Tuesday 27 March 2012

Stratford Canal. Stratford to Wilmcote.

Mother’s Day turned out to be a resounding success. We were up and at it first thing on Saturday morning, going down the last five locks and under some chimney scraping bridges into Stratford, where we moored, as planned, nose to nose with Hamlet.
We’d not even got a brew going before the first coach-load of Japanese tourists turned up and started adding our daffodils to their digital archives of the UK “This is Lady Macbeth, this is Hamlet, this is Falstaff, and these are some weird people who live on a boat.”

Mum and Dad turned up and, much to everyone’s delight and with a little help and no fuss, Mum climbed aboard. It’s the first time she’s seen the inside since last summer and it made us realise just how much we’ve changed it. We had a lovely afternoon and finished it off with a meal in a pub in the town. Moored in the countryside, usually in the middle of nowhere, is our natural habitat – we likes it quiet – but every once in a while it makes a nice change to be in the centre of things, especially when you know that tomorrow you’ll be leaving.

10/10 for Stratford though; nice moorings, clean public loos, and we thought the entertainment, provided by a group of lads casting one of their number adrift on a pontoon just before we left on Monday, was superb.

While we were back at the bottom of Wilmcote locks for a few nights, John and Camilla came for a visit. They were on their way to Wilton Marina to have a look at three or four potential boats so Dave went along for the ride. They’re looking at 60’ to 70’ and probably a permanent mooring. They’re not in a position to be looking seriously yet; they’ve got a house to sell first, but as we know, once you set the wheels in motion it can get very fast very quickly. Two of the boats on their list had forward engine rooms; one with a Gardiner, the other a Kelvin. Both the boys Oooh’d and Aaah’d at them a lot, even though the rest of the inside and the price tag put them out of play. While they were with us we went for a walk up the locks to Wilmcote and the Mary Arden pub, which is named after Shakespeare’s mother who grew up in the village. Also in the village is Mary Arden’s House; now a working Tudor farm and very popular tourist attraction, with hordes of camera toting Bard-o-philes trouping along daily to see where the great man’s mother spent her early years. It was recently discovered that the house in question was built several years after Mrs Shakespeare, Nee Arden, left the village to seek her fortune, and husband elsewhere. Still, no-one seems to mind and it’s a pretty house whoever grew up there.

Talking of houses, Chloe and Shandy got the keys to their new one, so we took our camping chairs and joined them for fish and chips. They’re not moving in properly till May when Shandy gets back from Cyprus, so for the moment their only furnishings are our camping stuff and a bottle of ketchup. Oh yes, and a 40” flat screen telly. Glad they’ve got their priorities sorted.
Ann-Marie reminded herself just how stiff the Wilmcote flight’s paddles are by winding all 33 of them again – twice – as Legend climbed back up, leaving Stratford behind. We will be back, and next time we’ll go through to the Avon, Evesham, Tewksbury and the Severn. This time though we’re bound for Brum.

At the top we stopped at Wilmcote Bridge where the car was parked to transfer a few bits over. While we were tying up a very pleasant chap came along the towpath and started chatting to us. We told him we were living aboard, it was our first year and we loved it. “That’s good,” he said. “I’m the chairman.” “Of what?” we asked. “Of British Waterways.” he said. So, our new mate Tony – Tone - The Tonester, gave us a leaflet about the new Canal and River Trust charity that takes over from BW this summer. Actually he didn’t give it to us then, it was later on in the day that we passed him again in a hire boat; he leaned out and in a very impressive mid-canal hand-over gave the leaflet to Ann-Marie. Top Man!

We come into contact with BW employees all the time and without exception they’re pleasant and helpful. Seems it comes from the top.

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