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Sunday 31 March 2024

It is only Easter but we are raising up already.

 It looks like we have an air lock in the heating system. Luckily we don't need it for heating or hot water so I am leaving it alone for now. We got up having remembered to put the hour ahead on the clock but got off really at the old time anyway. In our defence there was 23 wide beam locks to do so when I saw the boat ahead of us, Cherwell III checking his engine etc. I asked if they were heading up and as they were there was no point heading off until they were ready. Which turned out to be about 1030!

The lock house at the foot of the Hatton Locks over seeing the fun and games. You can see the original narrow beam lock closest to the cottage. The wide beam locks were added in the 1930's with the idea to be able to bring 100 ton barges from London to Birmingham. They nearly did it, but some of the bridges weren't adapted and they didn't widen the locks all the way to the centre of Birmingham. The route open, such as it was, was opened in 1934.

Helen is still smiling as we are only one or two locks in our trip up the 146'6" climb to the top. No sun today but not too bad for locking. The white and black cast iron stack behind her is the paddle mechanism. These were designed for the widening of the canal and take about 24 turns of the windlass to open them up. They are often called 'hydraulic' but they aren't. Instead of a ratchet there is a worm gear enclosed in the tube. The idea was that this slowed down the closing of the paddle gear so that they could be just left to lower themselves. The rod sticking out of the top indicates that the sluice is open, letting water out. There are notices to state that you should wind down the mechanism with your windlass but this isn't because they are safe to drop on their own, but to ensure that they are closed all the way down and so not leaking water. Therefore it would be okay to let them drop so long as you ensure they are fully down with your windlass afterwards.

The first 7 or so of the locks are awkwardly spaced so making it uneconomical in setting ahead when you are on your own. But then the get to be a nice distance in a very photogenic climb up the hill. We developed a good rhythm with me going first mooring and starting the lock draining whilst the girls caught up. I would then head in the lock and go to the front sill and steam ahead to keep the stern in to ensure room for the second boat to get in. Once we got to about lock 37 a voluntary lock keeper appeared which meant we could set a lock ahead most of the time. This allowed us to steam into the lock together sometimes. We did start to meet a few boats coming down, but it was really quiet on the whole. Except on the tow path where there were plenty of people parading up and down. Only one group volunteered to help push a gate through.

The old maintenance yard by lock 42 looks well kept, but I think it is a training centre now. Colin and Yvonne on 'Cherwell III' were heading north and we worked well together 59' and a 45' boat 

There was a Napton Hire Boat with 6 crew chasing us up the locks and they kindly helped close up after us as it would speed us along so helping them too. The cafe below the second lock from the top was doing good trade and smell of sausage sandwiches (or at least that is what I told myself the smell was) was very enticing. We got to the top in 3 hours 20 mins. I'm sure it isn't a record, but very creditable as we had to turn the vast majority of the locks

Frankly we felt like stopping at the moorings at the top but they are in a cutting and very dark, and muddy too at this time of the year. 'Cherwell III' went first after the lock as I had to wait to pick Helen up who was chatting. There were a few boats heading to the top of the lock ready fro dropping down tomorrow. Of course we often met them at awkward spots.

Shrewley tunnel is 443 yards long and is wide enough for narrow boats to pass. However I got glimpses of a light at the other end of the tunnel. They lingered so I kept going anyway. The tunnel was opened in 1799 by the Warwick and Birmingham Canal Co. They were going to build it to a 7' narrow dimension but as the Grand Junction Canal Co started construction at around the same time they decided to make it full width.

The tunnel is pretty wet, especially this year, and I made the rookie error of leaving our book out, so it got drenched. There is a second tunnel at the west portal. This is because the tunnel was constructed with no tow path so it days of horse drawn boats they would have been led over the top, through the tunnel and meet the boat on the other side. I would assume that rather than legging they would have polled themselves to the end using the initial moment of the passage too. One day we must go and have a look at Shrewley village which is directly above the tunnel.

These boats have been there a good while. I would need to look more deeply into what they were, but they are going, going, gone. I seem to remember one time we passed the inner one a jet of water started up from her as an automatic bilge pump cut in.

As we came round this corner it made me think that it had been snowing as the whole landscape looked bathed in white. It is the blackthorn in bloom. Does this mean that there will be a good crop of sloes this autumn?

We were heading for the Rowington Embankment that has great views and the solar panels would not be shaded either (if there was any sun that is), however we got cold feet thinking that as there wasn't much moving we better find a spot rather than have to start some more lock this late in the day. So we moored up between bridge 60 and 61.

Saturday 30 March 2024

Leamington and Warwick

We are back! But I forgot some crucial bits of kit to go with my new  lap top. The old one gave up the ghost over winter. We had a good drive down on Good Friday missing any problems there were supposed to be due to the high volume of traffic expected. We set off somewhere about 14:30 and headed off into the cool wind but nice ans sunny. We were going to stop above the Stockton Locks but the lack of available moorings and that a hire boat with several crew were just heading into the lock made us decide that we would join up and head down. They were frequent hirers and we sped down the locks in about 90 mins. We were heading into the lock together and there were sufficient crew to work ahead too. We stopped at Long Itchington but they carried on as they had to get to Lapworth to pick somebody up. We were both nodding off in the chairs so went to bed early.

Today, Easter Saturday, we headed off about 09:30 and stopped to top up the water at Bascote Wharf. Luckily as we finished a boat came along going our way. We let them pass and followed them. We had found our lock buddies!

'Uncle Monty' ahead as we approach the staircase at the top of Bascote Locks. There was a boat coming up but we didn't have to wait long.

It is so much easier with two boats and it was such a nice day. Much less wind so it was warm until the sun hid behind a cloud then it was grin and bear it until it popped out again.

I'm not sure what will happen to Bridge 31, between Welsh Road Lock and Wood Lock, as this is where HS2 come through. There was no work going on over this Easter weekend it seems. Everybody mentioned about the scar it is leaving, but the mess that would have been made when the canal came through would have been much worse as nothing like it would have been seen before, and the Navies caused mayhem too. Once it is established it will 'blend in', hopefully. I'm not sure how much noise then trains will make through.

Fosse Wharf has changed since it was built with the Warwick and Napton Canal. The original buildings were up against the road and there was a small 49 acre farm away from the canal. 

I was going to make a joke about which is the hollowed out old wreck, but thought better of it. The photo shows how warm it as Helen has very few layers of clothing on, and no hat! We lost our lock buddies at Fosse wharf facilities so we had three locks to do by ourselves. Nobody came along to join us.

As we approached Radford Bottom Lock there was a small fishing match going on. We had a few playing chicken with us, not looking round to acknowledge we are there until the last second second but then lifting their pole out of the way. A couple even said hello! The bridge carried the old Rugby and Leamington Railway that opened in 1851. It was used throughout between 1959 ans 1966 when it ceased been a diversionary route for the West Coast Mainline during electrification. Parts were used for a couple of cement works until 1991.

This wooden boat, MV6 was built at Stourport by the Severn and Canal Carrying Co. in 1910 as a horse boat. It was converted to motor in 1932 when it seems they 'turned the vessel round' with the original stern now becoming the bow and a new stern added for the engine. It was sold to Thomas Clayton's of Oldbury in 1948. They sold it on in 1962 to be converted to a pleasure craft. It seems that this is sagging now. I have now knowledge of wooden boats but that sag looks like it will be very expensive to put right to me.

The Church of St. Nicholas at Radford Semele was gutted by fire around 2012 and was widely rebuilt. I reckon lots of vicars would be very envious of having their churches remodeled with new interiors etc.

This is part of the Leamington Mural Festival of 2022. There is a free guided walk on line to see them all. They are some very good ones, along with the annoying tags.

Just before Bridge 38, by the winding hole, which actually was the entrance to an arm to a wharf. I think there was a maltings here. From here to the boundary there was wharf after wharf on the off side.

Just after Bridge 40 was the gas works wharf. These buildings look contemporary but I'm not sure if they were offices or we unconnected housing.
We stopped at Bridge 42 for Helen to have her shopping time at M&S and I could pick up the stuff I ordered at Argos. Needless to say a few other shops were visited and several items bought before we headed off again. This winding hole on the towpath side before Bridge 44 was the entrance to the Imperial Stove Works that started in 1860. In 1939 the Ford Motor Company bought the foundry and it was making ammunition boxes during the war. It then started to make bits for agricultural equipment. It turned to purely auto parts in 1984. It lasted to 2007 when it was closed and is now the site of Morrison's etc.

There is an aqueduct over the old Great Western Railway that unusually these days has railings that you can see over, and through. Then you come to these buildings that are Jephson's Farm. Dr. Henry Jephson was the man that pushed Leamington into becoming a spa town with his use of the water for treatment. It seems that he lived her and then his son, who died in 1890 and then it was all put up for sale as a small estate.

The Avon Aqueduct. It would be so much quicker heading to Stratford if we could just drop down here onto the Avon. There was once a scheme to build a boat lift to do that very thing. Then a plan to link up the canal with the river Leam and still nothing!

The plan was to go up the two Cape Locks and moor for a pint at the Cape pub. No room at the inn, well the moorings, so we carried on and moored after the bend by Saltisford Arm. Neither of us could be bothered walking back so we opened a bottle of wine instead. I lovely days boating