Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Calcutt (finding out where to wash elephants)

On Monday morning, Buddy and I went into Leamington as I had arranged an emergency appointment with the dentist following a troublesome tooth.  Afterwards we had a wander around the town for our morning walk.

There used to be a track down to the River Leam by the main bridge (Victoria Bridge).  The track was used to drive animals down to the river to wash and water them.  Once the town became popular as a spa town it was felt that the animal wash spoilt the ambience so, in 1882, it was moved to its current site off Leam Terrace.  It became known as Elephant Wash as many travelling circuses of the day used it for their animals.

The Elephant Wash (the wall on the left is obviously more modern)

Although we knew about the wash and had visited it before I did learn something new on our town visit: Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, worked at the Leamington Valve & Piston company from the age of ten.

Looking upstream to Mill Bridge from the wash

Mill Bridge was opened in 1903 from a design based upon London's Albert Bridge and is Grade II listed. It was so named as it is on the site of an old water mill that used to be the source of water for the town.  The bridge leads over to Jephson Gardens, one of the many green parks in the town.

An extract about the gardens, copied from Warwick District Council: “The gardens began as farmland which belonged to Edward Willes, a member of the Willes family who played an important part in the shaping of early Leamington. First laid out in 1831 as informal riverside walks along the River Leam, the original Newbold Gardens were developed into formal pleasure grounds and, in 1846, were renamed in honour of Dr Henry Jephson, who had promoted the town as a spa and built houses for the town's poor residents. Jephson Gardens is listed as Grade II on the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens.”

One advantage of being back on this stretch of the Grand Union is that there is a regular fuel boat service.  Mark, on his boat Callisto, operates between Warwick and Foxton which is on the way to Leicester and he stops to top us up whenever he’s passing.  We need to stock up on coal now winter is approaching and, as luck would have it, Mark will be passing us in a couple of days.  We’ll top up with diesel whilst we’re at it too.

Because of the winter closures our plan says we must get through Warwick over the weekend of 7th October.  This means we will only be able to stop a night or two at each of the pleasant mooring spots between here and Warwick – places like Tomlow, Welsh Road, Bascote, Long Itchington, Offchurch and Radford Semele.  All these places are ideal for staying a week or two as, not only are they lovely locations, they have handy car access and are close to Karen’s office.

Before I sign off for today here are a few more shots of our walk up Scafell Pike on Saturday:

Ready, steady, go!

Just after setting off - it wasn't long before the layers started coming off as it was such a lovely day

Karen with Derwent Water behind

About half way up - Lauren striding out

Steve and Lauren at the top

A happy Lauren in the rain - it only lasted for about 15 minutes - we were so lucky

Monday, 18 September 2017

Calcutt (in the Lake District for a few days away from the boat)

Looking down to the top lock at Calcutt from our mooring at Napton reservoir

It’s been nearly a week since the last blog entry but it doesn’t mean we’ve been lazy – far from it, we’ve been all over the place ๐Ÿ˜Š
On Wednesday evening, Karen and I caught a train to Reading to take Polly out for a birthday meal at Loch Fyne.  The restaurant is right by County lock on the Kennet & Avon canal as it enters the Oracle shopping centre.  We often went through on our old boat but never made it to the restaurant so were really pleased when Polly decided that’s where she wanted us to take her to celebrate her 21st.  After the meal, Sophie and Yanos joined us and we went for drinks at the Revoluciรณn De Cuba bar before catching the train back home.

Steve was coming up on Thursday for a sleepover and to help me install the new batteries (a job I didn’t dare do on my own for fear of putting my back out again) so Buddy and I had a good walk in the morning.  As we walked down to Stockton we passed the hire boat base at Calcutt and noticed all the boats were out on hire even though it was after the school holidays; business must be good for them as most of the boats would be charged out at over £1,000 a week.

Empty hire boat yard

This is the same yard taken in January from the opposite direction and when most of the hire boats were moored up for the winter.

We came across a couple of stanking plank stores that we have previously missed.  Ventnor marina has two entrances with towpath bridges over each entrance and the stanking planks are stored under each bridge.  These particular planks are used to prevent the marina being emptied if the canal needs draining.

Buddy was more interested in a long stick he had found rather than having a look at the planks under the bridge

I had mentioned the other day that the domestic battery bank had been ruined as I had been given the wrong information about how to manage them.  Karen had picked up four new batteries on the way home from work last week and Steve put them in for me after arriving on Thursday.  We were climbing Scafell Pike at the weekend so I didn’t dare do anything strenuous that would prevent me doing the walk.

On Friday morning, Karen, Steve and Buddy dropped me at Birmingham International station so I could catch a train to the Lake District without damaging my back; sitting in the car is the worst thing for it but at least, on a train, I can get up and walk about.  I met Lauren at the station who had caught a train from Reading – she was also getting trains up as she gets car sick – what a family ๐Ÿ˜‰

We all met up at Lancaster station and, after a supermarket shop, went to find our AirBnB near a place called Torver which is near Coniston.  As usual, we weren’t let down by the description and really enjoyed our stay in a converted barn in the middle of nowhere.  

On Saturday, we walked up Scafell Pike and were so fortunate as we had absolutely glorious weather.  I don’t think I can remember weather like it in the Lake District before.  It did rain a little bit just after we had lunch at the top but we only had our wet weather gear on for about half an hour.  It was also cold at the top and we were all glad we had taken our gloves.

Steve, Lauren and Karen soon after setting off – not many walkers compared with when we went up Snowdon in June (the beautiful stone-built Stockley bridge over the gill in the centre of the picture)

About a quarter of the way up with Keswick and Derwent Water in the background – oh, and Karen in the foreground
None of the pictures could do justice to the stunning views

Steve proving we had to wear gloves at the top

When we were getting someone to take our picture at the summit another group arrived and they were really pleased to see Buddy.  It was so funny as they wanted him in all their pictures ๐Ÿ˜Š

We really had been lucky as our climb up Snowdon had been so wet and windy as this comparison of pictures taken at the summits show:

Poor Buddy wasn’t in either of our summit shots ๐Ÿ˜ข

On the way down we saw a rain shower heading for us from Keswick but it died out before reaching us but not before it gave us a lovely rainbow across the valley:

On Sunday, we drove back home to the boat and took it easy in the afternoon.  Steve and Lauren came back with us and then Steve drove Lauren back to Reading on his way home to Arundel.  Buddy and I walked Steve and Lauren back to the car when they set off but Buddy wouldn’t come anywhere near it as he had had enough of cars having been up to the Lake District and back over the weekend.

Buddy sensibly staying away from the reservoir car park whilst I said farewell to Steve and Lauren

Sunday evening, looking the other way (down to Napton junction) from our mooring at Napton reservoir

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Calcutt (Back to the Grand Union and Napton reservoir)

Karen’s walk from our latest mooring to get to the car – she thinks it’s spooky in the dark but knows it can’t be, otherwise I’d have to accompany her ๐Ÿ˜‰

When we were walking back from the pub on Sunday, there was a boat in a lock and they called out to us.  It was a couple we have met a few times over the years but never spent a lot of time together.  They have a house in the next village to where our house is and, like us, they rent theirs out whilst they are living on their boat.  Their boat is called Brindley and we know two other boats with the same name in the area so we often get into embarrassing conversations when we see a Brindley as we always think it’s the same people even when we know they look different!  

Monday was a day of going for short walks between the showers, which were really heavy at times; at one stage, poor old Buddy was trying to shelter inside a hedge.  In the evening, we went to play bridge with our Stratford ladies.  This was the first week we have played for a while because of my back but it was fine so I feel practically back to normal now, I even drove home as well.

It was time to move on on Tuesday otherwise we could be accused of overstaying at the mooring in the bottom pound at Napton.  Karen and I both fancied mooring at the reservoir at Calcutt for a couple of weeks and as I would only have one lock to do on my own we both felt my back would be OK.

After going down the lock (with no ill effects on my back) I stopped to take on water.  For some reason it was really busy, there was a boat waiting to get in behind me and he was blocking the bridge…

…there was already another boat at the water point and one waiting behind him:

I took advantage of the wait and put the washing on so at least I could replenish the water when it was my turn.  It didn’t take long and I was soon on the move again.  The wind was getting quite strong but I knew it was going to be worse on Wednesday which is another reason for moving on.  I was getting a bit concerned about mooring up on my own at the reservoir as the wind can whip across there and last time I nearly lost the boat.  To make it more difficult you have to find suitable trees to moor to as it is on the offside, i.e. no towpath and therefore no places for mooring pins or hooks.  Mind you, that’s one of the reasons we love mooring there as it is not on the towpath and therefore you can go all day without a single person walking past the boat.

A better view of the windmill at Napton-on-the-Hill as we left the water point

Napton visitor moorings below the lock were practically empty – It’ll be a different story in the coming months as it’s a popular spot for people like us who continuously cruise through the winter.  It’s near a water point and had good parking for cars as well as boats.

After leaving Napton I came to Napton junction which is also known as Wigrams turn.  This is where the Oxford canal meets the Grand Union canal which heads off to the north into Birmingham.  Heading east the two canals are joined until Braunston, where the Oxford canal heads north to Coventry and the Grand Union turns south to London to meet the River Thames at Brentwood.  As we are heading for Birmingham I turned onto the Grand Union.

About to turn left onto the Grand Union from the Oxford canal

Soon after the junction is the reservoir and I saw that there were already two boats moored up where we wanted to be.  In the end, it was fortuitous as I was having a little trouble mooring in the wind – I didn’t want to put my back out again – Paul came out of one of the boats and held a line for me as I moored up.  He and his girlfriend have a boat each and they moor here whenever they can as well.

View across the reservoir from our mooring

In the afternoon, Buddy and I walked along the canal to Stockton and back.  I checked my log and my back must have been bad for a good few weeks – the last time I did locks on my own was at the end of July, here on the Grand Union.