I undertook my first barging adventure in 2011 as can be seen from the photos on this website. I enjoyed it a lot and always planned to repeat it, this time with a few more bodies on board and no work pressures.
On the last trip we set out from Upton but did not make our planned destination of Stratford-upon-Avon. After discussion we agreed to start in Stratford and aim to head towards Warwick, with the aim of visiting Warwick Castle and possibly catching up with Mairi Ann, Duncan's sister.
Amanda, Duncan and Graham accompanied me on the 326 mile drive to Stratford, where we had a walk about in the sunshine and met Mairi Ann for dinner. The following day having done our shopping, we picked up our boat (the Farndale Valley) in the afternoon and got basic instructions before heading off north up the Stratford Upon Avon Canal. By evening we had climbed the 11 locks of the Wilmcote flight and had completed 12 locks in all. The locks and bridges were all extremely narrow but by the end of the first day the crew were in good shape! Dinner was in the Mason's Arms in Wilmcote. Food was good with Graham possibly having the largest gammon steak dinner ever seen!
Our next day saw us negotiate another 9 locks and cross three aqueducts (a barging first for Graham and myself). This included the impressive Edstone Aqueduct. We berthed at Lowsonford where we dined at the well known Fleur-de-Lys, a converted bake house which is still famous for its pies. http://www.fleurdelys-lowsonford.com/
Up until this stage our journey had been on the Stratford upon Avon Canal. In order to get to Warwick we turned onto the Grand Union Canal and headed south towards Warwick. Another seminal barging experience involved negotiating the 433 yard long Shrewley Tunnel.
After much discussion we decided not to negotiate the 21 lock Hatton flight and got the train into Warwick which took about seven minutes! As you will see from the photos the camera was very busy at Warwick Castle, which is a real historical treasure trove and well worth visiting. On return from our visit we did take our barge down three locks of the Hatton flight and back up. Heading north past the Kingswood Junction we berthed near the Black Boy for another hearty repast http://www.theblackboyknowle.co.uk/. The name of the establishment relates to Charles 2nd and was coined because of his dark complexion. Oh and it rained for a whole 20 minutes, the only shower we had during the whole trip.
We were now on the homeward leg as we started to head back to Stratford. Back down the Grand Union canal with its broader width and double locks and onto the Stratford canal with its narrow locks and bridges. We completed 17 locks (a record for one day I think) and ended up at the Crabmill near Preston Bagot for possibly the best meal of the whole trip. http://www.themobilefoodguide.com/restaurants/claverdon/crabmill Thanks for that Big G.
Stopping in Wootton Waven the next day for scones and coffee we unearthed a historical gem in St Peter's Church, supposedly the oldest in Warwickshire, deriving from Saxon times. A chained library from the 18th century was particularly interesting.
On the final day we negotiated the 12 locks from Wilmcote back to Stratford and met Mairi Ann again for an excellent curry in Thespians http://www.thespiansltd.com/
Thanks to Amanda, Duncan and Graham for agreeing to come on the trip. It was great to see Mairi Ann again after so many years.
Enjoy the photos.