Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Lapworth (unexpected cruise onto the North Stratford canal)


One of the reasons we like the South Stratford canal so much: the quaint brick and iron bridges

Monday was pump out day but first I got the washing done so I could fill up with water as well.  Everything was fine when we started; I found the pump out cards that Mike and Aileen left us when they moved their boat to France.  I usually use boat yards for pump outs as they tend to have better machines than the self-service ones at the canal side services.  The self-service ones are on timers so can stop before the tank is emptied.  At boat yards they carry on as long as you want and give plenty of time for a good rinse out too.  Another big advantage is that the boat yard staff tend to do the job for you.

Pump out card – sweet reminder of Mike and Aileen


Setting off on the left arm onto the South Stratford

We moored up, extracted the pump out hose and got it ready to start.  The first card I tried went in the machine and I got a message, “Not enough credit”.  I tried several times (cursing Aileen of course) and then decided it may have been an old one of ours so quietly forgave Aileen and tried another.  A similar thing happened – it had credit but not enough – oh well, maybe they were both old ones of ours.  Luckily the third one worked.

Moored up at the service station

Having finished the pump out I got rigged up to take on water, but no water came out of the tap.  I know it had been frosty but it hadn’t been cold enough to freeze the tap.  I spent ages looking around for a primary tap that may have been inadvertently turned off but no luck.

There was nothing for it but to retrace my steps and then reverse up a couple of locks of the Lapworth flight to where I knew there was another water point.

Turning back onto the link after the abortive attempt at getting water

The lock cottage in the picture above has a barrel roof, typical of the South Stratford canal.  I got back onto the link and went to get the bottom lock ready – the one on the right in the third picture from the top. As is usual I checked to make sure no one else was coming down for setting the lock and a lady (Sheila) appeared with a windlass.  As the lock was practically set for her I told her to go first.  I looked to see where her boat was and saw her husband (Keith) was reversing it out of the next lock up.

It would have been strange if gongoozlers were around who hadn’t seen lock operations before as they would have been led to believe that the boats always had to reverse through the locks.  Sheila and I set about filling the lock and noticed a water hose across the head of the lock.  Someone on the permanent moorings was filling up their boat through three connected lengths of hose – it was a long way.

Keith and Sheila decided not to wait to fill up with water and we held up the hose so he could steer under it. Once they were clear I reversed into the lock, much to Buddy’s bemusement.

Going up a lock backwards


Taking on water.  The permanent moorings where someone else was taking on water are on the left.   The lock we had come up is on the left.  The right hand lock that leads onto the South Stratford was closed for maintenance.

By the time I got back to our mooring on the link I realised it had taken two and a quarter hours – about an hour and a half longer than it should have taken.  It had also entailed a trip onto the start of the North Stratford canal which I hadn’t planned.

After lunch Buddy and I went for a walk down the South Stratford canal which is the way we will be cruising for the next few weeks.  It was a really good feeling as we hadn’t been here since October 2015.  Although Karen and I call the boat home, there is also a feeling of home in some areas we cruise through – this being one of them.

One of the barrel roofed lock cottages

The bridges were built in a cantilevered manner so the towing ropes could pass through without having to unhitch the horse.  Some of the gaps have been closed up on the well-used bridges – maybe for health and safety?

The gap between the two halves of a bridge for passing the towing rope through

Before the 1800s Stratford’s non-road link was via the River Avon south to eventually reach the Severn and hence Bristol.  What Stratford needed was a link to the Midlands and Birmingham hence the Stratford canal was built linking it with Birmingham during the 1810s.  Unfortunately the railways came along soon afterwards and the canal didn’t get much use and was bought by the Great Western Railway in 1856.  Old weight restriction signs are still found at many of the bridges with the inscription of Great Western Railway.

One of the many weight restriction sigs still in place on the canal. The railway reference is at the bottom including the headquarters, Paddington Station in London.

The canal became non-navigable by 1946 but fortunately has now been fully restored.  SONACS (Stratford On Avon Canal Society) have placed replica mile markers along the route.  Many of these are next to the remains of the original markers.

A modern mile marker


Stanking planks next to one of the locks that are still closed for maintenance - couldn't work out what the inscription meant

As it was Monday it was bridge night so I was going off to fetch Karen from work when I remembered I hadn’t put the ‘chemicals’ into the holding tank after the pump out.  I went to do that before leaving and noticed the gauge was showing full still.  It seemed the pump out hadn’t worked correctly – it had no sight glass so difficult to check if it really was working.  I immediately thought of Aileen again recounting details of their first pump out in France which they had to do there times before finally working.  It’s a bit different in France as they tend to pump out into the water – a big no no in most of the UK waters although there are a couple well the authorities still allow it.


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