Thursday 18 October 2018


Today's Canal - Stratford

We set off with a bright autumnal sky - a little chillier than the last couple of days but not much. Parts of the middle of the day clouded over.

We had moored overnight just before the main bridge at Hockley Heath - alongside is a towpath bridge that spans the entrance to a short wharf arm that was built quite early in the life of the canal. At that time, Hockley Heath comprised only a few houses so we are not sure why the arm was constructed.

South of the village is Hockley Heath Drawbridge, the first of two today. This one was surprisingly easy to open although a little harder to lower.

We were keen to fill our fuel tank as there are not too many places to do this once we get onto the lower Stratford and then the Avon. When we saw that Swallow Cruisers looked open and had a diesel pump we pulled in, and indeed someone did come to serve us.

And then we came to the second drawbridge. Buoyed with the surprise of how easy the first had been, Mike jumped off enthusiastically. However this one was altogether different and, despite furious winding of the hydraulic winch, thee bridge deck lifted very slowly. After 128 turns kit had still not reached the end stops but Andrew decided that there was enough room to pass underneath. Fortunately, the bridge closed very quickly - only 24 turns!

Shortly beyond this we arrived at Lapworth Top Lock - the sun was still low in the sky and in the wrong direction for photos of the top of the lock so the above picture is not much use for a documentary purpose but it does look rather pretty!

There are a number of houses built alongside the canal that are not conversions of a canal-related building. This one has a modernistic look - the rooms on the ground floor had large glazed windows - great for views of the canal and the sun was shining in, but also rather exposed to the stares of passing boaters (like us!)

Canal bridges which have been required to carry road traffic that was not in mind when the bridge was first built have often had to be widened. Sometimes the new structure follows a different profile from the original. With many towpaths becoming popular with cyclists, such bridges can catch the unwary with a nasty bump on the head. Luckily for those not on the lookout, someone has kindly added unmistakable warnings.

After four spaced out locks we reached the densely built section where there is barely a boat's length between each. Here, the canal changes direction sharply and it is far from easy to steer the boat around.

After the water shortages of the past few months, it was good to see that at the moment there seems to be no problem in keeping the flight well topped up.

Looking back up several locks in a straight line.

At the lock before Kingswood Junction we spotted this sign on the bottom gate. The evolution of this Junction between the northern and the southern sections of the Stratford Canal as well as the Grand Union have left us with a small triangle of canals and one lock down to the GU and the other to Stratford. We could see that Lock 20 in the GU direction was all taped up - this is not a major problem apart from having to negotiate a sharp bend below the other lock. Dis not affect us as we were heading to Stratford anyway.

So what's interesting about the notice, you might ask? Well, it is actually attached to Lock 19 and the one down to Stratford is Lock 21!

We remembered to drop the rubbish off as we came through Lock 21 - it is otherwise a long walk around the basin with it from the service block just above Lock 22. We stopped to empty the elsan and fill with water. As there was not a lot of traffic we took a chance and stayed on the water point to finish our lunch even after it had filled up!

After the junction, the southern Stratford has different architecture and construction details. One of the first to be apparent is that the lower lock gates are singles rather than the more usual two gates that the northern part has.

Two of the locks had failed top paddles - one of them was already out of action back in April. Perhaps all of the problems will be dealt with together over the winter. Well, we can at least hope!

The bottom gates also only have a single gate paddle - overall this means that we progressed through the locks here much slower than this morning.

Eventually we passed under the M40 . . .

. . . which is quickly followed by the bottom lock of the Lapworth flight.

There is not much difference in gap to the first of the Lowsonford locks. Alongside it we saw this small lake that looks as if it has either been dug out or renovated recently. Looking later at older maps it seems that it is recent in origin but we can find no information about its pour pose. Anyone know?

Two further locks and we arrived at the good visitor moorings opposite the Fleur de Lys pub. Although it was only mid afternoon, we opted to stay here and visit the pub for a meal this evening and treat ourselves to another of their delicious pies - well they were still good back in April!

5.3 Miles - 28 Locks

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