The smallest ring and an unexpected discovery

Lowsonford to Rowington: 3.2 miles, 8 locks
           From one narrow canal (the Stratford) to a broad canal (the Grand Union).  Where last night the internet signal was erratic, intermittent and unusable tonight it is strong and steady…
          It was uphill again this morning, on a warm day.

Walking calmly along the towpath, pushing twin toddlers in a baby buggy, carrying a 10 week old baby in a sling and supervising one black Labrador was one (apparently) calm mother. Well done to her.            Boaters will often remark on the variety of folk they briefly meet: at one lock today advice was sought on mooring on the river or in the Basin at Stratford (“We’re a bit wary, we were at Evesham in awful floods five years ago.”) At the next lock a worried chap was hoping for a garage nearby for fuel for his cruiser’s petrol engine. Two locks further on and the motorway was not only in earshot but also in view. As Cleddau rose in the lock the oncoming boat (from Napton) skulked in the cool shadows under the motorway bridge.

How odd it is that right under the thundering traffic the noise is not there!            
           Kingswood Junction was reached about midday.

There was a long pause to service the boat. The Captain disappeared with a small amount of rubbish – and returned, chuckling merrily. “The mad hatter has just done the smallest ring in the country!” How come? What was he talking about?  Gradually the facts emerged – nb Mad Hatter had taken the lock cut through to the Grand Union, reversed up lock 20 and then down through lock 21 back to the lock cut, claiming that he had completed the shortest canal ring. (Photo may help…)

           This wasn’tCleddaus first time at Kingswood Junction by any means but at last Boatwif seems to have grasped its watery layout, the Stratford’s Lapworth Flight interrupted by access to the Grand Union which takes an easterly curve towards Birmingham. Just behind the Service block on the lock island is a delightful picnic area where the furniture is created from some fine weathered carvings.

            It is a short distance past the picnic area to a sharp left turn (Birmingham) or sharp right turn (Warwick).

The canal immediately assumes a greater size: wider channel, sturdier edging, higher and broader bridges. If you are eagle-eyed you’ll notice a wet water level mark on the edges. Oh woe! Today the water level seemed about 6 inches lower than expected and passing through a cutting beset by rock falls

did nothing to inspire confidence in the canal’s depth…No sign now of the little barrel-roofed cottages; instead, housing is often red-bricked with tile hung roofs.
             As two years ago a mooring place was found on Rowington Embankment. In the fields opposite neat, round hay bales sit on the cropped grass.

Beside the towpath high trees and bushes provide a dense screen. All afternoon there have been sounds but no sightings of animal life: cowbells have jangled (on goats maybe?), a cockerel has practised its crowing and a peacock has frequently shrieked* – the price of a rural mooring! A breeze and more comfortable temperatures persuaded the crew that the boat polishing should continue… Red paint fades most quickly, that’s understood now. The long hatch above Cleddau’s back deck has always suffered abuse (ropes, life-ring, sun damage). But last week there was a shock discovery: the Captain had fitted a mounting for a spotlight.

He used WD40 as a drill lubricant and realised that the oil removed a residue of grime, restoring some of the red colour. So, Cleddau’s red hatches and locker tops are now blushing brightly!

           Seen in quite small letters on a boat that offers relaxation and alternative therapy was this: Narrow boats, wide eyes, open minds. *Somehow the still shrieking peacock makes one begin to wish for closed ears!

Tomorrow to Hatton – to descend or not to descend, that is the question…


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