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The Hatton Flight

Tales From The Towpath
Where Other Waters Flow
Up The Cut
Birmingham Canal Navigations
Cotswold Canals
Folk On The Water
The Hatton Flight
The Hereford & Gloucester Canal
Lichfield & Hatherton
Bosworth Summit Pound - A Story
L. T. C. Rolt 1910 - 1974
Gloucester Docks and the Sharpness Canal
Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival
The Bold Navigators
Lost Routes
Nutbrook
Contemporary Campbells

21 Locks And A Rather Odd Story

Hatton Flight: Looking Up The Flight

This flight on the Grand Union Canal, just west of Warwick, delivers 21 locks in less than two miles and provides a stern test of boater stamina. One of the most picturesque spots on the Grand Union, it has been feared and revered in equal measure since the days of the working boatmen. The flight was widened in the 1930s as part of the grand scheme to upgrade the Grand Union Canal - look out for the distinctive paddle gear, which boaters use to operate the locks. The old narrow locks are still evident next to the newer locks.
At the new canalside cafe, owned and operated by British Waterways, you can sit and watch the boats go by. The Waterman Pub also provides a welcome opportunity for recuperation near Hatton top lock.
Full waterway amenities are available at Saltisford Canal Centre on the short Saltisford arm, at the foot of the Hatton flight.

The Middle Lock
by Sue Rivers

We were late approaching Middle Lock - light was fading and we had to complete the Hatton flight before dark. "Alf," I yelled from the towpath, "Go ahead – it’s empty. No-one’s around."

The boat entered the lock. Without warning, the lock gates slammed shut and the top paddles began winding furiously. Clankety, clankety clankety; like a driverless train, going faster and faster, out of control.

Water flooded into the chamber in massive torrents. Vicious whirlpools formed, rocking the boat violently, sucking it downward into the murky depths…

I dashed towards the paddles, clasping my windlass - then froze: a huge horse was heading straight towards me. Its hoof marks rose up from the dust as if embossed there. I leapt aside. It passed right by me, its nostrils flaring. It was towing something.

It vanished into the mist beyond the lock. A young woman appeared behind it carrying a wicker basket and crying, "Alfred, don’t leave me. It’s your child!".

Numb with shock, I turned round to find the water completely still and our boat safe in the lockkeeper’s hands.

"Go careful past Asylum Wharf," he growled, "Eleanor don’t like disturbance. She were laundress at the County Lunatic Asylum (pointing to Hatton Park). Put in there ‘cos she got in trouble by one of the canalmen. They’d meet up ‘ere. Turned out he was already wed. Broke her ‘eart it did. She comes back whenever she ‘ears ‘is name…"

Later that night after we’d reached the top of the flight, we met up with some other boaters and told our tale. They were astounded - apparently there hasn’t been a lockkeeper at Hatton for years.

The last one threw himself into Middle Lock in the 1860s when his daughter died in childbirth in the asylum…

[this story first appeared on the Weird Warwickshire page of the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire website]

The Hatton Flight:  A Prospect of Warwick

related internet links

with Richard, Brenda, Nikki, Jack,
Rosie and Jim.

Britain's canals might conjure
up images of lazy, sunny
afternoons, but during the
industrial revolution they were
busy, brutal places producing
ghosts which haunt them still.
from the BBC archives

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