Thursday, June 30, 2022

Wootton Wawen and Lowsonford

 Yesterday we had an easy day, from Wilmcote to Wootton Wawen it's a steady, isolated stretch with only one lock.

After recently cruising two rivers and a broad, deep canal the South Stratford Canal seems hard work. It's shallow, narrow and with limited views with high hedges and often overgrown banks. But that is part of it's charm, I guess.

After about an hour we came to the first of three iron-trough aqueducts carrying the canal over shallow valleys.

Edstone Aqueduct.

These are mini Pontcysyllte Aqueducts, built on the same principal of an iron trough supported on masonry pillars. Unusually the towpath is dropped to the level of the base of the trough, probably a construction economy but also affording pedestrians a "duck's eye" view of crossing boats.

It's the first time for miles we've had any sort of a view!

After the aqueduct it's a short distance to Bearly Lock, then another mile and a bit, passing the new Hill Farm Marina, to Wootton Wawen.

CRT were busy rebuilding the towpath at the south end of the aqueduct here. Across the aqueduct there's a basin with an Anglo-Welsh hire base and moorings where we pulled in.

Over the A3400 on WW Aqueduct.

This morning we had a late start by the time Amber and I had had our morning constitutional and I had a trip up to the village store.

Wootton Hall is a 16thC house in extensive parkland with an artificial lake fed from the River Alne. St. Peter's Church is behind the gatehouse, and hidden from the road by the church and the hall is a large park home site.

On the way back I ducked under the aqueduct in time to see a day boat setting off from the hire base.

We were on the move at just after 10, heading off to a rash of locks an hour away.

The hedges and trees are often thinner along here...

Bridge 49 is still in original condition.

Often the rope-slot has been filled and the bridge deck reinforced for modern farm traffic.

Preston Bagot Bottom Lock was our first for the day and we started to meet boats coming down so had a good road for a while.

Talking about modified bridges... the lock was beyond a bridge that had been widened and laid with an iron deck.

There are three locks at Preston Bagot, the middle one sports a barrel-roofed keepers cottage. This design is unique to the South Stratford.

Being very small the sold-off buildings have often been extended, some sympathetically, sometimes not!

The locks came steadily, another three a little further on, then a gap followed by two more wider spaced.

Above Bucket Lock is the last of those iron aqueducts, Yarningdale.

You can clearly see the low-level towpath.

I had to empty these last two, the only ones set against us, but was able to leave the top gates open for approaching boats.

I dropped the rubbish off below Lowsonford Top Lock after passing a long line of permanent moorings, then helped a single-hander down. He'd come from Anderton via Birmingham in a week, and was intending to be in Stratford on Saturday. Long days!

While Seyella was slowly rising in the lock I had a chat with the family renting the lock cottage alongside. This is one of the portfolio of historic properties managed by The Landmark Trust and let out for holidays.

There was space for us opposite the Fleur de Lys Pub garden, and, in a tried and tested formula while there's an audience, I made a cock up of getting in to it. In my defence it was shallow and tight...

Tomorrow we should be at Kingswood Junction and the Grand Union.

Locks 8, miles 4      

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


 Before we left Bancroft Basin on Sunday morning I took a few pictures while it was still bright and sunny...

This one was on Saturday morning, on the lock flight heading up out of town...

It wasn't much better a day later!

I thought I might struggle to reverse out off our pontoon as the breeze had picked up but it wasn't as bad as it might have been.

Heading across the basin...

...under the low Bridge Street Bridge...

and into our first narrow lock for several weeks.

The next pound was the low one from Saturday morning, a little better but still not deep enough for me to get to the next lock. I was just able to get the fore end in to the bank and jump off to let a lockful of water down, just enough to allow me to scrape in to the lock.

Above this the pounds were ok, still a little low but passable. I stopped to fill up the water tank and empty a loo tank at the old Valley Cruisers base above Birmingham Road Lock (52) before pushing on, up Lock 51 and mooring up just past the A46 road bridge. Boats has started to pass us going down, taking water with them so the levels nearer town should improve.

Moored below Lock 50.

We waited out the rain yesterday. It did brighten up after lunch but I'd lost the urge to move by then so we stayed put.

The urge was back this morning, I dragged Mags out of bed at 08:15 (bless...) and we were on the move a half hour later.

I'd worked my way up the first two, then a CRT volunteer arrived and set the third one for me. And he stayed with me for the rest of the morning.

My own helping hand on the left and his mate going in the opposite direction on the right.

Near the top, maybe L41 or L42, we had to take it really slowly as a rather imprudent mallard had decided to bring her young family in to the lock. 

But we managed without any casualties.

Wilmcote Top Lock has only one paddle working so was slow to fill, giving us enough time to help out a hire boat that had come a bit unstuck.

First day, he hadn't a clue and his wife was less than impressed. Might be their first and last canal holiday...

This canal was built to a tight budget, that's why the locks have single gates top and bottom rather than the more usual mitred pair at the bottom, and narrow split bridges that avoid having to build them wide enough for a towpath. The towing rope could pass through the gap in the middle.

Canada Bridge

Coming in to Wilmcote.

Just a half mile above the top lock I pulled in on the moorings above Bridge 59 at Wilmcote. It was only 11:00, 11 locks and 1½ miles in just over 2 hours. 

We'll push on to Wootton Wawen tomorrow, a few more miles but only 1 lock.

Locks 17, miles 3

Friday, June 24, 2022

Up off the river.

Well, that's clean water and wide spaces left behind for the time being. We left the Luddington Lock moorings yesterday morning early, on the move at soon after eight.

There's a tribute to another restoration giant, David Hutchings, on the path to the village from the lock. You may need to enlarge the pictures to read the text....


The Victorian parish church of All Saints replaced an earlier one destroyed by fire. It was there that Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway, according to local lore.

This is disputed, as is a lot of The Bard's "history". Worcester, Grafton Regis and Shottery also claim the distinction. What is agreed though is that he was eighteen and she was 8 years his senior and 3 months pregnant with their first child. Naughty lad. Not a shotgun wedding though, they weren't invented until 300 years later!

The village is chocolate-box cute...

Anyway off we went, aiming to get tied up on the river at Stratford in plenty of time for our visitors.

Big houses, large lawns, efficient mowers!

The Gloucester to Stratford railway crossed the river on an iron truss bridge.

The track is gone, the bridge now carries a cycleway.

Just two locks today, the first Weir Brake (Gordon Gray) Lock was empty with bottom gates invitingly open for me.

Leaving Weir Brake.

Shakespeare Marina is open but not quite finished just above the lock.

It's not far to Stratford Trinity (Colin P Witter), past a large area of parkland on the right and the start of the built-up area on the left.

A boat was just getting ready to leave and another was waiting above so that was a quick turnaround too.

Stratford Holy Trinity Church above the lock.

I'd planned to moor opposite the theatre but the moorings there were full so I turned around and pulled in near the chain ferry.

We had a good afternoon with Kay, Paul and Sue, passing showers kept us inside but they enjoyed watching the boats and the swans through the side hatch. They left us late afternoon and I toyed with the idea of heading up into Bancroft Basin but decided to leave it till this morning.

Heading towards the lock up off the river, Tramway Bridge and Clopton Bridge ahead.

The lock is to the left, this side of the bridges, but the river navigation continues for another 3½ miles for shallow-draughted boats, but only 1½ if you want to turn a narrowboat!

Looking back at the "interesting" architecture of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

We went up the lock into Bancroft Basin, closely observed by the tourists on the tail bridge, then pulled in on one of the pontoons facing the Gower Memorial to the man himself...

Heading off up the Stratford Canal tomorrow or Sunday. I'll have to remember to shut the lock gates behind us!

Locks 3, miles 3