Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The long drop down. Then up again!

The old windlass certainly took a hammering on the Stratford and no rest now we are on the G.U. (Grand Union ).   After using the services at Kingswood junction and doing a right turn, we were once again on somewhat broader waters. Now heading towards Warwick, but not today. A certain flight of broad locks was between us and they required a nights sleep before tackling them.

We bimbled down a few lock free miles enjoying the sunshine. Just beyond bridge 62 at Rowington, the canal is carried on an embankment, with splendid views over rural Warwickshire . We found a mooring with an open aspect and settled in. Chairs out and chill. Strange to think that as the crow flies,  we are only about a mile from Lowsonford on the Stratford.

The next morning we awoke with the thought that today meant tackling the Hatton flight . 21 broad locks descending down to Warwick. Now this flight can be made easy if you find the right boat to buddy up with, or a pain if you meet the wrong one. We were very, very lucky to meet up with N.B.Nancy at the top of the flight. We had first met David and Sharon  at Tewkesbury and periodically since journeying up the Avon and Stratford. Our luck was really in meeting them again at the top of the flight. We worked like a well oiled machine. Ali and David doing the hard graft, whilst Sharon and I steered the boats.

We soon developed a swing. Nothing was rushed, but together we worked our way down seamlessly.  It was almost a pleasure, almost! These locks are relentless though, but not counting helped and before you know it, we reached the bottom in almost record time. Both of us were heading for a stay in the Saltisford canal trust arm. These splendid moorings are within easy walking distance of the town centre, have water and electrickery and all at a more than reasonable price. We even managed to get a replacement gas bottle from them!

But first the Shrewley Tunnel (with separate towpath tunnel)

Amazing Flowstones 

a much better view when you look back!

After settling in and getting the washing machine working, we all went out for a meal and a drink or two in celebration of a great passage.

The next morning, our mega wash continued. There is a laundry here as well, again at very reasonable prices, but we washed aboard then dried using their machines. Then a walk around historic Warwick . The centrepiece of this place is undoubtedly the castle. But at over £30 A head, we gave it a miss. Drawn to water as ever, we walked down the streets to the river. Visited the Mill gardens, then to the Lord Leycester Hospital. These grade 1 listed building house a charity dating back to Elizabethan times, supporting ex servicemen. One of these gave us an extensive history talk before we even set foot in the buildings. It is a fantastic place. Just don't eat there... because you will be so full, you can't make room for the delicious cakes on offer! This we found to our cost after consuming a fantastic ploughmans that set us up for the rest of the day.

Mill Gardens

Different boats on this section of the Avon!

Thoroughly enjoyed our stay, but after 48 hours, it was time to move on. We paid our minimal dues, said goodbye to the ever helpful staff and along with N.B, Nancy, made our way down two locks and then through the somewhat industrial side of Warwick and Leamington Spa.  A canal side Tesco allowed us to top up with supplies, then out of the conurbations, to moor up in a rural location.

Over the River Avon again

The next day, we said our farewells to David and Sharon. What a great couple. They were staying put for a day or so to catch up on jobs. The first lock of the day soon loomed. At least it was dry and warm ish. Luckily we managed to buddy up with another boat to ascend all the locks to Long Itchington, that's ten more broad locks under our belt. We arrived late lunch time, ate, then I had a snoozette whilst Ali read. After a walk around the village and a quick trip to the pub in order to prevent dehydration, of course,  we ate on the boat and chilled.

We really must start looking for a fuel top up soon. We  are not desperate, but since our last was near Sharpness, it is about time.

The weather forecast said it was going to be a warm one. The remnants of a tropical storms heat. Got that wrong then. It wasn't cold, but it was breezy and cloudy when we set off from Long Itchington.  We did the first two locks on our own and found they behaved very well. Tucked ourselves into the left hand wall, used the ground paddle on the same side and up we came quite gently. Only having to open one gate was also a bonus. After the second lock, we reached the water point opposite the Blue Lias public house. There is something about this water point! Last time we visited, someone was moored on it. This time, a boat was half on it. We could get in, but not secure ourselves which was a bummer, but it was quiet, so we managed to water up without too many problems.

Moving off towards the locks, we were aware of another boat behind us. They subsequently became our lock buddies up the rest of the Stockton flight. Not very organised, despite the numbers aboard, but they helped.

At the top of the flight we waved adieu as they were only heading for Ventnor Farm marina. A lot more moored boats here, but little moving. Initially, our intention was to stop before the three Calcutt locks, but nothing grabbed us, so we bimbled on.

We shared these locks with a cheerful chap in a yoghurt pot ( plastic cruiser ). He was happy to share the locks with us, unusual for this type of craft and we ascended the three without fuss.

It now became prevarication time. Wigrams turn junction loomed. Go right towards Oxford or left to Braunston?

We elected a left. We need fuel and use of the services we reasoned, but en route, decided that we will return and go towards Oxford. Work that one out!

We are now on the canal equivalent of the M1. Even more so at the weekend. There are large marinas either end of this stretch and quite a few hire bases. It being Saturday, we anticipated it being busy, but just not how much!

We dodged into a mooring near the village of Flecknoe,  got the chairs out and watched the fun and games. Well i did, whilst Ali got the paint pots out for a little touching up! It is utterly mad busy here, unlike the rest of the system in our experience this year.

on mooring up

a little later ....

Next morning, not so early, we decided that a wash load would be advantageous.  So after showering, it was travel power on, load in and wash. We were not in a rush, so letting the emigrees from the local marinas get going, was to our advantage.  It was nearly lunch time before we released the chains and chugged our way into Braunston.

Braunston is a canal hub, so always busy. We bimbled in to top up with water. The tap near the Elsan point was free, so we moored up. The Elsan point here is one of the open air variety, not contained within a building. There is a rubbish point some 250 yds  away and numerous dog poo bins dotted along the tow path.

So why o why do people dump their rubbish and poo bags at the Elsan point? Bone idleness.  At least they had not deposited them down the drain I suppose, but, come on people, it ain't hard work to walk a few yards!

We did a swift turn at the winding hole, then returned looking for a mooring. It was rather busy, but Ali spotted a potential spot just before the turn and after asking a boat to shuffle up a little, we were somewhat snugly in. After chatting to our neighbours, we made the walk to visit Julie and Geoff.

Great strides have been made by them both to make the historic N.B. Greenlaw their home. The engine is now purring and the boat has now had that feminine touch. Looking really good. Still think your bonkers, but each to their own. Great to catch up with you and hope to see you again soon.

Next morning saw us steadily chugging up the North Oxford towards Dunchurch Pools marina. This takes us roughly an hour from Braunston. A warm but somewhat cloudy day, with the occasional very light shower.

The entrance pool into the marina is circular, with visitor moorings and the service dock around its perimeter. As ever, it was windy as we arrived, but for once this was to our advantage. As we passed under the impressive entrance bridge, our prop was fouled giving us only limited propulsion, but we were wind assisted onto the service pontoon. Weed hatch up and as suspected by the noise, we had collected a rubber pipe fender along with a length of lanyard and the remnant of the plastic hook used to secure this to the hand rail. A bit of a faff to untangle,  but soon off the prop.

note the chunks out of the wall, can't believe it, its such a wide entrance

We fuelled up, 108 litres since Sharpness, which is very economical really, since this supplies propulsion, hot water and electrical power. Quick empty of the Elsan in the state of the art waste point on the service pontoon,  then we popped into our home mooring.

Deep joy to have our car to do a little shopping. Started first time as well after three months hibernation. But it ain't half strange being on the road again. Our life being governed by canal speed. We hit Sainsburys, lunched on board and could not wait to get off again, so we did!

3 miles of narrow canal, 27 miles of broad canals, 46 broad locks and Shrewley Tunnel

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