Saturday, 3 October 2015

To Lapworth and on to Earlswood

Friday and Saturday 2nd & 3rd October 2015

Friday 2nd October 2015
To Lapworth above lock 15
4 miles, 6 locks

Yet another lovely sunny day - how long can it last?

Although we were very happy with our mooring last night, if we had moved along for around another 30 minutes or so we would have had an even better spot.  Wide open with great views both sides of the canal.

 The autumn colours just enhance the view.  Something to remember next time we pass this way.

There are good moorings with rings at Tom O Wood close to Kingswood Junction with some rather charming neighbours on the other side of the canal.  A bit of useless information - next time you get up close to a goat look it in the eye!  Their pupils are rectangular rather than the usual round ones.

We wanted to get a bit further along, so did not stop and continued through this bridge at Kingswood Junction and onto the North Stratford Canal.

The barrel roof on this cottage confirms that we are on the correct canal!  We stopped to use the services by the cottage and then started up the 6 locks we were going to do today - the first narrow locks since mid June!

It was all very quiet - we only passed one boat going down and we were lucky enough to get the help of a volunteer lock keeper, so we whistled up in no time at all.

Just after lock 14 they are building some houses squashed between the canal and a fairly busy road. They look very compact and we were not sure what market they were aimed at - we shall see next time we pass.

We would have chosen to moor there as it was in the sun, however we did not fancy the construction noise, so we moved along into the shade.  This is the view looking back towards the building site.

Last time we came this way we were fighting for moorings - today it was just us, well until late afternoon when two more boats moored behind us and one more in front.

We were moored by 12:30, so tidied ourselves up a bit and went to The Boot Inn where we had lunch - they do a simple two or three course meal which we enjoyed, especially as it meant no cooking that evening.

Saturday 3rd October 2015
Lapworth to Earlswood
5 miles, 13 locks

Today dawned dull, grey and chilly.  Not bad for doing the locks, but decidedly nippy on the back of the boat after that.  Is that it for our Indian Summer?

One of the boats behind us was facing our way, so we decided to make a fairly early start and hope we beat them to it - we did!  We slipped away from our mooring at 08:40 (I did say fairly, not very early!!) in the hope that a VLK may come and join us, but alas it was not to be.  Mind you we did well and completed the 1.5 miles and 13 locks in 2.25 hours, meeting just three boats going down.

It was after all that that things went wrong - well not wrong, just very slow.   We had a couple of lift bridges to pass - this one (No 29) is really tough - 40 very stiff turns up and then down again.  I don't think Chris would have managed it at present as he is still very breathless, although he did manage to work about half of the locks. The reason for the delays - a lot of moored boats, shallow water which made passing other moving boats tricky and having to wait a couple of times for oncoming boats where there were boats moored both sides of the canal.

Under the M42

We stopped briefly at Hockley Heath where Chris went to get a paper and then again at bridge 20 for me to pop to the fantastic baker/deli/greengrocer, Wedges, which is just 100 yards from the canal.  I was sorry we were so close to home and needed so little!  We did treat ourselves to a sandwich as we had decided to crack on and get to Earlswood tonight, so we can be in Alvechurch Marina on Monday.  We are booked in there for 2 nights, so we can pop home and Chris has an appointment with the doctor on Tuesday.

So here we are at Earlswood and Chris is starting his preparations to light the fire!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Saltisford Arm, Warwick and the Hatton Flight

Wednesday 30th September to Thursday 1st October

Wednesday 30th September
Saltisford Arm and Warwick

We had intended having a good long walk round Warwick after exploring the Saltisford Arm, but it was not to be as Chris is not feeling too good - a cough and cold that is just hanging on.  A quiet morning was required with a gentle stroll round the arm and out to Priory Park in Warwick in the afternoon.

The Arm is a wonderful place to moor - we had emailed Jackie before arriving and were assured there would be a space - there was.  Ian made us welcome and sorted us out with electricity and information on what was where.  We were last here 17 years ago on nb Cleddau and it bears no resemblance to what it was.  A lot has been done and it is an oasis of calm - well worth a visit.

There were a lot of men at work trimming bushes, trees and strimming edges all day, but it was not until we went out after lunch that we noticed what the high viz vests stated - 'Community Payback'. They certainly did a good job.

So a quick trip round the arm:

This is the orchard - fairly newly planted by the look of it

 With a very handsome 'Bernard' made by Alan Lorentzen to commemorate the 1100th Anniversary of the founding of Warwick in AD 914 - just a shame he has to be chained up.

The sensory garden

The contemplation area

And at the far end this sculpture entitled 'Celebration'.  It was done by Paul Margetts and was donated to the SCT and it is dedicated to all the volunteers who have contributed to the success of the Saltisford Canal Trust over the last 30 years.

The newest addition is this conference room - a wonderful place to conduct business.

We set off towards to Priory Park and I could not resist this picture - I don't think that even the police could get through here!  In fairness it leads to a disused Police Station.

The park was a great hit with our four legged friend

A couple of pubs with history caught our eyes:

The Punch Bowl:

And The Black Horse Inn

When we got home we popped past nb Hadar and had a chat with Jo and Keith.

Thursday 1st October 2015
Saltisford Arm to Just before Shrewley Tunnel
4 miles, 21 locks

Another wonderful morning dawned and we headed out of Saltisford Arm and went along to the bottom lock, where we moored up, made a cuppa, did the breakfasts pots and waited for 30 minutes hoping someone would turn up to join us.  No luck and we rather think no one else went up the locks today - we were at the top for an hour and no one came past us, so we made the right decision to go for it.

Autumn colours as we leave Saltisford Arm

We were in the first lock (26) at 10:05 and exited the top lock (46) 3.25 hours later.

I worked the first three locks when we swapped roles, however, Chris only managed two before having to take over the helm again - he really is below par.  I popped out to the garage at B52, Ugly bridge to get a paper and just after that our salvation arrived in the form of a voluntary lock keeper, whose name we never ascertained as his name badge was hidden under his life jacket.  He was, however, a great help which we both really appreciated. He stayed with us all the way to the last three locks.

It is not until you get to lock 36 that you really start to look up the hill!

 This is a view looking back down the flight - you can just see the church in Warwick in the far distance.

Between locks 42 and 43 is a C&RT office and this is where we crossed paths with President and Kildare (an old working boat and butty which were breasted up together) last summer and I took refuge where the C&RT boat was today.

I do love this dragonfly sculpture to be found by lock 42

We passed very few boats going down, but I just had to take a picture of nb Griffin

 with their rather unusual passenger

 Having taken on water and disposed of rubbish etc at the top lock we moved along and tied up on the long term moorings which were very empty, but just to have a very quick sandwich and then we were off again in search of some more open canal away from the trees and in the sun.  Just look at this sky for 1st October.

We found the perfect spot just before bridge 58 and within sight of the Shrewley tunnel.  Our only neighbours are cows, sheep and so far, just one duck.

It is also the first time for days that we have had the side hatch on the water side with a view.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Onwards to Warwick

26th - 29th September 2015
The most notable thing - the weather which has been dry, bright, warm and sunny for days.  A true Indian Summer.

Saturday 26th September
To Long Itchington
2.5 miles, 10 locks

Today saw our first flight of broad locks since 'going solo'.  It was always our intention to wait for company - so much easier with two boats in the lock.  When we arrived there was someone waiting for us.  I have to confess to my heart sinking when I found it was a single hander as I thought we were in for even more work than if we had been alone.  However, my fears were groundless - Tony on Lydia May 3 is very experienced and super efficient.  So much so, I ended up doing a lot less work than usual!  Thanks Tony for all the useful lessons you taught us.

At each lock I went ahead to get the next one ready and luck was really on our side as most were full, so my job was easy.  Tony meanwhile showed Chris how to pull the boat out of the lock

Go back up the steps hanging onto the rope to close the gate and then continue forward.

We guessed James and Doug from nb Chance were somewhere nearby and sure enough we passed at one of the locks.  A very brief encounter, but time enough to say hello whilst Doug wound a paddle for us.

The four boats passed each other

A wave from James at the helm and they were gone!  Another fleeting bloggers moment!

In no time at all we were approaching Long Itchington a place famed for the number of pubs.  Two are either side of the canal - a couple of people had said to head for this one - The Two Boats.

The advice was also to move on past bridge 26 to moor - a much more peaceful location than near the pub where there was a convention of boats with Gardner and Russell Newbury engines plus a cider festival.  A lovely spot, but a communications desert - no internet or phone.

There were a few boats behind us

but this was our nearest neighbour ahead

Once moored we headed back to the pub to have lunch - just a baguette each with a bowl of chips to share. They were so big and tasty we really did not need the chips.  We were still full at dinner time, so just had a light snack rather than a full meal.

Sunday 27th September 2015
Long Itchington

We had decided to stay put, so planned on having a Sunday roast at The Two Boats. We asked on Saturday if we could book a table, but they don't take bookings.  The advice was to come around midday to ensure we got a table due to the cider festival and boat convention.  That was too early for us to have our main meal for the day, also we really wanted to make the most of the good weather to get some washing and other domestic chores done, so we decided we would leave eating until the evening.  Big mistake!  After a very productive day we ambled back to the pub around 18:30 to find that neither of the canal side pubs serve food on a Sunday evening!  Back to the boat for a quick meal of bacon and eggs with some roasted baby tomatoes and mushrooms!  Not quite the Sunday roast we were expecting, but very tasty all the same.  We have been out since mid June and have only had one Sunday roast and that was absolutely dire!  Not much time left to amend the situation.  There was also one other near disaster (well for me at least) today - I dropped my Kindle Paperwhite into a bucket of warm water laced with Flash ready for me to clean the floor!  I retrieved it swiftly and placed it in the sun on the back deck in the hopes it would dry and not leave me 'bookless'.  I know a lot of people hate electronic readers and whilst I do miss the feel of a 'real book', I would be hard pushed to manage without my Kindle now.  I need to read before I sleep and am rarely ready to turn the light out before Chris, so the ability to be able to read without a light on is such a bonus for us both.  We left well alone for several hours before trying to turn it on.  Would it work?  It did, albeit rather reluctantly.  To start with it was slow to turn the page and the internal light flickered a bit, but now 3 days later it still seems to be working.  I am sure some damage has been done, but I am just hoping it keeps going until we get home in a couple of weeks.  Just to be on the safe side I picked up a paperback copy of the book I am reading when we stocked up in Tesco's in Leamington Spa/Warwick (the towns are so concurrent, I am not sure which town the store is in!).

Monday 28th June
To Radford Road Bridge 35, just East of Leamington Spa
5.25 miles, 10 locks

Another day of locks, but unlike the Stockton flight we did with Tony, these were mostly well spaced.  The first four are together - a staircase of two locks and then two singles, but the rest are just far enough apart that you need to get back on board to transit from one to the next.

We did the first four on our own - at one of the locks is this sign:
They were large beasts and Chris was far from happy trapped in the boat at the bottom of the lock, whilst they buzzed around his head, but he escaped unharmed.

We teamed up with Mark on Fuel Boat Callisto for the next three locks, when he stopped to make a delivery.  We had stopped at Stockton to take on fuel from him and, as you would expect, he made locking very easy for us.  We do like to use fuel boats where we can even if they are a penny or two dearer than some places.  Use them or lose them!

The final three locks were done with nb Avalon who were returning to their mooring in the marina below the last lock.  Parts of our route today were quite narrow and reedy - something we have not seen for quite a while.

Mark, from Callisto, advised us to moor before Radford Road Bridge, No 35 rather than go into Leamington Spa.  A wise decision as it was wonderful open country and very peaceful.  We did walk along to B37 to the local shop there - not the best part of Leamington Spa, but the shop did cover our basic needs.

A sign of yet another good day tomorrow.

Tuesday 29th September 2015
To The Saltisford Arm, Warwick
4.75 miles, 2 locks

Monty and I, as we often do, set off ahead of  Chris and we passed this trade boat selling all sorts of stuff for boaters from plants, to duck food to Ecover products and many other things too numerous to mention.  Had I had any money I would have had bought some duck food which floats whereas the seed we have had all sinks!  Anyway it was not to be.

I was rather taken with his Herb Hospital!

Today should have been easy with only two locks and a few miles to do, but what should have taken about 2 hours took nearly 3.  Just a lot of moored boats including this 'selection' of boats in the centre of Leamington Spa.

We have no idea how long they have been there, but they did not look as though they were in a hurry to move on.

We reckon it must have been hard work getting these pins into the rather solid looking ground.

There are a couple of boatyards between bridges 48 and 49 where at one point there is a set of three boats breasted up.  We pulled over to let the boat coming towards us come through.

It was all rather tight, not helped by the water being rather shallow.  We reckon any passing wide beam boats would find passing very tricky indeed.

Just as we approached the two locks of the day we passed Mark on Callisto heading back towards Stockton.  He works long days - he had passed us at 06:30!

We shared the locks with a hire boat - lovely people enjoying their luck in choosing this week for their holiday.  The locks are called Cape Locks and the pub at the top (we were going up for the first time for ages) is call the Cape of Good Hope.

With this sign!  We did not stop as we were heading for the Saltisford Arm for a couple of days before tackling the Hatton Flight.

So here we are moored in this oasis of calm - so very different from when we were last here in 1998!

A slow start today - the washing machine is whirling round and we will head off after an early lunch to explore the Arm and Warwick.

The news from our summer travelling companions is, however, not so good.  nb Cleddau is stranded at Weedon Bec with alternator problems.  It has been removed, sent to Daventry for testing and the results are dire - it is damaged beyond repair.  Thankfully they managed to get to Weedon Wharf with an electric power hook up.  Decisions and discussions about what to do next are ongoing.