60th Anniversary Stratford-upon-Avon Canal tour

60+ paddlers on Edstone aqueduct

Paddlers at Edstone aqueduct

It was an early start at Wooten Wawen on the Stratford-upon-Avon canal, which is half way between Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon.

The canal was opened between 1803 and 1816, its 25.5 miles long with 53 locks, the canal starts at King’s Norton (on the out skirts of Birmingham) descends down through the Avon valley, Shakespeare country and the forest of Arden before arriving in the famous town of Stratford-upon-Avon.

British Canoeing had organised an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the canal tour, this was to recreate a picture that was taken in 1957 were a canoe & kayak paddled across the Edstone Aqueduct in a bid to save the canal from closer. But this year there would be a slight twist the aim was to get 60 paddlers on the aqueduct. For the first 60 paddlers to register they would get a free t-shirt!

been there, got the t-shirt!

When I arrived at ‘The Navigation Inn’ car park there were all kinds of colourful craft, from K1’s & K2’s to white-water kayaks and even a pink canoe.

The plan was to have the pictures taken on the Edstone aqueduct at 11am, we started getting on the water just before 10, hopefully this would give people enough time to paddle the 1.5 miles down to the aqueduct.

There were a lot of boats to get on the canal, so I was one of the first to get away, I was using the clubs blue Easky, a great stable touring kayak. I was a bit worried about being in a K1 with so many others boats around bashing into me, it turns out that there were quite a few K1’s and K2’s and even a couple of C1’s one with an outrigger and the other one looking more like a ski!
There was one lock in between the start and the aqueduct, one of the photographers had a key to the lock and opened the lock, I was going to walk round but thought it might be fun to join others in the lock and it was like a game how many boats can you get in a lock?? It turns out quite a lot with over 20 of us and we didn’t get stuck!!

Bearley Lock - top

Paddling on to the aqueduct was fun being high up exposed to the elements, it was a bit breezy, so I was glad to be in an Easky, as the ski-like C1 hung on to the side for dear life.

man on a c1 ski

It’s amazing how close to the edge you are when of the aqueduct, not for the faint hearted! There’s a path that goes down one of the sides.

Edstone Aqueduct

After the picture was taken, about 10 people (including myself) paddled up to the next lock at Wilmcote (close to where Mary Arden lived), there is a flight of 11 locks here but they were under construction so I couldn’t go any further that way, what a shame! Phew!

It’s a small world as I was chatting with another chap who was paddling a yellow Easky and it turns out he paddles at Staines with Spelthorne kayak & canoe club. We both paddled back to the start as most of the others were stopping for lunch or to get out at Wilmcote.

It was strange and a bit surreal on the way back to the aqueduct as everyone else had vanished; it seems they had only come for the photo shoot! That would have been a short paddle of just 3 miles!

I got back to Wooten Wawen thinking this was a bit of a short paddle 8 miles, so the yellow Easky paddler and myself paddled up stream to the next lock at Preston Bagot (another flight of 3 locks), this is where we turned round to head back to the start. When we got there some of the canoeists were just getting back from Wilmcote, we had done another 4 miles, to give us a reasonable 12 mile trip.

It’s a shame others from Hampton CC couldn’t join me on this trip you missed out!, but there’s always next time well maybe not the 100th anniversary but It would be nice in the future to run this as a club trip or even do it the day before the doggy paddle (Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon river event).

Dan Bownds

March 2017

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