Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th April – Kingswood Junction to near Long Itchington.
We didn’t hang about on Tuesday morning for fear of another wet afternoon, though in the end it didn’t rain at all. We turned on to the Grand Union and enjoyed a cuppa over the few miles to the top of Hatton locks and caught a brief glimpse of a kingfisher. There were stretches of moored boats along the way so we didn’t hurry – we went particularly slowly past these …..
We were on our way down the flight before 11. Unfortunately the locks were mostly against us and it was slow going to start with. I paced myself in case there were no volunteers on duty so we only used the paddles on one side to save work. I also used the trick of a lockie we met a few years ago – four for the lock, then four for you, meaning do four turns of the windlass then take a breather for the count of four before the next four turns. It is a good system on this heavy gear. Near the top of the flight is the Hatton Arms. I had a grumble to myself about their board – allday is NOT a word (and neither is alright, even if the spell checker says it is, so there).
It was correct though on the board by the entrance further along. The volunteer at the CRT hut helped with the gates at the fourth lock, then we spotted a volunteer lockie helping another boat up beyond the crossover bridge. He had helped them for most of the flight so came to help us instead. It was getting quite warm, so our jumpers soon came off. Bob used to go to the gym every week, and got fed up with paying to get fit when he wasn’t achieving anything other than muscle, so signed up to be a CRT volunteer instead.
Fuelled by the flapjack I made yesterday we worked well together till lunchtime, when Bob went off to his base and we pulled in on a short stretch of piling between locks 30 and 31. Remembering the unfortunate hirer we met the other day, who broke his shoulder falling off a lock wall, I took a picture (and took care too ….) It’s a long way down if you miss your footing!
Bob spotted us as we approached the last few locks and helped us down the rest, and by 2.30 we were moored above Cape Locks.
Dave took the opportunity to visit Get Knotted next to the pub and we are now the proud possessors of a new bow fender made by Will, the son of Neil who runs the business. Will came and fitted it and made a lovely job too, so it looks very smart. What do you think of Dave’s new pointy hairdo?
Quite by chance he was standing directly in line with the chimney and the chinaman’s hat, reflecting the sun, was perfectly positioned ….. The old fender was thoroughly squished and distorted and never really sat straight at all.
Will invited us to come and see what a properly made fender core looks like, so we went over for a look – very interesting it was too.
In the evening we had a nice meal in the pub – pie and mash for me, fish and chips for Dave. At £25 for 2 meals and 2 pints, not a bad price either.
On Wednesday we carried on through Warwick on our way to Calcutt. The sun was bright though the air was still cold, but once we had started work on the first lock we soon warmed up. We managed to squeeze in on the end of the Tesco mooring to do some shopping and dispose of the recycling. On the way out towards Radford Semele, where we stopped for lunch, we noticed the moorings for Leamington town and Jephson Gardens. We've never visited either, so maybe we’ll do that next time we are this way. We saw our first ducklings today – unfortunately scattering in panic so I couldn’t get many in the picture.
There is a swan’s nest on the way to Radford bottom lock. Unfortunately they have chosen to nest right beside the towpath, so CRT have pinned warning signs to the trees on the approaches and placed a traffic cone and branches near the nest to try and give them a bit of protection. Rather a shame if you’ve planned a circular walk with a couple of dogs.
I disposed of our rubbish at the lock, along with an empty 5-gallon plastic drum which had been chucked in the hedge near our lunchtime mooring. The celandines in a huge patch near the lock were turning their little faces to the sun.
We stopped at Fosse Wharf to empty a cassette, then waited for a hire boat coming up behind us to share the next few locks with. There were three crew, at least one being very experienced so we made short work of the remaining locks. It was finally warm enough for me to shed my winter clothes – including vest - and finish the locks in shorts and T-shirt! The warm sun brought out the butterflies too, and we saw several Brimstones (the bright yellow ones you see in spring). This is the best my little camera can do.
I was so busy chatting to the lovely hire boat crew I completely forgot to take any photos of the two steerers coming expertly up Bascote locks. We moored for the night a few hundred yards short of the bridge at Long Itchington. We had the side hatch open with the sun streaming in for a while, but although it was a beautiful sunny evening the temperature soon dropped. Dave has started touching up the red coachlining where it has faded rather badly.
Tuesday; seven and a half miles, 21 locks and one tunnel (Shrewley, which was rather wet). Wednesday; 9 miles and 12 locks, including Bascote staircase.