I mostly lurk on this forum (except to ask questions about laundrettes in Stratford, thank you again, Adam) and have found all sorts of useful information here. Here's my trip report for my vacation in England last month
Saturday, June 25
Changeover day! Old guests out by 930, new guests in at 400! Cleaning, laundry, shopping to be done!
I had planned on taking my laundry to the launderette on Bull Street, but E kindly offered to do mine with all of theirs. "You don't want to spend your vacation in a launderette." I wouldn't have minded, but yay!
And first thing in the morning, a man comes by and puts up a navigation warning sign. No one can lock down to the river until the warning sign comes down. The rain the day before had raised the river to dangerous levels.
I bought a ticket at the Tourist Info office for the bus trip around Stratford. I've already been to Shakespeare's Birthplace, twice, and E told me we'd probably be doing Mary Arden's place on Sunday, so I got off at Ann Hathaway's Cottage. I've been there before as well, but it's very pretty. The guides there were quite nice about shooing us in for the guided tour portion. "Hurry, before the coaches arrive. We like to have time to spend with the independent visitors before the large groups arrive." There a new sculpture garden in the back, with very strange sculptures, and a fairly new knot maze. The hedges were only planted four years ago, so they're only about a metre high. As the plants grow it should improve.
Back into Stratford for lunch. It's been cold and drizzly all day, so I got a jacket potato with cheese at a tea shop. Yum yum! Bought socks at the Saturday market, and a found a cybercafe to send my family a quick email.
Back to the boats in time for afternoon tea, and to meet the new guests. Only seven of us this week. Then it's time to clean up, eat dinner and head over to the theatre again. Tonight it's Twelfth Night. I enjoyed it, but not as much as Midsummer. As it was done with modern-ish costumes, how they did Malvolio's yellow crossed garters was hysterical.
Sunday, June 26
Overcast but clearing. And we start up the Stratford Canal.
Lunchtime we stopped at Wilmcote for the evening. After lunch wandered about Wilmcote. Visited Mary Arden's home, etc. There was a school Summer Fete being held on the grounds there. Very fun. Skittles, donkey rides, tug of war, bake sale. Usually they have falconry displays on weekends, but the fete cancelled that. Some of the birds were on display, beautiful!
After dinner (lamb) I headed up the towpath, intent on a short jaunt on footpaths. I found the correct footpath, walked through high weeds, found the farmhouse landmark, with farmhouse in ruins. Couldn't get the gate open, so had to climb the fence. Was looked at suspiciously by many many ewes and lambs. Made a left turn, hoping I was in the correct field. I kept startling the sheep, so started singing "Mary Had A Little Lamb" so the sheep would hear me coming, hoping that there was no person out there to hear me. Noticed cattle in the far corner of the field, hoped they weren't the Longhorns I'd seen at Mary Arden's, finally recognized the back fields of the Mary Arden farm, and made my way back to the canal.
Monday, June 27
Farther up the canal. And I was given a windlass, so I could help with the locks. Hooray! We crossed a neat aqueduct that took us over a road and railroad tracks. Unusually, the towpath was level with the bottom of the canal trough, not the top. Several of the Stratford-typical barrel-root cottages. At Lownsford we moored for the night and I was sent out to look for cornflakes. No luck, but I did spot, in someone's backyard, a life-sized fiberglass cow, painted like a zebra.
Tuesday, June 28
More locks, more helping with. We passed a lady walking a chocolate lab, who wanted to jump on the butty (the dog, not the lady). She explained that once somebody had given him breakfast from a narrowboat, and now he looks upon every narrowboat as a possible source of snacks.
Lunchtime we moored at Lapworth Junction. D had everybody working. A&D were sent off to the BW office to pay for two pump-outs (emptying the sewage). I was sent off, yet again, for cornflakes. Successfully, this time. After lunch we continued through Lapworth, mooring at the bottom of the Lapworth Flight. We visited the canal shop, and I spent some time petting Blackie, the shop cat. I also walked up the road for a while, then walked down the Lapworth Flight and back to the boats. Thunderstorm during dinner.
Wednesday, June 29
Up the Lapworth Flight, in a light drizzle. We only passed two boats coming down, and with all of the passenger help, we flew up the flight very quickly. And then our last lock for the trip. We stopped briefly so A and P could nip up to a quickmart to get their newspapers. I went along to use the ATM, which refused to give me money. Eeep! I knew I had money in the account. Had they put a hold on it, even though I'd let them know I'd be in the UK? Three lift bridges, with trouble at the last one. We moored in Shirley for the evening. Another t-storm during dinner, but it cleared afterward. I wandered about, and had a good laugh at an "elderly people" road crossing sign where the silhouette elderly lady looked like she was goosing the silhouette elderly old man.
Thursday, June 30
Through a tunnel, then an acute turn onto the Worcester/Birmingham Canal, then a stop at Bourneville so we could visit Cadbury World. There have been some changes since my last visit here, about five years ago. Several opportunities for samples, then the large gift shop. Then onward towards Birmingham. Into central B'ham, which is in the midst of a huge urban renewal. Twenty+ years ago, the Gas Street Basin area was mostly derelict warehouse, factories, etc. Not a very nice place. Now there's luxury flats, and more being built, the Convention Centre, Symphony Hall, Indoor Area, Sea Life Centre, shopping mall, hotels, shops and restaurants. We found a mooring spot, and said goodbye to D, who had to go home because of an issue with their new boat. After dinner I wandered a bit more, and ended up at the Wheel of Birmingham, a large Ferris wheel. After watching for a while, I bought a ticket and went up. (33 pounds to rent a private capsule, but as hardly anybody was going up, I got a private car for only 5.50) Lovely views of Birmingham in the setting sun.
Friday, July 1
Everybody all aboard the motor, Snipe, for a tour of three of the loops of the Birmingham Canal. (Fact: Birmingham has more canals than Venice.) Very interesting, as some of it went through the "unimproved" sections: graffiti, derelict warehouses, the prison. I'm sure that in five years time, a lot of it will become pricy housing. After lunch I walked to the Birmingham Sea Life Centre. I was very impressed with the place. I spent quite a bit of time watching the cow-nosed rays, and the Asian river otters. Then it was back to the boats for afternoon tea. I changed my clothes and walked to the International Conference Centre, right by the canal, and listened to the free Friday jazz concert there.
Saturday, July 2
Changeover day again, only this time I am leaving. Up early early to pack, say goodbyes. E had arranged a taxi to take me to the train station and A to the coach station at 930. So, off to the train station, to catch a train to Birmingham International Airport. And home, eventually, with an unplanned overnight stay in New Jersey.