Friday, 5 April 2019

We made it! But there’s work to be done.

Monday 25th to Wednesday 27th March; Long Itchington to Calcutt marina

We have a couple of days’ breathing space before we must be on our way home. So we stayed put for the day and Dave took advantage of the conveniently close bus stop to get to Leamington station and travel back to Droitwich Spa marina for the car.  So I did the really hard stuff of taking Meg for a walk along the disused railway line in the glorious sunshine!  Bridge 26A used to carry the old branch line from Weedon to Leamington, passing through Braunston, Flecknoe, Napton & Stockton, and Southam & Long Itchington stations.  The map here shows how very useful it would be to boaters if it were still operating.  

National Cycle route 41, known as the Lias Line, follows this part of the old route.  If you turn left from the bridge you will see that the path narrows and is in a direct line towards Southam cement works, which was also served by the railway.  The name ‘Lias’ refers to the geological strata in this area, which also gives its name to the Blue Lias pub further along the canal.

Comma butterfly
The section we walked along is managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which is hoping to re-create the limestone grassland which would have been here originally. At the moment there are banks of nettles which are the food plant for the caterpillars of the brilliantly coloured Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma butterflies (so we shouldn’t complain too much about nettles!).  This comma had been scrapping with another – like several other species, the males hold territories and will see off interlopers as they wait for a female to come along.

Dave returned mid-afternoon, having walked back along the canal from Calcutt.

Before we left our mooring on Tuesday, we followed the old railway line and the lane into Long Itchington village for some supplies – the Co-op here has a much wider range than the little shop near the second lock.

We ascended Stockton locks quite easily – there were several boats on their way down and in the end we saw more boats in three hours than on any other day of this trip.  One of them was the widebeam hotel boat Kailani which looked rather more luxurious than Chuffed!  It is based at Wigram’s Turn marina and was off to the Saltisford Arm to collect passengers for its first trip of the season.

The Willow Wren training base is having more construction work carried out.

A little further on a pair of swans had chosen an elevated site where reeds have been cleared, taking full advantage of the floating bits nearby.

We moored for lunch on the stretch between the entrance to Ventnor and Calcutt marinas, before Dave walked up to the office to find out where we would be mooring.  The sunshine has brought the coltsfoot into full open bloom.

We are moored on the Calcutt visitor area.  In the past we have been on one of the permanent pontoons but there are so many more boats around now that they are all full.  This will make our preferred cruising pattern of marina-hopping without a fixed plan more difficult than it has been up to now.  The outlook is not so pretty now, but a working boatyard is better than a derelict factory. 

10 locks, 3½ miles in 2 days

We packed up and went home on the Wednesday.  The boat needs to come out of the water for the rudder to be fixed, and we will have the hull blacked too.  Dave discovered a leak from the gearbox the other day so that needs to be fixed, but he will fit a new battery condition meter himself.  We are still waiting to hear from RCR about the thermostat housing.

It’s not been quite the trip we hoped for!  But nobody got hurt, the boat didn’t sink and although there is money to be shelled out we were pleased to be out on the water again and enjoyed our trip in spite of the frustrating bits.

Trip stats
We travelled 43 miles, 1½ furlongs of narrow canals and 20 miles, 5¼ furlongs of broad canals, about 64 miles in total.  We travelled on the Worcester and Birmingham, BCN Main Line and Icknield Port loop, North Stratford and the Grand Union canals.

There were 108 locks – 65 narrow and 43 broad.  On the North Stratford there were 2 manually operated draw bridges and the electric Shirley Drawbridge.  We passed through 7 tunnels; Tardebigge, Shortwood, Wast Hills, Edgbaston (twice), all on the W&B, Brandwood on the North Stratford and Shrewley on the Grand Union.

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