Monday, 19 May 2014

A respite from the canals

Another boat moors next to me on my second night below Stockton Locks and invite me to share the flight with them in the morning with a 9 am start.  Suits me fine and they were a very nice couple, heading for the large, annual bank holiday boat show at Crick.

Looking back down the Stockton flight
And so  I arrive at Calcutt Marina where I have booked a week's mooring to hire a car and go back to the house.  Apart from wanting to collect post and check on things, I have to live in the house at least every 60 days to avoid it being classed as unoccupied by the insurance company.
I had meant to update the blog while I was at the house but forgot to take the sd card from the camera.

4 miles; 10 locks (10 broad)
TOTAL:  290 miles; 170 locks (55 broad; 5 large)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Stockton Locks

The aptly named Wood Lock

Bascote Locks include a 2 lock staircase

Newly hatched ducklings not daring to stray more than a few inches from Mum.  By the next day they were starting to be adventurous and learning how to eat.

3 miles; 7 locks (7 broad)
TOTAL:  286 miles; 160 locks (45 broad; 5 large)

Friday, 16 May 2014

There are many supermarkets adjacent to the canal in Warwick.  I stop at Tesco to stock up.
Aqueduct over the railway in Warwick.
The change from fairly industrial surroundings in Warwick to its more affluent neighbour, Royal Leamington Spa is obvious.

And I could not resist a photo of my first cygnets of this year.

7 miles; 5 locks (5 broad)
TOTAL:  283 miles; 153 locks (38 broad; 5 large)

Thursday, 15 May 2014


I wake up early, take a look out of the window and decide it is time for a dawn cruise.
 After James has had his morning constitutional of course!

Approaching the first lock at 6 am.

Three locks later I arrive at Kingswood junction and the Grand Union.  Because it was (and is again) a busy intersection, there are two branches onto the connecting arm - left and south from where I have come and right and north into Birmingham.
And onto the Grand Union - Main Line

I stop before the 21 lock Hatton flight and have to decide whether to moor up or tackle the flight on my own as there are no other boats in sight. I top up with water and wait another half hour - still no boats, so I proceed into the first lock on my own.

And back to broad locks - with no shortage of water!
A CART employee walks down from the next lock to say repairs are being carried out and there will be a short wait.  As it turns out it was a stroke of luck as a hotel boat arrives and comes with me into the first lock to wait for the next lock to open.  Thank goodness - I would have found it very hard going on my own. There was a possible mooring half way up but as we are getting on well I keep going with the hotel boat and we manage the next 20 locks in well under 2 hours. For some reason I cannot now remember, I have no photos!  A very tiring (there were only two and a disabled guest on the hotel boat) but rewarding day.
I stop just before Warwick.

8 miles; 24 locks (21 broad)
TOTAL:  276 miles; 148 locks (33 broad; 5 large)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Nearing the Grand Union

After a walk round Wootton Warren in the morning (forgot to take camera again!) I cross the next aqueduct.  Not sure what James made of it!

Looking back to the aqueduct

It is another lovely afternoon and I start on the heavily locked section leading up to the junction with the Grand Union, giving me plenty of time to admire the scenery. The South Stratford canal was built between 1812 and 1816, to link the river Avon into the main Midland canal network. It was reopened in 1964 after substantial restoration. A feature is that the bottom ends of the locks have a single gate instead of a pair of gates. This may sound like an advantage, as you only have one gate to close rather than two, but the single gates are very heavy and most have only one gate paddle so are slow to empty.  Much harder work for the single boater.

A selection of the barrel roofed Lengthsman's cottages (much extended in subsequent years and in very different ways), typical of this part of the canal. The Lengthsman not only looked after the lock but also the adjoining 'length' of canal . It is unknown why they were constructed this way - perhaps cost, or ease of construction, but they certainly make for an interesting journey. 

5 miles; 14 locks
TOTAL:  268 miles; 124 locks (12 broad; 5 large)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Wootton Wawen

On Monday the wind has died down and after a walk round Stratford in the morning (when I took most of the photos in the previous post) I move up a bit to the bottom of the Wilmcote flight of 11 locks.

2 miles; 6 locks (1 broad)
TOTAL:  258 miles; 98 locks (12 broad; 5 large)

Looking back down part of the Wilmcote flight.
The bridges on the Stratford Canal are unusual because the towpath does not go under the bridge meaning they are much smaller (and quite tight on height and width!).  To avoid having to untie the rope from the horse to the boat they were built in two sections with a gap in the middle to pass the rope through, although many have now been concreted over.
Nice to be back on a narrow canal although the rivers were very enjoyable.
Top of the flight and ex lock-keeper's cottage.

I wonder how much this house, with great mooring, would cost?  Out of my price range for sure.
Edstone Aqueduct is one of three cast iron aqueducts on a 4 miles length. All are unusual in that the towpaths are at the level of the canal bottom so it seems as though there is nothing to stop you going over both sides. At 200 yards Edstone is the longest aqueduct in England.  It crosses a minor road, the Birmingham and North Warwickshire railway and also the trackbed of the former Alcester Railway. There was once a pipe from the side of the canal that enabled locomotives to draw water to fill the loco's tank
5 miles; 12 locks
TOTAL:  263 miles; 110 locks (12 broad; 5 large)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A sojourn from canals - and Shakespeare!

A visit to the butterfly farm - supposedly the largest in Britain but I think the one Lisa and I visited on Jersey was larger.

Beware of what is lurking in the undergrowth!  And yes, it is alive.

Look carefully - how many butterflies?

And to finish - here is one duck who has not been sticking to a monogamous relationship!

The answer to the butterfly question is two - they were mating.

A photographic tour of Shakespeare's Stratford

I intended to stay a few days in Stratford but with rain and strong winds, it was nearly a week.  Plenty to see and do and a very enjoyable week.  I also managed to find a new pair of boots as my old ones have not lasted a year despite costing over £100 - too far to take them back to Skipton.  Hopefully this pair will last a bit longer.  So here is my photographic record of my stay in Stratford.

And where better to start than the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  Entrance is free and there are lots of costumes and props on display throughout.

Entrance to the 8 storey tower is £2.50 and well worth it for the magnificent views.

You can just make out the boat on my first mooring.  I later moved up a bit, away from the weeping willows, to get a TV signal.

The original 1879 buildings.

This old photograph shows the ornate water tower.  It had one purpose - to extinguish any fires and it failed in its duty miserably, in 1926, when all but the circular Swan Theatre was destroyed by fire.
I start my walking tour with a 50p trip across the river on the chain ferry to visit Holy Trinity Church where the Bard is entombed.


The magnificent tombs and effigies of the Clopton families from late 16th, early 17th centuries.

And I pay the small admission charge (concessionary rate - getting old does have a few advantages) to visit Shakepeare's grave.
But this ornate tomb is not for Shakespeare, rather a Dean of the church who built the Chancel.  

Shakespeare's is a much more modest affair.  He was buried here in 1616 because he was a "lay rector" of the church.

And, in 1623, his widow and friends erected a bust on the wall, thought to be a very good likeness.

The early 17th century Hall's Croft, believed to have been the home of Shakespeare's daughter

Almshouses dating from about 1500
The Guild Hall dating from 1420 and the Guild Chapel founded in 1269 as a hospital.

Shakespeare's granddaughter lived here from 1626. and the garden next door used to be a fine house built in the late 1490's, bought by Shakespeare in 1597 and where he died in 1616.

Now the Falcon Hotel the ground and first floors date back to 1500.  The top storey was added in the mid 17th century.

The HSBC Bank of 1883.  The terracotta friezedepicts 15 scenes from various plays.  And the Market Hall, now Barclays Bank built in 1821.

The Garrick Inn, on the left, and, on the right what is thought to be one of the finest houses in the town, built in 1596.


In a town with so many marvellously preserved buildings how could they have allowed this 60's monstrosity to be built!

The Public Library, saved from demolition in 1902 and completely restored.

Shakespeare's birthplace is a 16th century building owned and lived in by his father, John, until his death in 1601. Ownership remained with his descendants until 1806.

The canal basin which I shall travel through when I leave the river.

And, finally, the statue of Shakespeare and figures from 4 of his  plays with the canal basin moorings in the background.

A fantastic town, which I had not been to before.  Obviously very touristy but well worth the visit.