Saturday, 2 June 2018

Off the river – thank goodness

Saturday 26th May; Stratford to Wilmcote

It was misty and cool first thing.  Police tape was visible opposite, but the swans sailed on regardless.  At the time we were hoping the man had been washed downstream and had managed to grab hold of something and get himself out.

1 police tape

I was up early so I could have breakfast before trotting across the park to join the parkrun.  It was raining as we waited to start but once it had stopped we got extremely hot.  Dave took some photos but you’re not going to see them because an orange top and a red face are not a good look!  The police were out and about again, and once more Dave was asked what he had seen; this time the few boaters on the moorings were being asked for their home addresses, ages and phone numbers, but it all seemed a bit superfluous as no-one had seen the incident.

I had a quick shower – to cool down! – before we grabbed the opportunity presented by the open lock to get back up onto the canal.  On the river side there isn’t anywhere for crew to get off easily when the bottom gates are closed, and in the past I have walked round over the tramway bridge while Dave held off in the river.  With the increased flow after the rain he was glad he didn’t have to.  We had forgotten we needed bread, so I left Dave holding the centre rope on the mooring north of the road bridge while I nipped up to Sainsbury’s.  He got into conversation with two women who were walking from Stratford to Knowle along the canal – quite a trek!  By the time we reached the first lock they were way ahead of us.

2 first narrow lock

The Stratford locks may be heavy but I was delighted to be back on a canal. We had been extremely lucky with the weather for our river days on this trip and we loved it, but generally we still prefer canals.  We completed the first batch of locks during the morning.  I am proud to report that I managed to open and close the nasty heavy bottom gate at Manchester Road ALL BY MYSELF with no help at all.  I hope you are impressed.  If you are not, you can’t have been through this lock!

3 manchester road bottom gate

We pulled in at Valley Cruisers for the Elsan but didn’t hang about for water – it’s one of their changeover days and they were rather busy.  The swan parents were training their babies in persuasion techniques; aren’t they gorgeous when they’re tiny?

4 babies at valley cruises

We stopped at the services above bridge 63 to fill up with water and get rid of some rubbish and recycling.  Look what was in the recycling bin, presumably left by a boater – what an effort to heave it in!  I bet the culprit will be complaining about increased licence fees and lack of maintenance, but if people weren't so thoughtless …..  who do they think gets billed when this sort of thing is dumped?

5 whats this doing in the recycling bin

As it was bank holiday weekend I couldn’t phone CRT until the office opened on Tuesday.  If they don’t go and remove it, the whole recycling bin contents will get dumped and have to be paid for as landfill. I discovered later I could have used the contact form on the website, or Twitter – I have registered but haven’t had time to find out how to use it yet.  The water tank was empty enough for us to grab a sandwich while it filled.

Now for the 11 locks of the Wilmcote flight.  The sun was through now and it was getting very hot as we worked our way up.  Some idiot going up ahead of us had left all the top gates open.  While I was locking ahead, Dave was contending with the strong bywashes below the locks.

7 back to bywashes

We were out in the country now but for a while could hardly hear ourselves think – there is a motorcycle scrambling course alongside the bottom of the flight and they were having a rare old time, somewhere behind those trees!  there is a bike flashing by in the centre of the picture, but you can’t really see it.

6 cyclocross behind there

After the first group of locks we met a boater coming down.  They had had the benefit of all those open gates, but had been held up by an empty pound as well.  The further up we went, the more the empty locks were filling up from leaky top gates, but at least I wasn’t having to go and close them any more.  Lots of passers-by were enjoying the  hot sunny afternoon, but not one offered to help with the gates.   But no matter – I had plenty to drink, and several Sainsbury’s posh chocolate chip cookies may have been involved …..  Eventually we made it to the top, with no low water levels.  I was quite tired.

10 phew wilmcote locks done

At the end of August 2014 we were on our way down to Stratford when we got firmly wedged in this lock – a large log must have fallen in weeks before, and being totally waterlogged wasn’t visible above the surface.  We tried reversing, pulling, pushing, all to no avail – until a large stag party appeared lower down the flight.  With eight of them, two other boaters, Dave reversing hard, and Meg in charge, out we popped!

13 heave ho me hearties

They even managed to heave the offending log out.  We were extremely grateful even when we discovered later that on their way down to Stratford the day before they had left all the bottom paddles open and drained most of the flight.

15 ha-harr the victorious pirates

The log was tucked into the hedge, and it is still there.  The hedge is neatly clipped around it.

9 is that our log

Narrow locks and the very tight bridges on the South Stratford were an effort to adjust to after the wide open spaces of the last couple of weeks!

11 back to narrow bridgeholes

We moored just before the winding hole at Wilmcote.  I wonder when the towpath alongside the visitor moorings here will rise to the top of the priority list?  Plenty of space at the moment but the summer holidays might catch people out.

12 wilmcote moorings still need repair

There was some shade where we moored, so as soon as we had packed away the anchor out came my folding chair, the newspaper and some cake for a rest out of the sun.   Well-deserved, say I, and I sat and watched a stream of Valley Cruisers coming by, heading for the locks before their last night.  They would have crossed with Anglo-Welshes coming up on their way back to Wootton Wawen.  Meanwhile Dave polished the brasses.

13 lovely mooring

Overnight there was a BIG thunderstorm.  We were heartily glad we were off the river.  Meg isn’t too fussed by thunder and lightning but was quite upset by the racket of the rain hammering on the roof.  We let her come up on the bed, but we had to avoid comforting her so that she didn’t think there really was something to be frightened of.

4 miles, 1 broad lock, 16 narrow

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