Well, we could put it off no longer, it was Saturday morning and we had to tackle the 21 locks from Warwick up to Hatton. It was a grey and misty morning which began with us pulling Caxton back to the water point to top up the tank. As we did so, the boat moored in front of us untied and moved off gently into the gloomy cutting. The boat ahead had just disappeared out of view as we untied and followed them towards the bottom lock. They were already in the lock when we passed under the A46 dual carriageway but they waited for us and we were soon together in the first of the 21 locks that make up the Hatton flight.
NB City Slicker is a 65′ share boat and was crewed by Dennis, the share owner and one of his old service buddies, John. We soon worked out our routine and in the third lock, rafted the boats together.
John went ahead and prepared the locks, Sue and Dennis worked the current lock and I had the easy job of driving the pair up the flight. By the time we were half way up, the sun had burned off the mist and it soon became very warm for the lock wheelers.
Our ascent took three hours which was pretty good for 21 locks and 2 miles I think.
Dennis and John stopped at the top and visited the café while we moved on a bit and moored near Hatton station.
Another peaceful mooring and another solid night’s sleep for us, not bad for an urban location. We set off sometime between 9 and 10, I didn’t really take much notice of the time, and soon arrived at the first of the Cape locks. After a short stop to take on water, we ascended the two locks and found a space on the visitor moorings, just a boat’s length away from the upper water point.
The 48 hour mooring provided us with a good base to explore Warwick, not for the first time of course but it is a lovely town to spend a couple of sunny days in. One of our new ‘finds’ was The Mill Garden where there are unrivalled views of Warwick Castle. The garden is beautiful too of course and there are good views of the river.
I did also manage to find a bit of time each evening to support the local hostelry (The Cape of Good Hope).
The Lucky Fisherman
The weather has continued to bless us with its presence this year. We left our mooring between Bascote and Long Itchington on Saturday morning and made our way to the staircase lock at Bascote where we caught up with nb Tickety who were waiting for a locking partner and that turned out to be us. Our passage down through the staircase and the following two locks was straightforward enough and because we intended to find a mooring soon after, Sue walked from the bottom lock along the towpath. Nb Tickety left the lock first and pulled beyond the lock landing to collect her husband. She avoided the lock landing so that she would not disturb the fisherman who were using it for their pastime! As she waited for her husband to reach their boat, she was rebuked by a fisherman for taking too long. She very politely pointed out that he and his friends shouldn’t really be on the lock landing as it made life difficult for boaters. The fisherman then shouted at her, threw his arms in the air and told her that they, the fishermen, rented the canal and that she was in the wrong. I saw and heard most of the exchange as I exited the lock and the woman didn’t deserve that outburst, she really had spoken quietly, politely and had not done any more than state facts. Why was the fisherman lucky? He was lucky because by now, Sue was about 200 yards along the towpath and completely oblivious to the goings on. Had she been on that lock landing, boy would that fisherman have known all about it!!!
Our mooring for the night was just above the next lock near the Welsh Road Bridge. The afternoon was hot and since there isn’t really anything in the area, we just sat on the front deck and chilled out.
It’s all go at Radford Semele
On Sunday morning we got up and carried on with our slow journey down towards Warwick. After dropping down through the three locks to Fosse wharf, we pulled over and did the services. As we untied, nb Narnia passed us and we joined them in the next lock, working down that and the following two with them. Waving them goodbye at Radford bottom lock, we followed on until we reached Radford Semele where we pulled over and tied up on a nice open mooring. The starboard side of the boat was in the shade so we decided to wash and polish it before relaxing in the cratch for the afternoon. It was lovely, the peace only being broken by the odd cyclist or runner on the towpath and then without warning my elbow was grabbed by a hissing swan which continued to hiss at us until shoed away.
Despite the attack of the aggressive swan, our mooring was in such a nice spot that we decided to stay a few days and use it as a base for going into Leamington. Sorry, Royal Leamington Spa, to give it its full name. Sue had ordered some yarn from The Wool Warehouse so on Monday we walked the mile and a half and collected her latest treasure trove. However, Monday wasn’t as straightforward as we had expected. In the early hours, we had been awoken by the sound of a police helicopter hovering overhead for about half an hour and on Monday morning we saw police officers walking along the towpath. I spoke to a couple of them as I walked to the refuse bins at Radford bottom lock and they told me that they were looking for a 35 year old wearing purple trainers. One of them asked me if it was me, I said that I’d take the 35 year old bit but sadly my trainers were the wrong colour. The police helicopter was overhead again as we returned from the Wool Warehouse but we didn’t see any other police presence. In the early evening we decided to take a walk up to the village of Radford Semele and along the way, encountered a number of members of the Lowland Search & Rescue group. A bit of research later on revealed that the voluntary group assist the police in looking for vulnerable people who have been reported missing. We never did find out exactly who the police were searching for but it seemed pretty clear that it wasn’t a criminal investigation. The walk to Radford isn’t that great, from the road nearest the lock there is no footpath and it was pretty busy with traffic when we walked it. There are some rather large and expensive houses in the village, a pub that we didn’t visit and a restored church with large windows which can be seen from the canal.
The road back down to the canal does have a footpath but the main road has to be crossed to get access to the towpath and even that is a steep and perilous descent. Once back on board we were further entertained by a large fox which was leaping around the field on the other side of the cut.
On Tuesday we took a walk into Leamington where we had coffee followed by lunch, did a bit of shopping and then returned to the boat.
On to Warwick
It was a little overcast on Wednesday when we awoke but after we had set off, the sun broke through and another beautiful day provided the backdrop for the next leg of our journey. This section of the canal winds its way through the edge of Leamington and despite the multitude of mooring opportunities, we saw no boats tied up at all. We stopped for a couple of hours on the pub moorings near Myton road while we went shopping at Morrisons. There is a handy laundry station outside for those boaters without full size washing machines.
Once we had returned to the boat, we set off again and travelled the relatively short distance to the Coventry road moorings opposite Kate Boats in Warwick. I had ordered some bits from Ebay to be delivered to Argos in Sainsbury’s so we walked into town and out the other side, picking up my parcel on the way. Our circular route brought us back along the towpath past the two Cape locks and the Cape of Good Hope pub. It seemed silly to pass it by on such a beautifully sunny afternoon so we had a refreshment stop there before completing our walk and returning to Caxton.
After yesterday’s exertions, we took it easy today moving from our overnight mooring at Upper Cape to Radford Semele. It was half nine before we untied and moved down to the water point above the Cape locks. After topping the water tank up, we dropped through the locks on our own and made our way to Leamington Spa, stopping off at Tesco for some shopping.
Shopping done we set off again looking for a mooring that would allow us to visit Royal Leamington Spa. We tied close to the bridge nearest to the railway station in Leamington and walked into town from there. Sue had identified a couple of fabric shops that she wanted to investigate, one of which is virtually next door to a Wetherspoons. Why aren’t all towns planned like this? She dropped me off at the “man crèche” there and collected me half an hour later.
By the time we got back to Caxton it was four o’clock, we untied and made the short hop to Radford Semele where we have tied up for the night and had one of Sue’s culinary creations, a delicious chicken risotto.
Tomorrow we will start our climb out of the Avon valley (again!) having seen the river once again today as we crossed over it on the aqueduct between Warwick and Leamington.
We weren’t too bothered about an early start today since we wanted a lock buddy to share the Hatton flight with. As we approached Shrewley tunnel we passed nb Robert, part of the Kate Boats hire fleet. The skipper asked us if we were going down the flight and when we told him that we were, he asked if they could join us. Shrewley tunnel is the strange one with the separate horse tunnel above the line of the towpath. Our lock buddy to be was soon behind us and after I had dropped Sue off to prepare the top lock, joined us in the top chamber. Seeing that their boat was almost as long as Caxton (65′ as it turned out), I suggested that we tie the two together and traverse the flight rafted together or “breasted up” as the boatmen might say.
The crew (Mum, Dad, 16 year old son & 20 year old daughter) were a little uncertain at first but agreed to give it a try with me doing the steering. It all went well and we did the flight in 2 hours and 40 minutes (7.6 minutes per lock on average). Sue went ahead setting the locks and warning boats coming up that a pair were on the way down. Dad did a sterling job with the locks as did his daughter, son bailed out half way complaining of dizziness and mum took time out to keep an eye on him. Queen of the Hatton flight, Sue stuck to the task and worked each and every one of the twenty one locks. Once in the bottom lock, we untied the pair before draining the chamber and after exiting the lock together we picked the lock wheelers up on the bottom landings. Steering the pair had been interesting, it took longer to get the boats moving and longer to stop them. Slowing Caxton had the effect of letting Robert move slightly forward and having a small turning effect on the pair for a few seconds. All in all it was a good experience for me and an unexpected end to the hirer’s holiday. It was easier than I thought it would be so maybe I’ll start looking on the Apollo Duck website for a butty boat (if Sue will let me).
We parted ways at the Saltisford arm where we were hoping to stay for a couple of nights. We’ve been here a couple of times before with our last boat, Phoenix III and having spoken to Ian the site manager on Sunday, we expected to be tied to another boat as usual. Jackie came out of the office as we passed and told us that we could tie on to any boat that suited us. The procedure here is to turn in the winding hole and reverse to the moorings but once we had completed the manoeuvre we realised that there were no boats of a similar length to Caxton. This made tying up extremely difficult so we decided to go back out and try our luck on the towpath. We found a mooring just after the Upper Cape road bridge and just behind nb Robert. The boat was locked up so presumably they had all gone for something to eat at the Cape of Good Hope and no doubt junior had made a miraculous recovery!
We walked into town and had something to eat at The Tilted Wig in the market place. We bypassed our usual haunt, the local Wetherspoons, as we fancied a bit of a change but this turned out to be a big mistake. We both ordered the same, hand carved ham, free range eggs and thick cut chips. The ham was fine, no problem with that. The eggs had been seasoned with salt and pepper for some reason and the chips looked like McCain oven chips, not what either of us expected. Unfortunately for me, they were inedible as they were already salted and I never put salt on my food, ever. Some people say that salt brings out the taste of the food, for me it has just made the food taste of salt – yeuch!!
There was further culinary disappointment when Sue spotted a pub restaurant with a sign outside offering coffee and cake for £4.50. By the time we had taken our lives in our hands crossing the busy road, she was already clutching the £4.50 in her right hand. On entering the bar area, Sue asked what sort of cake it was, she smiled when the girl behind the bar told her that it was Coffee and Walnut. The smile evaporated when the girl continued, “But there isn’t any left.”
We didn’t stay, instead returning to our towpath mooring where we saw that nb Robert had moved on, they had to return the boat by 10am the following morning so presumably had decided to move a little closer to the hire base.
We decided to take a walk to the Cape of Good Hope pub where we spent an hour sitting by the canal relaxing after our busy and interesting day.
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.
Amazingly, we have been blessed with our second sunny bank holiday in the space of a month and so we made our way back into Warwick and wandered around the shops again. The weather forecast has now worsened for the coming days so we have had to make a decision on our travel plans. After a fairly short discussion we came to the conclusion that we would stay for the week in Saltisford and then cruise back to Braunston at the weekend when the forecast is set fair again. After returning to our boat we found Ian and confirmed that we could stay until Saturday as well as plugging our shoreline into the mains power supply.
So with our new plan in place we prepared to spend the week in Warwick and as a result there will be no more blog posts until we take Phoenix III back to Braunston.
We left our overnight mooring above the Fosse lock at eight o’clock and with no-one else around, made our way down to Radford Semele. As we skirted around the village we spotted a young deer running quickly across the adjacent field. On reaching the end of the field it jumped into the cut and then tried unsuccessfully to climb out on the towpath side. After a couple of attempts it gave up and managed to clamber up the bank on the off-side before disappearing into the hedgerow at the edge of the field.
We carried on with our cruise in the sunshine through Leamington and around Warwick through the two cape locks and into the Saltisford arm. After checking in with Ian the site manager, we moored alongside nb Oakdale and then walked into Warwick town centre. After a few hours wandering around the market place and enjoying a drink outside the local Wetherspoons, we returned to Phoenix III. We ate our evening meal at one of the site’s picnic tables and then spent the rest of our time sunning ourselves on the front deck until the sun finally disappeared for the night.