Sun 9th August
Wootton Wawen to Wilmcote
We had set an alarm to avoid missing the bus, but we woke up before it went off. We walked the half-mile to the church where the bus stop was located. We were 15 minutes early. Many drivers seem to use the bus stop layby as a convenient place to park their vehicle while they nip into the shop opposite.
The bus (X20) was on time at 0854 and took us into Stratford, first going under the aqueduct. We saw the large Tesco shortly before we crossed the canal again on bridge 65.
In Stratford we found a place to have a drink and a pastry. We visited the Sunday market where we bought a pendant for Hazel to celebrate our ruby wedding, which was in May. James walked round Bancroft Basin to see who was there. The six short cruisers we had seen at Kingswood and Lowsonford were there.
We went to Stratford Baptist Church, where we had gone two years ago with Don and Celia. Today they were celebrating their kids club, and they had a mock up of the Orient Express on the stage, which ended up as a puppet theatre. They had a team from OM who had been involved for the week.
Stratford Baptist Church
The puppet train
We were made to feel welcome, and over coffee afterwards, two people told us their testimonies. Unknown to everyone else, Chris had been suffering from depression and hadn’t been seen for several weeks. Doris didn’t know him well, but had this strange feeling that she should contact him, but he didn’t even answer his doorbell. She shared this with the pastor, and he said that next time she felt this she should act. She was watching Emmerdale when this feeling happened again, and she couldn’t concentrate on the programme. She went down to his house and tapped on his window. He had been thinking, “I really need Doris to come to see me”. After a session with the pastor, he became a Christian and his depression left him, and he was filled with joy.
We returned to the market and visited a food stall to have some noodles. We had a hunt for some still cider, visiting three pubs. We ended up having apple juice from one of the boats.
We walked round the boats again, as someone from the church said they had seen a Christian fish symbol on one of the cruisers, and they had assumed that was ours. True enough we found a cruiser called Fleur d’Eau, and we met Chris and Mair Potter. They were among the six small cruisers we had seen earlier, and were from the North Cheshire Cruising Club, from Stockport on the Macclesfield Canal. Apparently they had met Alan and Hazel Dilnot at the IWA Burton festival, where they had moored alongside each other.
Chris and Mair
We were sitting on a seat by the bus stop, when a very overweight lady came and said, “Is there room for me?” We made room for her, and immediately she lit up a cigarette, which made Hazel cough. We explained that Hazel had asthma. She finished the cigarette and threw the stub on the ground. Then she lit another one! She said she was diabetic and therefore couldn’t have sweet things, so she felt she was entitled to have alternative pleasures such as cigarettes. Thankfully the bus arrived, so she threw that one on the ground as well.
Back at the boat we moved off straight away, as it was 3.15pm and the boatyard closed at 3.30pm. Usually their boats are moored stern on, but there were no boats on their pontoon, so we pulled alongside. 70.5p per litre. We also emptied a cassette, before setting off across the aqueduct.
Wootton Wawen Aqueduct
Looking down on the road
At Bearley Lock there were two boats coming up, with a third waiting. It was slow to fill and slow to empty. Then came the Edstone aqueduct, which crosses a farm road, a river, a railway and a road. Because the towpath is low level, there are no high railings on either side, so there is a drop on both sides. It is apparently the longest aqueduct in England. (That doesn’t include the Welsh ones).
The iron trough
We found a pleasant mooring between bridges 57 and 58. 3 no trumps arrived and moored facing us. We last saw them last year on the Trent and Mersey near Wheelock.
1 lock, 3 miles, 2 aqueducts
Mon 10th August
Wilmcote to Lock 50
Hugo caught a mouse in the morning. We waited for the rain to finish at lunchtime before we set off to do the Wilmcote Locks. There is a warning that these are narrow. We have heard of boats getting stuck.
Narrow Locks warning notice
Wilmcote Top Lock
Two boats were travelling up the flight towards us, and there were volunteers on the flight, so we made good progress down the hill towards Stratford. Just the last three locks were against us.
As it was hot, James was wearing shorts, a decision he regretted because, two locks from the end, he was stung by a wasp on the back of his leg. There seem to be a lot of them around this year.
Moored below lock 50
We moored as possible after lock 50, 2 miles from Bancroft Basin, as we thought the moorings in Stratford might be full late in the afternoon.
The mooring was not far from the A46 bridge, so we had some traffic noise. We also had some country aromas. We think the farmers had been putting slurry on the fields. The other problem was that the towpath alongside the boat was used as a road by two or three houses, and the CRT team. Every so often a car or van would travel past with hazard lights flashing. We thought it was unsafe to let Hugo out until later in the evening when it had all quietened down.
11 locks, 2 miles
Tue 11th August
Lock 50 to Stratford
We started early, as we wanted to have a choice of moorings in Stratford. The first stop was at bridge 63, for the rubbish bins and water tap, which was slow to fill. Lock 51 seemed to have something under the top gate, which made it difficult to open and close.
There was a tantalising glimpse of the roof of Morrisons, quite close to the canal, but with no moorings or access. We paused at the boatyard to empty our cassettes, before the final four locks into Stratford. Lock 53 was very difficult, with shortened lock beams because of a road bridge, and it took two people to shut the bottom gate.
The difficult gate at lock 53
Lock 54 and 55
At the final two locks we chatted to a man who was out for a walk, and we told him where we were planning to moor, behind the Red Lion pub. He was moored there himself on Monmouth, and was just about to leave. By the time we arrived there, he was ready, and he left his space for us.
The next boat was called Stougham Hall, and we had a pleasant chat with Graham and Cath.
We contacted Ricky and Martina as planned to tell them where we were, and we nipped to Sainsbury’s local to get some milk etc before they arrived. In the end they were late arriving, and we all went off to Jimmy Spices for lunch. It was just after 1pm when we got there, and there was a coach party of Japanese tourists waiting outside the door. We were shown to a table straight away, but the place was heaving with people. Many of the dishes had run out because it was so busy. At these places we usually wait for a gap before going up to the buffet, but there was no chance of any gaps today. But the food was tasty, and it was good to catch up with Ricky and Martina.
Ricky and Martina
Crowds in Stratford
They went off on some errands, and we also did some shopping on the way back to the boat. Later we walked across the Tramway Bridge and along the river as far as the first lock on the Avon. We met a pleasant couple on a boat called Maranatha, as they had a Christian fish painted on the side, above the word Kinver. They had bought the boat second hand and had not repainted.
Back across the river, we called in the Red Lion for a drink, as it was very warm.
5 Locks, 2 miles
Wed 12th August
It was hot, with lots of people everywhere. We took a bus (222) from outside McDonalds to Morrisons, and we were the only people on the bus. We bought enough to fill our shopping trolley and four bags. The bus back was completely full and we had to stand. The bus also serves the park and ride. Presumably in the evening it is full going out and empty coming back.
We offloaded all the shopping at the boat, and went for lunch at the Thai restaurant, which overlooks the river. A lovely situation and good food and service.
We went to the butterfly farm, but there were so many people there that we decided not to go in. We had an ice cream on the meadows, which we thought was expensive at £3 for a single cone.
Back to the boat for showers etc before going to see Othello at the theatre. More overcharging there - £8 for a glass of wine.
The theatre had been nearly full when we booked, with no adjacent seats left. We took two seats either side of an aisle. Hazel’s seat was easily accessible. James’s seat had a barrier across so that you had to go in from the other end, past about 20 other people. The seat pitch was very narrow, and the ladies sitting there didn’t look as though they wanted to move, so James went back to his end and climbed up and over the barrier.
The set was intriguing with a water feature and moveable platforms. It was an experience for us and as such we are pleased we went, but we have decided that Shakespeare is not for us. The language is so unfamiliar that it needed a lot of concentration. The words were displayed on a screen and we were watching that more than the acting so that we could follow the story. There were some long speeches, during which the other minor actors appeared to be standing around doing nothing. There were nearly as many dead bodies as in Midsomer Murders.
James was sitting next to a lady who was taking copious notes. When asked if she was studying Shakespeare, she replied that she lectured on the subject. She was now preparing a paper about “Cleanliness in Shakespeare”. A bit of a niche subject.
Sunset over Stratford
No boating today