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!
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.
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.
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).
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.”