Stratford-upon-Avon

Prior to departing Wilmcote, we had the opportunity to walk past Mary Arden’s Farm, thought for many years to be the home of William Shakespeare’s mother.

It has recently been established that this Grand house, actually belonged to a neighbour, and that Mary Arden lived 30 yards away, in Glebe Farm. Both buildings are however, managed as a working Tudor farm.

Monday the 29th, the crew returned from their shore leave, ready and rested to resume Lock duties. The port side of the boat was given a wash down, removing the last remaining tree sap from our stay in the Saltisford Arm. Tuesday 30th was bright and sunny, the forecast later in the week was looking changeable. A decision was made, we would go all the way to Stratford upon Avon in one hop. Firstly we navigated the eleven Locks of the Wilmcote flight, broken into groups of three, five and three. Once through the bottom lock, we found the water point and stopped to fill up. The tank was nearly dry, so this would take between forty minutes and an hour, depending on the water pressure. Plenty of time for a quick lunch break. By 2pm we were underway again, with two miles and five Locks to go, before reaching our destination. We were soon into the semi industrial outskirts of the town, which quickly became more residential, the closer to the centre we got. Once through the final lock and an extremely low bridge, we emerged into Bancroft Basin, right in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. We had been informed that it was fairly empty, and so it was, we had a large choice of spaces to choose.

Moored Bancroft Basin, Stratford-upon-Avon

Next on the agenda was a visit to the narrowboat William James, tucked into the corner of the basin. This is used by the Avon Navigation Trust as their office, and it where we will need to buy our license, before we descend onto the river. They also produce a guide book, similar in size to the Nicholsons guides, but it contains far more detailed information and pictures. At only four pounds, it is well worth the cost.

Avon Navigation Trust Information Centre

After that we took four legs for a walk, across the tramway bridge, and then down the river to the first lock. On the way back, we stopped for ice cream and cake. Later in the evening as a treat we had takeaway Chinese.

Today Wednesday 1st May, we followed our usual morning routine, taking Oscar out for his ablutions, before having breakfast. It was only 9 am, and already teaming with tourists. Back on the boat I settled down to my usual bowl of muesli, at which point four legs began barking furiously, unusual for him. Looking out of the boat my second Chinese encounter, a cheeky tourist, not content with having his photo taken next to the boat, decided to clamber across our polished bow, and I had not stopped him, would probably have sat himself on top of the cratch board. Needless to say, with me and four legs bursting out of the front door, he got the shock of his life, and quickly and apologetically removed himself.

Before heading off to explore the town, four legs needed his exercise. We had received a stoppage notification from the Avon Navigation Trust, informing us of a Lock closure at Weir Brake Lock, a mile down the river. We wandered off to have a look, and it appears one of the paddles is jammed. A diver was in the water with lump hammer and crowbar, attempting a delicate repair.

Weir Brake Lock closed to Navigation
Attempting the repair

Speaking with the engineers, they hope to fix it, but if not the lock will reopen with only one paddle in operation, as the alternative is removing the gate with a crane.

Four legs was dropped back at the boat to perform his guard duties, whilst we sauntered into town for a look a round, and a spot of lunch.

Totals 4 Miles 16 Locks

Running total 49 Miles 93 Locks 3 Tunnels

Wilmcote

This morning the skies looked ominously grey as we untied the boat. We passed through the boatyard base of the Anglo Welsh hire fleet, and over a small aqueduct. About half a mile further on, we pulled into the new Hill Farm Marina we had spotted on our walk the previous day. We had a slight delay before we could obtain the services we needed, but by 11 am, we were once again underway. We only had one lock to navigate today, I’m sure the crew was happy with that. Next was the Edstone Aqueduct, at 200yds it is the longest in England, as it crosses both a railway and a road.

On the approach to Edstone Aqueduct
About half way across

Sadly the photos are a little grey, due to the fact that the rain which had been threatening for some time, finally arrived. As can be seen, the towpath is to the port side and level with the base of the trough, so walkers get a ducks eye view of the boats as they cross. To the starboard side is a sheer drop of a hundred feet or so. Once across the Aqueduct, our intended mooring was just over a mile further on. We found a nice rural spot, made better by the fact that the rain had gone, and the sun was out. No piling to attach to, so out with the pins once more.

Mooring half a mile prior to Wilmcote
The view from our side hatch

The first mate is planning to abandon ship tomorrow for a few days, meaning me and four legs will have some chores to do, aka respite time. We are now just four miles and sixteen Locks from Stratford upon Avon.

Totals 3 Miles 1 Lock

Running totals 45 Miles 77 Locks 3 Tunnels