Stratford to Valley Wharf: 2.1 miles, 5 locks.
          Last night’s RSC production, A Mad World My Masters, currently playing at the Swan Theatre, is a comedy written in the early 1600s but edited and set in 1950s Soho. The result is a riotously funny and extremely bawdy production. The cast are magnificent but the full-throated jazz singer who provides a strong link between scenes and story-lines is truly amazing. Parents / carers be warned: this production is not recommended for sensitive or unworldly teenagers. Media reviewers seem to have awarded the play a four out of five stars (how often are five stars bestowed on a production?!) Four very bright stars are awarded from here! Many fewer stars, however, would be given to the service element of the RSC Rooftop Restaurant. Twice before this restaurant has delivered pre-show meals swiftly and efficiently; not so last night, details of which can be relayed on request.  How grand that the play’s entertainment was able to deflect the earlier restaurant frustrations…
           There was company on board today when Brum Cuz drove over. This was the plan, float upstream on the Avon to the Old Bathing Place for a lunch stop

– return to the river below the Basin – go up the five locks to Valley Wharf where the boat is to take its next break. Off Cleddau set from the riverside park, weaving through the two bridges, past the hired rowing boats and continuing on upstream.  Just as Brum Cuz was exclaiming that she had indeed parked her car here (at the Old Bathing Place) at the start of particular Rambler routes there was an ominous CLUNK!  A single deep sound, after which the engine noise dies, is not usually good news – or so experience has taught this crew. The Captain tried the engine again – again, CLUNK!Engine stalled, weed hatch inspection imminent. Down the hatch the Captain went – and there was the culprit, a sodden solid log, jamming the propeller.  Mallet percussion was applied, the log was freed – and presented to fine company at the front end of the boat!

Relief that this was not a CLUNK that led to a very expensive engine rebuild about fifteen years ago… Swans and humans were fed and a return made to the riverside opposite the theatre.

 While Boatwif and Brum Cuz hurried off to re-feed the car parking meter, the Captain was engaged in talk…          
“This man wants to help, show him how,” he said. Off set Boatwif, Brum Cuz and the Man, off over the Tramway Bridge to set the broad Bancroft Basin Lock.

  Man (in Stratford for the evening’s horse racing) was a total novice and needed explicit instructions, but muscle he had in plenty to shift the gates. Gradually Cleddau rose in the fierce flow of the wide lock. Then it was across the Basin, duck the heads for the low road bridge, weave along the Stratford Canal for a hundred yards or so – and start climbing… Four locks up in about half a mile

and the destination was reached. By lock 52 is (the fairly new) Premier Inn and just beyond is Valley Wharf.

While the Captain made Cleddau comfortable (found berth, filled with fuel and water) Boatwif and Brum Cuz groped their way off the Wharf (hey, we’re in an industrial estate with lots of car sale outlets) back to the towpath and back into town to a car park for Brum Cuz’s car.

En route back to the boat there was a curious rural experience – the sound of sheep. Across the road bridge rolled a stock-carrying lorry. Sheep were in full voice – appropriate perhaps for a town where a major shopping and restaurant street is called Sheep Street!


Hmm, seen a lot of this towpath recently… how long has this grit been here?

            (Tomorrow: back to Beds for four nights, no further blogs anticipated before Sunday).



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