Downhill to Radford Bottom

Kingswood Junction to Radford Semele: 12 miles, 23 locks

 After the climb up from Stratford-upon-Avon Cleddau was turned right at Kingswood Junction onto the Grand Union Canal.     Turn left here and the waterway heads north to Birmingham, but a right turn leads to Warwick, and onward to Oxford, Braunston and London…

It’s broad, this canal, and deep.

There was a pause for water at Turner’s Bridge, where loud rock music throbbed from an open French window, accompaniment for the chap who was engaged in a DIY project on his garden table. Is it an older house modernised and extended?  Next door (no photos) is the Tom O’ The Wood pub, in Rowington. ,It’s often been referred to in boater blogs – so at last Boatwif has realised where it is!

Onwards, the canal cool and tree-lined –  the black partially submerged submarine was approached with care,  then identifying it as a plastic covered hay bale fallen in from a field…

Across the Rowington Embankment, past a wooden boats’ graveyard, approaching the Shrewley Tunnel. Here the Captain cruised solo into the tunnel while Boatwif experienced her own solo adventure – up through the cobbled horse tunnel, to locate a village shop, find the path over the tunnel and walk down to the other side. How wet, narrow and muddy was the towpath the other side. Walkers tiptoed through the splash zone while the Captain held the boat’s centre rope and enjoyed another Monkton Moment* (see below).

There was a quiet overnight mooring about a mile from the Hatton Flight   – thoughts focused on the prospect of getting down the 21 Hatton Locks the next day, aided or unaided by lock keepers or lock sharers. What would be, would be…

By 10am on Sunday the Cleddau crew had serviced the boat, positioned cold water flasks on the back deck, lurked for a while and waited long enough for another downward boat. at the Top Lock.

None appeared.

 Top Lock was filled and negotiated.

Below at the Hatton Locks Café crowds sipped morning coffees, indulged in tea and toast, gazed at the one passing boat. Cleddau inched into Lock 2 and a gongoozler offered to close the gate. Then above, up at Lock 1, activity was spotted and an envoy tore down the towpath.

“Would you wait for us?” she said.

What good news this was, another boat to share with – and what’s more there was a hale and hearty crew of four. “He’s my best friend from the day we joined the Navy together,” explained nb Venturer’s skipper. After 34 years of service and several active retirement years these folk were fit and systematic, a steady rhythm of lock preparation and operation quickly swinging into place.    The Captain and Boatwif periodically swapped roles and onward the pair of boats went.

“I’ve booked lunch for us all at the Cape pub at the bottom,” Venturer’s skipper explained during one lock passage.

“I hope the table isn’t booked for outside!” his wife confided some time later during a hot towpath trudge between the locks…  

What a triumph – what a joy this Hatton transit turned out to be, with great company and efficient and hard-working lock hands… Thank you Guys, may our bows meet again!

Into the Saltersford Arm, for the second time this summer, tying up the boat ahead of a huge and powerful thunderstorm. Fortunately the flashing and crashing, banging and bumping had eased by mid-evening, when (midday on Pacific Coast Time) a banner had been hoisted over in San Diego County, boat bunting was strung behind Cleddau’s curtain rail and a goodly slice of chocolate cake was being brandished up in Cheshire. Such were the backdrops for a tuneless rendering of Happy birthday to Cal Son…

No time could be allocated for Warwick exploration – anyway, Leamington Spa was not far away and the Dutch Masters Exhibition would be open in the Pump Room on Tuesday. Down through the two Cape Locks on Monday, passing the multi-striped building (“Warwick Hospital car park,” a local explained).

On through Warwick, the housing development opposite the old Kate Boats site having progressed in the last three weeks.

Isn’t this boat a reminder of the fifties…!

Over the River Avon Aqueduct, past a thriving swan family, mooring up again in sight of the Cat and Mouse mural by the “posh” student halls.  Another noisy student night was endured but it was all for two good causes, the Pump Room Dutch Masters Exhibition    and the Captain’s dash back home, his cause very successful, Boatwif’s not so.

“Can we help you?” asked the young duty steward in the Pump Room Museum.

“Yes – directions to the Dutch and Flemish Paintings Exhibition, please,” was Boatwif’s response.


“Ah, there’s a bit of a problem,” came the reply. “The roof has leaked after the very heavy thunderstorms over Warwickshire over the weekend and the exhibition room is closed until we can reduce the humidity inside it…” No time scale could be given as to when the exhibition would reopen…

So the much anticipated paintings plan was foiled…

A wander however through Royal Leamington Spa and Jephson Gardens were a reminder of its history with elephants   and of the Jephson Glasshouse.

Onward on Tuesday afternoon, ( past The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler school   – does anyone else remember that book?) less than two miles to the stunning towpath moorings at Radford Semele. Here was peace, light and space…

From there on Wednesday morning it was just a short distance to Radford Bottom Lock – gulp, from there it would be only 23 upward locks (and a few miles) to reach Napton Junction…where it’s left for Braunston and right for Oxford…

 2023 totals: 169 miles, 178 locks, 4 swing bridges, 6 tunnels

  • Do you live aboard?: FAQ now posed 12 times
  • 2023 Monkton Moments*– 7 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

1) “Grew up in Milford.” 

2) “I come from Porthcawl.”

3) “I live in Ceridigion…” (at Shrewley Tunnel)

4) “I went to Haverfordwest Grammar School in the 1960s. My father was in the oil industry. We lived in Herbrandston.”

5) “Used to live in Milford Haven – Aberdaugleddau…”

6) “Cleddau – Pembrokeshire. We lived in Llan??”

7) “Why don’t you just call your boat ‘Swords’? …It’s the river in Pembrokeshire – I used to go caving in South Wales.”


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3 Responses

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    It’s odd how nostalgic I feel about all of the canal up through Kingswood Junction, even though I had never traversed it until the summer of 2015. I have so many wonderful memories of Les and our life during those precious days and nights. We moored several times just near Hatton train station so Les could travel back to the hospital in London while I had groceries delivered to our boat. One of our favorite mooring places was the embankment overlooking Rowington, after one goes through Shrewley tunnel heading north. It was a splendid place to fetch up and cut up a load of wood.

    I get vicarious pleasure reading about your trips southward after leaving the junction. WE never did make it that way together although Les had done it on his own. We turned left and continued up the Lapworth Flight, stopping in Lapworth village to pick up a quart of the most delicious local ice cream. On up the flight and there were so many lovely places to moor along our way into Birmingham. Such fine golden memories. Thank you for bringing them–and Les back to life for a time.
    Love Jaq xxx

  2. Sue Deveson says:

    Hi Jaq,
    We certainly agree with you about the lovely Rowington Embankment. It’s a glorious spot with one mooring space at the Shrewley end where there is a bit more space on the towpath, not that we managed to secure it in either direction on this recent trip.

    We always remember visiting you a couple of times at Warwick below Cape Locks (on what Les called ” the Five Mile Prison!” )

    Another area I think you’ll remember is the long pound between Napton Junction and Braunston – such stunning green countryside views…

    With love,
    Sue /Boatwif /nb Cleddau

  3. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Yes, the long pound form Napton to Braunston holds many dear memories for me. Les left the boat at Napton Marina whenever he had to go off somewhere for any length of time. Our friends Andy and Tina (you met them when they came to say goodbye to me at your house in 2019) worked at the marina and lived there on their boat NB Ytene. they always kept an eye on NB Valerie. When we returned to the UK after we married, we spent two weeks moored up in the long pound just through Bridge 103. We picked blackberries, I made pies, and we rested after the mania of the wedding, the spouse visa, packing, saying goodbye, and moving…it was bliss and that area will always be one of my very favorite places. xxx

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