
The Saltisford Arm was the Warwick terminus of the Warwick and Birmingham Canal and from the wharf there,locally mined coal was shipped to Birmingham.The canal arm was built in the 1790’s,it fell into disrepair but was restored in the 1980’s and is now a great place to moor. Our reason for wanting to be somewhere handy for a station the weekend before last was so we could get to Walsall on Saturday and Lichfield on the Sunday.There might be some criticism of our railways but we enjoyed all our journeys,travelling on trains that were clean,comfortable,and on time.The fares were reasonable too thanks to our Senior Railcards.Each evening at Saltisford we sat outside next to our boats in the company of our fellow boaters,sharing experiences and the odd glass or two and I can tell you,there are some very interesting people enjoying our canals.We also took the opportunity to catch up with some friends who have a permanent mooring on the arm and who we hadn’t seen since Alvacote last August.It was good to see that Keith and Jo off Hadar are well and Keith in particular,as he gets over his illness.
Our time at Saltisford came to an end last Tuesday when we set off in the company of Ray and Barbara,some more newfound friends,and their boat Merlin.Together we shared the twenty one locks of the Hatton Flight and did the lot in a little over three hours,thanks in part to Terry the Lockie,he showed us a way of reducing the time to work each lock.He had us using only one gate into and out of each lock,just as we would if we were only one boat.It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and neither of us touched the closed gate as we entered or left the lock.This left Lisa and Barbara to lock ahead so that each lock was ready as Merlin and Chyandour approached,it helped that no boats were descending the flight as we ascended though.Having moored for the night,and another BBQ,about a mile past the Hatton Flight,we parted company from Merlin the next day.Ray and Barbara continuing North at Kingswood Junction towards Birmingham and Lisa and I going left onto the South Stratford Canal towards Stratford upon Avon.
Merlin leaving the bottom lock on the Hatton Flight,this was when we were using both gates,before Terry the Lockie came to help.Looking up part of the flight of 21 locks,looks a bit daunting and it did feel good when we got to the top where we enjoyed a well earned Bacon Sandwich in the tearooms by the top lock.
A sculpture of a Dragonfly,just before the last few Hatton locks.One of the many narrow,and sometimes low,bridges on the Stratford Canal.Only inches to spare on either side but a great challenge.
The South Stratford has narrow locks,only big enough for one boat,and they seemed very slow filling and emptying compared to the ones on the Grand Union.There are also a number of very narrow bridge holes with only inches to spare that test your helmsman skills if,like me and others I know,you pride yourself in not “touching the sides” as you negotiate the locks and bridges of our canals.Our first night on the Statford was spent at Lowsonford,moored opposite the Fleur de Lys,and we just had to sample the beer,having been “dry”,so to speak,since Long Itchington.From there we moved just a few miles the next day to Wootton Wawen,now there’s a name to conjure with.I topped up the diesel tank at the Anglo Welsh hire base there and stayed the night before heading on down to the next place with a railway station,Wilmcote.It’s here that you will find Mary Arden’s Farm,she’s better known as Mrs. Shakespeare,the mother of the playwright William Shakespeare.We wanted a railway station again because last Saturday and Sunday was the Banbury Rally at Bloxham.This is a festival of Steam Engines,Vintage Motorbikes,Classic Cars and Military Vehicles as well as all the usual things one finds at such events.Saturday proved to be a great day,the rain stopped about lunchtime and only returned just before the festival closed at five.Once again we used trains and buses and everything arrived on time.
Another canal in the sky.Not the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in Wales,this one is a bit shorter and not quite as high but still a tad unnerving.It’s the 475 foot long Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford Canal and is the longest in England.
Just a few pictures from our day at the Banbury Rally @ Bloxham.An excellent day out and only a fiver entrance fee for us oldies.
We left Wilmcote on Sunday morning to do the two miles and ten locks that brought us to here just outside of Stratford where we will wait till tomorrow morning to go down onto the River Avon ready for the Festival.
That’s all again folks,since our last blog we have done 74 Locks and 32 Miles which gives us a Grand Total of 847 Locks and 1396 Miles since we set off on our travels back in October 2012.Take care everyone.