Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Wind 'She Did Blow'

Wednesday 11th October
Rowington to Catherine de Barnes
8.25 miles, 5 locks

Heavy rain and wind was forecast overnight - if it happened we missed it! The wind was certainly making its presence felt when we set off, but it was, thankfully, dry.  A long straight run first thing to the moorings at Tom O' the Wood with goats across the canal as neighbours.

At the bridge there is a fabulous house with

a very large garden - there is just one major drawback - the incessant roar of the M42, which is our main reason for not mooring here.

 At Kingswood Junction a decision has to be made

We were coming from Warwick, so it is left to Lapworth and the Stratford Canal, or straight on to Birmingham.  We chose the latter and were on new water to Tentatrice.  We came this way on our very first hire boat trip back in the 1980's.

 We just went to Knowle locks, had a look, turned round and headed back to Wootton Wawen.  This time we were going up the locks.

 There are just five, but they are big and heavy.

Spotted in the distance was a man in a red life jacket - a volunteer lock keeper - the first one we have seen in weeks.  As we approached he left his paint pot (below the W)

and went to get the second lock ready for us.

His help was invaluable - I worked the first lock and then just opened up the bottom gates on the other four whilst the VLK worked the top paddles and gates.  He left us to do the fifth lock, but we whipped through a lot quicker than we had expected.  Neither of us noticed his name, but his help was really appreciated.

The locks are well tended

The views far reaching

The VLK informed Chris that this is known as 'Windy Hill'!

It was a very windy day and being so open and exposed it is well named!

As we emerged from the last lock we had to moor up to use the services

It took us almost 15 minutes and a lot of effort as the wind was blowing us out away from the side all the time.

The flag is rarely horizontal!  My hands and arms knew all about it when we finally managed to tie up.

Onwards we went to new water for us as well as the boat and a surprisingly pretty part of the canal.

And here is that thunderous motorway we have been stalking using all available cover

We finally moored at Catherine de Barnes ready for the long haul into Birmingham tomorrow.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Where Have All The Boats Gone?

Tuesday 10th October
Saltisford to between bridges 62 and 61 on the Grand Union Canal
5.5 miles, 21 locks

A short time ago we received a very welcome email from friends we have not seen in around 20 years - they are the parents of a school friend of our daughter.  The email offer was 'we only live 10 minutes from Hatton - would you like some help with the locks?  That is the sort of offer that is impossible to refuse!

The plan was we would set off from Saltisford, they would park near lock 41 and walk down to meet us.  We were in the third lock when they arrived and John was soon set to work.

Helen's job was to keep Chris company.

 About a third of the way up the flight I dived through the hedge to get a paper at the garage.  Parked there was this huge low loader - a customer informed the shop staff he had bent one their bollards - more eagle eyed than me.

  I was too busy admiring the sign on the back of the cab

 Onwards and upwards we went - all on our lonesome.  There were no boats moving either way.

 At lock 36 which was our 11th lock and therefore slightly over half way we stopped for a much needed cuppa and snack before tackling this daunting sight

Lo and behold there in number 37 was a boat! Thankfully they did not arrive until we were fully refreshed.  Out they came, and Chris progressed forward heading for the towpath expecting the boat to turn right to pass port to port as is the norm, however......

for some reason the boat went left!  They missed each other, so no damage done.

  From lock 42 looking back down the hill to Warwick

 Past the C&RT offices where the towpath changes sides - just four more to go and we were done.

Lock 43 was full with a boat coming down in 44, so we held off and waited

A more traditional pass this time, but only the second boat moving in a flight of 21 - as the title says 'where have all the boats gone'?  Home for the winter we assume.

A transport trust red heritage plaque is near the top

Then past the café and through the last lock.  Job done!  We moored at the top and went to the café for a very tasty lunch and a chance to chat properly - well for John and I, as Helen and Chris had already spanned the 20 years and put the world to rights.   Time came to say farewell with the promise we would not leave it another 20 years as that is potentially a bit too long for us all to wait!!

At the top was this very late family of tiny ducklings.  I fear they will not make it through the winter.

We then moved out to one of our favourite moorings

with fantastic views from the side hatch.  We stopped here on our way down in August, but this time we are the sole boat.  Bliss.

Not only were the locks easier with the extra pair of hands, but locks always go quicker when there is someone to chat to.  Thank you both.  It was really good to catch up after all these years.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

How Would You 'Waste Time'?

Sunday 8th October 2017
Leamington Spa to the Saltisford Arm
3.25 miles, 2 locks

Just a short trip on a day that dawned dry and bright and ended up very pleasantly warm.  The first task after setting off was to try and discover what the red round thing was that had been bobbing about near the boat since we arrived a couple of days ago.  Chris edged the bow slowly forward and I was then able to lean over and grab it with the boat hook.  It took a few attempts, but I was eventually successful and it did turn out as we had expected it to -

nothing more exciting than a mop handle.  I wonder if like Trigger's broom from Only Fools and Horses, someone somewhere has a mop they have owned for 20 years that has had a succession of new heads and handles?  This handle is no longer a threat to navigation and is residing in a refuse bin to end its days in landfill.

Just the 2 Cape locks to do today.  Chris had called ahead to the Saltisford Canal Centre to see if they could accommodate us for a couple of nights - the answer was yes, but could we please arrive after 13:30.  Time had to be 'wasted' en route. Water was taken on board at the water point below the locks, but there was still more time to spare.  What should we do?  Head up the locks was the first thing on the agenda

As Chris was approaching the top lock I had gone ahead to open it for him and sadly I was not quick enough to stop a man who was enjoying a drink at the pub from opening the gate on the far side (we only need one gate open to enter and exit these big locks).  Not wanting to seem ungrateful for his help, I politely said thank you and assumed he would stay and shut it, but no.  Off he went to finish his drink and upped and left leaving me to walk round to close it once Chris was in!  I will keep my eye on gongoozlers in future!

The paddle at the top end was not made any easier to operate as someone had parked their pushchair neatly right under the winding mechanism!  The baby and family were enjoying lunch in the sun on the other side of the canal and if they noticed me moving the pushchair out of the way they were polite enough not to say anything.

So here we were up above the locks and still with time to spare, so what else could we do, but moor up and have a drink!  No contest really!

Suitably refreshed we made our way to the Canal Centre

creeping slowly in past moored boats on either side and a hole where nb Hadar resides, when she is at home.

to a mooring a bit further down than when we were here in August.

The site manager is very welcoming and helped us moor - we were interrupting his painting these new pergolas and very smart they look too.

I think this 'nest' is another new edition.  It is made from plastic tubing and I think it is very effective

but what a sad sign of the times that they have to add a warning notice not to swing on the sculpture!

Monday 9th October 

Another day off – this is becoming a rather good habit!  There were, of course, jobs to be done, but the main task of the day was to walk up the hill to Priory Park – another bit of Monty Heaven.

Up the road past this rather lovely building on your left

and the Methodist Church on the right

with modern, and none the worse for that, stained glass windows

At the top there is a roundabout - turn left and it is not long before you arrive at our destination

Trees abounded which means squirrels - he saw one (or thought he did) in every tree which meant rushing hither and thither in ever decreasing circles


What else does a self respecting dog do on a large expanse of grass but chase his quoit which frequently ends up apparently stuck on the back of his head - not so - he is a past master at removing it with his front paws.

It is a great open space and worth a visit even if you don't have a dog to walk.

The autumn colours are becoming more and more apparent