Sunday, 19 April 2015

Walking the Stratford-Upon-Avon canal from Wilmcote to the Navigation Inn

Yesterday in Stratford-Upon-Avon was so warm and sunny that it felt
Narrow bridge over the Stratford Upon Avon canal 
like summer was already here. Today was definitely either back to early Spring or possibly already autumn! In preparation for a typical UK summer, I think these cast iron rain gauges in the English Heritage shop are a fun idea.

The 25 mile long Stratford Upon Avon canal runs from Birmingham to Stratford and, according to a helpful placard along the way, was the first in England to be restored to navigability. It was reopened by the Queen in 1964. We walked a short section today and I loved the peace and tranquillity. We didn't see much in the way of exciting wildlife - mostly ducks and sheep - although I was delighted to spot six tiny ducklings with their mother. When they accelerated across the canal, they were practically running on the surface like pondskaters. The last of the daffodils were flowering together with some primroses. We also saw lots of bright cowslips which I love, and our first bluebells of the season. Ironically, our sighting of (probably) a sparrowhawk on the garden fence when we got back to Measure Cottage was the most 'exotic'!

Cowslips on the canal towpath 
We began our walk in the picturesque village of Wilmcote, parking opposite Mary Arden's farm which is apparently a working Tudor farm. The cows in the field were certainly of a long horned breed I had never seen before. Along the canal we saw several narrow bridges which looked as though maybe they could be raised to accommodate tall boats and were only just wide enough for narrow boats. Having posted my review of the walk on TripAdvisor, I was surprised to receive a message from John Bishop who kindly explained the bridges to me: "The bridges you describe are the originals. To keep the canal as cheap as possible to construct, the bridges were made very narrow. Just wide enough for the boats. This was long before any motive power (c1800) and the barges were hauled by horse and donkeys. Because there was no tow path, the rope from the horse to the barge was passed through a narrow gap in the apex of the bridge. They did not open. Most of them have collapsed or subsided so the gap has disappeared." So now we know! Thank you John.

There were also two aqueducts with the towpath continuing alongside high above the road and railway lines. One of the two, the Edstone Aqueduct, is the longest in England. There's more information on this pictured placard - click into the photograph to see a larger version and actually read the text:

About the Edstone Aqueduct 

An hour an a half's leisurely stroll got us to the Navigation Inn where we
Edstone Aqueduct 
glanced at the narrowboats for hire and hurried into the warm bar! The pub has a traditional olde-worlde feel and serves an excellent lunch with generous portions. I had ham and eggs, Dave a homemade burger, Gemma an omelette and Carrie a chicken pie. After yesterday's microwave-reheated offering, Dave was quite envious of the pie!

We cut ten minutes off our time on the return walk to Wilmcote. The sun did break through clouds for a few minutes here and there and it is nice to be in the shelter of the towpath, out of the wind. Now we've got one more night at Measure Cottage before Dave and I return to Bailey tomorrow. We've decided to avoid the M6 on the return route and will brave the Coventry ring road instead!
Cast Iron Rain Gauges 

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