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Friday 31 August 2018

Holes in the Hurricane.

It was really quiet in marina and I slept well. The reason we were here  was because our Hurricane Heater had 935 hours on the clock and it is supposed to be serviced every 1000 hours. As well as that there has been a constant leak into the drip tray so thought it was time to get it sorted.

We were asked to move berths as the Marina is having certain roadways tramaced so the engineers couldn't get their cars/tools to the boat. Dave came down and set to work. This photo is of the fuel side. The diesel comes in to the square brass coloured book and then down the brass pipes to the black hose with the two red clips.

This is the ignition and burner side of the heater. The service kit comprises of a new air filter, two types of fuel filter and a new ignitor cable, all for about £50-00. The service was done and unfortunately there was still the leak of fuel. After a bit of detective work it was found to be a double crack on the brass tee piece of the fuel line. Sorted. 935 hours took us about 6 years so about £38 a year.

I had a chat with the chap doing the blacking at Calcutt as we will be needing a blacking this winter. As I was looking up later I noticed what looked like a thruster tunnel at the stern of the boat on the slip! I had to go over to check and yes, the boat has a bow and stern thruster!! Surely at least part of the challenge and so satisfaction of the life on the canals and rivers is to maneuver the boat, and get better at it with experience? I suppose if a boat was fitted with a bow thruster and I wanted it I could perhaps have it, but a stern thruster would just be a step too far for me.

Dave finished about lunch time so we had to wait until after lunch. Meanwhile we had our meal and then moved the boat that had tied up out side of us so that we could escape, and then re-moor it. We were free by 1415 and at the bottom of Calcutt locks that were out way, but no sign of anybody coming our way along the long straight, so we were on out own.

As we approached we saw one boat past heading east. A boat in the locks told us that it was mega busy on the Oxford Canal. We approached with caution, and I even asked Helen to go to the bow to check, something I very rarely bother with. Nothing was coming, fortunately.

On the canal junctions of canals seem to be major milestones and boaters seem to endow them with special meaning. When you actually get there they are usually a bit of an anticlimax.

I loved the striations of the field and in the sun. The rolling open hills on this stretch are always a pleasure to chug along.

Despite the scenery it always takes a lot longer than you think to pass through this length as there are so many boats moored, and they all want to have the biggest gap between each other as possible.

I still don't understand how this bling bloke manages to steer our boat without crashing every time we come to a bend. I suppose he is getting the hang of it now though.

As we approached the Puddle Banks the church and mill came into view. Also a couple of empty moorings came into view too. I thought it may have been too good to be true and there was no way to get into the side enough over the aqueduct area.

Braunston turn hove into sight and the cast iron bridges are a classic postcard/calendar/jigsaw of the system, and nobody was coming to the junction with us.

We were wondering how far we would have to go past the junction to find a space but loo and behold, just as we rounded the junction, the 'Wand' Ring Bark and the 'Jam Butty' hove into view, but even better news was the fact that there was a 'Holderness' sized space just ahead of them. Nobody home when we passed to go for a walk and a drink.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Itching Bottom to Half Cutt.

After a wet night the rain stopped about 0630 and it seemed that there were boats on the move soon after that. We pulled off at the normal time, following two boats that had just passed us. There was still a fair few boats moored up pointing our way so we assumed that we wouldn't have to wait long until somebody let go to come up the locks with us.

We waited a while at the Itchington Bottom Lock and I helped a boat coming down. As the lock was now our way we started to enter and as we did a hire boat arrived to join us. As I was helping the down boat I spotted this on the fixed gear of the top gate. Having said that I hadn't seen the gear stamped with the right lock before. Having said that could this be 'borrowed' from Stockton Locks No.10? What does the 10 S stand for?

Helen entering the first lock of the day. Once she was up to top level she decided to work the paddles rather than sit and enjoy the ride today.

These are our lock companions on a Kate boat and from Southampton. They survived yesterday's lock by being able to share with another hire boat with a family full of teenagers. I hope our trip up together gave them a bit  more confidence and a few wrinkles too.

After Shop Lock, the second of the day, is the Kayes Arm that is now residential moorings. Mind you with those tall leyalandi trees they must be a bit gloomy. The arm used to serves the Kayes cement factory. They were taken over by Rugby Cement, along with their narrow boat fleet.

The number of cement, brick and tile works etc in this area, certainly in the past, is due to the presence of the Blue Lias seam. This is a bedding plane of rock at the bottom of the Jurassic that was laid down between 195 to 200 million years ago. It is alternate layers of limestone and shale that can be used for building but more usually as cement etc. It is found on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and up the Whitby in North Yorkshire, and is well known for containing many fossils, hence the pub sign.

Looking down the first few locks of the Stockton Locks, all seems well ordered and they are easy enough to work. By having the other boat in the lock it is easy to jump off and open the gate/drop the paddle on my side and then move out to just clear of the gate. There, so long as the other boat stays alongside in the jaw of the lock it is also easy to jump off to shut the gate once clear. This allows Helen to walk ahead and get the next lock ready for us.

We were working well together by the time we neared the top and running into the lock together also speeds things along. Helen is heading off to get the next lock ready.

We were steadily catching up another pair of boats ahead of us, a lock and a half ahead.

We soon got to the top, in just 2 hours actually, and we carried on. Again the house at the top reminds me of the Thames lock houses.

Willow Wren have made a lovely training base and opened up Nelson's Wharf, that led into a cement works. Steam Narrow Boat Adamant is hiding down the arm. She is not a genuine tug but is made of two Birmingham 'Joey's' from the 1880's/90's, and the steam engine is also from a little before 1902. It was all assembled together in 1980's.

What a beautiful little tug this is. How georgeous she would be. I know what to spend my money on when I win the lottery now. The 'Ruislip' is almost perfect. She was built in 1936 by James Pollock and Sons of Faversham and London. I think she was a tug on the Regents canal but here she is at Willow Wren's Nelson Wharf. I understand despite her size she draws 3'6" that will give her a really good bollard pull for her size.

Just before the three Calcutt Locks we peeled off into the Calcutt Marina as I have booked in to have our Hurricane Heater have its 1000 hours service. They very kindly gave us a berth alongside. So once moored up I got a few little jobs done, including cleaning the chimney and flue and re-sealing the top of the stove and cleaning it all out. Better be ready as the light of the last couple of days just gives me that autumnal feeling.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

On our tod, and a silly sod.

We were off a little later than normal but we weren't going far before stopping again.

Kate Boats were busy turning some of their boats round ready for the next lucky hirers. We only went through a couple of bridges and stopped at the moorings by the TESCO's as we had realised that we would run out of cat food today, and that would never do. Macy the cat had her annual check up and inoculations when we were home and they pointed out that she had gained a little wait over the last couple of visits so she is on a stick diet now. 

We were quickly away and very soon crossing the aqueduct over the River Avon. This is where the flight of locks has been proposed to allow navigation on the river past Warwick and up to this point. I'm not sure how whether there is much backing for it, but who knows when the country needs capital projects to inject capital into the country in a year or two it may come to the top of the list for a big grant.

Leamington is a good example of how communities should provide moorings for boaters to access their town. It is nice and clean too. The first lock of the day was Radford Bottom Lock where we dumped our rubbish as we waited to see if anybody would catch up with us. We have seen this boat elsewhere in the system but neither of us can remember now. I think it was somewhere on the Oxford between Napton and Braunston. It seem they have found a nice little spot to settle here. I wonder if it will be an alternative Charity Dock next time we come this way. There are already a couple of dummies.

Nobody turned up to share with, but a boat did come down the lock so we took the return. The railway viaduct used to carry the Rugby and Leamington railway that opened in 1851 and connected with the West Coast Main Line there. I think that it only closed in 1985 as the Rugby Cement used it until they moved to road transport. It is now a National Cycle way.

We dawled a bit still hoping that somebody would catch us up but it wasn't to be today. Helen managed very well and as we were hanging about we just used the one paddle and so everything was much simplier. In fact  by the time she had opened one paddle and walked across the gate to the other and opened that on the locks was just about empty so safer to work one side only.

We stopped for water at Fosse Wharf to again give a bit of a chance for somebody to catch us, but again no joy. We had just finished when another boat came along and took our place. That is them through the bridge that carries the busy Fosse Way, that was a Roman Road. After the Romans came to Britain this line of the road from Exeter to Lincoln marked the limit of their progress of conquest for a few years. Fosse is from the Latin for ditch so it probably started out as a defensive ditch. It is a lovely cottage by the canal but the Fosse way does not only ring with the sound of leather sandals and the jangle of armour.

The pounds between the locks have been allowed to overgrow a little and the reeds to grow making it look a lot like the River Avon!

The Lock House at Welsh Road Lock reminds me very much of the lock keepers houses on the Thames and seem to have been built at the same time as the route was upgraded in the 1930's

 The last locks of the day were the Bascote locks and still nobody to share with, but we had met a few coming down the length of canal. Once again the original narrow locks have been retained as by-washes once the 'new' double locks were opened. There is something quite photogenic about these Grand Union Locks with their paddle gear leaning slightly out wards and the hand rails and bollards.

The bridge at the base of the locks is an original one by the look of it and not been widened in the 1930's, and still looks picturesque.

As we were in the middle lock I could see somebody at the top of the staircase pair. They seemed to be ages looking at the sign there. As we left the middle lock water started cascading over the bottom gates of the staircase. Helen ran up to help and she got short shrift from the man in the boat and returned to leave them to it. I tied up and went up to speak with him. We eventually got them sorted out and out of the way and as we entered the bottom lock another boat arrived at the top so were were able to put them wise and cross as we went up and them down.

That was the excitement for the day and we were soon off from the top of Bascote towards a mooring at Long Itchington.

There were plenty of boats there when we arrived and so moored below the bridges near the aqueduct. I like it better here as it is a bit more bright and good for the panels. We walked into the village to post some mail and stopped for a pint at the Buck and Bell which we hadn't been in before. They had just had new taps fitted but it is a nice pub with lots of little rooms for all clients. I just wish there was a better choiuce of beer!

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Bearing up in Warwick.

The 8 hour day and 53 locks yesterday must have taken it out of the crew as they were sluggards this morning and I could only prise them out of bed after a cup of tea. We were heading into town for a full day sightseeing as the last time Amy had been here was about twenty years ago.

We took our usual route from the canal up past the hospital entrance then followed the train tracks to the subway underthem that took us into Priory Park and up the hill through the woods rather than via busy traffic busy streets. It brings you out on Cape Street close to the junction with Northgate. I had never noticed this sundial the corner of the Northgate House Conference Centre. There is the double on the other side of the point too. We followed the Northgate to St. Mary's Church and it seems the buildings seem to have been finished.

Amy had never been to see the Beauchamp Chapel and it is well worth seeing. As we have been here several times I thought rather than repeat the same pictures I thought I would have a theme of bears. This one is at the foot of the effigy of the body of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick who died in 1590. The bear and ragged staff have been the emblem for the Earls of Warwick, the Beauchamp family since around the late 1200's, and originally they were separate as here. The bears are just about always seen as muzzled and chained.

This bear at the foot of Richard de Beauchamp does not look too happy but he is sitting on the finest 15th century bronze tomb in the country. Richard died in 1439!

One of the volunteers in the church told us that the bear has always been depicted muzzled since Thomas Beauchamp I think it was imprisoned in the Tower of London for going against the King. When he was let out the King apparently said that he could no longer muzzle him so he would ensure that he was reminded to beware by ensuring that his emblem the bear was muzzled. It seems that in the 1990's the Bear and Ragged Staff was adopted by the Warwickshire Council. Recently the idea of a muzzled bear is certainly not a vote getter, so the bear has once again become unmuzzled.

On the walls of the church are a couple of shelves. Several local people left money in their wills to buy bread for the poor in 1625, 1714 and 1733 and the bread was placed on these shelves right up until the early 1900's and again for a couple of years in the 1970's.

This beautifully carved pulpit was presented to the church to celebrate the 60th year of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1897 by the Warwickshire Provincial Grand Master and Brother Freemasons. I don't suppose that there are too many that have Freemasonary pieces.

These are lovely pieces above the front entrance to the old Court Building which is now the visitor centre and the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum.

We then went to see the Lord Leycester Hospital. It has had a long history and is a beautiful building that dates back well over 450 years. It is still the accommodation for 8 ex serviceman who live in flats dotted around and help run the place too. It is well worth the entrance fee.

In the courtyard is another muzzled bear with a ragged staff.

After the death of the Earl in 1588 the Beauchamp line died and the lands etc passed to Mary Beauchamp who was married to Sir Henry Sidney and the blue Porcupine is that family emblen and is also found in the Great Courtyard.

Under the eaves of the north side of the courtyard are a series of these bears that are holding their staff in various ways. They look much more like modern day Teddy Bears.

This is another device of the Sidney family and is thought to be the source of the broad arrow that is stamped on all government and military property after a member of the Sidney family was Joint Master General of Ordance 1693 to 1702. However it had been in use a little before this.

Here is a more modern bear and ragged staff in the knot garden of the Lord Leyster Hospital.

We walked to the bridge over the Avon for this view of the Warwick Castle. I wonder if one day there will be narrow boats passing under the bridge and with such great views of the castle. It may be if plans to build a series of locks up from the river to connect with the Grand Union just to the east of the city ever happen.

After some lunch out we went back to the boat for a cup of tea and a rest before collecting Amy's stuff and walking up to the station, just a 15 min walk, for her to catch the Chiltern Trains service to Marylebone Stataion in London. We were pleased to see her, especially as it made our trip down the from Birmingham much easier with three.