Monday 11 October 2021

Locks to Lowsonford

Today's Canal - Stratford

There will not be a lot different to say about today's cruise other than to mention (or perhaps we should not!) the word LOCKS.

You, dear reader, should - if you have been following with due attention - should know that our overnight mooring was chosen on the the basis that we would be able to visit  Wedges Bakery at Bridge 20 as early as we could manage, to ensure a good choice of their products.

Andrew and Mike set off a little early at 9 am and half mile to the bridge. We had chosen to moor on the official 48 hr section - it seems a little strange that these are set opposite a long line of offside permanent moorings but perhaps the latter only developed much later than the former. At least the stretch is straight where the two coincide.

There is armco here but no 'proper' mooring so as soon as we arrived, Christine and Andrew leapt ashore in search of goodies, leaving Mike to hold the boat or tie it up. Another boat arrived to moor just close by and so it was a few minutes before Mike could set the mooring rings. No sooner had to completed the task than the shoppers returned. One was a tad disappointed as she had hoped that they would by now do croissants but their range is too traditional for that. But they did return not only with the required bread for the next few days but also giant ECCLES CAKES! (She should have known as we have stopped here almost every time we have come this way) 

Some of the eccles lasted but a few minutes, only long enough for coffee to brew and to go with them. We then resumed the business of the day - cruising and doing locks (more of the latter than the former)

Oh look - there is our next Christmas tree, we''l have that one please!

Before we get to the locks there are two manual lift bridges to negotiate. We recalled that this one was rather hard last year but Andrew reported that both were working well - perhaps the greater traffic through the season has eased the hydraulic mechanism.

Under Bridge 27 is this quite old plate which appears to indicate thew boundary between river authorities (which will date it it anyway). We can see that northwards is Trent RA but what is the one to the south? Anyone know for sure?

And then the second lift bridge. Andrew chided Mike for being too slow otherwise he would have had a catch of one Land Rover and one Trailer in a queue! Almost up to Shirley standards.

Just beyond the lift bridge we paused for a short while to have coffee and some more of the eccles. We then arrived at the top of the long Lapworth flight.

As we descended the sun came out properly lifting the temperature to a good level for the time of year.

The overflow weirs were working overtime. We could not be sure where the flow came from as it seemed to be more than just a single lockful following us down. The summit level was well down and the back pumps did not appear to be producing this much water. Perhaps one of the side ponds concealed a secret source.

Look up -  there is a spy in the sky. Actually, Andrew decided that it was time for his little drone to have a chance to take a look from above the flight. No doubt we will have a chance to share the view when we get back home. It is remarkable the quality of images from these quite tiny devices.

There is a small basin and mooring place below Lock 14. As it was now well into lunch season we took the opportunity for a break. Shame about the ugly water pipe - would today's planners be happy with that impact on the iconic view of the main flight?

The next lock has an unusual top ground paddle mechanism, not the more usual design of hydraulic mechanism. This lock was rebuilt at some time and no doubt someone thought it a good idea to 'modernise' the paddles. They also rebuilt the chamber 2ft shorter than all the original!

Lock 21 is the last of the Lapworth flight. This time we remembered in time that the rubbish disposal is alongside this lock and not across the other side of the junction basin - we usually end up having to take the long walk after tying up at the water point.

We could see that another boat was currently using the facilities (the very right of the photo) but there are several interesting buildings to study whilst hovering including this, the first of several surviving barrel roofed cottages on the southern Stratford.

Whilst waiting for the water tank to fill we had a discussion about how far to aim for tonight. In the end, the thought of a pie from Fleur de Lys pub at Lowsonford (we have been several times before! It almost becoming a necessary ritual) prodded us into committing to doing the next ten locks before the light faded.

This cottage has been well preserved and much extended and, from the lock above, has an impressive appearance.

A little further, this one does look as if it is now somewhat neglected - it looked as if it had been taken in hand a few years ago but perhaps the interest has waned. They are actually quite small in their original form and so, for modern day use, either have to be seen as a bijou holiday cottage - as at Lowsonford - or in need of considerable expansion, as above.

We made good progress - with three of us it is generally possible to set the lock ahead, there was not a lot of traffic and we only encountered a boat at a lock just once all day. Lowsonford is a popular place to stop and there is not a lot of mooring - the canal below the lock is allocated for long term use. We were beginning to wonder if we might have to tie to some of the pub's bankside trees opposite the towpath (which once did in a busy summer visit some years ago) but with some relief spotted just enough room between the last moored boat and the lock landing. By now it was twilight and energy levels (or the lack of them) conspired to mean that this blog was not written until the next morning!

Christine had booked a table for 7.30 (no chance to change our minds half way down the locks!) and we walked around to the pub with our torches. They have been making pies here since the world began and so they should know how to make them as tasty as they are reputed. Indeed so, the only disappointment was that two of us opted for the version on the daily special list only to be told as we ordered that they had sold out! Fortunately there is a good range of alternatives and we were all rather pleased with the experience. Two of us even managed a pud.

[Post publication note: aficionados may detect the stylistic influence of the latest novel that Mike is reading but that would be to do a great injustice to the supreme skill of Catherine Fox - if you have never tried her, give it a go!]

6.7 Miles - 28 Locks

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