We watered at the top of Cape Locks and then set of through Leamington Spa.
This is a dangerous building, the home of Kate Boats, our favoured hire boats in days of yore. Too many visits and we were addicted. Just look where that has left us, permanently bound to a wandering life, people of no fixed abode, itinerants. So beware, it could happen to you.
After a quick stop at the convenient canal side Tescos for a top up we moved on.
Crossing the aqueduct over the Avon. There are plans to one day connect the canal to the river about here, if the riparian owners of the river agree to letting boats traverse the stretch from Alveston Weir. As far as I can make out that will be about the same time as hell freezes over.
The evening stop is across the meadows from Radford Semele church which is keeping us entranced with that most quintessential of English sounds, the bell ringers at practice.
Shortly after mooring, in the distance, came the unmistakeable sound of a steam whistle.
President making her way back from the Braunston Rally.
It had to come. Today we tackled The Stairway to Heaven; or as we were descending perhaps it was to somewhat warmer regions. Who knows?
But first came Shrewley Tunnel with its odd horse tunnel taking the towpath through alongside the main tunnel. I am unable to work out the thinking behind this. Surely it would have been cheaper just to take the horses over the hill. Or if there were some problem with that it would have made more sense to widen the canal tunnel and provide a towpath alongside the canal. I'm quite happy with the current set up though; just one more little quirk of the wonder that is the inland waterways.
The top of the Hatton Flight with their statuesque paddle gear. We watered and waited at the top but alas no other boat appeared to share the hard graft of the descent.
Those lock chambers are large and lonely for a boat on its own.
As you descend there is plenty of evidence of the old single locks that were replaced by the wide locks in the modernisation of the nineteen-thirties. This is one wall of the chamber of the old top lock complete with gate recess and the date 1893 and the lock number, Hatton number 1.
A lot of the old chambers have found a new use as by-washes for the newer locks.
Fortunately, after a couple of locks we were met by another of C&RT's splendid volunteers who set off lock wheeling for us which decreased the work load and increased the speed of our transit.
Not a volunteer as such but the other vital part of Armadillo's crew. Not just great at locks but beautiful as well. XXX And a damn good cook.
The C&RT chap then said would we hang on as there was a boat a couple of locks behind us and it would make life better all round if we shared the locks and so we were joined by Hermes,
out from the Black Boy Cruising Club for the weekend.
Well we fairly flew down the rest of the flight and were soon passing the cottage by the bottom lock.
Having reached the bottom of the flight there was only one place to head for.
The Cape of Good Hope. Odd name for a pub in Warwick, especially as it is currently run by New Zealanders. But they fed and watered us splendidly.
Bridge twenty-six on the Stratford, Jill said it was a doddle to raise and lower. That was fine until I tried to pick her up afterwards. The row of piling visible below the bridge is theoretically a landing for the collection of crew. Well I sailed merrily in and ground to a dismal halt. Jill managed to clear the gap and get aboard, it then took us ten minutes to get out of the mud. Time for a quick dredge around here methinks.
Came across a flying boat by bridge twenty-seven.
The major event was the Lapworth Flight. Jill elected to take the boat so, with my trusty windlass in hand, I attacked the first paddle. Talk about eye-popping, tough wasn't in it. Back to the boat for the longer windlass and off we went.
At the fourth lock we came across these two splendid chaps, volunteers looking for someone to help. I was only too pleased to accept their offer of assistance and off we went.
Some of the gates were on the heavy side, boy was I glad we had them with us.
It is an attractive flight but has become hard work.
Below lock nineteen you have a choice, straight on and you are heading for Stratford,
swing across to the left and you are heading for the Grand Union. That is the route we headed for.
Once through this bridge you are out on the wide and deep waters of the Grand Union, quite a change from the Stratford.
About a mile south of Rowington we called it a day and tied opposite some rather des. res.
Today was a day of rest, Jill got on with her cross stitch and I became involved in piscatorial pursuits. I think I must be either the unluckiest or the most incompetent angler of modern times, the only bite I got came from a mosquito.
Highlight of the day. They are obviously making another series because Timothy West and Prunella Scales and an entire production team passed us on a Napton hire boat. So watch the next series, there may be a glimpse of Armadillo.
We finally tired of the flesh pots of Birmingham and yesterday morning we set off early-ish.
We passed our favourite burger restaurant and then it was through
Broad Street tunnel and then the old stop lock in the once infamous Worcester Bar.
This was where the new comer, the Worcs. and B'ham Canal, met the B.C.N. in 1795. Worried that their precious water might be siphoned off down to the Severn the B.C.N. insisted that there should be a seven foot dry strip between the two canals. This meant that all cargo coming up from or going down to Worcester had to be manhandled from one boat, across the bar and into another. After much lobbying a stop lock was finally built through the bar in 1815.
The gates are long gone but the narrow chamber of the lock still remains as a reminder of the past.
Down the Worcs. and B'ham the first few miles is parelleled by the railway. Busy at that time of the morning bringing commuters in to the city for their daily grind.
At Kings Norton Junction we turned off onto the Stratford Canal.
Yet another stop lock, this one still retains its unique guillotine gates, no longer used but kept as an historical artifact. Recently refurbished but already literally bedaubed by the locals.
The north portal of Brandwood tunnel retains its plaque of Stratford's most, some might say only, famous son. After the tunnel the canal assumes an almost rural air even though it traverses several of Birmingham's more salubrious suburbs.
Tree lined, exceedingly shallow and well supplied with various articles all eager to wrap themselves around your blades.
We moored just south of Dicken's Heath and, playing with the new camera, Jill got a rather good shot of a swallow at rest.
Today's doings will be held over until tomorrow as we are having a rest day.