Bascote to Yarningale Common
Grand Union and Southern Stratford Canals
The day of the locks
The day started with a grim weather warning, which the BBC signify with those grey clouds and two raindrops. Not a good prospect for the locks which were to follow.
We woke early and worked down the last six locks to the Grand Union sump pound where it passes through Leamington Spa and Warwick and over the upper reaches of the Avon..
The flight is relentless with the locks coming more and more frequently till in the end there appears to be a hill completely covered in masonry and balance beams. As we were running solo we opted for the slower but less exhausting single side approach, using the sluice streams to hold the boat snugly against the side of the lock. For all their size, the locks are 1930's hydraulic perfection, with all the ground paddles opening quickly with 22 or 23 (stiff) turns on the windlass. This releases water into the lock via three underwater appetures which fill the chamber in about 3 minutes with a minimum of fuss (2 mins if both sides are operated).
These magnificent locks are a fortunate legacy from the 1930's depression, when canal and rail schemes were used to create jobs. I was particularly impressed that the unique paddle housings are all intact and working after 75 years.
Most of the locks were in our favour so, with Tilly steering all the way, Belle lockwheeling on ahead and the Capt working alongside the boat. We managed the flight in three hours which we felt was petty good in the circumstances. Our completion of the flight and the continued absence of the forecast rain was celebrated with ice creams from the refreshment kiosk.
With the Hatton flight being such an obstacle it wasn't surprising to find the reaches above to be very quiet. The towpathless Shrewley Tunnel takes the canal right under the village onto which Belle ventured via the old horse path over the hill, trying to find a post office. The path over the top is very indistinct and the small foot tunnel back down the other side was tricky to find and so dark inside that she had to grope her way through holding onto one slimy wall. The canal tunnel is also very wet and WB suffered numerous drenchings, particularly at the northern end where water spurts in horizontally under pressure.