Sunday, October 05, 2014

Day nine

Tuesday started foggy, beautiful, and became warm and sunny as the morning progressed.

After a two-mile start, we turned left at Kingswood Junction, then left again onto the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal.

It was beautiful from the start, with narrow locks, and a serene atmosphere - apart from where it ran under the M40 within the first mile! Tree-lined, with sun-dappled water. Quirky lock mechanisms and bridges (some of them very low, we were to discover).

And fourteen locks in the first 3½ miles. We stopped at Finwood Bridge no. 41 to visit the nearby Farm Shop. We bought their pork sausages and beefburgers, but they had no bread or milk in the shop, and we were much in need, so the farmer's wife kindly sold them to us from her own kitchen.

Finwood Bridge
The journey continued to be really lovely. There were a number of most unusual, barrel-roofed cottages next to the locks, built by the canal, built around 1812 by the canal-workers.

A number of the lock walls bore National Trust plaques, harking back to the time when the Trust owned the canal.

We filled up with water after the next bridge, then carried on to a sunny spot between Locks 36 and 37 at Preston Bagot.

It was warm and sunny right into the evening, but as the sun set, so there started a strange sound which we thought at first to be rain falling. It was, in fact, the leaves rustling in a gentle breeze, and this continued, eerily, throughout the night.

Wednesday was our longest day on the move. There was a lot of cloud throughout the day, but it remained dry and warm. The first boat of several boats coming in the opposite direction passed us early; each one potentially having vacated a mooring spot in Bancroft Basin, although, of course, there was no way of knowing how many boats were on their way down ahead of us. No-one had passed us in our direction for two full days, though.

We stopped briefly for me to plunge my arm into the weed hatch to remove a piece of nylon rope which had become entangled with the propellor shaft. I'm thankful I'd only had to do this once before on Kantara. It was forever happening when we were having canal holidays.

We stopped at Wooton Wawen to look at the nearby Craft Centre. There was nothing special there apart from an amazing garden furniture shop, full of wonderful, hand-crafted, timber tables, chairs and so on.

There was also a good farm shop, but unfortunately, we didn't need any of the tempting goods they had to offer. We went into the Cowshed Restaurant and had tea/cappucino and a large slice each of lemon drizzle cake. This turned out to be our lunch, since it later became impractical to stop and eat until 5 o'clock.

Just a few hundred metres from where we stopped, we stopped again to buy gas from the Anglo-Welsh boatyard. The strange thing about this was that the official place to stop is right at the start of an aqueduct over a major road, and the passage across this is the width of one boat. Stopping for gas, water, or any other of their services meant blocking the passage of other craft in either direction. 

Looking back at the stopping place
This aqueduct crosses a road, so it's not very long. A little further on, though, there's the Edstone Aqueduct. This is only 200 metres long, and crosses a road, railway line and pasture, but we traversed it with quite a bit of a cross-wind, and, with no tank sides visible to us (the towing path is below the water line), it was something of a scary time!

At this point, it was hard to decide where to aim for, for the end of the day's travel. Apart from Bearley Lock a mile later, there were to be no locks until the final three miles down into Stratford - but there are sixteen of them! It seemed that the locks on this canal were typically slow to fill and empty. Some of the paddle mechanisms are very stiff, too, and some of the gates are badly balanced, and heavy. This might have meant that the last three miles could be very slow. On the other hand, we had no idea where in that stretch we might be able to moor, so if we committed ourselves to doing any of the locks that day, we might be risking having to do the lot in one go, regardless of how long it took. We took the risk, and started down the Wilmcote Flight.

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