Monthly Archives: August 2015
With high winds and rain forecast for Sunday, we decided that we would end our trip on a high note and travel home today. We set off at seven, seeing nothing else on the move until we reached Sutton’s Stop. The early grey cloud had given way to blue skies by the time we had negotiated the stop lock and the 180 degree turn on to the Coventry canal. The temperature was rising quickly by the time we reached Marston junction and we completed the last two hours of our journey in perfect summer conditions, a perfect end to our holiday.
We got to the marina, dumped the unmentionables, packed a couple of bags and then simply walked home.
We’ve done 168 locks and covered 208 miles in the last three weeks in the space of about 120 hours (about 3 lock miles per hour). The weather has been good with only two days of rain and we sat both of those out in Tewkesbury and Stratford, other than that only two five minute showers while travelling. We found moorings in every place that we had hoped for and explored towns and waterways for the first time. To that end, we can only conclude that we had a successful trip!
Of course we’re now down to the last few days of our holiday and back on very familiar territory so we got up when we awoke at six, got ourselves organised and set off forty minutes later. With two hours between us and the locks at Hillmorton, I steered while Sue got on with some chores. When we reached Hillmorton we saw that there were two lock keepers on duty and that meant that we were out the other end of the flight in about 25 minutes. There were now a lot of boats on the move, mainly narrowboats and then a cruiser came into view, it was Stormin Norman who we hadn’t seen since we parted company on the Staffs & Worcs a couple of weeks ago. We had a laugh and a joke with them as we passed each other again.
We pulled over to take on water at Rugby next to the new retail park, only to discover that the tap is out of order while construction work is being carried out. Shortly afterwards we met another acquaintance, the river Avon, as we passed over it for the last time. Having travelled on it from Tewkesbury to Stratford and then crossed it again near Warwick, it seemed strange to see it below us again near Rugby. So it was on to Newbold on Avon where we filled with enough water to see us through to the end of our holiday.
With boat traffic having eased off, the trip became very easy through these familiar waters and by two o’clock we had reached Ansty where we moored for the night. A phone call to the Rose & Castle secured us a table for our evening meal.
The rings at Ansty aren’t quite spaced right for us so I hammered a couple of pins in at the back and put a spring in the stern line. This next bit is specifically for Steve (nbAmyjo). The picture below shows two hammers. The one on the left is what most boats carry to bang in mooring pins, the one on the right is one that I found in a container sent from Costa Rica. The one on the left makes the sound “dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink” as it hammers a pin into the ground. The one on the right goes, “dink, dink, dooff, dooff” and that’s all it takes, it is made from a piece of steel pipe welded to the head from a sledge hammer after all!
Rain continued throughout yesterday evening so we didn’t venture out and assumed that Mikron’s performance would have been cancelled.
The early morning sunshine encouraged us to get up and get going, tackling the final thirteen broad locks of our trip. Like the day before, we were unaccompanied for the first couple of locks. While in the third lock, we saw a lady with a windlass and two dogs. When I asked if she was coming up the flight, she said that she was but that they had paired with another boat. By the time we reached the next, she ran up and told us that a third boat had arrived so if we would wait, she and her husband would join us and leave the other two as a pair. We agreed but this turned out to be a mistake on our part. Their method of working was to use one gate only with the first boat into the lock then shuffling over behind the closed gate. In my mind, this doesn’t save any time or effort at all but nevertheless Sue drove into the next lock and started the manoeuvre. It takes a bit of doing in the limited space with Caxton being sixty eight feet long but the impatient steerer of the other boat thought that he could still get into the gap. As a result we gained some of his blacking at the expense of some of our paint from the counter of Caxton. He apologised but the damage was done. At the next lock, his wife who had gone ahead, opened both gates. Sue drove in first and I closed the gate behind her but the fool on the other boat then managed to hit the other (open) gate; thankfully no impact on Caxton this time. Under other circumstances I would have pulled over and let them rush haphazardly through the remaining locks. However the pounds are short here and with boats coming down as well as coming up behind us, this wasn’t a realistic option. Sue and I swapped places for the remaining locks and at the top we let the other boat get on its way while we closed the gates behind us.
As we approached the bridge by The Boat Inn just a few minutes later, a Rose narrowboat pulled away from the bank. In his desparation to get out in front of us, the steerer had forgotten to fit his tiller so there was a mad scramble as the crew struggled to the boat under control before they reached the bridge. A few minutes later we saw and heard the tell-tale signs of a steam engined boat up ahead. The smoke and steam had engulfed the boat that we had shared the locks with but we knew that it was in that cloud somewhere – not that we laughed of course! A mile or so later, we saw that our lock buddies had pulled over and as we passed them, they told me that the smoke had filled their cabin so they were waiting for ten minutes to let the steamer get through the Calcutt locks. The Rose narrowboat which had been so keen to get underway just twenty minutes earlier pulled over and moored up just a few minutes later even though the steamboat was by now, nowhere in sight. It was just exiting the bottom lock as we arrived but wasn’t throwing out much smoke that we could see. With boats coming down, it didn’t take long to get up through the short flight.
We turned left at Wigram’s turn and became part of a convoy heading towards Braunston at the same time as an equally long convoy of boats headed in the opposite direction. At Braunston turn, we went left while most others turned right and once we had passed the usual long line of boats on the visitor moorings, we found a peaceful place to tie up for the day between Braunston and Willoughby.
We settled in the cratch for the afternoon, relaxing in the sunshine and watching the steady stream of boats go by. We now need to plan the final part of the trip and avoid the wet weekend weather that has been forecast.
This morning’s sunrise was as beautiful as last night’s sunset but with rain forecast for the afternoon, we were up and about for seven o’clock. We waited at Radford bottom lock and again at Fosse wharf while we emptied the cassettes but no boats appeared so we resigned ourselves to working up through them on our own. In fact we only saw a couple of boats travelling in the opposite direction but this meant that out of the ten locks that we did today, only one was set against us.
Although double width, all of these locks are easy to do for a single boat. One gate in, one gate out and as long as you remember to open just the paddle on the same side as the boat, the flow will hold the boat on the lock wall. We soon got into a routine as I locked and Sue steered in the warm sunshine. When we reached Bascote staircase lock, a single boat was waiting at the top. The procedure here is simply to make sure that the bottom chamber is empty and the top full, regardless of the direction of travel. With one boat at the top and one at the bottom, it made sense for us both to go in and cross over in the middle when the levels were equal. It all worked out nice and efficiently with Sue picking me up on the lock tail after all the gates were closed and the paddles were down.
We arrived at Long Itchington just before eleven and tied up below the first of tomorrow’s locks. Sue finished off attending to a ham that she had been roasting in the oven as we travelled along while I took a shower and then we walked into the village. As usual, our destination for lunch was The Buck & Bell and as usual the food was amazingly good.
The skies were darkening as we returned to the canalside but the rain didn’t start until just after three o’clock, by which time we were safely under cover in the cratch.
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.
Yesterday evening after dinner we took a walk along the river bank to the bridge, crossed it and walked along the other side, past the theatre and stopped at The Dirty Duck for a drink. A fellow patron turned out to be the actor, Charles Dance.
This morning brought some welcome blue skies and although we were in two minds as to whether we should stay another day, decided to move off the river and start our climb out of the Avon valley. After making a short stop for water, Sue walked off to set the lock that would lift us off the river and into Bancroft Basin while I picked my way through some early morning rowers. As soon as we reached the first lock after the basin, we realised that we were probably following another boat meaning that until we met someone coming down, we would have to drain every chamber before we could enter it. After five locks we caught the boat in front who had stopped to dump his rubbish, we wanted to do the same so Sue hopped off at the bridge with the bin bags. As I started to draw level with the aforementioned boat’s skipper (Derek as we later found out) asked if he could could go ahead as his friend had gone ahead to set the next lock. I wasn’t happy about the request but figured that with so many locks it didn’t make much difference and that I didn’t want to be hounded by an impatient boater. Sue had other ideas and told Derek as he passed that if she had been driving Caxton, she would not have let him pass.
When we reached the next lock, Derek was holding his boat on the bank and offered to let us go first but explained that he was travelling with another. We insisted that he should carry on and that we would follow him. Sue then walked up to the lock with him, they had a conversation, “hugged it out” and made friends. While this was going on, another narrowboat, “James Arthur” appeared behind us. Anyway, over the next couple of hours we all helped each other up through the locks in the sunshine. By the time we reached Wootton Wawen, Derek was on the bank waving frantically to indicate that there was a space big enough for us. As it turned out it was a little short but the crew of the boat in front of him and just behind us were on a lunch stop and about to move off so within a few minutes we were tied to the bank thanks to Sue and her new best friend Derek.
We took a walk to the local farm shop and craft centre where we bumped into, of all people, Kerry Katona! We’ve no idea why she should be there but Sue went to speak to her and of course gave her a hug. She was really nice, friendly and down to earth, a lovely girl despite what the media sometimes report.
We ended the afternoon with tuna steaks, dauphinois potatoes and mixed vegetables for dinner.
17 locks in about 6 miles today, below is tonight’s mooring.
We were last in Stratford (by boat) in June 2012 and the similarities in the weather are astounding, maybe it’s just that type of place! June 2012 Blog
The rain battered down between 1am and 2am but otherwise we had a peaceful night on our riverside mooring. It was nine o’clock by the time we got up, showered and dressed; Sue did some boat tidying and I made yet another attempt to sort out my laptop which had been messed up with the windows 10 upgrade. We were both successful in our tasks so just after midday when the rain had eased, we walked into town. I still needed to run some windows updates but was concerned about the amount of mobile data their downloading would use up. Sue suggested that I could take the laptop to the local Wetherspoons where I could use the free wifi. I was torn, what a dilemna! Sitting in Wetherspoons on my own would obviously mean that I would have to forego the treat of traipsing around the shops but Sue was insistent so I made the sacrifice and sat in the pub for an hour.
My work was almost finished by the time Sue returned so we had a bite to eat before we left. I also managed to get some photos uploaded and published Trip photos
The “nothing” being the forecast rain. Faced with a day of light rain today followed by a day of heavy stuff on Friday, we decided to brave the elements and try and get to Stratford and batten down the hatches for the impending storm. We untied at seven o’clock and made our way past all of the moored boats on our way to Evesham lock; the bottom gates were open for us but we made a service stop first. This was to be the only lock of the day in our favour although we did manage to share many with other boats. The rain never came except for a five minute period of spots blowing in the wind as we made our way upstream. As we rose in the penultimate lock we could see a small grp hire cruiser bobbing around outside the top gates. By the time we were ready to exit the lock, the wine swigging crew of three females had tied their craft in such a way that it was partially blocking our exit. Ordinarily, this would not have been a problem but on exiting the lock there is a sharp left hand turn requiring space for the stern to swing into. They ignored requests to move, declaring that there was plenty of room. The skipper of the other narrowboat even got off his boat to try and get them to turn through ninety degrees, explaining that there would be little contest in a collision between them and a 22 ton steel boat. They drove across our paths to the opposite lock landing and as we passed were still trying to justify themselves and their actions. Sue tried to tell them that it was for their own safety but only got an “Eff off” in response – very ladylike! We didn’t see them again, perhaps they went to explore the weir.
Our lock buddies were also intent on getting a riverside mooring to sit out the storm and happily enough we were both successful in securing the last two available spaces, quite an achievement given that it was by that time almost four o’clock. As we saw in Evesham yesterday, the evening river traffic is given over to the local rowing club.
As for the weather, the forecasters are now puzzling over how they could have been so wrong, let’s see what tomorrow really brings – perhaps they’ve got that one wrong too (fingers crossed!).
Tonight’s view from Caxton
We awoke at 7 o’clock after a quiet night on our mooring near Pershore. As we prepared to move off, one of the narrowboats behind us also got underway and we followed them into Pershore lock. The morning was everything that you could expect from a mid August day, blue skies and a light breeze. In all we shared three locks with this boat, built by Barry Hawkins at Baddesley basin, Atherstone. They are heading back there from their base near Gloucester so perhaps we will see them again soon. We didn’t share the fourth lock of the day as they had caught up with another vessel and went through with them.
We started looking for a mooring as soon as we reached Evesham and were soon tied up opposite Abbey park. As usual, we sorted ourselves out before walking into to town where we had a light lunch and a bit of an explore.
We stopped off at the Royal Oak where Sue treated us to to a specialist gin concoction each, very refreshing!
We returned to Caxton and sat on the front deck, enjoying the early evening sunshine and watching the local rowing club zipping up and down the river. There is a bit of rain forecast for the next couple of days so we are unsure about how we will finish our journey on the Avon.
As an aside, I was reminded today of my first narrowboat experience, a family holiday in 1981 (I think). The hire base was in Evesham but when we arrived were told that since the river was in flood we would be unable to leave the boatyard that day. I seem to remember visiting the Railway Hotel for a few pints with my dad (although as usual it would have only been reported back to the mother superior as two pints!)
I don’t remember too much about the rest of that holiday other than being moored up in Stratford a few days later but maybe I’ll get some flashbacks as we journey along the Upper Avon. In any case, it’s safe to say that the 1981 holiday probably sowed the seed that brings us back here today.