Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st May
We had a showery drive up to Calcutt, but got the car unloaded in the dry. We were on our way out of the marina soon after 4 o’clock. Easier said than done though, as a stiff breeze made it difficult to get out onto the canal in one go. We turned left towards Warwick instead of right to the Oxford; for various reasons to do with appointments at home and the availability of marina berths when we need one, we are on our way to Droitwich Spa marina instead of the Thames. We pootled along towards Stockton locks, though we made sure to stop for the night before we got there – just past the Willow Wren training place. It was a short but chilly cruise in a stiff breeze.
Several Napton hire boats and some from Braunston went by into the evening. The chicken stew we’d brought from home was still frozen, so we went to the Boat at Gibraltar bridge and had a very nice meal there instead.
On Sunday a few boats went by before we were ready to go, which was about 9.30, so we were anticipating a queue at Stockton top lock. But when we got there the boat ahead of us was already at the second lock, and as I turned the top lock NB Orchid II arrived. We shared the whole flight with them.
The cottage at the top lock has a rather amusing name – Club Toplockicana.
Apart from 2 locks where we waited for boats coming up, we had to turn the other 8. Stockton locks have heavy gates and stiff paddles, and we were very glad of the company.
Dave picked up a rib injury playing football last week, so couldn’t do the heavy paddles on his own – but we were able to do a double-hander on the toughest one which was taking me far too long on my own! Dave was making jolly sure the paddle didn’t slip while I took the photo – you do have to be careful to co-ordinate the changeover of handles when you do this!
Our companions were quite a bit older than us, so we paced ourselves, but even so, because we were locking ahead, we soon caught up with the boat in front. We were down in under 2 hours.
We left our companions, who stopped at the Two Boats, and moored just beyond Long Itchington for a bit of a rest and had lunch before moving on again. Soon after setting off, we were surprised to see a pedalo weaving its way towards us. Weaving, because only one person was pedalling. Two chaps are travelling the whole of the Grand Union between Birmingham and London and one was having a bit of a walk. There was no time to find out why they were doing it.
We shared the Bascote locks with a hire-boat of Australians. Once again all the locks were against us but with their 3 crew we were quickly down. Here we are coming down the staircase.
We stopped between Welsh Road and Wood locks before 3 and had a cup of tea. Then
we Dave got on with some jobs and I sat in the sun and read the paper. Well I had done 15 locks. Chocolate may have featured as well as cake and copious amounts of tea!
Apart from some motor-cyclists enjoying their Sunday-afternoon zoom along the Welsh Road straights, it was very peaceful in the sunshine and birdsong was the main sound. Only a few boats passed by, and some runners, walkers and a few reasonable cyclists on the towpath. Lovely.
The plastic carrier pegged to the side of the cratch cover in the picture above is the one that holds the brass-polishing kit. In one of the few puffs of wind this afternoon it sailed gently off the roof and into the cut, just too far away to reach with the hook. I released the front rope to let the front drift out so I could retrieve it. After tea, Dave and Meg went for a lovely stroll in the evening sunshine while I chilled with a glass of something red.
15 locks, 4 miles