The visit to the dentist went well, apart from having to get up at silly o’clock to drive a hire car to Banbury to leave Joy shopping & on to Bloxham for my 8:40 am appointment. I am pleased to report that my new crown is in situ and looking good.
Whilst in Banbury we visited Tooleys Boatyard to talk about blacking and devised a ‘Cunning Plan’ to have Wrens-Nest’s bottom blacked whilst we were on holiday in September.
Having discovered Graham (of nb Katherine) was the owner of an Austin Seven I asked if he would like a dynamo for it as I had one ‘under the bench’ at Heyford so we went there to retrieve said item and met Bones there!
This chance meeting changed our lunch plans so we decamped to Annie’s Tea Rooms at Thrupp for pork pies, fresh bread and salad. We had a chance to observe the newly mechanised lift bridge and wonder of wonders… British Waterways working to trim the willow tree which had swept our sack truck off the roof a few weeks ago. Who says complaining doesn’t work!
That’s Bancroft Basin, Stratford upon Avon, we arrived here just about lunchtime today.
Yesterday was a long day, with 9 locks and and no less than 3 aqueducts. nb Katherine was immobilised just before Wootton Wawen aqueduct with what turned out to be a huge length of plastic around the prop which caused some delay to our progress.
We’ve done aqueducts before but they were just like bridges with proper sides and stuff but these were on the style of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal which is a cast iron trough with a towpath on one side and nothing on the other!The Edstone Aqueduct was the last and highest of the trio and to quote Waterscape:
Edstone (or Bearley) Aqueduct is one of the earliest cast iron canal aqueducts in the country and is the longest in England. It has a low level towpath and crosses a river, railway and a road. It is one of the local wonders of the canal network.
We considered continuing down part of the next flight of locks and set off on a reccy but decided that we would stay put which turned out to be a “good decision” as it started to pour with rain soon afterwards.
So this morning we made a 8 o’clock start and made our way down the Wilmote flight to the edge of Stratford which we did in good time, so stopped for a bacon and egg breakfast. Afterwards we carried on to Stratford arriving about lunchtime. I have to say that The bridges on the Stratford Canal seem to be some of the narrowest we have encountered not to mention the debris at every bridge-hole and some of the lock by-washes (overflows) were viscious. We had been warned that the canal got shallower as Stratford was approached and we found it to be true.
We reached Bancroft Basin in Stratford and found moorings on the finger pontoons which were so difficult to get onto as the wind which had picked up during the morning making lining up for locks a problem made mooring here a nightmare as the pontoons were floating and bobbing about and even the bowthruster couldn’t fight the wind. Fortunatly we were rescued by nb Lacy Fair who helped Joy with the mooring ropes and nb Katherine who shunted us into line before nb Xilion Rose did the same for them. Its all about cooperation on the canal 😀
Tomorrow I have to visit the dentist, so have hired a car to take us back to Bloxham and Banbury, so no boating tomorrow.
Our route today took us up to Kingwood Junction, the water level was very low and made for slow progress, I even stopped to check if there was anything round the prop at one stage the engine was working so hard.
On reaching the junction we hung a left under the bridge and then through the Lapworth Link, a short short stretch of canal that links together the Grand Union and Stratford-on-Avon Canals, its not much wider than our boat and when we emerged into Kingwood Basin it was full rudder and much power to turn us to face the right direction… but we did it… without the aid of the bowthruster 😀
We were back to narrow locks again here and progressed down in light drizzle and as it got heavier, decided to call a halt at Lowsonford opposite the Fleur de Lys Pub where we intend to eat tonight and one of its claims to fame is that it is the pub where Fleur De Lys pies, well known throughout the land’s chip shops, originated!
With the prospect of the 21 Hatton locks ahead, this morning we set off at 9:15am (yes, you read it right!) and did six locks on our own before catching up with nb Katherine and meeting Allison and Paul between locks 29 & 30 at about 12:30. After introductions and cups of tea we commenced the ascent with the two boats breasted up (roped together) and soon we were operating like a well oiled machine exchanging locks with boats coming down.
About half way up the supply of descending boats stopped and so Allison and Judy took over operating the locks while Paul and I went ahead to set the next one whilst Graham and Joy drove, Joy even taking the pair of boats into the locks a couple of times. We were soon at Hatton Yard & us men admired the old Ford Van. We made excellent progress and by 3:30pm we were at the top celebrating with a cup of tea in the cafe!
We said our goodbyes to Allison & Paul then decided to press on through the Shrewley Tunnel and moored up for the night a couple of miles short of Kingswood Junction on an embankment with great views of the surrounding countryside and spent a pleasant evening with Graham and Judy chatting over a drink or two.
We were woken up this morning at 6:30am by people talking, we found out afterwards they were fishing which meant we got a bit earlier start.
We paired up again with Judy and Graham on Katherine, to do some more locks. I feel I am getting more confident steering the boat in and leave the hard work to Chris preparing them.
As we entered through the back gardens of Leamington Spa we left nb Katherine as we moored up and managed to do a bit of shopping, we found a Co-op and Iceland in easy walking distance from the canal although, would you believe it, on the route to Warwick was Lidl even with its own moorings followed by a large Tesco.
Passing through to Warwick we crossed the River Leam and the railway line over aqueducts and this evening we walked into Warwick town and got an Indian take away; very nice, even Cattie enjoyed the Chicken Kashmiri, we need to build up our strength for the Hatton Locks tomorrow!
Tomorrow we have arranged to meet Judy and Graham again so as we can go through the locks together, we shall also have extra crew to help us as our friends Allison and Paul from Kingswood, Wotton-under-Edge, are coming to help us, many hands make light work as they say..
Let’s hope so 😀
Much as I loved Clattercote my new favourite has to be Itchington Bottom (Lock) can you imagine giving that as your address! It was bad enough when we were first married and lived at Bottom Flat, which people though weird until we explained it was below the Top Flat!
Anyway, I digress, as ever. This morning we said goodbye to the Oxford Canal, and entered that comparative motorway, the Grand Union, it really seemed that wide! We soon encountered our first broad lock, with its strange looking, though well maintained paddle-gear, which we shared with a hire boat going back into Calcutt Boats, then we shared a couple of locks with nb Henry George before they went into Napton Marina the canal seemed quite deserted for a while and we stopped opposite the Boat Inn at Birdingbury Bridge and enquired if there was a local shop nearby as we had been plagued with flies ever since the sheep fields and needed some fly spray, it seemed that the nearest shop was a couple of miles so we passed up on walking that far and had brunch instead.
There was still nothing else headed our way so we were resigned to tackling the 8 Stockton Locks solo, there were boats coming up the locks when we arrived so we waited and helped them through and fortunately for us along came nb Katherine to share the lock with us. As it transpired it was fortunate for them too as their gearbox was becoming more & more reluctant to drive or stop them.
After the first couple of locks Joy told me they had a problem (and volunteered me to look at it) so we roped the two boats together and breasted up through the remaining locks with Graham driving our boat while Judy, Joy and me operated the locks while another kind gentleman set the locks ready for us and for others all the way down.
This worked out famously and by the time we reached the Blue Lias Inn, where we moored up, we were firm friends. I checked out their gearbox and found it was lacking in oil so after topping that up with 10w/40 and ourselves with Speckled Hen we continued our journey with them right down the Welsh Road bridge where we have stopped tonight.
Fear not we found a shop near the quaintly named Itchington Bottom Lock AND they sold fly spray.
Bones… you can be proud of Joy she has been taking the boat in and out of locks on her own today, I’m very proud of her too ♥ ♥ ♥
Good progress made today, after a reasonably early start (for us) we pottered along through the countryside, along the summit level of the canal, through fields of sheep, hedgerows of wild flowers and unimpeded by locks until we reached Marston Doles, where begins the Napton flight. We took a lunch break through the mid-day heat and by this time Joy was feeling better after having a poorly side yesterday, so she sprang into action at the first lock only to strain it again 😦 so after a break for tea & painkillers she decided that she would take the boat through the locks today whilst I operated the gates. In fact she managed very well and grew in confidence.
The locks down to Napton went remarkably well managing to work with boats coming the other way so gates could be left open for each other with the water levels already right for next boat.
Catty had been getting a bit stir crazy yesterday and wanting to get out and explore but as we were not staying put we couldn’t let her. Before the last lock we let her into the boat so she could stretch her legs however she abused our trust and she was spotted climbing out the kitchen window at the lock, just in time to be captured and put back inside.
After that we needed to moor up but everyone else had got there first. A lovely spot opposite Napton windmill proved too shallow, Joy didn’t want to be next to a field of cows anyway (They were horses!!! See what you have to put up with when you’re married to an Essex Girl!!!) Eventually we found a space just the right size for us and spent a peaceful night there before venturing onto the Grand Union tomorrow.