After a week in Saltisford it was time to leave. The weather had changed for the better yesterday and we had enjoyed a sunny afternoon in Warwick as a result. Saturday dawned with a bright blue sky and after a quick trip to Sainsbury’s we paid our dues to Ian and set off on our return journey. It wasn’t quite as simple as all that, Ian had disappeared with the hirers of ‘Saltie II’ which belongs to the Saltisford Canal Trust so we waited outside the office until he returned. While we waited we spoke to Ken and Fiona who were just off on their boat ‘Aileen Rose’. A few minutes later Ian returned and we settled up with him, a lovely bloke dedicated to the arm and a credit to the charity. We returned to Phoenix III and had a brief conversation with the couple on nb Oakdale, the boat that we had been tied to since Sunday. They told us that they lived in Bristol and were taking Oakdale to Braunston to be blacked the following week. Sadly they are giving up boating and plan to sell the boat in September so we wish them well in whatever they do.
We set off and with some sadness left the Saltisford arm before turning right on to the Grand Union canal. When we reached the Cape locks we caught up with Ken and Fiona and quickly dropped through into the pound that would take us through Warwick and Leamington before we started the climb out of the Leam and Avon valley.
We enjoyed our trip on the sunny Saturday morning and when we eventually caught up with Saltie II, the crew pulled over and let us pass. Soon enough we were behind another narrowboat and we expected that they would be our companions as we started our climb from Radford to Long Itchington. In the end it didn’t work out like that because they caught up with another boat at Radford bottom lock and by the time they had gone through and another one had come down, Aileen Rose with Ken and Fiona on board had arrived behind us.
We spent the rest of the afternoon climbing our way out of the valley in the company of two lovely, friendly and very experienced boaters and that made the day very easy and enjoyable. We passed our lock mates between Bascote and Long Itchington where they tied up before we ourselves moored just beyond the Two Boats pub. After a sandwich and a drink we walked to the Co-op in the village before returning to the boat. We soaked up the last few of the sun’s rays and then retreated to the inside of Phoenix III where we devoured another of Susan’s delicious meals, this time an amazingly tasty piece of roast pork with accompanying veg.
We arrived at Braunston on Friday afternoon knowing that the weather would prevent us leaving the marina until Saturday morning. We weren’t wrong and so we spent a relaxing evening on board while the wind and rain lashed the outside of the boat.
Saturday morning brought the promise of a beautiful day and so we got out of bed just after eight and did our chores before we set off an hour later. We chugged out of the marina and made our way slowly towards Braunston turn in the morning sunshine. Once we had rounded the bend at the junction, Sue toasted some crumpets and we had breakfast on the go. We pootled along until we reached Wigram’s turn where veered to the right and headed for the three locks at Calcutt. We thought that we would be travelling with a hire boat moored at the top lock but they were taking on water and so we entered the first lock alone. Our lone locking carried on but with a number of boats climbing up the flight our passage down was swift and easy. We enjoyed a glass of wine at midday as we made our way from Calcutt locks to those at Stockton. We did the first lock on our own but then caught up with another narrowboat whose crew had waited for us in the second lock. We benefitted from the kindness of their friends who were in front and had set some of the locks in our favour with the result that we were very quickly down and through the eight locks above the Blue Lias pub. We decided to make a stop there for lunch and while we were chatting about our stop I hit the bridge! There is no excuse, I just wasn’t paying attention and although this is a particularly low bridge, it was my fault completely. Fortunately the fairlead on the port side bore the brunt of the collision so at least the paintwork escaped damage. Of course these sort of things only happen when there is an audience and today was no exception, the garden of the Blue Lias was full of customers and as a result I got a round of applause and one or two comments from the pub patrons. It didn’t put us off and within a few minutes we were tied up and sitting in the garden with a drink and a sandwich as we enjoyed a break in the afternoon sun.
Refreshed and re-energised we set off and dropped through the two locks to Long Itchington. As we passed a line of moored boats, we were advised by someone who had been tied up at the pub to “watch out for bridges”, there’s always a smartarse somewhere!
We partnered up with a lone locker through the remaining locks down to the Fosse lock but we were entertained along the way by a Canal club hire boat whose crew wanted to turn before the Bascote staircase lock. Unfortunately the canal is not wide enough at that point to turn a 55’ boat so they had to drop through the staircase before turning around with some difficulty and a great deal of help from our lock partner. Leaving the hire boat behind, we made our way gently to our mooring just above Fosse lock, our lock partner moors below the lock so as I tied Phoenix III to the bank, Sue assisted him through his final lock.
So after 19 locks and umpteen miles in just over eight hours we were moored up for the evening. We had an hour out on the back deck with a drink before retreating to the cabin where we had our evening meal. All that was left to do was to flop into our chairs and contemplate the rest of our journey down to Warwick and hopefully a mooring in the Saltisford arm.