Leaving Biggles and the chief cook on the boat at Kingswood Junction, a Sunday afternoon train fiasco got the First Officer home eventually; the deluge back at home was fortunately not so bad ‘oop North. Returning on Tuesday afternoon too late to cruise far, and with all options requiring a serious lock flight, we did the obvious thing: retire to The Navigation for dinner.
We’d decided to head down to Stratford-upon-Avon, and made a loose date at a boatyard on the outskirts for a night’s mooring with an electrical hookup, so we could do some much needed washing. But they didn’t want us to arrive on Friday or Saturday (hire boat turnaround days), so it looked like a slow cruise down the pleasant South Stratford Canal.
Navigation on the canals isn’t normally all that hard, but Kingswood Junction is – as far as canals go – a complicated affair. The Grand Union Canal and the Stratford Canal both run approximately North/South, and at Lapworth they come within a few yards of each other, and Kingswood Junction joins them together like the cross-bar of an H, so even that shouldn’t be too hard. Hence we were somewhat bemused after locking down quite a long flight of locks, to notice we were passing through Bridge 19. (Pretty much all the bridges are numbered, and wear their badge with pride: it’s how you know where you are!) This revelation gave the Captain a nasty shock, as we shouldn’t have been anywhere near a bridge 19. Much looking at the maps and scratching of heads, and we decided to continue on through the bridge, where we discovered that we were where we thought were: some hero had attached the upstream number plate upside down. Another small drama resolved…
Mooring up just short of Lowsonford Lock, opposite the Fleur de Lys pub, Thursday morning was memorably sunny and warm. Lowsonford has one of those aforementioned barrel-vaulted roof lockkeepers/lengthsmans cottages: this one is relatively intact, and you can rent it from The Landmark Trust should you feel inclined.
The Landmark Trust got Anthony Gormley to knock up some commemorative statues for them: this chap’s been peering into Lowsonford Lock for the last year, and is due to to be taken away in a day or two: a shame, as he looks rather fine where he is.
BIggles insisted on taking pictures of the crew posing with the metal chap.
Pottering on down the Stratford Canal in glorious sunshine, we were somewhat bemused by one lockkeeper’s cottage solution to people peering in their window: one way mirror glass. Shades of interrogation rooms on the TV.
A feature of the Stratford Canal are the narrow bridges (no towpath through the bridge – it goes around the outside) with two cantilevered bits nearly meeting: you can walk Dobbin round the bridge and drop the rope through without unhitching. Actually most of the gaps have closed or been blocked up, (Elfin Safety?) but this one near our eventual overnight stop at Preston Bagot is still intact. And the bridge has its number plate on the right way up too.
And if we nearly got lost in Lowsonford, we did get lost in Preston Bagot. Mooring about a mile down from the main road, we struck out across the fields (public footpath, the map said) for a meal at The Crabmill. Let’s just say that after a memorable meal, we took the “long” way back to the boat, along the road and towpath…