Tuesday 31 August 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 5

We set off pretty early again, at about ten to eight.  A boat had come down the locks last evening, mooring up when it was almost dark, so we wanted to take advantage of the locks being empty.  After we’d gone up six or seven locks, a couple of volunteer lock keepers arrived, and radioed back to their colleagues that we were heading up, so then began opening gates for us so each lock was set.  Once you get to the ‘thick’ of the locks, there are great views down the hill to Warwick Church.

The first boats we met were in the lock by the old buildings.  One of the lock keepers had made them wait for us to come up.

A couple of lockies stayed with us right to the top, so we did the 17 locks in two hours.  We’d wanted to stop for water, but a boat had just arrived on the water point so we carried on.  Shrewley Tunnel was very wet at the far end, but at least it’s quite short.  In fact, even from the bridge before it you can see right through.

It had been a rather grey day so far, but as we crossed the Rowington Embankment the sun made a brief appearance.

We stopped for water at Turner’s Green, and found the tap to be a very fast one.  I also checked down the weed hatch and removed a piece of branch that seemed to have got stuck in there.  As we approached Kingswood Junction, an Anglo Welsh boat was just coming out, and we had a little pause while he got round the corner, before we could make the turn.

Along the Lapworth Link, I dropped Adrian off and he set the lock off to the right.  The gap to the left is the way to go if you want to head down towards Stratford.

A boat was coming down the next lock and left it open for us, but we then found we were following a boat up.  We stopped for a brief lunch break after six locks, where there are decent moorings.  The next few locks are all in a line and very close together, and there’s really not much room to get past downhill boats.

We made good progress up the locks, stopping after Lock 6 (our fifteenth of the Lapworth flight) at about 2.45.  We are meeting Bob and June who used to have Autumn Myst for dinner this evening at The Navigation down near the junction.  

8 miles, 32 locks.  (55 miles, 81 locks)

Monday 30 August 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 4

We still seem to be in the habit of waking up early, so this morning we got up and as it was Bank Holiday Monday, we had a cooked breakfast.  It was still only 7.30 when we untied and set off.  The first locks of the day were the staircase pair at Bascote.

I walked all the way from Bascote to Radford Bottom Lock, and on the way I spotted huge earth works for HS2.  This stretch of the Grand Union is very peaceful at the moment, but it won’t be once trains are zooming over.  A local man out walking his dogs suggested that people living there are very unhappy about it.

We moored up in Leamington Spa, just beyond the big mural of the cat and mouse.

I popped to the nearby Co-op for a few things, and then my colleague Judith and her family came to see us.  They have just moved from London to Leamington; they brought enormous cakes from a nearby shop with them, and we had a lovely time enjoying the cakes and catching up.  We then took them for a little ride on board, before dropping them off to walk back to their car.

At Cape Locks we were joined by one of the Navy boats from Calcutt.  They were planning to go up Hatton as well, and as it was only 2.30 we decided we’d join them for a few locks — we’d been thinking of continuing for a little bit anyway.  We stopped four locks up the flight, in a spot we stayed once on Debdale many years ago.

11 miles, 16 locks.  (47 miles, 49 locks)

Sunday 29 August 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 3

We had a nice evening with Catherine and co, and the moorings at the top of Braunston are very quiet, although boats kept coming past until about 8pm.  This morning it was a little bit Misty to start, and just as we were about to set off a boat came through the tunnel.  We paired up with them for the locks, much to the dismay of another boat moored there, who were also preparing to set off.  By the time we got to the lock by the Nelson we began to meet boats coming up.

We completed the six locks in under an hour, even including having to re-tie a boat from outside the boat yard whose stern rope had frayed right through and was across the canal.  We saw a boat test boat, Momentous, going the other way.  Adrian jumped off at Butcher’s Bridge to walk up to the village butcher, while I carried on to the water point by the Stop House to fill the tank, get rid of rubbish, and start a load of washing.  By the time we were setting off again and turning left at the junction, the sun was out.

The shared Oxford/Grand Union section was very busy, both with boats moving and boats moored.  One of them was Erin Mae.  We turned right at Napton Junction and a couple of boats were coming out of the top Calcutt Lock so we could go straight in.  We knew there were two boats behind us, so waited.  The first moored up but the second joined us in the lock.  It turned out to be Braidbar no 91, a 51ft 6in boat which was repainted last year.  We met boats coming up at each lock, so we flew down.  The other boat was returning to Ventnor Marina, but we carried on.  We had lunch on the move, then set off down the Stockton Locks, where a couple of boats were just coming out the top lock.  I’ve always liked the Stockton flight, and although it had clouded over it was still very pleasant.

We were following a boat down, but also met boats coming up, so progress was pretty quick.  We caught up with the boat in front at Itchington Bottom Lock.  We tied up for the night on the rings just beyond Long Itchington, having done seven hours of boating.

11 miles, 19 locks.  (36 miles, 33 locks)

Saturday 28 August 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 2

We set off at 7.45, on a rather chilly morning.  First stop was Rugby Boats just after they opened at 9.30 where we took on 90 litres of diesel.  We plodded on to the bottom of the locks, at one point being in a convoy of five boats.  Catherine, Nigel, and Matthew were at the bottom lock to help; Grace had opted to carry on with her Saturday activities at a stables.  One boat was going up the lock on its own and another was waiting, so we went up with them, and they then joined the boat ahead.  One of a two coming up behind then joined us.

The two ahead were both Gayton hire boats, and Catherine accompanied them up to make sure they got on ok, as there were a number of first-timers.  We met plenty of boats coming down, and eventually got to the top.  We turned the corner at the junction towards Braunston, and moored up for lunch, cooked by Adrian. Setting off again we went through the tunnel, behind a rather slow boat.  It was an eventful passage, with at least six boats passed.  One of them was a cruiser, which gave the boat ahead a real thump and then ended up across the tunnel.  He also whacked us.  Later the boat behind told us that they’d hit him sideways on, and feared they’d sink him!

We decided to moor at the top of the locks.  I walked down to the marina with Catherine who needed to pick up Grace.  The locks were chaos with loads of boats coming up.  Some pounds had four boats waiting.  Braunston itself was rammed, with no mooring spaces.  Nigel and Matthew had stayed with the boat, and Catherine is coming back in a bit with fish and chips.  There is very little mobile signal so I will add photos tomorrow.

14 miles, 7 locks.  (25 miles, 14 locks)

Friday 27 August 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 1

We were both up before the crack of dawn this morning, and drove up to Guildford where I met up with a taxi to take me to work, and Adrian continued to Bicester for shopping and then to the boat to unpack. After work, I got a train to Wolverton where Adrian picked me up.  We pulled out of our berth at around 11.30, and turned north towards Stoke Bruerne.  We saw a few boats coming the other way.  When we got to the locks, a boat was going up the bottom lock and said they’d wait for us at the second one; a boat was just coming down that one, so our new companions had a little wait for us to join them.  When we paired up, we made really good progress.

There was a little dog called Bill from the other boat, who was clearly in charge of lock operation.  He would run across all newly closed lock gates to make sure they’d been done properly.

We met boats coming down at the penultimate and top locks.  As we rose in the top lock I knocked on Kathryn’s door to see how she was after falling down the stairs the other week and ending up in hospital.  The other boat let us go through the tunnel first because of their rather smokey engine, and we carried on to a spot we’ve moored before just before New Banbury Lane Bridge.

11 miles, 7 locks.

Sunday 22 August 2021

Crick Show: Day 3

We didn’t actually feel the need to go back to the show today, so after a reasonably relaxed start we headed back to the marina.

We packed and drove home — and will be back at the end of the week. 

1 mile, 0 locks. (2 miles, 0 locks)

Saturday 21 August 2021

Crick Boat Show: Day 2

I was up fairly early, and drove up to Crick arriving before 9.  My press pass got me in then, before the gates opened at 10 — and I met up with Andy the photographer.  We were able to look at a few boats before the crowds arrived.  With there being far fewer boats on show this year, we we all done by about 1.30, even allowing for a tea break and a pizza for lunch, so I headed back to Briar Rose.  It was raining, but not too heavily, so we left the marina and headed down to Cosgrove, turning round above the lock and mooring in the village — just so we had a better view.

I began writing up the mini boat reviews, then when the rain had stopped we went for a walk down past the lock to the aqueduct and beyond.

There will be more writing later, in an effort to get the whole thing done as soon as possible.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Friday 20 August 2021

Crick Boat Show: Day 1

Logistical planning meant we had the car, loaded with stuff, in London this morning — so that after work we could drive up to the Crick Boat Show.  The show is much smaller than usual, with under half the number of show boats, and a reduced footprint for the whole site.  However, it was pretty busy; arriving late meant we were in a fairly distant car park, and the number of people about was bigger than I’d expected.  Lots of the boats had queues of people waiting.

We looked round the show (which didn’t take long) and spoke to quite a few people including the owners of Momentous, which was a boat test boat about a year ago.  After lunch, I contacted the owners of Provincetown, which is moored at Crick, Stu and Peter, who post on Instagram.  We met in the beer tent, and ended up spending several hours chatting together (and those who weren’t driving got through a number of bottles of wine).  We decided to eat before leaving the show, then drove down to our marina, stopping in Towcester for a few bits of shopping on the way.

Sunday 15 August 2021

Stoke Bruerne and back

It was pretty murky outside when we got up, and shortly after we left at 8.30 there was a brief rain shower. An hour later we arrived at the bottom of Stoke Bruerne locks, I winded in the arm there and we moored up. We walked up the locks and along to the tunnel to see what was going on. The cygnets in the swan family up the locks are now huge.

By the time we got back to the boat the sun had come out and the temperature has risen.  We set off about 10.30 heading for our marina. There were plenty of boats moving, but fortunately we met them all either just before or just after bridges, rather than actually in the bridge holes. At Bridge 56 we were being watched.

There was a strong breeze down the marina after we turned in, so I left the swing round to reverse into the berth a little later than usual, hoping the wind would help me line up. I wasn’t that pleased with the turn, but the man next door seemed impressed enough. We had lunch, packed up, and headed home. We’ll be back next weekend for the Crick Boat Show.

7 miles, 0 locks. (10 miles, 0 locks)

Saturday 14 August 2021

Mercia, Great Haywood, and Grafton Regis.

We left the boat at 8am and walked the mile back to the marina and the car — then drove up to Mercia Marina where I was doing a boat test.  We were lucky with the weather, because it was sunny for the first part of our trip on the boat but then clouded over.  We had lunch at the cafe with the boat owner, whom we’ve known for a long time.  We started sitting outside but moved inside when it began to rain.

After lunch we said our goodbyes and drove the half hour to Great Haywood.  We knew Helen and Andy on the Jam Butty were trading there, and as we were relatively close and haven’t seen them for ages, we decided to drop in on them.  We had a very pleasant hour with tea and cake on the back of the boat, while a steady stream of customers bought jam and chutney.

We drove back to our marina and walked the mile back to the boat.  It was 6pm, which is not a time we normally set off, but we decided to move for a change of scenery.  I was aiming for somewhere around Grafton Regis, and much to my surprise, some of the prime spots opposite the Manor House with the lovely open towpath-side views were free, so I pulled in and moored up.

2 miles, 0 locks.  (3 miles, 0 locks)

Friday 13 August 2021

Fastest ever exit

I have a boat test to do tomorrow, so we came up to Briar Rose this afternoon.  The journey was slower than usual, but not as bad as Google Maps had suggested when we set off.  It was around 6.30 when we arrived at the marina, and within minutes we were untied and setting off.  Adrian reckons it was certainly among our fastest exits from the marina, if not the fastest.  There was a stiff breeze, but we turned left and headed for a mile down the cut, in nice sunshine.

We moored in the same spot I used last month, but facing the other way.  I’ve lined up the dinette window with the gap in the hedge.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Grà on test

The September Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Grà by Finesse Boats. It will be their Crick Boat Show exhibit. 

Monday 2 August 2021


On Friday, I walked from work to Islington to pay a visit to Pip and Mick on Oleanna — an Tilly the cat, obviously. We had a good catch up over tea. 

I walked from there to Waterloo, crossing Blackfriars Bridge — which is not normally a route I take, so there was an unusual view up the Thames.