Cancer Research UK Walk 2005

Knowle to Warwick via Grand Union and Stratford Canals – 13.2 miles
Yet again the Cancer Research Walk took place on a day -16th April - when the weather was good. Although early in the walk there were overcast skies, as the day went on and the sun came out many of us were thinking that we would have “got away” with shorts and need not have bothered with waterproofs.

This year’s walk started from near Knowle, located just outside Solihull in the West Midlands, and, as in the three previous years, we were taking mainly tow paths to get back to Warwick. So by 9.30 a.m. the walkers, there were in excess of thirty this year, had boarded the coach in Warwick, which would take us to the starting point on the Grand Union Canal at Waterfield Bridge (no.73), grid reference SP187777 about 1 mile north east of Knowle. The driver made good time and, as we had left Warwick promptly, we arrived and had started the walk by 10.00 a.m., a good 15 minutes earlier than planned.

Route details, distances and approximate times Route details, distances and approximate times .

Getting ready to walk.
Some of the walkers, minutes before getting onto
the Grand Union Canal at Waterfield Bridge.

One of the enjoyments of walking is that not only are you able to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace, which is almost impossible to do in a vehicle, but you have a good opportunity to talk to companions at the same time. So it was no surprise that by the time we reached Knowle Top Lock there seemed to be many conversations taking place, often between walkers that had not been seen each other since the last Cancer Research Walk or with walkers new to this particular challenge. So often on a walk, people start talking and usually find some common denominator of interest. I remember at one point in the walk Simon, an accountant who used to work in Warwickshire, who had come from his home in Oxfordshire to enjoy the walk, raise some money and see ex-colleagues was having a very good conversation with Mick, one of my friends who moulds plasterwork. I don’t know what the common denominator was but like so many others they seemed to have found one. Incidentally, this was Mick’s first walk of any distance and it was pleasing to know that, at the end of the walk, despite the various aches, he really enjoyed it and is keen to do more walking in the future.

Walking alongside the flight of locks at Knowle .
Walking alongside the flight of locks at Knowle

So along the canal we all went passing the flight of locks at Knowle, the Heron’s Nest Public House, where the canal passes under the A4141 between Warwick and Birmingham, and soon after the Black Boy Public House. Both pubs have splendid outside areas for relaxing with a pint and, like me, everyone I spoke to had passed them both on many occasions as they traveled along the road, but had not realised what lovely canal side locations they enjoyed.

The 'Heron's Nest' . The 'Black Boy'  . Dennis and Ken .

We were making good time and at 11.25 a.m., 30 minutes before our expected arrival time, we reached the junction with the Stratford on Avon Canal where the group congregated, except for three walkers who had ignored the instructions and had continued along the Grand Union to The Wood Inn at Turner’s Green, which had recently been renamed – it used to be called Tom o’ the Wood. Why was it was renamed? I think Tom o’ the Wood a much “nicer” name.

Some of the walkers congregating on the bridge at the link between the Grand Union and Stratford on Avon canals
Some of the walkers congregating on the bridge at the link
between the Grand Union and Stratford on Avon canals

The correct route went to Kingswood Junction and its marina. Besides admiring this canal basin, the boats and the general canal architecture, good use was made of the public conveniences, before we made our way south along the Stratford on Avon Canal the half a mile or so until the turn off left at Dicks Lane. Then it was up the lane, under the railway bridge, left at the T junction at the top and we reached the Wood to be greeted by the three who had walked the wrong way and were waiting for the pub to open. In fact I actually believe that my friend Larry, who had walked with up Dick’s Lane with me, was in the bar and served before the navigationally challenged trio reached it. Larry likes his pint.

Approaching Kingswood Junction . A view of the Kingswood Junction . One of the cottages with a Barrel Roof found along this stretch of the Stratford on Avon Canal . Larry, at Dicks Lane Lock, making sure walkers go the correct way .

Soon after Lin, the wife of Jeff the organiser, arrived with her sister, who is the vice chairman of the local fund raising group, and much welcomed food for us walkers.

Waiting for the pub to open.
Although they pretended to be in a deep
meaningful conversation Graham, Jeff and
Bob were really waiting for the pub to open.

Unlike previous years the group had generally kept together and had all arrived at the pub at about noon - 30 minutes ahead of the anticipated arrival time. So it was shortly after 12.30 p.m., having had sufficient nourishment, that we set off in groups, with three walkers that had joined us at the Wood, to cover the 7+ miles to Warwick.

Soon the sun really came out and it was very pleasant walking. The tow path was initially dry and in good condition but unfortunately did not stay that way. There is a stretch of the canal between Turner’s Green and Shrewley where the canal goes through a cutting. When it’s dry it’s very pleasant, but when it rains the water flows down the slope of the cutting and because of lack of drainage lies on the tow path, which becomes very muddy. Today it was very muddy, and walkers with trainers rather than boots tried to escape the worst by keeping to the uphill edge, but by the look of some of the footwear afterwards it was generally unsuccessful. But this was a minor blip.

Bend in the Canal just past Tom O'the Wood . Peaceful Canal . Mud, mud glorious mud .
View along the Grand Union Canal between the Wood and Shrewley Tunnel.

Soon this problem area was passed and the tunnel at Shrewley was reached. More information about this tunnel is detailed on the web pages for the Cancer Research Walk in 2002.

Approaching Shrewley Tunnel from the west . Closer views of the Tunnel . Inside the 'walkers' tunnel . The eastern end of the Shrewley Tunnel .
Views of Shrewley Tunnel

The next significant point on the route was the top of the Hatton flight of 21 locks where, many walkers stopped to enjoy an ice cream from the small shop/café located here, although some walkers did venture off the canal to enjoy alcoholic beverages at the Waterman Public House located nearby. But Anne, Mick and I enjoyed our ices as we walked down this magnificent flight of locks with the tower of St Mary’s Church - about 3 miles away - very obvious in the distance. This was enjoyable walking. The sun was still shining; the tow path was wide and well maintained.

Near the top of Hatton Locks . View of locks and bridge . Looking down the Hatton flight of locks.  Noote St Mary's Chuch in Warwick can be seen in the distaance .
Views at Hatton Locks
Notice on the third picture (enlarged) St Mary's Church in the distance

Less than a mile from the “finishing line”, at the Warwickshire County Council Staff Club in Warwick we left the canal and walked up the Birmingham Road and then the Saltisford. What a difference. Now we were accompanied by noisy traffic. However, on the plus side Mick said how interesting it was to see the houses etc, which, like the canal side pubs, you don’t see properly when you are speeding by in a car.

As we got further into Warwick, the view of St Mary’s Church started to vanish as it gradually became blocked by the Barrack Street Offices, Library and Car park of the County Council, and I was reminded of an article that had appeared in a local free newspaper that week. Candidates for the Warwick and Leamington Parliamentary Seat were asked what they would do if they had £1 million pounds to spend. Chris White, the Conservative candidate, said he would demolish this council building and “replace it with a building more sympathetic to the county town. … this is a blot on the landscape” I think most people, irrespective of their political allegiance would agree with that.

Entering Warwick via the Birmingham Road. You can just see the top of the tall tower of St Mary's Church.
Entering Warwick via the Birmingham Road. You can just
see the top of the tall tower of St Mary's Church.

Soon after 3.00 p.m. the three of us entered the Staff Club and were amazed as only Larry and another walker Graham, with his three sons, had got there before us. We thought there were many more walkers in front.

Note from Jeff - Bridget and husband Gary also took the shorter route with the other 3, but they went straight on without stopping, getting back to Warwick at around 2.00 p.m.

It had been a good walk, so we sat down, enjoyed more food provided by Lin, but the real reward was a couple of pints of beer.

I am sure the walkers would like to thank Jeff who got everyone to take part and organized the transport, his wife Lin and her sister for providing the excellent refreshments, and Steve, the Steward at the Staff Club who, although we turned up an hour before anticipated, was ready to provide the all important liquid revivers.

Thanks to the generosity of the walkers
and their sponsors £1716 was raised.

Cancer Research Walks Main Page.

Top of Page