Yarningale Common to Stratford
Life in the slow lane
That's the story of the Southern Stratford. It was true when I last visited in in the 70's and its still true. This pace has little to do with channel depth, it isn't deep - but its no worse than the Peak Forest. Its the locks, not the number but the speed of fill and empty. All the paddles are minute and there is only ever one at each end resulting in 7 to 8 min's per lock, plus gate opening and shutting time which in itself can take a while, what with big heavy single bottom gates being the norm. It all adds up over the course of a day!
Speed of progress apart, the canal is very pretty and unless you working to a deadline, there are plenty of reasons to take your time and enjoy the view.
The mooring lived up to its promise and we quickly reached the unexpectedly impressive Yarningale Aqueduct and comprises a short iron trough leading directly into lock 34. If you are willing to scramble down the bank you can get an unusual view of your boat entering or exiting the chamber.
From here to Preston Bagot BW works were much in evidence, repairing the bywashes constructed as part of the 1960's restoration and now showing signs of age. Facilities are few and far between in this area so we took advantage of the services at the Woolton Wawen Anglo Welsh base, who specialise in a running pump outs whilst the boat hovers on the aqueduct.
With a number of hire bases on this popular canal things got a bit bust and a traffic jam was encountered at the isolated lock on the 7 mile pound.
This lock was followed by the superb Edstone Aqueduct, a mini Pontcysyllte with an iron trough and no guard rail on the offside.
The final three miles to Stratford contain a sting in the tail in the form of a further 16 locks, all with single paddles. They run in a 3-5-3 sequence to the A46 and then another 5 beyond dropping the canal into the back end of Stratford under a series of bridges low enough to prune the flowers which sit atop the cabin roof.
The main basin sits alongside the iconic RSC theatre but at present it is a mere shell as it undergoes a complete rebuild. Stratford Council have quire reasonably taken this opportunity to rework the public gardens which surround the basin and the whole area id therefore a building site. Even the wide lock down onto the Avon is rendered inaccessible from the land, making its operation rather tricky.
Journeys end for this trip was on the Avon, immediately above the chain ferry and opposite the temporary Courtyard Theatre. Belle made a hopeful attempt to secure a return ticket but the appeal of Jean Luc Picard and Dr Who was clearly enticing and demand far exceeded supply.
The Capt and Tilly wandered into town at sunset and obtained the last two portions of fish and chips which were eaten overlooking the basin accompanied by about 100 bikers our for an evening ride.
Time constraints precluded further exploration on this trip and Wand'ring Bark was handed over to Martin and Adam, who returned it to Calf Heath via the Avon, Severn and Staffs and Worcester Canal over the following 7 days.