Cancer Research UK Walk 2002

Salter St. Bridge, Earlswood to Warwick along the Canals
The start of the walk at Salter Street.
Saturday, 7th of September 2002 was a beautiful day. So much so that unlike the previous year when rain was forecast many walkers, including Larry, Mick and myself, had turned up in shorts. However, Mick’s wife Chris (aka Legs – although she never shows them) and my wife Anne were unsure what the weather would be and turned up in trousers and missed the opportunity of a last chance to add a tan to their legs before Autumn weather dominated.

Like last year we were again walking the Stratford on Avon and the Grand Union Canals, finishing at the Warwickshire County Council Staff Club in Warwick. However, instead of starting from Wilmcote this year we were starting further north at the Salter Street Bridge near Earlwood, which is close to Solihull and noted for it’s lakes.

Anne walking towards Hockley Heath
Although a few months previously Larry and I had been this way to check out a suitable starting location adjacent to the canal, where we could get out of the coach safely, I had only walked part of the route between Salter Street and the Kingswood Junction before. Therefore like all of the walkers, I was in good spirits and keen to visit this part of the Stratford Canal and enjoy its scenery.

Joe, whose wife Sue was on last year’s walk, was keen to take a photo of everyone at Salter Street. However, all were wanting to get moving as soon as they got off the coach, and before Joe could even get his camera out we were strung along the tow path heading east. Everyone seemed to be in an energetic mood and a cracking pace was set. My memories of previous walks were of strolling along at about 2 miles an hour. Today was different. We were moving along much quicker and in a very short time we passed under the M42 motorway and soon after were by-passing Hockley Heath.

Draw Bridge near Hockley Heath
This really was a pleasant stretch of canal. The September sun shining through the trees that patrolled the canal's banks heightened the enjoyment and it seemed only a short time before we reached the flight of locks that took the canal down to Lapworth and the Kingswood Junction.

The Lapworth Flight of Locks
Looking at my watch I realised that at the speed we were going we would reach our lunchtime stop at the Tom o’ the Wood before it opened at noon. I had hoped that walkers would linger awhile at Kingswood Junction, where the Grand Union and Stratford Canals meet.

The Junction of the Stratford on Avon and Grand Union Canals at Kingswood.
The Junction of the Stratford on Avon and Grand Union Canals at Kingswood.

Anne and I think it is a lovely spot and if any readers have not been there it is well worth a visit. However, with Larry in the leading group the consideration was not the idyllic setting of Kingswood Junction but a pint or two of beer at Turner’s Green, the location of Tom o’ the Wood . As you will appreciate, if you have read about Larry before, he does like his pint(s) etc.

The happy band of CRUK Walkers outside the Tom o' he Wood
The happy band of CRUK Walkers outside the Tom o' the Wood.

The afternoon was the same route as 2001 and followed the canal to Warwick. One part of this stretch of the canal I always enjoy is at Shrewley. Here the canal goes through a tunnel as it passes under the village of Shrewley. The tunnel is 433 yards long and, as it would have been more expensive "burrowing" if a towpath were included, the bargees would have had to lay on the top of their barges and "leg" this part of the canal. The path the canal horses would have taken goes up hill to Shrewley and then down the other side to meet the canal once more.

The Warwick end of the Shrelwy Tunnel
We took this route, the first part of which goes up to Shrewley via a long dark tunnel. Because of a kink in the middle of the tunnel it is difficult to see the light at both ends. The floor is cobbly and the whole passage is very eerie. Needless to say a few "whooos" just as one approaches the dark middle part makes the females "jump".

Looking towards the top of the Hatton Locks.
Looking towards the top of the Hatton Locks.

From here it is a couple of miles to the top of the Hatton flight of 21 locks, known as the "Stairway to Heaven" and the canal shop, which sells ice creams. But it was shut. I was shocked. A beautiful sunny Saturday at the beginning of September and it wasn’t open. We were not the only people about. The owner must have done very well in the summer not to have taken advantage of potential customers on such a beautiful day. We therefore continued along the towpath and, along with Mick, his wife Chris and Anne,purchased ice creams from a garage that backs onto the canal. Very refreshing. They made us feel much better and more able to complete the rest of the route along the canal and up the hill into Warwick where we enjoyed refreshments and spent an enjoyable hour or so before departing home.

Thanks to the generosity of the walkers and their sponsors £2154 was raised.

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