Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Going West: Day 2

We've had a really good day of boating today. We set off in rather cool conditions at 8am, and arrived at the foot of the Hatton locks less than half an hour later. There was no-one else around, so we set off, having to turn the first few locks. Then we caught up with a little trail boat, who waited for us at the next lock so we could share.

A couple of locks later we caught up with anothe boat, which was also short, so I suggested we tried three boats in the lock. It worked well. Between locks, the steel boats went side by side into the next one, with the plastic boat coming in last.

At a few locks we met boats coming down, which often meant quite a lot of boats in small pounds. All the crews got on very well, including Smuggler the dog.

I worked the first half of the flight, then we swapped over -- mostly because Adrian had a call to make, and it was easier on the bank than on the boat. We saw a number of volunteer lock keepers, but none of them did much to help. A couple said they'd set a few locks ahead, but did just one before vanishing. Then another suggested we were doing it wrong, but Adrian assured him we knew what we were doing, and he disappeared.

We were at the top at around noon, and we stopped on the water point, as we haven't filled up since before our August weekend. We started a wash load at the same time, and Adrian walked down to the cafe for some slices of cake for later. We also made lunch. Once the tank was full we set off again. There was a brief rain shower, but I got much wetter in Shrewley Tunnel -- the one that has a horse tunnel alongside at the northern end.

We continued to Kingswood Junction, and moored up just before the junction bridge. Adrian had more work to do and calls to make, so as we're going north on the Stratford Canal tomorrow, I walked the two miles south to Lowsonford to see the Anthony Gormley statue by Lock 31, opposite the Landmark Trust barrel roofed cottage. I thought it looked great.

On the way back I picked a few blackberries. I had nothing to put them in so hand to hold them in my hands all the way back. Halfway, I realised blackberry juice was dripping down me -- it looked as though I'd hacked someone to death!

8 miles, 21 locks. (21 miles, 43 locks)



Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Going West: Day 1

We're off! But yesterday, Adrian spent mostly working, sometimes in his company's office in Warwick. He also paid our bill at Calcutt Marina, which we'd happily use again. When I'd finished work, I drove up the M1 and we were both on board around midnight.

It rained in the night, and again at breakfast time. When we were ready to set off, the first problem was getting out of the mooring. Calcutt's visitor moorings are just a space, with everyone rafted up -- and we were in the middle.

One of the wharf guys came to help us. He moved a boat moored on the other side, we untied the various centre lines keeping the raft together, and we edged forward. The wharf guy then took our bow rope and pulled us round, while I pushed the boats outside us over a bit. By about 8.45 we were free, and leaving the marina.

When we got to Stockton Locks about half an hour later, two boats were just going down. But there was a single boat ahead of them who was also single handed. So the Kate hire boat with plenty of crew joined up with him, and the other boat waited for us. Ginger Bear turned out to be excellent locking partners, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time sharing with them. We met quite a few boats coming up, which was good because we'd certainly have kept catching up with the pair in front otherwise.

We last did this section four years ago, but as Debdale used to be based at Stockton Top, it feels a bit like coming home. As the morning wore on the weather improved considerably, meaning we went from waterproofs, to fleeces, to T-shirts. At the Bascote staircase pair, we caught up with the boats in front, but at least it meant the bottom chamber was empty. There's a wasps nest in the side paddle gear, with warning signs alongside.

We carried on through several more locks, until Ginger Bear stopped at Fosse Wharf. Some of the pounds along this stretch were very low, making for slow going. Last downhill lock of the day was Radford Bottom, preceded by a high old railway bridge.

Below the lock we passed Valerie moored up, and had a quick chat with Jaq. Les was away having a scan -- we hope it produces good news. It was 2pm by then, so we had lunch on the move. The section through Leamington Spa isn't very interesting, apart from aqueducts over the railway and the River Avon -- Warwick Castle is about a mile and a half further down.

At the blind bridge near the Warwick Tesco, the was a small incident. I was virtually through the bridge, but an Ashby hire boat was coming the other way. We were both going slowly, and if he'd just carried on with his course, we'd have danced round each other perfectly. Unfortunately he instead went hard astern, meaning he slewed across my bows, and reversed into the towpath quite hard. This left me with nowhere to go -- but we didn't actually touch each other.

Shortly afterwards, the sky on one side was blue and sunny, but the other side was dark and threatening. It began to rain a little while later, but not as hard as I'd feared.

We went up the two Cape Lock in light rain (another Kate hire boat ahead apparently didn't see us coming up the bottom lock), and we moored at the top. Then the sun came back out. We were tied by 4.30 -- so quite a long day. But as this section is very familiar, our thinking is to put some extra hours in now, so we have more time on the parts which are new to us.

13 miles, 22 locks.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Stocking up

Adrian went shopping today, to stock up.  We will be setting off soon, honestly!  (These posts are really just so my record of nights spent on board is correct).

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Towel rail

I have to work all weekend, but Adrian went up to the boat today -- taking much much longer than usual because of all the bank holiday traffic.  While Briar Rose has been at Calcutt, the leaking radiator in the shower room has been changed for a heated towel rail.

Later, Adrian went to a pub at weedon, to meet an old friend.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

One-way weekend: Day 3

A much sunnier morning than forecast greeted us when we woke up. After scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, we set off a bit before 9am -- us on the boat, and Brian and Mike determined to walk the whole way. We pulled in briefly at the Elsan to empty the 'p-can', and then it was on to Braunston Turn, with Adrian acting as lookout. There was nothing coming, so we turned left. Looking back, there's a great view of Braunston church.

One of my favourite bits of canal trivia concerns this section between Braunston and Wigram's, which is shared between the Graund Union and the Oxford. We were heading north on the GU -- but if we'd been on the Oxford, we'd have been going in the same direction but heading south! Anyway, the countryside is lovely, enhanced by the warm sunshine.

After a couple of hours we reached Wigram's Turn, or Napton Junction, and made the right hand turn onto the GU towards Birmingham.

Brian and Mike were waiting for us at Calcutt locks. They'd been there fifteen minutes, so had had time for a coffee from the machine at Calcutt Boats.Two boats had just gone down the top lock, so we and the crew of a Viking Afloat hire boat from Rugby refilled it and then we went down.

By now the middle lock was empty so we waited for a pair of boats who were coming up the bottom lock. At the bottom of the flight, the Viking boat headed off on the Warwickshire Ring, while we turned into Calcutt Marina. Adrian had already been into the office to find out where we should go -- which was at the back of the original marina. I did a nice turn to come along side the boats already there, when the owners of the outside boat asked if we'd mind swapping with them (so they were still on the outside, and not between two boats) as they are there for another few weeks with engine trouble. So we pulled away again, hovered while the other boat was pulled and poled along a bit, and then we slotted into the space.

Once tied up, it didn't take to long to pack up. Then it was in the car back to our own marina for Brian and Mike to collect their car. We thought about having lunch in the newly refurbished Navigation Inn next to the marina. But it was packed; so we stopped at a garden centre in Buckingham on the way home.

We'll be back at Calcutt in a couple of weeks to start the big autumn cruise.

6 miles, 3 locks. (32 miles, 23 locks)

Saturday, 15 August 2015

One-way weekend: Day 2

A much better day weatherwise today -- bright, sunny, and sometimes even warm. We set off at a little after quarter past 8. A little while later, Brian and Mike got off for a walk. They went via the little Tesco's express in Weedon, and caught up with us at Buckby locks. We went up alone, but met boats coming down at every lock.

We stopped for lunch just after Norton Junction. Epiphany was moored there, so I went for a chat with Fiona and John; it was good to see them, if only briefly. The stretch from the junction to Braunston Tunnel always takes longer than I expect. The entrance to the tunnel is very overgrown -- which became particularly obvious as a couple of boats came out as we approached.

We passed two boats on the tunnel, fortunately neither of them at the very uneven sections. We had to turn the top lock, where a volunteer lock keeper was in attendance. A boat which had gone gone before us waited in the third lock. They turned out to be a very nice couple, and the lady steerer and Adrian did some excellent synchronised boating between locks.

At the Admiral Nelson I chatted to a boater and blog reader who'd been perching on the balance beam; at the bottom lock, I popped into the shop for ice creams, and then walked down to see what the mooring situation was like. We squeezed into a space just past the first marina entrance that was about three inches longer than the boat -- but before we'd even finished tying, the people on the Rose hire boat ahead returned and headed off, so we were able to spread out a little. The fuel boat, Southern Cross, is moored just along, so we bought a gas bottle.

13 miles, 13 locks. (26 miles, 20 locks)

Friday, 14 August 2015

One-way weekend: Day 1

We came up to the boat last night; Adrian drove up after work, and then met my train at Wolverton at 11.30pm. This morning began with a car shuffle. I drove to our destination for the weekend, and met our friends Brian and Mike there. We drove back to the marina, getting back at a little after 9am.
At around 9.30, our neighbouring boat reversed out of their berth and we followed. It was distinctly murky.

The trip to the bottom of Stoke Bruerne locks took the usual hour and a half. We shared the bottom lock with our neighbour, but a single boat ahead waited for them in the next lock so we were on our own. I feared this would mean a slow ascent, but there were boats coming down (all singly) which helped. Plus, of course, we had crew which meant Adrian could go ahead to the next lock.

At the top, Adrian knocked on Katharine's door and she came out to say hello. We then moored up for a lunch stop. Setting off again, we entered the tunnel to see a number of headlights coming towards us; in total, we passed five boats in the tunnel -- which came as a bit of a shock, as the last several passages have been completely alone.

We carried on in drizzle, until Bridge 38, just on the approach to Bugbrooke. We've got the Virgin trains for company, but that's true all along here. There's a massive bridge over the railway line, which Brian and I went to have a look at -- and look down on Briar Rose.

13 miles, 7 locks.