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: 10 miles and no locks today (4 hours driving)

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 Braunston Tunnel

Entering the eastern portal of Braunston Tunnel

The horse path across the top of the hill, looking towards the church spire of Braunston

After just under 30 minutes, Canada Goose emerges into the daylight once more

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 the lock.

Mary relaxes on a lock beam

Descending the lock with Per Angusta

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 their website.

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. 26 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 Coventry Canal.

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

and north

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: 26 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 morning

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 the foreground

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 Tame again

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 hire.

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 (9 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

Hatton Locks

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. 14 miles and 26 broad locks today (8 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

Alan waves

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. 10 miles and 22 broad locks today (7 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 Rose

Sheila watches as Stephen takes a detour into Braunston village for a small reprovisioning

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: 21 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 (1 hours of driving)

Total for the week: 136 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.


Back Up Next

Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson