Tuesday 11th August 2015 Black Bart cruises the last few hundred metres of the Avon, pausing to restock on the refreshing H2O (wet stuff). NB Monmouth has already scarpered. Then, we (all) (guest included) ascend the lock of Stratford gongoozlers. Not too busy yet, at this ‘early’ hour of 10 (‘ers in the day). Stratford Canal (Bancroft) Basin lock transfers Black Bart and her crew from the Wonderful clear River Avon Navigation into the darker waters of the Stratford(upon Avon) Canal. The Basin & RSC theatre disappear behind us, as Bart moves on, passing under the wide (tight headroom) road bridge, which seems to separate The Splendid Town of (Monsieur) Shakespeare (French roots ya-no) from the many miles of Delightful Canal ahead of us & ‘Our Bart’.
Not sure about water depth yet. Fingers & thumbs crossed. None of that slouching. The ‘new’ trial crew member is assigned first locking duties. Looks like trouble. Chief Lock Keeper is going to have to be really ‘on the ball’ today.
We lock up five chambers in just over a mile, then shortly after, the eleven Wilmcote locks appear. Mr. CRT volunteer lock keeper takes charge, looking after our Bart all the way up. Fab-U-Lus !
Must take this opportunity to notify all our many many readers (yeh!! right) (Te He!!) of the unique architectural features to be found over & to the side of the Stratford Canal. Fantastic cast iron split cantilever bridges & beautiful barrel vaulted cottages. Not seen such styles before on previous canal & river cruises.
We cruise past that Avon narrowboat (again) as we swim past Wilmcote (Oh! Ah! Mrs Arden), deciding to continue, hopefully keeping a lookout for that ‘middle of knowhere’ type mooring we prefer. After creeping through another tight cosy squeezy bridge (No. 58) (very common round these parts) we land, over a foot from the grassing bank, but we just don’t care. At least Bart is not crunching on a gritty/stoney ledge or canal bed. Solar panels adjusted for final hour or sow of sunshine. Yes the sun has finally peeped out for us, tis a’noon.
17 locks today. Thanks Crew. Fab !!
Wednesday 12th August Slow start today, after the previous early departure. Only after a meary mile Bart accelerates (as only Bart can) slowly, to scare off the oncoming boat. We are there before our oncoming opponent. First (yeh !!) not, and then across the biggy. Edstone Aqueduct (1813). We smile & thank hire boaters for ‘waiting’ for us. Next, we is leapping-up ‘odd lock’ & heading towards Wootton Wawen, only an-udder mile or so ahead. Just prior to said local plaice’s (yes there be fish in these here waters) moorings, Bart’s entering W.W. Aqueduct.
A large floating weed island blocking ta aqueduct entrance does not even phase old skip, until it causes a problem with ‘old prop’. Bart is not happy bunny. Miss Tiller is now mis-behaving herself. Reversing & Forwarding aboat several times, we manage to struggle through the aqueduct with sum-it hindering flow-rote of these murky waters over thow prop. After creeping through, we finally move into last available WW mooring position, quickly moving on again to avoid the (very local) lively wasp nest. Tiller girl somehow seems ‘mostly’ (me thinks) better,
so Bart keeps cruising, ascending many more of those clever water chambers until we is not far-far away from Kingswood Junction. We climb final (Dick’s Lane) lock of the day, mooring less than five (yes, five) ‘ers short of the night that is mid. Ah, nearly forgot old tiller girl has been a tittle funny. Weed hatch investigation ensues. Webbing, plastic, wire etc.. etc.. is/are removed & bagged.
15 locks today. Thank you Crew, mostly muchly. Fab !! !!! !!!!
Thursday 13th August Another grey day. We don’t care. Bart & crew are up early, making headway, climbing & passing through/by Kingswood Junction. Smoothy olde Tiller girl is muchly happlier today. Team Bart negotiate the first 18 locks of our day in three hours. Second half of those being assisted by all three Lapworth lock keepers. They like Black Bart. Other boaters can look after themselves. Te He !!
Lock keeper No. 3 (or is he No. 1 ?) (or is he No. 2 ??) has a very poorly shoulder so cannot lock (so to speak), so comes for the lock-rises on Bart, keeping helmsman cump-anie. We wave a cheerio thanky-bye to our locky chums as we chug away, making for, and then up n’udder four-thy chambers. Heavy windlass operated lift bridge soon follows, before another (better ratio-ed) drawbridge is dealt with most efficiently.
As we is continuing, Bart is trying to decide where we may stop for the night. Which Public House might it be. The Drawbridge or The Horseshoe ??. 2.5 miles apart. Which will be choosen ?? OH !! Circumstances decide for us. Powered Shirley Draw Bridge is not working. Oncoming boats are waiting, fault called-in, awaiting engineer. Bart moors & we lock up ye olde girl. Amber Ales & ginger beer are ordered. Then the engineer arrives, overrides bridge controls and all waiting boats (less Bart) are through. Typical. Skip pops out to find out if the bridge is now working. Engineer informs it might work or it might not when we try it. Fingers crossed then. For later that is. We enjoy a fab feast inta pub. It be 8.00pm. We is off. Lister turned over. Lines slipped. Bart moves forward. BW Key inserted into control panel. Red lights flashing. Automatic Road Barriers not coming down. Bridge not drawing up. System Jammed. BW Key stuck in control panel. Bart re-verses & re-moores, for the night. CRT are phoned. Engineer callout is 4 ‘ers. Discussions ensue. Decision made. Engineers to arrive 8.00-8.30am inta morning. We relax, eventually falling slowly, into a deep slumber. All four of us. Plus, of course Black Bart too. Cannot be forgotten, our Bart. She has to sleep too.
22 locks today. Thank you AGAIN. Fab Crew of Bart. Fab-U-Lus !! !!! !!!!
Friday 14th August Very Wet out there, through the night. Just steady drizzle (is wot they call it) now. All up early (for us) and ready, awaiting arrival of CRT engineer. More likeminded travellers arrive, in their floating metal & plastic boats. The clock is ticking. Even skip’s watch’s hands are a-rotating on that tittle dial. Men with the magic fingers arrive, drawbridge is up & we are all quickly cruising on through. BW Key retrieved & Black Bart sets full speed, within limitations allowed by shallow, narrow canal water. Soon after, another short aqueduct (one of several on this splendid canal) invites us to continue on our way North. Bart makes a successful water stop & then 352 yd Brandwood Tunnel soon leads Bart to the final reaches of the Stratford Canal to Kings Norton Junction. Shortly before the canal’s end we glide gently & slowly (of course) through the now restored, (but open) guillotine stop lock, finally cruising the last of our recent waterway. Starting to turn into the waters of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, as low revs, we don’t quite make it first time, as a narrowboat, suddenly appears through the bridge, coming the other way, turning into the Stratford Canal just as we is starting to creep round ta corner. After udder nb passes us Bart pulls back, repositioning for ‘take two’. We successfully turn the tight corner, this time, passing under the bridge, now looking for an inviting mooring position, if that’s possible.
Black Bart has cruised all 25 miles of the Beautifully scenic Stratford-on-Avon Canal ascending 54 wide locks. As with the Avon Navigation, a Black Bart revisit of this interesting waterway is likely to occur.