Kingswood to Stratford
Tues 16th May 2011
13 miles - 33 locks - 10 hours
Oh I was so weary last night - tiered to the point I was fed up with boating. It wasn't the number of locks but the fact that they all came at the very end of a long day and I was fragile to begin with.
Crossing Edstone Aqueduct
But a new day and a good nights sleep and we awoke with a renewed spring in our step. Time and tide wait for no man and Belle's Mad Hatters Tea party is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon in Stratford so its time to press on.
As a mooring, Kingswood Junction on the Grand Union is pretty good, but highlighting the four ages of transport: The aircraft from Birmingham International drone overhead, the M42 offers its own unceasing distant roar, the railway gives off a periodic rumble. Meanwhile the canal gently exists with little more then a lap of wavelets and an occasional tinkle of paddle gear. I know which one I like best.
Barrel roofed buildings large and small
This supposedly quiet trip has turned into a three day dash to Stratford passing over the canal's three aqueducts: Runty baby aqueduct at Yarningale, Mummy Aqueduct at Wooten Warwen and lastly big Daddy aqueduct at Edstone. The day came with high winds which were particularly strong as we crossed the exposed expanse of Edstone, pinning us against the side and causing us to bump along the entire length. This really is an impressive structure, particularly when viewed from below.
Edstone Aqueduct with Odd Lock beyond
Wootton Warwen is the site of the big Anglo Welsh base, and we hoped a source of some extra milk. Sadly their shop stocks no food or milk so it was to be beer for the rest of the tip to Stratford - such a shame.
Wilmcote Locks and Stratford
Our descent into Stratford through the Wilmcote Locks couldn't be easier - the top gates tend to swing open and all the chambers stood full and waiting for us. So fast, so easy. It was interesting to examine the sides of these locks. Many are made of poured concrete and bear the imprint of the planking moulds, like stretchmarks bearing silent testimony to a hurried re birth.
Out last trip to Stratford was two years ago and many bottom gates have been replaced, and with them has come larger gate paddles which speed the emptying process no end. This is all very different to my first trip on this waterway a few years after restoration and whilst it was still operated by the National Trust. At that stage the gates were very rickety with rotting balance beams and insecure paddle gear. What a difference three decades makes.
Lady Macbeth - our night time companion
We moored in Bancroft Basin, opposite the Book Barge and indulged ourselves in a trip to Grants of Sheep Street, not cheap but excellent food and service. One hiccup - Belle slammed the doors shut leaving the keys stuck in the ignition inside! Luckily she had failed to secure the top bolt so access was gained without causing undue damage.