Stratford on Avon (free pump out and star jumping a la Queenans)

It looked like being a sunny day on Saturday so we decided to cruise the final leg down to Stratford on Avon.  It felt like it had been weeks since Karen and I had had a good day’s cruising together and looking at our log proved it.  We arrived onto the Stratford canal at Lapworth on 5th February so it has taken us ten weeks to travel nine miles!  Looking back at those ten weeks we have enjoyed everywhere we have moored and may well take the same amount of time going back up to Lapworth on our return.

First we had to go down the 11 lock Wilmcote flight which seemed to take forever as there were a lot of other boats on the move and they were nearly all hire boats.  We helped a few people out who were doing their first locks since picking up their hire boats at Wootton Wawen. 

Karen waiting for the last lock of the flight to empty

We weren’t in any rush as we were heading for a boatyard in Stratford  first for a pump out and knew we wouldn’t get in there until after 3 as it was their turn round day.  That meant that boats would be coming back from holiday during the morning, getting serviced and then being sent out again to the next hirers in the afternoon.

Little did we know that we would see this gongoozler on a bike later on

I found our first cuckoo flower of the year by one of the locks.  Orange Tip butterflies lay their eggs on these plants.

Cuckoo flower

The journey down the flight was so slow that we had lunch in one lock and our mid afternoon fruit salad in another.  I even found time to practice star jumping in the style of our friend Mike on nb Quaintrelle who has to do at least one jump a day when he and Aileen are cruising.

Practising Mike star jumps whilst waiting for a lock to free up

At the bottom of the flight we filled up with water and Karen potted up some of the summer plants we had bought during the week.

Leaving one of the locks on the 11 lock Wilmcote flight

As we were going through one of the locks the gongoozler guy on the bike came cycling down to us.  He had our fruit salad bowls in his hand – we had left them by one of the locks!

Buddy having a wander around

We reached the boatyard soon after three o’clock and there were a couple of boats still to leave.  Their hirers were receiving instructions so we knew it would be a while before we would get served.  Karen took the opportunity to walk to a nearby supermarket to do some shopping whilst Buddy and I waited.

We waited about 1 ½ hours in the end and one of the guys giving instructions said that if I did the pump out myself then he wouldn’t charge – he was eager to get off work and get home.  Anyway, he explained that the motor was temperamental to get started and if it didn’t fire up then you had to turn the crank by hand and try again.  It took ages to get it working but at least once it did start it meant I could use it as long as I liked.  That in turn meant I could do make a good job of it.  Karen got back just as I finished – she hates being around when that job is going on.

I got talking to one couple who were hiring a boat, Nigel and Julie, who were going to be away for two weeks.  They were quite nervous about going down to Stratford and finding somewhere to moor.  It can be quite daunting in the basin as it gets windy and with so many tourists it feels like the whole world is watching you trying to get onto a pontoon.  I told them that the best thing is to go through the basin and out onto the River Avon if they felt apprehensive – I knew they were planning on going down the river on their holiday anyway.

The last bridge before the basin at Stratford – Karen getting ready to move things off the roof as the bridge is so low.  RSC theatre straight ahead.

As it was, the basin moorings were full, not surprising as it was Easter.  We carried on and Karen got the lock set so we could go out onto the river.  Nigel and Julie were holding their boat to the side of a trip boat unsure what to do so I went over to invite them to come down the lock with us.  This particular lock is the only double width one on the whole canal.  It used to be used by river barges getting up into the basin to unload their cargo.

Waiting for the lock to empty with plenty of tourists watching
We moored on the river opposite the RSC theatre and Nigel and Julie came round with a bottle of wine as a thank you for our help during the day.  In the end they stayed three hours and we had a really good time with them.  As Karen said on our family WhatsUp group on Sunday morning, “We had a Judith and Nigel evening with a Julie and Nigel”.  Judith is my sister and we always have a good night when they come and stay.

During the day we went through 17 locks and travelled nearly four miles.

The RSC theatre opposite our mooring

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