Inland Waterway

Words by Sir John Betjeman
Music by Ben Sawyer

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He who by peaceful inland waters steers
Bestirs himself when a new lock appears.
Slow swing the gates: slow sinks the water down;
This lower Stratford seems another town.
The meadows which the youthful Shakespeare knew
Are left behind, and, sliding into view,
Comes reaches of the Avon, mile on mile,
Church, farm and mill and lover-leaned-on stile,
Till where the tower of Tewkesbury soars to heaven
Out homely Avon joins the haughty Severn.
Sweet is the fluting of the blackbird's note,
Sweet is the ripple from the narrow boat.
Your Majesty, our friend for many years,
Confirms a triumph now the moment nears:
The lock you have reopened will set free
The heart of England to the open sea.

John Betjeman was born on 28th August 1906. He became a member of The Inland Waterways Association in 1955, and soon afterwards became Patron of the London & Home Counties Branch. He was IWA Vice-President from 1966 until his death in 1984. He took an active interest in the IWA and wrote this poem for the opening of the Upper Avon Navigation, by H M Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1974. The music is written by Ben Sawyer of 'The Songmen' who feature in the video.