Bye bye Rivers Hello Canals

It feels good to be back on a canal again. This time, up the Stratford canal towards Lapworth Junction.

I’d not given it much thought before but somehow the shape of a narrowboat just feels right on a canal, but is out of proportion on the river. And we feel more connected to the landscape around us.

Stratford canal has narrow locks and very narrow bridges. And with 34 locks to do in 2 days I decided it was time Eric did some of the hard work and I took the plunge and had a go at driving. The poor boat had acquired so many scratches over the past few weeks that any accidental intimacy with the brickwork wasn’t going to cause a major meltdown. Now I can proudly say I have now driven Firecrest through locks and all three of us, me Eric and the boat survived.

We didn’t think we were going to get very far on day two of this journey, just after we left Wootton Wawen we realised there was a hold up ahead with a boat stuck in the entrance of a lock. They hadn’t been able to open the gate fully so thought that the weight of their boat would complete the job pushing it open….. Nope, they got stuck fast. As they were still within walking distance of their hire base they called Anglo Welsh, who managed to wriggle them out by letting some water in, and then with the help of the trusty boaters friend, -the mallet, the gate opened and closed after them so they were on their way. To be fair the same could have happened to any of us, it wasn’t their fault. As no such luck for the three following boats, the gate jammed again and no amount of brute force would budge it. We called CaRT out, who arrived within the hour and used rakes and poles to shift an obstruction for us. Apparently there has been a lot of vandalism on the canal and they have to rake out the locks several times a week. This lock will be recorded as our slowest at 2.5 hours. But it couldn’t have happened in a prettier place and we enjoyed chatting to our new friends and really it added a bit of excitement to the day.

One of the things the Stratford canal is known for is its Barrel houses. These unusually shaped houses were built as lock keepers cottages at the same time the canals were built, by the same navvies. Because they knew how to build bridge arches they built the house roofs they same way.

The bridges also feature an interesting design. They don’t meet completely in the middle allowing the horses tow rope to be passed through.