Cancer Research UK Walk 2001

Wilmcote to Warwick via the Stratford on Avon and Grand Union Canals
At 9 o’clock in the morning of a very wet September Saturday the two dozen or so walkers who were taking part in the walk met at the Cape Road car park in Warwick. Mick and Larry immediately had a go at me about the weather. They always consider me to be a fairweather walker and wondered how I was going to ""enjoy" the rain that was getting very heavy. It was certainly good to get in the coach and in the dry but as we travelled to Wilmcote, just north of Stratford upon Avon and the Stratford on Avon Canal, it seemed to get worse. I was not very happy. I don’t think 16 miles of canal walking in pouring rain is anybody’s idea of fun, and it certainly wasn’t mine. All on the coach were preparing for the worst. Waterproofs were being pulled out of rucksacks in preparation for what was going to be a very wet walk. However, an amazing thing happened. We were no more than a quarter of a mile from the canal bridge and the start of the walk and the rain stopped and we never had a spot again all day. Needless to say Larry and Mick teased me about this. Fairweather strikes again!

Boats at Wootton Wawen
From Wilmcote the walk took us northwards over the Edstone Aqueduct near Bearley. I was quite surprised that very few of my companions that day were aware of its existence and had never seen it. It is quite an experience crossing it with the canal high in the air in an iron trough spanning a road and railway line. This is the largest of the aqueducts we would be crossing on our way northwards along this canal, which is bordered by quite beautiful countryside - Shakespeareland at its best. I think at this point I should however mention that the canal south of Wilmcote is not so pleasant. The nearer one gets to Stratford the fields and trees get less as the landscape becomes more industrialised and many locals use the towpath as a toilet area for their dogs. Not so nice. But north of Wilmcote it’s a treat. More like walking along the banks of a very pretty river than a canal.

About 2 ½ miles after the start of the walk the next aqueduct is reached which crosses the road between Stratford and Birmingham near the Navigation Inn at Wootton Wawen. Fortunately the inn was not yet open as I am sure if it had been Larry, accompanied by his brother Ken who was also on this walk, would have made a slight detour.

Bridge 49
Bridge 49

About 1¼ miles further on we went under the Warwick to Henley in Arden Road and were soon passing Yarningale Common on our right where the canal passes over a small stream. In a distance of less than 5 miles we had crossed 3 aqueducts, and I haven't got a photo of any of them to put on this web site - shame.

But more about the Stratford Canal which covers 26 miles between Stratford upon Avon and King’s Norton. Generally it is narrower than the Grand Union and has smaller locks. While the Grand Union and most other Midland canal locks will take 2 boats side by side the "Stratford" is only wide enough to take one. The narrower width is also reflected in the size and style of the bridges. On most canals the towpaths go under the bridges. However, on the "Stratford" most of the bridges are too small to accommodate a towpath under them and therefore these "bridges" have splits down their centre.

A view of locks on the Stratford on Avon Canal
Locks on the Stratford on Avon Canal

These would have allowed horses towing the barges to continue when a bridge was reached without the need for them to be unhitched. The rope would just be taken through the gap in the centre of the "bridge".

Soon the Fleur-de-lys Public House at Lowsonford is passed and having passed under the noisy M40, we turned right up a lane, which ascends to a T-Junction. Here we turn left and in a few yards the Grand Union Canal is reached. Over the road bridge we go to the Tom o’ the Wood Pub for midday sustenance, and the opportunity for a pint of beer, or in Larry’s case 2 or 3.

Here we regrouped and sat in the sun enjoying food provided by Jeff’s wife, Lyn. We were all happy to have the opportunity to have a sit down in such pleasant surroundings and a big thank you must go to the management at the Tom o’ the Wood for allowing us the use of their facilities.

During this lunch time break and later at our walk’s end I talked to Sue, one of the walkers, who, although I had seen out and about, I had not really spoken to for about 35 years when we were both part of a group that socialised together. Sue was walking with her two sisters. None of them had ever done such a lengthy walk before and were very keen to complete it. Indeed one of the sisters was on holiday in Warwickshire and on the completion of the walk Jeff had to get a completion of walk certificate to her with the minimum delay before she took a flight back to her home in New Zealand.

Ducks on the Grand Union Canal
She like all the walkers was proud of her achievement and although the opportunity was available for any fatigued walker to drop out at the pub all were keen to complete the walk, which everyone did.

With one exception everyone enjoyed the rest of the walk back to Warwick and further refreshments at the Warwickshire County Council Staff Club located in the centre of the town. However, there was a low point. One of our regular walkers, Sandra, slipped on the Grand Union Canal towpath near Shrewley. Unfortunately she fell badly - to miss the murky waters of the Grand Union. The net result was a broken arm and the need for a metal insert. But she still completed the walk before making the unwanted detour to the hospital.

Thanks to the generosity of the walkers and their sponsors £2121 was raised.

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