Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The last 13 locks until Tardebigge - 25th September

Tuesday 25th September 2018
Lapworth to Hockley Heath
2.25 miles, 13 locks

It was a misty but beautiful autumnal start to the day.  We made the decision last night to try and get ahead of the boats ahead.  Chris went to get the paper whilst I got the boat ready to go, however we were not quite quick enough.  One of the hire boats went off 15 minutes before us at 8am.  Luckily, they had a big crew and kept well ahead of us.

The first 9 locks are close together so are easy enough to lock ahead.  There are some peculiarities on this flight that make life just a little more difficult than some other narrow flights.

Some of the paddles are really low - below knee level, which makes winding just a bit tricky.  I usually step over the two bottom gates, but find it hard on this flight as the lock gear gets in the way.  I will step and clamber from water to land, but not from land to water, so one walk round the lock is inevitable. 

 Just a few other pictures of our journey up the first nine locks

At the ninth there was a boat waiting to come down, so one less gate to shut

By the time we got to the last few locks there were boats coming down which helps a lot.  Above one of them there were repairs to the ARMCO taking place leaving little room on the lock landing - no problem as long as no one came down

One did! 

but he pulled in sufficiently for us to be able to get out and round the work boat

 At one of the locks we spied this notice (photographed in two parts)

Sounds like a great plan.  I have, however, looked at the website and quite frankly lost the will to live!  Admittedly I did not download it all, but the bits I did see did not seem to give any real idea what it was all about.

We arrived at Swallow Cruisers where we wanted to get diesel, but had a short wait for space to become available.  I just had to take a photo of the blue sky - it was stunning.

There are two drawbridges to go through on this stretch of canal and I am delighted to say that C&RT have done some work to make them a lot easier which was a huge relief.

We arrived in Hockley Heath to find all the visitor moorings with rings occupied.  We were about to get ARMCO chains out when one boat left, so we were able to move back to his space.  He had just returned from the fish and chip shop, which sparked an idea for dinner.

Were they any good - most definitely yes.  The haddock was tasty and the chips completely free of grease.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

What a wonderful surprise at Lapworth - 23 to 24 September

Sunday 23rd September 2018
Tom O'Wood to Lapworth
1.5 miles, 6 locks

It was still raining Sunday morning and as we left the goats in the field on the other side of the canal were huddled together in a shelter.

 It only took around half and hour for the rain to stop  and it remained fine until mid afternoon - it would have been a better day to do Hatton today.  Hey ho - why do we believe the forecasters?

At Kingswood Junction we turned left

into the Stratford Canal

We needed to turn right at the end where there is a choice of two locks - the easiest one was out of order, so we had no choice but to go into the basin.  A boat was coming down the last lock and wanted to turn into the junction, however, instead of waiting for us to emerge, they went past and then had a devil's own job to get back into position.  They made it eventually and we reversed back to the facilities block and emptied and filled as required.

The lock had been left ready for us and there was an added bonus of a volunteer lock keeper who helped us up all six locks

We moored just above lock 15 by the new houses which means you are further away from the road.

The first job was to walk to the village shop to collect the paper.  I had phoned ahead and asked for one to be put aside - the shop keeper here is really obliging and has reserved papers for us in the past.

Next stop was to the pub (The Boot) where we hoped to have a sandwich lunch, however, as with a lot of places, they only do meals on a Sunday.  The roast looked amazing, but just too big for us at lunch time, so we had two starters which we shared and one desert and two spoons.  Perfect.

We had a quiet afternoon.  Around 19:15 there was a knocking on our stern doors.  Monty was the first to respond.  I was in the galley (in the stern) cooking, so was the next to the door and what a wonderful surprise it was to find Irene and Ian from FreeSpirit.  They had gone past us around 16:00 - I am not sure how we missed them as we were here and awake!  I suspect that Chris was starting to sort the fire out  on his knees and I was doing dinner prep with my back to the window.  It was wonderful to see them both (they were moored at Kingswood Junction on their way to the Grand Union), but such a shame that our dinner was imminent and not something that would wait, so our chat was very brief.  Better luck next time.

Monday 24th September 2018

A day off and the sun shone!  I took the dogs for a long walk in the morning and when we returned Chris was hanging the towels on the washing line.  Our mooring is the only one on this stretch that is in full sun all day at this time of year.

The rest of the day was catching up on internet stuff and domestic duties.  I cleaned the port half of the roof and the port side of the boat.  Just a wipe down with a wet cloth and a quick buff with a dry cloth, but it will do until we get back to the marina when she will get a proper shampoo and polish.  Monty dutifully monitored me to ensure I did it properly whilst Kiera supervised Chris lighting the fire from the comfort of her bed with her eyes closed!

There are four other boats ahead of us pointing the same way as we are - the big question is - who will get to the locks first in the morning?  The last boat moving today went up, so whatever happens the locks are likely to be against us.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

7% chance of rain - what a load of rubbish! 22 September

Saturday 22nd September 2018
Cape Moorings to Tom 'O Wood Moorings
7 miles, 21 locks

The day dawned dry, if not bright and we set off around 09:30 to travel the three quarters of a mile to the bottom of Hatton locks.  The washing was in the cratch hoping it might dry. We are nothing if not optimistic or maybe foolish for believing the weather forecast.  We entered the first lock at 09:40 having had to wait for a boat to come down.  The spirits lifted in that as we thought that might mean that the locks would be in our favour.  They were dashed when they told us there was a single boat about 3 locks ahead.  Sadly we never saw them and they did not spot us, so we were on our own all the way up.

To start with the locks are quite well spaced - too close not to walk, but it doesn't half add to the days step totals

One and a half hours after we started that 7% chance of rain became 100% and it never stopped!

After lock 36, which is the half way point, the locks do start to get closer together and boats started to come down, however on two occasions boats coming down carefully closed the lock gates behind them!  These locks are leaky, so some winding to empty them again was required.

The weather was too murky for a good shot down back to Warwick today.

Despite the weather there were lots of walkers around.  I got chatting to a few (as you do!).  One couple are going on a trip along the Canal du Midi in a couple of weeks.  It transpired that the route they intend to take covers some of the places we went through 2 years ago, so I was able to pass on some observations.  If you see this, the French blog was written in May 2017.  The book we used was Canal du Midi Waterways Guide - see here.  The gloves I use are Lomo short finger gloves - click here.  I hope you have a great trip.

When you arrive at the C&RT offices at lock 42 you know you are within spitting distance of being able to collapse in a heap!

Over the road and on past the Welcome Station - the doors were open and a volunteer was snug & dry inside.   To be fair to her, I suspect they always have one volunteer in the office to answer questions, but oh boy did I envy her the cup of coffee, not to mention the biscuit!  I stopped to report a broken 'heel stone brick' at lock 35.  Whether anyone will do anything about it is another matter.

Signs of Autumn and storm damage are rife at the top

and then joy of joys I spotted a working volunteer lock keeper who opened the last three locks for us.  To say I was  grateful would be the understatement of the year.

We stopped at the water point emptied and filled as required. I went and bought a BLT from the cafe. Suitably refreshed we continued on in the rain to moor at Tom O' Wood moorings - a new one to us. I had noted in our book that it is noisy, but as I type with the doors and windows shut and the fire going for the first time for months, it is warm, cosy, quiet, dry and just perfect!

Kiera really enjoys the fire and luxuriates, whereas Monty tends to take himself into the bedroom where it is cooler.  That is probably just as well as Kiera decided she needed both beds to herself!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Change of Plans - 21 September 2018

Friday 21st September 2018
Leamington Spa to Cape Visitor Moorings
3 miles, 2 locks

Having been buffeted about quite a bit of the night we decided to double check the forecast for the next few days.  Our original plan was to have today off and to explore a bit of Leamington Spa, then move on to Cape moorings tomorrow and tackle the 21 Hatton Locks on Sunday.  We even had a friend lined up who had volunteered to help.

However, having checked the forecast and found that Saturday is likely to be dry and not too windy, whereas Sunday is going to be very wet with gusts up to 50kph, we decided to push on today and do Hatton tomorrow.  There are quite a number of boats around, so hopefully we will be able to share the journey.  We are sorry we won't see John, but will arrange to meet up with him and Helen once we are safely back home.  Please feel free to volunteer next time we come this way!!

So off we went, through bridge 41 where there is this mural on the non towpath side - I am not sure why the grim reaper??  From then on it so exceptionally slow going!

The sun was shining as we prepared to leave, so why was the journey so slow?

A boat had passed us shortly before we left, but we caught it up in no time at all - they were going so slowly we were in tick over and even then, Chris had to reverse every now and then to stop hitting them!  At one point she did wave to us to pass, but she kept to the centre line of the canal and there really was nowhere safe to make such a manoeuvre, so we just plodded along behind.  Eventually she did pull over and we went past.  This was just a couple of hundred yards or so before we were going to stop Tesco.  It took us 35 minutes to travel 1 mile!  We have to hope we will not be going all the way up Hatton behind them.

 We travelled across two aqueducts today - first the railway

 then the River Avon

The burning question when you approach Tesco is 'will there be a mooring'?  There was - more space than we have ever seen before.  Tesco's raided, we continued on to the two Cape locks.  There was a boat filling with water and so we were able to share the locks with them.  For the first time for a while we are going downhill  uphill again.

 We moored just below the bottom Cape Lock.  This is a new spot to us and we like it.

The dogs and I walked the three quarters of a mile to Hatton bottom lock.  We have rubbish for the bin that we thought was in the car park opposite lock one.  I put the dogs in a 'sit stay'

and went to investigate.  There is nothing in sight, so maybe it is further up - we will find out tomorrow.  The good news was that there are four boats moored below the flight, but three are not going until Sunday and the fourth is not the boat we were stuck behind this morning.

It is a lot quieter tonight, so it will be an early night and hopefully a fairly early start in the morning to make our way up the Hatton flight to then find somewhere safe to moor to sit out 'Bronagh' on Sunday.

Friday, 21 September 2018

At last we meet! 20 September 2018

Thursday 20th September 2018
Radford Road to Leamington Spa
1.25 miles, 0 locks

Way back on 18th April, fellow bloggers Pip and Mick on nb Oleanna went past Tentatrice as they headed to Tardebigge top lock.  Chris was reversing out of the Crafted Boats yard and I was at home waiting for a taxi to take me back to the boat so we could set off on our summer cruise - so near and yet so far!

We have been aware for a few days that the two boats were not far apart and that we might just be in the same place at the same time.  On Wednesday evening, via our blogs, we discovered we were moored three boats and about 200 yards apart, so a morning meeting was on the cards. The dogs and I went for a rather wet walk.  Pip and Mick arrived whilst I was closeted in the shower - and no they were not unseemly early - I just decided to shower mid morning after the wet walk!  Chris put the kettle on and I joined them pretty promptly despite being a bit damp round the edges.  It was great to see them both and to learn more about Pip's current and past theatrical enterprises.  We both hope all goes well at Chipping Norton for you this year.

The rain stopped and after a quick lunch we set off past Oleanna

Pip and Mick came to say farewell (I was walking the short distance to Leamington whilst Chris followed on behind).  Sorry I got you with your eyes closed Pip!  No sign of Tilly though.  Maybe next time.

I think we intended stopping after bridge 41 in Leamington, but I got confused and we pulled up before it by the water point that was not in service last year, but

is now!  Some negotiations must have taken place between Alumno and C&RT

Someone has tried to cheer this bit of towpath up with a kingfisher mural on the bridge

and a bit of garden running up to the bridge.

The area was quiet and safe enough, we were on rings (with springs at bow and stern), but the buildings seemed to act as a wind tunnel - it was a bit of a rough ride.  We will definitely go the other side of the bridge next time we come this way.