Friday, November 21, 2014

Two and three-quarter miles, 146½ feet up, three hours.

That was today’s trip up Hatton Locks. It would have been a bit quicker but for an enforced pause up near the waterways depot.

Of all the days for me to sleep in, it had to be today when we wanted an early-ish start. It was a bit of a rush, but I managed to cram in a 5 mile run, breakfast and a quick toilet walk for Meg before we pulled pins.

Lock 26, the bottom of the 21, lies just up from the main A46 road bridge.IMG_2462
No Problem has just gone in.

In Lock 26
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We soon got into a routine. Vic and I drew the top paddles when the ladies were in the lock, then Vic stayed with the occupied lock to close up after the boats were out while I went ahead to set the next one up. What also made it easier was the ladies breasting (!!) up in the pound so they came in each chamber together. This saves having to haul the first in over to the side, but needs a couple of very competent steerers. We had those…IMG_2465

Mason’s marks on stone steps
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The height of ovine fashion. Odd-coloured eartags and an orange Mohican!IMG_2468
I think the farmer has a sense of humour…

Ugly Bridge (that’s what it’s called, not a personal observation) is about a third of the way up and marks the point where the locks come closer together as the gradient steepens.IMG_2471
To be fair, it’s not the prettiest span on the waterways. But it’s not that bad! The thoroughfare that crosses it is called Ugly Bridge Road. How’s about that for an address!

Looking up from Lock 36IMG_2474

We had a bit of a wait in Lock 41; C&RT were unloading a work boat full of scrap out of the side pounds in Lock 42.

Any old iron…IMG_2475
The vast majority of the detritus was push bikes, some that looked in good nick. Then came the ubiquitous shopping trollies…

We took advantage of the short wait while they cleared the lock to have a brew, then carried on up the last 5 locks.

The end is nigh. The ladies pass the café and gift shop below the top lock.IMG_2480

Hatton Top Lock.
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Sue and Vic pulled in for water while we stayed in the lock and I emptied a loo cassette. Then we set off again to find a mooring suitable for a couple of well-earned rest days. There are moorings in the cutting below St. John’s Bridge, but they’re gloomy and damp. We finished up mooring just past the winding hole, about half a mile above the flight.

Sue’s suggestion of a good start to catch that fine weather window very nearly worked. In fact if we hadn’t been held up we’d have just about made it without getting wet. But the last 10 minutes brought a heavy shower. Still, apart from that we only had a few drops about half way up.

A couple of days off now. There’s wood to cut if the weather allows, and the last Formula 1 Grand Prix of the season to watch.

Locks 21, miles 2¾

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More wood than you can shake a stick at…

Since leaving Gary and Della at Radford Semele yesterday morning we seem to have done nothing but hump logs about.
Contractors had been busy on the mile or so between Bridges 38 and 47, giving the encroaching trees a very thorough pruning, or even felling. We thought we’d done well on Tuesday, but that merely scratched the surface. Most of the wood on the towpath had already been adopted, of course, but there was and is still plenty on the offside, for those with a bit of perseverance ( and good balance) to go for it.

We didn’t get so far yesterday, just a mile and a half into Leamington Spa, but it still took us 2½ hours. I was so busy I didn’t take any photos. Not a one.

I did have a result when I went shopping for some new boots, however. The shop I’d earmarked as being closest to the mooring and having a good selection was the Mountain Warehouse on The Parade. It turns out that they are having a clearance sale prior to refitting, and everything was half-price. A very suitable pair of £70 medium weight walking boots were going for £35. Lovely jubbly. So I bought two. Pairs. I love a BOGOF.

My brief visit to the spa town left a favourable impression. It’s seems to be mostly Georgian or Victorian, with some fine architecture and a good range of shops. We should return. And I’ll have to remember the prefix Royal, awarded by Queen Victoria in 1838.

Meanwhile Sue had discovered an older stash of wood part covered by vegetation that had been missed, so that was first on the agenda this morning. That all went on No Problem, then I ran Seyella up on the mud on the offside and recovered several good sized logs left there. A little precarious but needs must. Meanwhile Sue was walking along the towpath dragging timber out of the undergrowth while Vic was bringing NP along to collect it.

All in all a very productive morning’s work.

Anyway, back to the cruising, what there was of it…

Approaching Bridge 40 this morning.
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You can tell we’re burning wood again…

Shopping is a doodle along here. There’s a Co-op alongside Bridge 40, Morrison’s, Lidl and Homebase either side of B42, and a large Tesco on the offside with it’s own moorings at Bridge 46.
Our retailer of choice for today was Morrison’s…

Moored for shopping, and sorting out the roof loads. We were fore-end heavy and listing to the left…IMG_2439

Lidl has moorings right outside, too.
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The two towns of Royal Leamington Spa and Warwick are separated by the River Avon. The river and railway are crossed on aqueducts over the valley, a patch of green before the fringes of Warwick start to crowd in on the canal.

Over the railway…
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…and the river.
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The Stratford & Warwick Waterways Trust have a cunning plan to make the Avon navigable to here, then raise it through a flight of four locks to the canal. If achieved there would be an alternative route south to the Severn without going over the Birmingham plateau. That’d be good.

There’s that Tesco at Bridge 46…
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Today the moorings outside were full, in fact they often are. But there are bollards just the other side of the bridge on the towpath.

There’s an arch through the offside structure of Bridge 48, that and the wide, level ground on the offside lead me to suspect that there were towpaths on both sides of the canal along here.

Overgrown arch through Bridge 48IMG_2448

I mentioned the other day that the climb back up out of the Avon valley starts with the 21 lock Hatton flight. Of course, I’d “mislaid” the two Cape Locks, lifting the canal the first 14 feet.

Coming up Cape LocksIMG_2456

The Cape of Good Hope
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Into Cape Top, look at that wood!IMG_2458
It’s not fair, Sue and Vic have six foot more available roof space than us!

We topped up with water above the locks, we’ve had to do two wash loads today after a mishap with 2 litres of milk yesterday soaked the rugs…

The Napton and Warwick Canal met the Warwick and Birmingham at a T junction at Budbrooke Junction, just under Bridge 51. The Saltisford Arm, to the left is the tail end of the W&B, which heads from here up the Hatton Locks towards Birmingham.

Saltisford Arm and the Warwick and Birmingham Canal terminus.IMG_2460

We pulled in around the corner, almost within sight of the bottom of Hatton, our challenge for tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 5 (both days)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fine day as we drop down to cross the Avon.

We had clear skies from sunrise this morning, although it took some time for the sun to dispel the overnight chill.
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At half-ten we were away, following in the wake of No Problem who’d left 15 minutes earlier. They were intending to top up with water at Bascote, we were leaving it till we got to Fosse Wharf.


We met up again at the top of the Bascote Staircase Locks, an usual two-rise broad staircase, where the lower gates of the top chamber do double duty as the top gates of the lower chamber.


Bascote Staircase Locks.IMG_2421


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There are two more locks close below the staircase, then they become a little more spaced out.

Autumn sunshine
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While filling with water at Fosse Wharf I made use of the al-fresco dump-it station…IMG_2426
I think it’s new! But they put the rinsing tap in the wrong place…

There’s a fine stone railway bridge, now redundant of course, just above our last lock of the day, Radford Bottom Lock.

:Leamington – Rugby Branch Line bridgeIMG_2430

Radford Bottom Lock
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Our last for the day, and the last on the downhill slope into the Avon valley. The canal runs through Leamington Spa, across the Avon, and through Warwick before starting the long climb up onto the Black Country plateau. And it starts with a vengeance…  the 21 locks of the Hatton flight.

Below the lock Gary off NB Muleless was lurking, waiting for us. He’d spied out some logs on the towpath side and was ready to help us load them on both boats. There was a lot more on the offside, but not enough water to get close to the bank.

One stash that we couldn’t get at.
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Never mind, we still got a fair bit. We moored either side of Muleless and after a bite to eat set to and dealt with that on No Problem. Ours we’ll do tomorrow morning.

Moored in a row near Radford SemeleIMG_2434

We were just thinking about tea and taking the dogs for a stroll when Mark on the coal boat Callisto turned up. We’d been expecting him.

Mark, Star Class Carrying Co.
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And the delightful Tilly (I think)
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We took on diesel and Sue and Vic had some solid fuel. Gary and Della had had a top up from Mark yesterday when he was heading towards Warwick.

Locks 10, miles 5½

Monday, November 17, 2014

I’m Officially Authorised…

…to use Class D ship’s radio equipment! Or at least I will be when my licence comes…

Yes, Saturday’s course and exam at Willow Wren’s new training facility at Nelson’s Wharf went well, for all five of us on the day. It was a long day, though. 09:00 to 18:45. By the end my ears were leaking information. There’s an awful lot to take in during the day.
Steve had kindly let us moor on the wharf, so I could pop back at lunchtime to let Meg out for a pee and have a bite to eat before returning to the fray.

Moored at Nelson’s Wharf
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The site was a cement and lime works, demolished in the 1960s by the simple expedient of getting the army demolition teams to practice there, then bulldozing the rubble into the old arm! Since taking over the site last year, Steve and his team have done an amazing amount of work, clearing and levelling, felling the out of control shrubbery and dredging and piling along the wharf and the entrance to the arm.
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The canal-side groundwork is pretty well done, enabling the training centre to fulfill it’s function, but behind the scenes there’s still a lot to do.  DSC_0299

At the moment the arm is truncated where it was crossed by the Leamington to Weedon branch line.

Rubble fill at the current end of the armDSC_0298

The ultimate aim is to clear and reopen the arm, using it for a limited number of moorings. The whole facility so far is low impact and environmentally friendly, further developments will follow the same principal. 

The team here are friendly and supportive. I would recommend them to anyone looking for the courses they provide. Lots more info here.

Yesterday morning NB Kangaroo came up and used the arm entrance to wind. The single cylinder Bollinder engine sounded fantastic, but I don’t think I could live with one.DSC_0302
We reversed back 100 yards to join Sue and Vic for an excellent Sunday lunch.

This morning we had a later start, waiting for the overnight rain to blow over. It was cool and gloomy when we set off, but dry. We didn’t have far to go before the locks started.

Passing Stockton Top Lock MarinaIMG_2399

Wide beam Valhalla, last seen down on the Thames  IMG_2400

Stockton Top Lock, the first of a compact flight of eightIMG_2401
We had a good run down the flight, meeting boats at three of the locks.

NB Kingfisher on the left, dwarfed by the fore end of an ex-working boat as they leave Lock 9IMG_2405

That candlestick paddle gear…
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Gate recess in one of the redundant narrow lock chambersIMG_2404

After the Stockton eight there’s a short pound before Lock 12. The canal passes the Blue Lias Inn, named after the popular Blue Lias shales found in the area. They’re sought after for paving and decorative features, and the associated limestone used in cement manufacture. The shale beds also contain a substantial number of fossil remains dating from the early Jurassic to Triassic eras, hence the unusual pub sign…
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Just above Lock 12 the Kayes Arm runs off to the south for a quarter mile. This serviced a couple of the many quarries producing the stone. Now it’s home to moorings for the Warwickshire Fly Boat Company.

Kayes ArmIMG_2410

The last two locks took us to the end of today’s short trip, mooring near the main road bridge at Long Itchington.

Apple pie tonight…
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Lock 13, Itchington Bottom LockIMG_2416

Just two hours today, cool but enjoyable.

Locks 10, miles 1½

Thursday, November 13, 2014

First of the “new” locks.

Only new insofar as they were only constructed 80-odd years ago!

Heading west towards Birmingham the three Calcutt Locks are the first of the modern broad locks encountered on the Grand Union. A result of the improvements to the long distance route from London, they were built in the 1930s following the formation of the Grand Union Canal which amalgamated several existing private navigations.

This stretch was the Warwick and Napton Canal, and, in conjunction with the Warwick and Birmingham, opened for traffic in 1800. The two connected canals ran from Napton Junction to Salford Junction on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and gave a direct route from the Oxford Canal into the “Workshop of the World

Stockton Top Lock, the “candlestick” paddle gear is fitted to all the broad locks through to Camp Hill.
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In keeping with the existing canals they linked, they were originally built to narrow gauge. The earlier chambers continued in use while the new broad locks were built alongside in the 1930s, then becoming the bywashes.

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Looking down from Middle to Bottom. The old narrow chamber is on the left of the new lock.IMG_2380

Although I’ve heard that some people dislike these locks, I’m quite fond of them. A triumph of the lock-builders art, they’re quick to fill and empty, and don’t bang a single boat about due to the well placed paddle sluices. OK, each paddle takes around 20 turns to lift, but you can generally just knock off the locking clip and let them drop on their own. And the gates are pretty heavy. But then, they’re quite big, too…

Large lower ground paddle culverts empty the lock chamber quickly.IMG_2379

We were all gearing up to go by around half past ten this morning. Tom and Jan were first to leave, going back to Napton Junction.

Tom and Jan, NB Waiouru
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Unfortunate wave timing, Tom! No doubt see you both later in the year.

Into Stockton Top Lock. IMG_2389
Although grey and blowy it wasn’t too cold, but maybe two of our crew members would disagree…

Dropping down the short flight
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Old and new chambers alongside each other at the bottom lockIMG_2392

There are two large marinas here, one either side of the canal. Calcutt is on the left and Ventnor Farm on the right. A little further on an old wharf is home to a collection of craft.

Several working boats, a Dutch barge, tug and steam powered replica tug AdamantIMG_2383

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We pulled in just beyond Bridge 20. Only a short trip, but we’re now a few hundred yards from our destination…IMG_2398
…the new Willow Wren training base at Nelson’s Wharf. I’ll be doing a short-range radio course and exam here on Saturday.

Locks 3, miles 2