Thu 13th August
Stratford to Wilmcote
We had planned to have breakfast at Carluccio’s, but rain was forecast later, and we didn’t want to get caught out getting drenched as we went through the locks. We therefore left early, before Carluccio’s were open. We went into the basin, turned round and started up the flight. Graham and Cath on Hougham Hall were not up to say farewell.
The final bridge before the basin
Stougham Hall and the Red Lion
The first two locks were OK. The third (53) was still difficult, with the bottom gate being a beast to close. After the fourth lock we paused at the boatyard to empty cassettes.
The top gate at Lock 51 was difficult, as there seems to be some obstruction under the gate. We used the weight of the boat to shift it open.
We filled the water tank at bridge 53. The rain had still not arrived, so we decided to press on with the Wilmcote flight of eleven locks. There were some CRT volunteers here, and we reported the problem with lock 51.
Halfway up we passed Awesome Wonder who was coming down. (Last seen at Tixall Wide). The top lock had a strong side flow from the overflow weir, and there were lots of dents in the piling opposite, suggesting some boaters had had difficulty in keeping their boats straight.
Entering Wilmcote Top Lock
Thankfully it had not rained during our journey up the locks.
We passed several boats moored at the Wilmcote visitor moorings, which back onto the railway. We moved on and found a very pleasant mooring before bridge 58.
We put the hood up, and had heavy rain later.
16 locks, 4 miles
Fri 14th August
We stayed where we were because of the rain, which was intermittent throughout the day, heavy at times.
In the evening the rain stopped, and we heard music and fireworks not far away. Someone’s birthday probably.
No boating today
Sat 15th August
Wilmcote to Wootton Wawen
Our mooring near Wilmcote
There seemed to be very few boats travelling today. Hire boat changeover day was one reason. We passed through bridge 58, the one they had to widen for David Litchfield’s boat Kew to get to the Stratford Festival.
Then we had the Edstone Aqueduct, which we could cross in our own time, as there were no other boats in sight.
A good place to paint the boat sides
We moored up before arriving at Wootton Wawen, just before bridge 54. We took a footpath alongside a run down farm, which concentrated on horses. The path crossed a stream, and led to Wootton Wawen, near the General Stores, where we bought milk and eggs.
The shortcut to the shop
In the evening James went for a creep in the dark, back along the towpath, to see if he could spot any badgers by the setts we had seen earlier. No success, but he did hear some owls.
Someone let off some fireworks again
Our peaceful mooring
1 lock, 3 miles, 1 aqueduct
Sun 16th August
Wootton Wawen to Preston Bagot
We took the same footpath this morning, and noticed some monuments in an overgrown area of the run down farm. We guessed they might be horse burials.
The walk to church
We went to the 11am service in the historic Saxon Church. It was all by the book, with a choir and organ. There are three linked parishes, and they are in the middle of an interregnum, so an 84-year-old retired vicar took the service.
Wootton Wawen Church
We went to the shop again (more milk) and then walked up the hill under the aqueduct to the Navigation Inn for lunch in their restaurant. Very pleasant.
Wootton Wawen Aqueduct
We walked back along the towpath to the boat, and set off straight away, as we needed to buy gas from Anglo-Welsh, where we also emptied two cassettes.
We didn’t go very far, and moored before Preston Bagot between bridge 50 and 49. It was a peaceful spot except that Hugo was chased into a field by a dog.
0 locks, 1 mile, 1 aqueduct
Mon 17th August
Preston Bagot to Lowsonford
Cooler first thing, hot later.
We were about to leave when a hire boat came up from behind and over took us. We set off anyway in case another boat appeared, and we followed them slowly towards the first lock of the day.
A pair of hotel boats came the other way, and we guessed that things might have been held up at the lock. This was Preston Bagot Bottom Lock, where there are two road bridges and a footbridge. The lock bollards are between the two road bridges, and there is only really space for one boat. There was a short day boat plus another boat squeezed in there, and the hire boat we had followed was waiting further back, before the road bridge. We pulled in behind them and waited for everything to sort itself out. There was one boat coming down as well, which helped.
When it was finally our turn to use the lock we had to wait a little longer for the hire boat, as the lady had gone to buy eggs. They were just pulling away when we opened the top gates. They had four able bodied crew, but they hadn’t learned the knack of sending a person ahead to set the next lock. However, they were interested in Boaters Christian Fellowship and Canal Ministries, so we gave them the leaflets.
Our turn to enter the lock waiting area
Preston Bagot Bottom Lock
The following lock was Preston Bagot Lock, where there is a barrel roofed lock cottage at the side. While in this lock, Hugo decided to go and explore, so he got off the boat, jumped across the overflow channel, and disappeared through a hedge. We thought we might be there for a while until he came back, but James threw some water over the hedge, and Hugo ran back onto the boat!
Preston Bagot Lock
There were four more locks after that, including Bucket Lock, which leads into Yarningale Aqueduct. We thought the moorings at Lowsonford might be busy, so we stopped before that, just after the site of an old bridge between lock 33 and 32. We could start to hear the M40, so we didn’t want to go further.
Bucket Lock and Yarningale Aqueduct
There was a footpath leading away from the old bridge site, and James went exploring, and walked through meadows to Yarningale Common. Some of the footpaths were immaculately kept, with mown grass and new fencing. Then there was woodland where he saw a deer. He climbed up to Mill Mound, which presumably used to be a windmill. From there he walked back down footpaths and tracks to the Yarningale Aqueduct, before walking back along the towpath to the boat.
The bridge over the stream
6 locks, 3 miles, 1 aqueduct
Tue 18th August
Lowsonford to Kingswood Junction
We had just one lock before the water point at Lowsonford. There are some permanent moorings along here, and the first boat had a remarkable number of potted plants.
Just after this was Ned’s Cottage, with the Antony Gormley sculpture by the lock. We also spotted a memorial seat with a plaque which mentions Ted Taylor. Was he called Ted or Ned?
Hazel talks to a sculpture
Ted Taylor plaque
We stopped by lock 30 and walked up a steep hill to visit the farm shop at Finwood. They rear their own beef and pork, and we came away with a joint of pork, a beef and ale pie, some sausage meat, milk and bread. They have their own chickens as well but we didn’t need any eggs. They are only open on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
At lock 29 we had a small problem. There was a strong flow from the bypass channel on the left, which made it difficult to enter the lock. We hit the right wall and rebounded to hit the left wall as well. One or two things fell over inside the boat, but no damage was done. A little later, Hazel said: “James, I can’t find the cat”. He wasn’t hiding under the quilt as he sometimes does. The bottom third of our bed folds up against the wall, and this had come down when we hit the lock walls. Hugo would have been on the bed at the time. James found him hiding in his litter tray, which fortunately had not been used.
We continued under the noisy M40, past the picturesque Dick’s Lane Lock, and continued to Kingswood Junction
Dick’s Lane Lock and Cottage
The final lock had a bit of activity, with boats waiting to come down. One of these was Cygnet, and we are sure we have seen them before. It transpired that he used to be a member of BCF, but lapsed when he remarried. We gave him a leaflet.
We emptied a cassette without tying up for the sanitary station, as we didn’t need water or rubbish. We proceeded through the Lapworth Link, which apparently was reopened in 1995. Presumably it closed when the South Stratford fell into disuse.
Signpost on the Grand Union
We turned left onto the Grand Union and moored by the Navigation Inn, a little further from the railway line. We discovered online that Alan and Hazel Dilnot had come up the Hatton Flight yesterday, so we thought they must be near. Then we saw that this evening they were at Hockley Heath. They must have been through Kingswood Junction an hour or so before us.
We had a beautiful sunset this evening.
11 locks, 3 miles
Tomorrow: walk to Baddesley Clinton. Later in the week: heading round Birmingham towards Fazeley.