Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Welsh Road (it’s a small world)

Buddy and I set off after breakfast on Tuesday, so that once again we could get to our destination for the day by lunchtime.

Straight into it  – Buddy waiting at the first lock of the day – Fosse bottom lock

After the first two locks, we stopped at Fosse Wharf to top up with water.  As the sun had come out I moved the tomato and chilli plants onto the roof.  

Mike and Lesley, whose plot of land and mooring we are heading for in Cropredy, are currently on a two-week canal holiday around Cheshire.  They have been posting about their travels every day on Facebook and Mike has been sending me pictures of stop plank stores to add to my page of stanking planks.  Lesley contacted me yesterday to say the couple who they are on holiday with have a connection with me.  They are good friends of a couple I know, Joce and Martin.  I first met Joce when we shared a house together many years ago in Surrey and when we started our own families went on many winter and summer holidays together!  Also, I had met Jane and Duncan several times at Joce and Martin’s house and think they were in one of the skiing trips Joce used to organise.

Going up Fosse bottom lock

We soon reached Welsh Road lock, the fifth of the day, which is where I wanted to moor.  We love the spot at the top of the lock, opposite the lock cottage.  The cottage is fairly large for a lock cottage and Colin and his wife live there.  I got to know Colin quite well when we used to moor here in the winter and had many a chat with him leaning on their fence.

Welsh Road lock cottage from our mooring

As I was mooring up I could hear a family of buzzards above us and for the first time got a picture of one of them.  Not very clear or close as it’s only an iPhone but at least you can see the classic outline.

Buzzard circling over our boat as we moored up

Us from Welsh Road lock cottage

When I was coming up the lock I noticed a sign outside the cottage; they have now got into selling drinks and ice creams.   

There seemed to be a constant stream of boats passing during the middle of the day and I would say that very few didn’t stop and buy something.  I popped over during the afternoon for an ice cream and had a chat with Colin’s wife (I’m hopeless with names).   She is a mental health worker and is based in Dartford in Kent which is where I was born (well, that's where the hospital was).  When I first left school I worked as a live-in farmhand on farms in the Yorkshire Dales for eighteen months or so and then moved back down south and worked on farms attached to mental asylums in Dartford.  So, we had a pleasant 20 minutes chatting about the various mental hospitals in Dartford and their patients, which are now long gone apart from a small unit where she works – the asylums not the patients, but I suspect many of them are long gone too.

The pounds are still quite low so Buddy has been finding it difficult to get water but he managed to find a spot by the lock when we were chatting

So much better than that tap water they try and make me drink from my bowl
The water is taking on the familiar blueness of the blue lias limestone, the bed rock of this area.  It'll get bluer over the next few miles until we get to Napton where we're joining the Oxford canal.

Later on, Buddy and I had a walk to Long Itchington and on the way a boat was coming past us – it was nb Paneke which I know I have seen around before.  Anyway, the guy driving called out to his wife, “It’s Mr Chalkhill Blue”.  I asked them their names, Roger and Jane, and Roger also told me that they are readers of this blog.  It was good to meet you guys, even if it was fleetingly 😊

I forgot to ask what the boat’s name meant but could tell it was Maori.  I looked it up later and apparently it can mean three things: boat; advance; and point (as in game scoring).  I guess it means boat in this context but I suppose it could be advance as in going forwards.  They also had a good display of flowers on their roof but I didn't think tp ask to take a picture.

Our mooring later in the day when the clouds had all rolled away. The boat on the right is Colin’s boat on their permanent mooring outside the lock house.

In the evening, Karen picked me up and we went for our weekly bridge session with our lady friends in Stratford on Avon.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Radford Semele (six months ago we were ice-breaking)

We now need to have a bit of a cruise most days if we want to get to Cropredy by the end of the month.  I wanted to get through the built-up parts of Warwick and Leamington on Monday so set off after breakfast.  Just after casting off it started drizzling and Buddy gave me one of his looks blaming me for the rain.  He’s daft really because he won’t go into the boat on his own accord if we’re not in there.  He was the same when we lived in a house, he wouldn’t stay in the garden on his own unless he could see a door open back into the house.

Just after setting off we were going under a footbridge and I noticed this old guy behaving oddly – he was trying to get his dogs to look at the boat as we went underneath!

We went over the River Avon just before reaching Leam.  This is where there are plans to provide a junction off the canal onto the river if the river is ever made navigable to narrowboats between here and Stratford on Avon.

Crossing the River Avon on the aqueduct

It’s been six months since we last cruised this stretch and I was reminded that back in January we were breaking ice to get to Warwick.  It was one of those occasions where we had to move because we were desperate for a pump out and fortunately the ice wasn’t too thick.

Last time we were breaking ice

We moored up outside Morrissons and I did some supermarket and DIY store shopping and then had some lunch before setting off again.  The weeping willows have been growing like mad this year and I was getting worried that I would have to move some of the plants.  I was lucky and managed to get through them all without mishap but I suspect Karen’s heart will be in her mouth when she reads this 😊

How will I get through without damaging the plants?

I only did one lock, Radford Bottom lock, and it was the first wide lock we have gone up since February but Buddy remembered the drill.  It’s a different routine as I get off the boat before it gets in the lock, take a rope, and walk it into the lock.  Buddy gets off and runs up the steps at the side of the lock with me. 

Radford Bottom lock – Blair and Liz live on their boat just below this lock

I like the locks along this stretch as they are placed a good distance apart so you get time to have a rest and take in the sights between the locks.  I believe Mike and Aileen have the reverse feelings and don’t like this section as the locks are too regular.

We really like the ten miles or so between Leam and Napton and know lots of places to moor for a week or so at a time.  This time through though we won’t be stopping more than a night or two at any mooring as we have a bit of a mission.

Moored at Radford – bit grey so picture doesn’t do the location justice

After lunch Buddy and I went for a walk away from the canal and we were both happy to be revisiting old haunts.  It’s quite good for butterflies round here but wasn’t quite warm enough so I saw very few.


Monday, 24 July 2017

Cape (it’s uphill from here)

Sunday was a much better day weather-wise than Saturday so we went for a cruise after lunch.  The sun was out and it felt quite warm.

Blue skies appearing over our mooring at Hatton on Sunday morning

There had been a lot of boat traffic during the morning but it seemed to have stopped by the time we set off so we had the locks and cut to ourselves – just as we like it 😊 Karen did the locks as usual so I had an easy time of it.  It’s also a good chance for her to walk so she stays off the boat and Buddy gets a walk too.

Heading for the first lock of the day

Penultimate lock of the 21 on the Hatton flight - Buddy still can't be bothered to help

Once we had been through the final locks of the Hatton flight, we passed the Saltisford arm.  This arm used to run all the way into wharves in Warwick but only the first couple of hundred yards are still open.  It is a pleasant place to visit and the people that run the canal centre and boat yard are very friendly.  You may have read that I locked us out back in January and the guys in the boatyard lent us some big bolt croppers so I could break the padlock.  I remember feeling as if we had criminal intent when we were walking along the towpath with the bolt croppers.

After the Saltisford arm we arrived at the two locks at Cape.  The first is right next to the Cape of Good Hope pub; a popular spot for locals, tourists and boaters.

Top lock at Cape beside the pub

The skies had started darkening again but as we had decided to moor for the night below the bottom lock we had plenty of time before the rain came again.

Darkening skies

As it was, we moored up, walked back to get the car and parked it in a layby nearer the boat before it started raining.  As we walked back past the pub we decided to go in for a drink – it was Sunday after all and what else is there to do on a Sunday?  The clouds took a long time to roll in so we sat outside and managed to get a couple of pints in before getting home just as the sun disappeared. 

Our mooring below Cape bottom lock

We are now on a long pound that runs through Warwick and Leamington Spa before the next lock at Radford Semele.  From there the canal starts going uphill again and we will continue going uphill even after we join the Oxford canal at Napton on our way to Cropredy.  I’ll probably do a few miles and locks each day this week as we head through our favourite spots around here like Radford, Bascote and Long Itchington.