Saturday, 28 September 2019

Thunder, lightning and Lapworth locks, not quite in the dry

Tuesday 24th September; Lapworth locks, Boot pound to Hockley Heath, bridge 24
We were rudely awoken before 6 by torrential rain and a thunderstorm.  Meg joined us on the bed – it’s not thunder that alarms her, but the drumming on the roof when it rains cats and dogs.  We didn’t get up, but did regret forgetting to put the tonneau cover over the stern when there was a small drip from the sliding hatch onto Dave’s fleece.  The rain eased off for a while after breakfast, so I could take the rubbish down to the bins, give Meg a bit of a walk, and get the paper and milk from the little shop.

But the short interlude of light rain didn’t last long.  It was definitely a morning for staying put.

A couple of unfortunate hire boats dripped their way past – this is part of the Warwickshire Ring so they were probably on quite a tight schedule - no lazy morning inside for them!  The forecast said the rain would ease up after 11, and it did.  We set off at about 11.30 and straightaway met a volunteer, who was free as the boat he had been helping down was stopping for a rest.  He helped us all the way up the thick of the locks.  We could tell that a boat was on the way down as the bywashes were running fiercely.  Luckily Dave knows how to deal with these – we have done this flight often enough!

We passed one more boat in the short pound below lock 8.

The volunteer raised the paddles at lock 7 for us.  This is the one above the short curved pound, where it is difficult enough to get a 55’ boat round without touching the edge or the walls.  We once passed a 70-footer here, which was testing to say the least but we managed it.  The towpath changes sides here, and as well as the split bridge which allows the towrope to stay attached to both horse and boat, it has a spindle affair to aid the process too.

The volunteer went back down the flight, and we did the rest on our own.  Not all in one go though!  Heavy rain started again as we cleared lock 7.  It’s a few hundred yards to the next lock, and as I wasn’t walking there was time to get waterproofs on.  Lock 5 we think of as the fancy plants and paint house - but no pictures of those as the rain was too heavy.  I sheltered under a tree and snapped the pyracanthas that were planted the year before last, I think.  Getting established now.

By now it was obvious that my waterproof – which failed on the last trip and which I re-proofed before we came out again – was useless.  As soon as we had squelched our way up lock 4 (the cricket field lock, rain definitely stopped play!) we moored up.  My top half was wet through.

We had lunch and waited for the rain to stop before we set off again.  It was still warm enough to be wearing shorts.  I filled my (spare, grubby, boating) waterproof’s pockets with some yellow plums from a tree by the woodyard, and eventually we made it up the top lock.  This is the American’s House lock.  Jeremy from Massachusetts lived here with his wife for years, and operated as an independent lockie.  He was always polite, smartly turned out and took his work seriously. 

When his wife died he moved into the village, and then went back to the States for a while.  But he came back to the canal, and when we saw him walking on the towpath last year he was still his dapper and friendly self.  But today’s volunteer said that he had gone back to the States for good now, as his health is declining.  We wish him well.

As we approached Hockley Heath the heavens opened once more.  The rings before the bridge were all occupied so we couldn’t stop there.  We had waterproofs on, but the rain was heavy enough not only to make us get the brolly out, but forced us to hold the boat under the road bridge and wait for it to stop!  Eventually we made it out again, and went on to one of our favourite moorings just short of bridge 24 – a little closer to the bridge than usual, to be out of the tree-drip area as much as possible.

Then at last the sun came out!   The M42 roared in the distance but was not particularly intrusive.  As darkness fell we put the Mikuni on for an hour – the boat was festooned with wet clothing and dog towels that needed drying.

3½ miles, 13 locks, 2 windlass-operated draw bridges,

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