A local round trip
16 miles, 20 locks, 2 tunnels
The time had come to escape our lock down at home and spread our wings and see how the solar panels were doing.
So fully stocked up we turned left out of the marina on Tuesday 14th July to find to our delight that the voluntary lock keepers at Hanbury are back on duty, so it was an easy trip up our first 3 locks. For the first time in a number of years we turned right at Hanbury junction heading for Dunhampstead. We have seen this light at Hanbury Wharf before, but have never been aware that it flashes - however trying to actually get a photo with the light on proved impossible!
Our aim was to go through Dunhampstead tunnel
go past the moorings, wind and return to moor overnight. We were delighted to see that there was plenty of space so we could moor with good 'social distancing'.
Wednesday we returned to Hanbury Junction where we went straight on to the Astwood flight of 6 locks and lo and behold the bottom lock was empty all ready for us. Would we be lucky all the way up? As we entered the lock this boat appeared round the corner and held over to the side until we had risen and emerged, so no gate to close and the next lock should be empty.
Not only was it empty but there was a boat that had arrived at the top to come down, they had spotted us and opened the gates before we arrived! Onwards and upwards to our third lock and once again both gates were open waiting for us! The mystery was that there was no sign of a boat coming down - was this a good Samaritan? It turned out to be a young lady who had been out for a run with her dog and was heading back to the top to meet up with her parents who were coming down.
She continued to lock ahead at locks 4 and 5 and as we approached the sixth and last lock her parents were emerging. So 6 locks and I did not have to wind a single paddle on the bottom gates and only had to make one trip round a lock to shut the bottom gates on the last lock! We have never had such an easy ride and I am sure never will again!
Our preferred mooring here is just passed bridge 41 after the last lock. Thursday we headed to the bottom lock at Stoke Prior to ascend, wind and descend before heading back to the Astwood mooring again.
When we arrived at the lock we found the fire brigade in attendance
I checked if we were okay to use the lock and permission was granted - they were just doing some training. Once in the lock I opened just one paddle and whilst Chris and the boat slowly ascended I got rid of our rubbish and 'yellow water', before Chris emerged, winded and re-entered to go back down.
On our way back to the Astwood mooring we stopped at the water point opposite The Boat and Railway to top up the water tank. How is this for a great 'duck feeding station'? They were doing good business!
Back to one of what is becoming a favourite local mooring
Friday we were off down the Astwood flight back to Dunhampstead. We passed one boat on the flight, but there was one ahead of us going down, so we only had one lock in our favour and no help. The advantage of going 'solo' is that it gives you more time to stop and appreciate the views
and the garden at the cottage at lock 18
We arrived at Dunhampstead and moored before winding this time as that means the side hatch is away from the towpath - it was hot enough to need it open. There was just one boat on a long line of mooring, so we left a good three boat lengths space before we moored. Another boat joined us and left a boat space between us and them. Shortly afterwards another one arrived, now bear in mind that there was this space in front of us
why (at any time, never mind in the current situation) would you squeeze into the space behind us with even less space between their bow and the next boat?
Saturday we just headed back to the marina and then to home.
Did we enjoy our little cruise? Yes on all counts. It was wonderful to be out on the cut, to just be somewhere different and we will go out again. I think the big difference with any cruising we do this year is that there will be no 'sight seeing'. We will try to keep ourselves to ourselves, try to keep getting Tesco deliveries - I already have our first one booked at Greensforge in August. Slots are easier to find, but they still have to be done in advance, which does mean planning ahead and keeping to a schedule, but so be it. It is certainly better than being confined to home. Tow paths are narrow but all three of us have 'social distancing' off to a fine art - we tuck into the hedge with our backs to the tow path and let others go past us! To be fair it is a manoeuvre that Monty has been doing since he was a young pup whenever we meet up with bikes or runners, so no new training required.
The solar panels amazed us - even without very sunny days we had more power in the morning than we usually do if we have run the engine the evening before. We should have done it years ago!
Monty has remembered all his boating drills:
Supervising the locking procedures to ensure I do it right
Admittedly he does sometimes lie down on the job - note his new 'boat colour' harness!
Where to stand when on the move
|You would not think that Chris has not been to the barber since early February and that I have not trimmed it at all. As for me - well the less said the better - I was definitely staying behind the camera!|
Getting back on a 'moving target' (albeit a very slow one!)
To be honest I think he must be so bored with walking round our estate day in and day out that he was probably as relieved as we were to be somewhere different.
We will be back on the cut in August, post haircuts that are due on 29th July!