Canal Holiday - Warwickshire Ring
4 to 11 June 2005
(Those photos whose filename begins SS are copyright Sheila
Spreadbury, and used with permission and thanks.)
The bellringers return for their third annual canal holiday, this time taking a
full week (though three of our party weren't able to stay for the full period).
This year we started at Gayton Marina, south-west of Northampton, and from there
travelled north-west to enable us to travel the Warwickshire Ring along the
Grand Union Canal, Oxford Canal, Coventry Canal, and Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.
Having collected our boat on Saturday afternoon, we reached a
point north of Weedon Bec situated far enough away from the West Coast Main Line
railway and the M1 to give us a peaceful night: 10¼ miles and no locks today (4
Sunday 5 June 2005
6.30am on Sunday morning, and the fishermen are out in force for a match,
somewhat miffed to find a boat about to set off so early in the day.
Helen, Lucy and Merry
Why Alan is holding a bottle of wine at 5 past 9 in the morning is now lost in
the depths of time, but a typical scene from the holiday nonetheless!
Lucy and Stephen, well prepared for a potentially wet trip, prepare to enter
Entering the eastern portal of Braunston Tunnel
The horse path across the top of the hill, looking towards the church spire of
After just under 30 minutes, Canada Goose emerges into the daylight once
By mid-morning we had travelled up the Buckby Locks and through Braunston
Tunnel, and are now descending the Braunston locks. Sheila, Merry and Mary work
Mary relaxes on a lock beam
Descending the lock with
Gillian and Ian - the first people to recognise us from our website - or at
least once Lucy had mentioned our dogs. You can see their dogs on
Our boat, Canada Goose, emerges from the bottom lock and beneath Bridge
2, with Helen watching closely
Past the pumping station and moored boats
The bridge over the entrance to Braunston Marina, and once the entrance to the
southern Oxford Canal, until the new junction was created when the canal was
straightened in the 1830s.
The Stop House
The twin Horseley Iron Works bridges span the two arms of the southern Oxford
Canal at the only triangular junction on the network.
Canada Goose heads past the junction onto the northern Oxford Canal
"Coventry" is our heading
Looking south along the line of Braunston Puddle Banks
The top pair of Hillmorton Locks, with some of the Rugby radio masts behind, the
highest being 820 feet high.
Canada Goose emerging from the middle lock
Ducklings, reported to have hatched earlier in the day
The arm housing Hillmorton Boat Services lies beyond the bridge, while the third
of the Hillmorton Locks is on the left
Still heading the right way. (Later in the week we met someone who had managed
to go 3 hours in the wrong direction before realising!)
Entering the third pair at Hillmorton, with Sheila, Merry and Helen watching
Alan's cautious steering
A duck's-eye view - well, almost
Lucy putting her back into it
And relaxing while Jane takes a turn
Safely through the last lock of the day.
Newbold Tunnel is fairly short, at only 250 yards
Emerging at the northern end, another boat with its headlight can just be seen
entering the tunnel
One of the many Horseley bridges carrying the towpath over arms and loops
created when the Oxford Canal was straightened in the 1830s - most of the loops
are now derelict.
We moored at Ansty for the night, and had dinner at the Rose &
Castle - very popular, with good food. 26¼ miles, 13 broad locks and 3 narrow
locks today (12 hours 35 mins driving)
Monday 6 June 2005
On Monday morning, we reach the stop lock at Hawkesbury Junction, otherwise
known as Sutton Stop.
The Greyhound pub under the Coventry Canal's towpath bridge
Alan and Sheila watching something while we fill the boat with water.
While we re-water, an opportunity for another look at the junction
The Oxford Canal and its stop lock is on the right, with a 180° turn onto the
Merry and Jane getting a bit of exercise on the towpath
Waiting at Atherstone locks
Approaching the Tame aqueduct near Tamworth
The River Tame, south
Looking back to Drayton Footbridge and, to the left, Drayton Swivelbridge, with the openings in the towers for the
spiral staircases visible.
We moored just south of here: 26¾ miles and 14 narrow locks
today (12 hours driving)
Tuesday 7 June 2005
A picture from the boat of Drayton Brick Bridge as we set off early on Tuesday
A picture of the bridge from the towpath - with the canal shallow, we had moored
away from the bank, so it was easiest to push off from the bank and be picked up
at the bridge
Merry at the tiller
Unfortunately, before the boat could get through the bridge hole, the boat lost
almost all forward power, and had no astern at all. Safely moored up on the
other side (and displaying the list which gradually got worse through the week),
Stephen had a look under the hatches. Diagnosing a problem with the Aquadrive,
we telephoned the boatyard and they promised to despatch an engineer.
Looking north from the bridge. While we wanted to be underway, the location and
weather were delightful for a breakdown.
Jane inspects the canal
Alan checks his watch as the wait goes on. The engineer had been caught in
traffic after a car-transporter overturned on the M42, but when he arrived fixed
the Aquadrive within 10 minutes and we were soon on our way again.
Ascending one of the Curdworth locks
Lucy watches Canada Goose climb the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
The overflow weir and a lock
Canada Goose passes beneath Fox's Bridge, with Willday's Farm Bridge in
Passing underneath the M6 Toll. Your photographer was somewhat alarmed to reach
the "Towpath Closed" sign with the boat steaming off into the distance, but
fortunately the contractors let him through the construction site.
Merry operates the newly relocated Curdworth Top Lock: the original top lock and
its cottage were demolished to make way for the motorway.
Erdington Hall Bridge, followed by a factory built over the canal, as we
continue through the light industry of east Birmingham
With the M6 overhead, Salford Junction has the Saltley Cut of the Grand Union
Canal taking a very sharp left turn, the Tame Valley Canal bearing right, while
the Birmingham and Fazeley bears left to climb the Aston and Farmers Bridge
locks into the centre of Birmingham.
Our way lies sharp left onto the Saltley Cut, under the M6 and over the River
Looking north-west up the Tame
Having safely negotiated the Garrison Locks, we turned left at Bordesley
Junction and here are in the bottom of the Camp Hill Locks
Time to say goodbye to Jane, and - for two days - Helen.
At the next lock up, two policemen approached - I was slightly
anxious lest they warn us of some hazard ahead, but they were just making
themselves seen, and were interested in the boat and how much it had cost to
After successfully negotiating the rubbish tip also known as
the Grand Union Canal in suburban Birmingham, we moored for the night at
Catherine de Barnes: 23 miles and 26 narrow locks today (9¼ hours of driving)
Wednesday 8 June 2005
Emerging from the second lock at Knowle, our second flight of broad locks on this
holiday, and our first taste of the distinctive paddle gear of the locks on the
canal from Napton to Birmingham. They were a good deal easier with a crew of six and sharing the locks
with another boat, than when Lucy and I did them on our own in April 1998.
Mary at the tiller of Canada Goose
Looking back up the flight of broad locks, built of concrete in the 1930s as
part of the modernisation programme, but mellowed with age and built with enough
style to be attractive.
Canada Goose moves from the fourth to the bottom lock
These hydraulic paddles take quite a lot of turns of the windlass, but do
operate big paddles so progress through the locks is rapid
Mary and Merry
The trees overhang the long cutting of Rowington "Tunnel"
Shrewley Tunnel, with its separate towpath tunnel just visible on the right: the
latter inclines fairly steeply to emerge on the main street with its well
stocked grocers / off-licence. Watch out for the caramel cake - delicious!
Canada Goose approaching the tunnel from the elevated towpath
Lucy and Mary return to the towpath side as we descend the Hatton Locks. Having
heard and read lots of things about these being hard work, we were pleasantly
surprised: we did the first 14 in 90 minutes and then, with it being a very hot
day, stopped for an hour for a drink and a rest.
A fellow Alvechurch boat, Arctic Tern, caught us up and we
did the last seven locks together, finishing the flight in 2 hours and 20
minutes, much faster than our schedule.
The final lock of the day, where we said goodbye to Mary
The Cape of Good Hope pub (recommended) and the Cape Top Lock, from our mooring
site for the night. 14½ miles and 26 broad locks today (8½ hours of driving)
Thursday 9 June 2005
In the morning, after a toilet pump-out at Kate Boats in Warwick, Canada
Goose crosses the River Avon
As does Lucy, standing at the stern
And the view from the boat to the photographer
Royal Leamington Spa
Having descended to the Avon, we now began our ascent towards Braunston Tunnel,
here exiting from one of the Fosse Locks
Canada Goose moored by the Fosse Way while we have a new fridge delivered
Wood Lock, partially hiding behind the reeds
Merry and Alan prepare the lock for us
Merry and Alan at work again, climbing the Bascote Locks
Stephen at work with the windlass
Looking down the locks
Lucy at the tiller while Alan watches Canada Goose ascend
At the top of the Bascote staircase lock
Canada Goose, with her list worsening, is guided by Alan into one of the
Stockton locks while Lucy waits by the gate
Paddle gear at Stockton Locks
We moored for the night at Stockton, where the Alvechurch
engineer visited again and pumped out the water that had accurmulated from
somewhere underneath the floor. Helen rejoined us at The Boat pub after a
difficult railway journey from St Neots. 10½ miles and 22 broad locks today (7½
hours of driving)
Friday 10 June 2005
Canada Goose passes under Bridge 95 of the Oxford Canal as she approaches
the triangular junction
Bridge 95 - a turnover bridge for the towpath to change sides
Passing wrong-road as Lucy prepares for the junction
As Lucy steers Canada Goose to the right, a boat can just be seen through
the middle bridge while one emerges from the left - a busy junction
The broad-beam hotel boat Tranquil
Sheila watches as Stephen takes a detour into Braunston village for a small
A windmill without sails seen across the churchyard
Looking down onto the marina from Braunston
Stephen caught up with Canada Goose as she waits by the pumping station
for the bottom lock
After reaching the summit level above the top lock, we had an
excellent lunch at the Admiral Nelson pub by lock 3, and then made steady
progress back along the Grand Union Canal towards Gayton.
Helen at the tiller of Canada Goose
The six of us left on Friday night: Merry, Sheila, Helen, Lucy, Stephen and
Alan. We moored for the night near Love's Lane Bridge near Bugbrooke: 21¼ miles
and 16 broad locks today (10 hours of driving)
On Saturday morning, we completed the cruise back to Gayton
Marina: 4 miles and no locks (1½ hours of driving)
Total for the week: 136½ miles, 77 broad locks and 43 narrow
locks (65 hours, 20 minutes of driving)
An excellent holiday: soon after returning, we booked next
year's holiday, on the Avon Ring from Stoke Prior.