Stratford worlds…

 Stratford-upon-Avon (above lock 52) to Shakespeare Marina: 1¼ miles, 6 locks

Tickets and liaisons – on 31st May the time had come to do the final four locks down into Stratford and (hopefully) secure a decent mooring.First there was a longish reverse back to the services (filling of water, emptying of rubbish) before proceeding down into Stratford.  

  Upcoming boaters explained that there was mooring space in Bancroft Basin.

Two volunteers are responsible for this floral delight at the final (or first) Warwick Road Lock.

Colourful narrow boats moored in wide open spaces are attractive to view – but space attracts wind and wind makes mooring difficult… After several attempts and a spell of being windblown against the offside wall Cleddau was eventually tied up on a pontoon, her bow looking at the figure of Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull, her stern facing the carousel in Bancroft Gardens…

An investigation of the week-long funfair revealed dodgems and waltzers, soft toy stalls and kiddie roundabouts, a low-level roller coaster and a number of attractions that variously spun, swung, shook, twisted and upturned their funseekers… On a Wednesday afternoon in half term week it was young teenagers who seemed to be having the most fun.

New Place is a site on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane. It’s a large plot of land on which once sat the house that William Shakespeare bought. The playwright’s success in London had allowed him to buy the second largest house in Stratford for his wife and daughters.   Although the house is no longer, there its footprint is outlined by brass lines on the ground. Behind is a courtyard, a knot garden and the Great Garden.  The extensive gardens are a peaceful oasis within the town but what adds to the joy are the installations:

A globe (the world as perceived in the 16th century)

A writing desk

A galleon (referring to The Tempest)

Flag pennants naming Shakespeare’s plays

A series of character statues created by Greg Wyatt A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream    Julius Caesar

A reading of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet  inspired the desire (the determination!) to see the RSC production based on her book. It has premiered at the newly refurbished Swan Theatre. One last ticket available online dictated the need to be in Stratford for June 1st.  An in-person inquiry at the Box Office provided a second single ticket, same row, about 20 seats away – success!

Very little is known about Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. There were three children, Hamnet, a boy twin dying at the age of 11. The cause of his death is unknown but the narrative of the book and the play links it to outbreaks of plague. What link might there have been between his death in 1596 and the first performances of Hamlet in the early 1600s…? The grief of the bereaved mother is immense, raw – yet the father leaves Stratford to return to London as soon as possible.

This beautiful tale, transferred from page to stage, leaves no-one unmoved. This is theatre at its best – superb performances, the A frame two level set a striking interpretation of O’Farrell’s descriptions, smooth transitions between scenes and live music accompaniment. See it (showing in Stratford until June 17th and in the Garrick Theatre,  London, from 30th September to 6th January 2024).

All around sound

After 48 hours in Bancroft Basin Cleddau had to move on – and she did so in a swirl of surround sound. It was about noon – a jazz quartet was playing on the plaza at the bottom of Bridge Street, the carousel was in action with its electronic music, there were roars of appreciation from a crowd around an entertainer in Bancroft Gardens, there was the sound of water as the big lock filled, happy sounds from a wedding party,   including several young children transfixed by the lock operation  – and, on the lock side piazza, an opera singer in full voice (associated with the wedding or not, who knows!)

Then, as Cleddau proceeded the short distance downriver to Trinity Lock, from the left bank came the sounds of the funfair and from the right six bells from Holy Trinity Church sang out crisply and clearly. Were they being rung in celebration of the wedding? Or just a bell ringers’ practice…?  What a soundscape to set off downriver from Stratford-upon Avon!

Down through Trinity /the Colin Witter Lock (a structure where the reinforcing steel pillars and overhead bars seem alarming and intimidating…)

Within half a mile Cleddau had turned into the very new Shakespeare Marina, for a few days R&R.   Sometimes you just need to become landlubbers, make a dash back home, check the mail, cut the grass and keep a couple of appointments..…

 2023 totals: 139½ miles, 119 locks, 4 swing bridges, 5 tunnels

  • 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.”






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