Warwick and the ‘Stairway to Heaven’
Saltisford Arm Warwick to Rowington Embankment 5½ miles, 21 locks
There’s a haven for fatigued boaters at Warwick – it’s the Saltisford Arm, the stretch of canal that remains of the Warwick terminus of the Warwick and Birmingham Canal.
In a straight line of about 400 yards the Arm stretches back from a bend in the Grand Union, not far at all from the bottom lock of the Hatton Flight. Here the Saltisford Trust has a number of permanent moorings but also offers (at £5.50 per night) moorings to visiting boaters.
There is always a friendly welcome here from other boaters. You can tie up, fill with water, plug into mains electricity and use the laundry facilities. A medium sized Sainsbury’s is less than a 10 minute walk away, the town itself about another five minutes further on… If it’s historic culture you’re after there’s plenty of that within an easy walk. If, on the other hand, you want some time with your boat this too is the place for you.
A broad swathe of grass and a nearby bench seat became a perfect space for the Captain’s first boat project, scrubbing clean the inside and then the outside of the cratch canvas that protects the bow deck.
The stern.deck too got the scrubbing treatment.
Jobs done there is more to be gained from a Saltisford stay. Books and DVDs in the Laundry, time in the Sensory Garden, a walk beside the residents’ gardens, a wander to the far end of the Arm (where a sculpture, Celebration, marks the efforts of the work of the volunteers over the previous 30 years) or some meditation in the Lock Gate Contemplation Area.
Warwick is an uphill walk, but a worthwhile one. There are plenty of things to see and do, the most well known ones of course being Warwick Castle and Warwick Racecourse. For Boatwif though, there was a reminder visit to St Mary’s Collegiate Church where an orchestral rehearsal was under way. The greatest glory of this magnificent building is the impressive Beauchamp Chapel. (See the Beauchamp Chapel YouTube video here). Down in the crypt (page out of a history book here!) is an almost complete medieval ducking stool.
It was time to get back on the move again on Sunday. On departure from the Arm there was a swerve to the left – and the first of the Hatton Locks hove into view. A single boat was just leaving the lock so Cleddau sallied into the empty chamber. Conscious of the huge amount of water a double lock takes, boat and boaters lurked inside the chamber, prepared to wait. “Give it half an hour,” was the decision, hoping that a second upward aspiring boat would appear to share the water – and the effort.
It was well after 1030, time for a morning coffee.
On the kettle went – only, just as the boiling point was reached, there was a shout from the Captain. “Turn the kettle off, we’ve got to move…!” Two descending boats needed the lock. There was a scramble up the lock ladder (never an elegant business) to find a lock wheeler ready (and willing) to fill the lock. So that was it – from then on Cleddau and crew toiled up the 21, solo operators. Bikers, walkers, runners, gongoozlers came and went… Some (a few), could be prevailed upon to close a gate after Cleddau had passed through but mainly the ascent was achieved by the Cleddau crew’s own muscle and effort.
A cheering moment came about four locks up: “Thought we might see you,” said the nb Red Wharf owner. “Was reading last night that you were at Leamington…” Aah, a blog reader!
It takes a climb of 11 locks before you see ‘The Staircase to Heaven’, lock after lock after lock ahead, climbing the hill. And from about here, or a bit further up, the church tower of St Mary’s down in Warwick is clearly visible.
Post Hatton Stats
Lock operation: Boatwif: 6; the Captain 15
Cleddau helming: Boatwif 15; the Captain 6
Time taken: 4¼ hours
Weather conditions: Dry, mainly sunny
Onward, however, was the decision: through the Shrewley Tunnel (pity about the loss of a Nicholson’s map book just before the southern portal!), to cruise on, past some commercial forestry to a delightful mooring on the embankment overlooking Rowington.
Spring is progressing: there was a sighting of tiny ducklings and the discovery of some shy but bobbing bluebells.
Next stage? At Kingswood Junction there’ll be a left turn onto the South Stratford Canal and a heading down (yes, lots of locks ahead) to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Since Higher Poynton: 191 miles, 4 tunnels and 99 locks