Wootton Wawen to Stratford-upon-Avon: 6½ miles, 13 locks
On through the Warwickshire countryside – but what was this? A large building with canal-facing terrace, parasols… a marina! It’s Hill Farm Marina, opened apparently since October 2017.
Onward, through isolated Bearley Lock before reaching Edstone Aqueduct, England’s longest at 754 feet. No trains or cars were seen from above, although three walkers waited and waited at the far end until the boat was close enough for them to photograph.
“A fist bump, fist bump!” called another, shrieking with delight when his friendly greeting was reciprocated…
11 locks stretch down the hill here. When settled into a comfortable overnight mooring after the first three locks, a knock on the boat brought a friendly warning. “There’ll be a lot of walkers passing here through the night, they’re doing a Hundred Mile fast walk,” explained a steward, he heading for overnight checkpoint duty down in Stratford. “It’s a Challenge see, starting from Moseley Rugby Club …” Within a couple of hours the first fast walkers were striding down the towpath, participant labels attached to their rucksacks, maps in hand.
Darkness fell. By then a succession of white head torchlights was streaming down the path from the lock behind.
“Evening, Sherrif,” said one male voice leading a foursome along past the boat.
“Good night – and good luck,” replied Boatwif.
“Oops, it’s a lady…!” came the same voice from further along the towpath…
These were participants on the Elephant, Bear and Bull 100, the 100 mile walk to be completed within 48 hours through Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire. (Description of the route here: )
Away the next morning, down past King and Queen Scarecrow who sat smiling benignly at passing walkers, runners and boaters… Ahead was a Wootton Wawen hire boat, its young crew doing all those risky things forbidden on the good ship Cleddau…
Progress towards Stratford slowed – why get there ahead of liasions and bookings? Overnight the hedgerow hawthorn blossoms dropped, sprinkling confetti petals* over the boat’s roof, gunwales and decks. How timely. Thoughts had been with a friend whose daughter had married the previous day – and within hours gloriously happy wedding photographs arrived via WhatsApp.
Moored 4 locks above Bancroft Basin the Cleddau crew took a walk down into Stratford; it was Bank Holiday Monday, which made no difference to an anxious swan parent guarding her offspring. A bunch of some dozen people had stalled on the towpath, terrorised by a swan defensively guarding her three new cygnets…
“Just put your arms high up, make yourself as large as possible,” explained the Captain, going into survival training mode. Slowly the swan shepherded her young family to the water’s edge Following the Captain the crowd edged past and continued their trundle down the towpath.
Noise, colour, movement and heaving activity assaulted the eyes and ears at Bancroft Basin.
On the river craft of all kinds dodged and weaved. Novice oars folk struggled to maintain direction, trip boats (a broad beam and the electric narrowboats) stuck to their schedules, a rescue boat retrieved exhausted rowers.
Over on the Recreation Ground the Big Wheel turned, the towering high chair-o-planes rose, spun and lowered while a vast beam with swing seats on either end rose terrifyingly high before dropping out of sight…
. The question was: when Cleddau finally got here would there be any mooring space …?
*and 3 days later Boatwif is still sweeping “confetti” out of the boat…
2023 totals: 138¼ miles, 113 locks, 4 swing bridges, 5 tunnels
Conversational snippets in passing…
- “Do you live aboard?: FAQ now posed 6 times
- 2023 Monkton Moments*– 2(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)
1) “Grew up in Milford.”
2) “I come from Porthcawl.”