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 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.