Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A brief visit to the Stratford Canal.

After saying our farewells to the crew of NB No Problem we moved through the narrow bit of the Lapworth Link and into the basin beyond, before manoeuvring onto the service wharf.

Bye, bye to Sue and Vic
Have a good winter you two, see you in the Spring.

Heading for the cut through.IMG_2542
When the connection between the Grand Union and Stratford Canals was made the only route was to the right. Fine for those boats going uphill towards Birmingham, but boats heading for Stratford had to make a tight left turn above the lock there, then drop down another to get back to the same level. This short cut was an afterthought.

After filling and emptying, heading back the way we came.IMG_2545
The barrel-roofed cottage is typical of those on the Stratford. The story has it that the buildings were constructed by the same teams who’d built the bridges, and they re-used the formers made for the bridge arches for the cottage roofs.

Out onto the Main Line. IMG_2546
You may notice we’ve a bit more cargo. There was a large stack of logs just by the junction. It’s slightly smaller now…


A parting gift from Vic was some vegetable soup he’d made for lunch. I had a mug full while we cruised, and very good it was too.

It was a typically dreary, damp autumnal day, not really raining but drizzly. So I was glad we weren’t going so far. At Bridge 69 sits the Black Boy pub, opposite is the Black Buoy Cruising Club.IMG_2549

See what they did there? Boy, Buoy? It wouldn’t work in the States though, they’re pronounced differently.

We pulled in just beyond Bridge 70, Kings Arms Bridge. From here we’re 15 minutes to the bottom of the five Knowle Locks, the last of the broad locks we’ll encounter this year. That’s for tomorrow, the forecast is looking a bit fairer.

Locks 0, miles 3

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Decisions made for us…

We moved on to Kingswood Junction today. Here a short link connects the Grand Union with the Stratford Canal, and here we had a choice of route. More of that later…

It was another crisp night, down to –3.3°. Our view from the galley window was a bit  obscured this morning.

Frosty cobwebs…

…and smoky chimneysIMG_2530

Unlike yesterday when the fog and frost was burned off by early sunshine, today stayed grey and overcast, feeling very raw.

While we were out walking the hounds yesterday, Sue mentioned that this section of canal could easily be mistaken for the Shropshire Union. It has the same cuttings and embankments used to maintain the level between groups of locks.

Cutting near RowingtonIMG_2532

These cuttings also have the same problems as those on the Shroppie. Very muddy towpaths and slippage from the steep sides.

Just over a mile further on and a bridge on the nearside marked the entrance to the Lapworth Link, connecting the two canals. At this point they’re only a couple of hundred yards apart.

I bet those roofs could tell some tales…IMG_2534

Towpath bridge over the linkIMG_2537


Heading towards the Stratford CanalIMG_2539

No Problem had headed through onto the narrow canal to drop recycling off and to turn around. I caught them coming back under the bridge. You could hardly miss them!IMG_2540

Now then, from here we would normally have a choice of routes to get to the north and west. There are several across Birmingham, and one around the fringes through Solihull and back up to Fazeley. Unfortunately we’re into the Winter Stoppage Season, during which C&RT close sections of canal for repair and maintenance. Closures have effectively barred us from the most direct route, repairs to cuttings, locks and bridges have closed off the city centre from this side.
So we’re going the long way round. Solihull, Fazeley, Fradley, Great Haywood, Autherley Junction and back up the Shropshire Union. With further stoppages on the Llangollen until just before Christmas there’s no point in getting up there too early…

So tomorrow we’ll use the facilities just ahead of us, turn around and head back out onto the Grand Union, turning left towards Knowle.

We’ll be parting company with the No Problem crew as well. Shame, we’ve had a good time over the last few days, and Meg has enjoyed the canine company too.

Oh, and a couple of corrections for yesterday’s post… It’s St Laurence’s church in Rowington, not St. Lawrence. And that moon in the sunset picture should rightly have been called a waxing crescent, not a new moon. If you’re interested there’s a good explanation of the celestial mechanics involved here.

Thanks for the comments recently…

Adam, yes you’re right, technically the boats weren’t breasted up coming up Hatton. I was allowing myself a little poetic licence…
Steve, Angela. Needs must, as they say. It could be a long cold winter!
Hi Malcolm. I reckon he was doing it for a bet…Black Sheep

Locks 0, miles 2

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wet tunnel, busy afternoon, fine sunset.

We had a good weekend after coming up Hatton Locks on Friday. We didn’t move, Saturday we made a start on the logs we’d collected around Leamington, and Sunday it was too wet to do much of anything. But Sunday also marked Vic’s birthday, so they came to us for lunch and a bit of a celebration with a drink or two…

The day finished with a flourish, too!

An overnight low of -2½°C left us with a frosty morning, just the kind that Meg likes…IMG_2484


We were on the move today, not too far though. It seemed a shame not to move on such a beautiful day.We pulled in for a quick visit to the Village Stores in Shrewley on the 48 hour moorings just before Shrewley Tunnel. The towpath here is  running with muddy water after the rain.
The tunnel itself is fairly short, only 433 yards, but what it lacks in length it move than makes up for in dampness!
I couldn’t see so well either. I’d scrubbed my running shoes this morning after getting them full of mud on Sunday morning. It seemed a good idea to hang them from the aerial to drip as we cruised today…
IMG_2508…right in front of the tunnel light!

We tied up on at a fine spot, open views both ways looking out over the village of Rowington.IMG_2509

A quick bite to eat then it was back out with the chainsaws and axes to tackle the remainder of the logs on both boat roofs.

My stack…

A couple of hours later and it was sliced, diced and stacked back onto the boats. That should last us a while.

Sue and I took the dogs out for an hour in the late afternoon, a short walk out around the village and back.

Rowington’s Church of St. Lawrence is a fine building, parts dating back to the 12th century.IMG_2512

Sue, Meg and setting sun.

Another fine sunset finished the day off
The new moon is in the middle of the shot.

Our time cruising with Sue and Vic is drawing to a close. We’ll be parting company in the next couple of days, as we head west then north for the Llangollen Canal. We’ll probably meet up again in the spring, over on the Fens.

Locks 0, miles 2½

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

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

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.

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.
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.

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…

…and the river.
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…
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

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)