Thu 6th August
Kingswood Junction to Lowsonford
We went to the shop to buy a few items, using a path that goes behind the mooring basin and a fishing lake. On our return to the boat, James trundled a cassette to the sanitary station, while Hazel made preparations to leave.
Two ladies came past from the Grand Union, on a hire boat, and said they were heading for Wootton Wawen, where the hire boats are based.
When they had gone, we reversed back through the link channel, managing it without touching the sides. Bow thrusters are very helpful in reverse. The two ladies were still taking their boat into the first lock (22).
We discovered that the locks in the southern section have a single bottom gate, unlike the northern section, which have the much easier double gates.
After three locks, the two ladies stopped for lunch, so we went past. We found some charming lock cottages with the barrel shaped roof, typical of the southern Stratford Canal. Also there were split bridges, designed so that the horse rope can pass through the bridge without having to untie.
Dick’s Lane Bridge, Lock and Cottage
As we progressed we became more and more aware of the traffic noise from the M40, which passed overhead just before lock 27. There was a boat attempting to enter the lock from below, but it was sticking on the bottom. We had to open the top paddles to provide an additional surge of water so that the boat could get in. It has a historic hull, but was painted grey so we are unsure of the name.
The grey boat
Under the M40
At Lock 30 we noticed a National Trust plaque. The canal had been unusable since the 1930s, and the National Trust took over the waterway in 1960 to avoid abandonment and to complete the restoration. They administered the navigation from the reopening in 1964 until the eventual handover to British Waterways Board in 1988.
National Trust plaque
Soon after this lock there were moorings on the left, so we found a spot and moored up. The two ladies came past after a while.
We decided to have a meal in the pub across the water, so we walked down to the lock to cross the bridge. We noticed a group of artists sketching or drawing pictures of the lock cottage and a sculpture on the lock wall.
Lowsonford Lock Cottage and sculpture
We then enjoyed a meal at the Fleur de Lys pub, a building which dates back to the 13th century, and which has been a pub since 15th century. James had one of their “famous” pies, which was a lot better than the ones in the Folly Inn at Napton, but not quite up to the standard of the Dusty Miller at Wrenbury. Very enjoyable. Thatcher’s Gold cider.
Fleur de Lys pub
Moored at Lowsonford
9 locks, 2 miles
Fri 7th August
Lowsonford to Preston Bagot
After the initial flurry of departing hire boats had subsided, we moved down through Lowsonford lock, and went onto the water point the other side of the bridge. While we were filling, two people appeared on the opposite bank and said, “Can you tell me where Ned’s lock is?” “No, we don’t know of one by that name.” It’s the one with the sculpture.” “Oh, in that case, it’s just there!”
James went back to find out about the sculpture as these people obviously knew about it. There had been no information plaque. Apparently the sculpture was by Sir Antony Gormley, and was one of five throughout the country at places run by the Landmark Trust. Ned Taylor had been the lockkeeper here for many years.
"Ned’s" Lock and Cottage
A little later we came to the Yarningale Aqueduct and Bucket Lock. This is the first of three iron aqueducts we will encounter on this canal.
At Preston Bagot the road has been rerouted, and a new bridge built, and the resulting bridge complex means that there is a very narrow channel to negotiate.
Narrow bridge at Preston Bagot
Split bridge 49
We found a quiet mooring soon after bridge 49, with no road noise. Hugo was very happy. Two other boats joined us eventually.
8 locks, 3 miles
Sat 8th August
Preston Bagot to Wootton Wawen
Before we set off, a BCF boat came past, paws 4 thought, and they pawsed for a chat. It was good to meet them. We may see them at the Taft in September. They are uncertain as yet.
Tony and Pat on paws 4 thought
We set off for the short cruise to Wootton Wawen. We met a boat coming the other way and they warned us about a shallow patch by bridge 51. Sure enough another boat was trying to push through as we approached. When it was our turn we put on speed, and cut the throttle as we entered the bridge hole. We surged up on something and down again. Something lurks beneath! These bridges are very narrow and it is possible that silt builds up either side of the arch.
We arrived at Wootton Wawen, and moored on rings between bridge 53 and the aqueduct.
Later, we visited the boatyard to establish the price of diesel: 71.5p. We plan to fill up on Sunday afternoon. We also investigated the Navigation Inn. It looks quite good. We could see Thatcher’s Gold on tap but the beer mats advertised another cider. Too busy in there to ask about it.
We had a wander round what there is of Wootton Wawen. An old mill, a stately home dating from 1687, a Saxon church, a general stores, and of course the aqueduct. There is also a lovely old timbered pub, the Bulls Head, but we didn’t go that far.
Wootton Wawen Aqueduct
Mill at Wootton Wawen
St Peters Church, Wootton Wawen
0 locks, 1 mile