17th May 2011
4 miles - 16 locks - 4 hours
Sarah from the Book Barge insisted on supplying us with copious amounts of reading material - Belle with a copy of the Foragers Handbook by Miles Irwin (God of foraging) and me with a 1930 version of Shakespeare's Avon which I had been drooling over, plus a copy of Steve Haywood's latest offering "Too narrow to Swing a Cat".
With the BCN Challenge on my mind I was straight into Steve book, and I had made the fateful decision to dive right in at the middle where he recounts his adventures in the 2009 event. All this reading and discussion about the BCN had me dreaming about the race. In my dream I forgot to fill in the logbook - and in so doing we came last! Oh the humiliation and the ire of my crew - and Steve was there, taking it all in ready for his next canal book - then I woke up.
By 10.00am I was ready to leave but Belle was nowhere to be found. She had disappeared about 30 mins before with a promise to "be back in a minute" carrying her foraging basket in search of those elusive Dandelions. So I was doomed - a foraging widower.
She did turn up, her bag bulging with her illicit pilferings and we were off at 11.00am, entering the lock into Bancroft Basin to another full house. There were way more then 200 this time, all milling around and taking photo's. We has all the usual questions: Do you live on it? why so narrow?, how long does it take to get to London?, how much does it cost? and of course - why don't you use both gates? Its best to humour them I find.
Mary Arden's Cottage
The forecast was for a wet afternoon session and for once the Met Office was spot on - drizzle, downpour, deluge and then back to drizzle. We made slow progress up the locks out of Stratford, hampered by an ABC hireboat so every lock had to be turned all sheathed in waterproofs. Its a good job I had the bike to dash up and down the towpath.
Services are few and far between hereabouts but Valley Cruisers have set up a second base a mile or so above Bancroft Basin who relieved our tank of its contents and my wallet of £15. Water was another issue, we handn't refilled for three days and passed the tap on the river as it was in use. We really couldn't wait any longer so pulled in at Bridge 46 missing an opportunity to leapfrog the ABC boat. Oh what a slow tap - the water just dribbled out and took an age to fill the tank.
Then it's really rural all the way up the 11 locks of the Wilmcote flight set out on a 3:5:3 formation. An iritating feature of these locks is their tendency to have their top gates swing open - so don't blame the boat in front for being lazy!
Wilmcote's wisteria clad post office stores.
By the time we reached the top I was soaked through and had little heart to press on. Instead we moved to the far end of the Wilmote village moorings, supped a beer or two ans finally, when the rain stopped, had a look at Mary Arden's cottage and paid the wisteria clad stores a visit. Not a spectacular village but worth a look if you have time.