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Thursday 11 April 2024

Make and Mend.

 Well we arrived at Calcutt Marina yesterday, and moored where we had been told to. I later went up to the office to check in and they asked if we could move to the other side and stern to the quay. As I got back to the boat and roused Helen out to assist a young lad rocked up to move the boat for us. I was very polite in telling him that we were quite capable of moving the boat ourselves. It was accomplished with no hassle, and quickly as it was raining!

This morning Dave (I think it was) arrived and surveyed the job before heading off to get the required tools etc. The main job we had was to sort the Hurricane heater out as we had a series air lock I thought and I hadn't been able to shift it. The coolant needed changing too so they could do that at the same time.

However he decided to do the second job first that was to change the coolant in the Kubota/Beta engine. There is a drain on the st'bd side of the engine, but he decided to remove the hose that went into the skin tank and drain it all into the bilges. I thought that this would not be very good, but in the end it worked well, as we don't have a painted bilge, and the coolant mixture did a good job of 'cleaning' the base plate. Once finished he used a wet vac. to suck it all up and brought all the rubbish with it and the engine hole locks as clean as it has been for a good while.

Then it was the turn of the Hurricane. I really think these are a great bit of kit for heating and hot water. They only need servicing every 1,000 hours and they just work. However this time aboard when we put it on it cut out and the expansion tanks overflowed. After poking about with it and doing what I do didn't work I contacted Calcutt who are the main distributors of these Canadian devices. It was also well beyond time for changing the coolant so that was to do at the same time.

Dave's method was to open the bleed valve at the furthest radiator and and drain the fluid out whilst keeping the header tank topped up. As you can imagine as the eye in the bleed valve is very small this took a long time. I could do this myself so Dave went off to do other jobs, just popping back every now and then. Once the water coming out of the radiator was running blue, as the new additive, we concluded that we had drained all the old stuff out and replaced with new.

It was then time to turn it on and see what happened. It ran for a while and then had a flame out. It seemed that there was still an airlock in the system. Dave got down and took the little plate off the top. It seems that there was a reset button in there and once that was sorted it ran okay.... for a while. It then cut out again and I just caught it before it all came out of the header tank again. We still had an air lock.

The last time that Dave had worked on the system it was for a slightly cracked fuel deliver valve casing that leaked fuel, but was invisible unless looking right at it with the system running. Once that was sorted he installed bleed valves on the inlet and outlet feeds to the unit. He bled these and we were away. I left the boiler going for ages and go everything really hot and checked all the radiators hot. I frequently checked the header tank to see how high it got. Just over half way at full heat. I later checked it after the system had cooled right down and it was just below half way. Dave thought that there had been a bit of water lost from the system so when it started up it sucked air into the system. Lets hope it was sorted out.

I went to pay the tab just before 17:00 and got ready to leave Calcutt for the long journey to our marina berth. We set off just as two boats had come down from the bottom of the Calcutt locks. The ind was blowing us towards the entrance to the cut so there wasn't much I could do until we were at the entrance. Eventually the hire boat realised the problem and cracked on. However at the entrance to our marina about 100 yards away a boat was winding and that meant more waiting about, fortunately the trees meant that the wind wasn't nearly so bad on the cut. We eventually got back on our berth stern too.
We will have to go for fuel in the morning before heading home after a lovely trip out.

We went to the Crown Inn at Stockton and had a lovely meal for our last supper.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Concrete Evidence of Lime and Cement.

 As rain was due by lunch time we went to bed with every intention of getting up and off earlier than usual. However with a cup of tea in bed listening to the radio and then a phone call we were even later than normal, but only by about 20 minutes. The long line of boats had been whittled down and every one was pointing the wrong way for a hope of sharing with us.

On the way to the locks I noticed this concrete fence. I don't think I have seen one imprinted with TRESPASSING PROHIBITED before. The fence must have been erected at the same time as the locks and banks were altered for the 100 ton barges as it is the in vogue concrete used then. Reading on a bit the Hatton Locks were opened by Prince George, Duke of Kent on Tuesday 30th October 1934 when he cut the silk ribbon. He was still saying that the plan was to allow passage of 100 ton barges from London to Birmingham. So I'm not sure when they gave up on the dream. I think they had a route that could take vessels of a beam up to 12' 6", but never changed all the bridges etc to take the planned for 14'3".

By the time we got close to the bottom, or Itchington Lock we could see that there was a boat going up on their own. They had left before we could chat with them, but they didn't seem to be speeding along so we hoped that we would catch them up by the next, Shop Lock. This was the lock cottage at the lock with a date given as 1799, which would fit in to the opening of the original narrow Warwick and Napton Canal.

The Kayes Arm was quite extensive in its day.

This 1885 map extract show the main canal across the top and the arm leading south to the Long Itchington Cement and Lime works, with the Stockton Reservoir of the Warwick and Napton Canal Co. Leading away from the factory to the south is a mini railway that must have brought the rock from the quarry.

Just east of the Kayes Arm and leading off the towpath side was another 'arm'. This one had no towpath indicated and led to no factory or farm. In the photo above, by the willows to the left you can see where the canal widens a little seemingly to assist boats leaving this 'arm'.

This is the same 1885 OS map with the arm heading north. It is not a feeder as there is no stream or anything coming in at its top end, and appears to be only one boat wide if intended to be used

The hire boat had waited for us so we did the rest of the flight with them.

The were two couples of friends who had hired before. The girls were driving today and they were very nervous about it all. Husbands were on the shore and they appeared to be hesitant about what to do there too.

By the time we did the second lock together they had gamely agreed to enter the next lock together and Annie (In Black) did brilliantly for a couple of locks. We met a pair of boats coming down so we let them come through the middle of us before entering separately.

The Stockton Locks must have been a hive of industry, literally,  as by Locks 9, 10 and 11 was the largest cement and lime works. You can see that this works was linked with the Weedon and Leamington Railway as well as the canal wharves. It looks like there are at least 15 lime kilns fed by narrow gauge railway from the nearby quarry and the lines also pass between the buildings too.

By the time we got to the top lock Debbie had done a couple of locks with us entering as a pair too. They were well impressed with themselves, and so they should have been. They were fed up with the men folk telling them how to do it. I gave them a few other tips and hoped that they have gained a bit of confidence and carry on and hang on to the tiller a bit more.

Nelson Wharf used to be busy with training boats and courses but now seems to have resident boats down the arm that has been partially dug out and had 'Podtastic' glamping pods. This was actually the site of the largest cement works of the area.

The arm can be seen here with 34 lime kilns! Again there is a narrow railway from the quarry but isn't connected to the railway system as the railway was only built between 1888 and 1895. This is the line that ran through Braunston too. It is interesting to see there is a winding hole,(or maybe even a wharf) next to Gibraltar Bridge to the right of the extract. That isn't there now. I wonder if the concrete used for all the works to widen the locks and reinforce the banks used cement from these works as they were still working in the 1930's?

It started to rain lightly as we left the top lock so no more photos. Our lock partners stopped for a coffee and we went onwards. We were booked in to Calcutt Marina for some work, hopefully tomorrow and they had said we could drop in this afternoon to get settled ready for tomorrow. We threaded our way in and swung round to where they sent us and have the afternoon off!

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Half Day Holiday.

 It was a dreary morning with off and on rain so we decided to stay put until it got a little better. It was forecast to fair up around 12:30 and so it turned out. Mind you it was still quite blustery. We did a few tidy up and clean jobs so I was glad to get moving after a bite to eat.

There were quite a few bluebells out on the offside between our mooring and Wood Lock. There are so many wild flowers out that they must be appreciating the damp and warm conditions. I think we could do with a break from the damp no though!

In the wind it was pretty cold. I had it okay as the wind was from astern, especially for the first few locks, but Helen had to look right into it here is nobody who has taken on the care of Wood Lock. It must be a bit from a road too, or a van would have been round with painters etc.

Not far from the lock was the site of the HS2 works. There were a workers about and this machine looked as though it was boring larger hole for big piles.

The Bascote Locks are next, after Welsh Road Lock that is. As we approached the staircase pair a couple of hire boats arrived at the top. We carried on up without trying to drop them down and swap with one of them in the middle etc. as it seemed they were having enough trouble to get alongside!

In 1933 it was a very hot summer and drought was a very real possibility for the village of Harbury, not far from the Bascote Locks. The village wells had dried up and there was real worry about not being able to find an alternative source. A reporter who heard about the thirst of the villager had recently been to the works at Welsh Road and Bascote Locks to build the wide beam locks and was aware that one of the problems they were having that excavations had uncovered a spring that was issuing lots of water. It was then thought that this could be easily piped to the villager. Investigation found that the water extremely hard and when the cost of softening to drinking quality was taken into account it was too expensive. I wonder where they got their water  from in the end, and what did the engineers do with the spring water?

There two or three C&RT vans at the top of the locks but when they saw Helen coming towards them they quickly packed up and were off. The lock was empty so she was just opening the gate of the staircase pair so I could go straight in.

Last lock of the day, but we did stop at Bascote Wharf to top up with water.

I think I mentioned when we did the Hatton flight that to fully wind the Ham Baker lock gear takes between 22 and 25 turns of the windlass, when really the sluice is fully open after 18 turns. I have worked out that if all the locks are against you and you have to raise and lower one paddle at each end of the 21 locks and only turn the windlass 18 times instead of, say 24 times, thus saving 6 revolutions that would save 252 turns, and that is the same as winding 14 paddles, or the effort in working 7 locks. Worth thinking about.

There was a long line of boats seemingly stretching all the way to the way to the Two Boats and Cuttle Bridge. I'm sure there would be gaps but we just stopped before the River Itchen aqueduct.

The sun came out once we were moored up and I had a few more little jobs to occupy myself before getting down to writing the blog.

Monday 8 April 2024

Stiff Neck in Leamington.

We were having a day out in Leamington so we didn't rush about this morning and were away at 10:45. As always I spent my time looking upwards, so apologies from me.

On the way into town on Bath Street there is this building, originally called the Parthenon. It was built in 1821 as a Royal Music Hall/Civic Centre. It later became a dance hall and a music Hall venue. By 1873 it was a reference library. There was a fire in the building in the 1960's and the facade was restored following this. It is now Iceland.

This was built between 1816 and 1836 as a house on the main street of Old Leamington. The ground floor was converted to shops before 1905.

We walked through Jephson Park and Gardens which are always beautifully kept. We took a turn through the glass house and there were a few of these bananas flowers.

A Typical Burton's, The Tailor of Taste buildings. He started building his stores in 1923 but this looks like it was from the 1930's with it's Art Deco style. All his premises were distinguished and many of them had a billiard hall upstairs as this would bring other revenue in when closed.

Mosaics on Leamington Town Hall. The top one is at the front and the lower, which looks like Justice with blindfold, sword and scales is at the side which was likely to be the entrance to the courts of old.

The Regent Hotel is now a Travel Lodge but when it was opened in 1819 it was called William's Hotel. Three weeks later the name was changed to Regent with permission of The Prince Regent, the future George IV. In 1830 Queen Victoria stayed here with her dad aged 11. The future Queen stayed in a Travel Lodge!

Brian from NB Harser (see his blog here  told me about a website about ghosts signs after I posted one yesterday, see below, I seems to have seen a few more today. I will have to add them to the data base. This one says Prior (the shop name?) and I think towards the bottom something like special and note....

This was to the left of an upstairs window with the lower picture to the right. This one says W. Bradley Basket Manufacturer

This one says Bradley's Brush Warehouse. I can find J. Bradley with a business of baskets and brushes here starting in 1896. Later a W. Bradley was running the business. The last I see of them is 1911!

This is Birmingham House on Regent Street. It may have been built in the 1820's. I can find a Lees Domestic Agency based there in 1894.

This is by the bridge over the river next to the Royal Pump House, and is where you can get a free drink of the spa water.

On Spencer Street on the way back to the boat is this lovely Art Deco place the Bath Assembly Hall, built in 1926. It was a Palais de Danse designed by Birmingham Architect Horace Bradley. It regularly had 200 around its sprung floor and under a mirror ball.

Once back at the boat we had a cup of tea and then decided to make some ground towards base and set off.

More photos of the Leamington Mural Festival of 2022.

There is quite a theme about birds spying on us.

And this is the story behind it.

We did four locks, dropped the rubbish off at the first and filled with water at the third and moored up in the middle of nowhere after the fourth not sure what we will do about the weather tomorrow, but may involve getting wet.

Sunday 7 April 2024

An Englishman's Visit is a Castle.

 The wind kept up through the night but didn't disturb us at all after our long day, We had decided that we would have a sightseeing day and headed off to catch a bus to Kenilworth around 10.

I noticed this ghost sign close by the canal bridge on the way into Leamington. Checking up it says Nestles Milk Richest in Cream and that slogan was used around 1900!?

There is a bus every 30 mins to Kenilworth and then on to Coventry that you can catch on the Parade. It only takes 15 mins to Kenilworth and then a 15 min walk from the bus stop. Free for us oldies too, but £2 each way for others. We wondered if the bus would come to the stop as it was the Leamington 10km run through the parks and across the bottom of the Parade, by the pump room, meaning the road was closed.

The castle is in ruins since the Civil War when it was deliberately ruined to prevent it being used in any rising. It was called 'Slighting'. This is the Great Tower and was built between 1150 and 1250, first by Geoffrey de Clinton and King John

Leicester's Gatehouse. This was built in 1771/72 by Robert Dudley who was once having ideas of marrying Queen Elizabeth as they had known each other since childhood. Dudley remained a favourite of Dudley. She gave Robert Kenilworth and the title Lord of Leicester and his brother Ambrose became Lord of Warwick and with the castle thrown in. The previous generation had been beheaded for treason! As a favourite of the Queen's he was rarely away from her side and when she made her Royal progresses around the country he went with her. This building was built as a grand entrance for when she arrived at the castle. It was lived in up to the mid 1930's when it was finally given to the State.

On thre marble fireplace can be seen the RL for Robert Leicester and their family motto 'Droit  and Loyal'. 'Just and Loyal'. There were three floors of exhibitions regarding the people that owned the castle.

Queen Elizabeth stayed at the castle four times and this garden was laid out for her. It is called the Privy Garden not that it has a loo there but as it was private and for her use only. The marble statue/fountain dates from that time too.

This is the Great Hall was built by John of Gaunt. at the bottom are the service cellars. The floor line is evident by the greenery. The entrance is to the left that there are the great windows bring loads of light in. Just to right of centre can be seen a large fireplace with a blank wall above to show off a large tapestry to the right is a large bay window. Between the two large windows is a large slot that would have taken the extremely heavy roof truss. There are two others to the right of this.

This is the Leicester's building in 1571/72, at the same time as his gatehouse, to provide the best accommodation for the Queen's visit, The top floor had a large private gallery with views from large windows over the courtyard and the mere towards the Chase, as well as a royal lady in waiting's bedroom. The floor below had a withdrawing room and an inner chamber along with the Queens Bedroom. The lower floors were lodgings for the other ladies in waiting

These are the stables built by John Dudley in 1553. The right hand side is now an exhibition space, and to the left is the tea room.

We spent nearly three hours here as there are plenty of exhibitions and sign boards to read. There is room for kids to run about and stairs to climb the walls etc. Today was a little windy so they had closed some of the higher spots. However it is great to imaging the layout and what places were used for. It has been through a fair bit of history and if it hadn't been for the Civil War it could well have been one of our great houses of today.

It was bought in the end by Sir John Siddeley in 1937who was knighted the same year. He had started making bicycles and then moved into motor cars as Armstrong Siddeley. Then he went on to make aero engines and in 1935 sold up and company became Hawker Siddeley, that made engines for the Hurricane plane of WWII. With giving the castle to the Minister of Works he had repaired the castle and also gave a large sum for its upkeep. In 1958 his son gave it to the town of Kenilworth and it is still owned by the Town Council. In 1984 English Heritage took over the care of the castle as the successor of the Ministry of Works.

It was a great visit and well worth the 15 mins travel on a bus and a further 15 mins walk, even on a blustery dull day. We got a discount as we are pensioners plus we used public transport which elicits a further discount. It is cheaper to book on liner, but that can only done up to the day before you visit.We had a couple of pints as we waited for the bus back to Leamington and I have promised Helen we will go out for tea too.

Saturday 6 April 2024

Heading down Hatton.

 Kathleen was a bit of a damp squib where we are so we decided to go for a walk to post some letters and get milk etc.

It was about 1/2 mile to Shrewley Tunnel and the village above. The tow path was too bad, other than in patches.

Shrewley Cutting and tunnel revealed bedding layers that excited the geologists of the area. There  are three main areas in layers the top being red mudstones that were laid down in very dry conditions. The next is made up of several thin bands of rock laid down in much more wet conditions and containing fossils and foot prints. The third layer indicates a return to arid conditions with the moisture going and no fossils.

It seems that the work may have started here at the Warwick end of the canal as in July 1797 there was an advert in the local paper to employ men to making the Rowington Cutting, than in April 1798 an advert for bricklayers, stonemasons, dealers in timber and lime and jobbing smiths for work on the cut between Warwick and Turner's Green. In April 1799 100 to 150 men were needed to build the Rowington embankment. In November 1799  a tender went out for a supplier of bricks for 19 locks each to be 10" x 5" x 3" after leaving the kiln.

We went up the horse tunnel to the road above. The gradient is quite steep and at the top end it has obviously got too steep for men as they have put steps in

Just to the right of the horse path is the post office/shop/deli. They have ready made curries etc and pastries as well as the usual. We got a balti and a biryani to feed us after the locks, and they were delicious, we will stop again.

You can see where they have had to alter the slope of the path and put in the steps.

In my looking through the papers last night and found an old boatman talking about going through Shrewley Tunnel. We said that they didn't leg through the tunnel as I have read but it seems once the momentum of the horse slacked off they would pull themselves through by heaving on bars set in the walls of the tunnel. I can see bolts near the entrances but the flow stone may well have obscured them elsewhere. I also read about the first person to swim through the tunnel. It was G. W. Pearson in July 1933. He was a member of a gang working on the widening scheme and did it for a bet. He was a strong swimmer but nobody had ever got more than half way previously. His mates followed him in a boat just in case he got into difficulties

The wind was a bit gusty making things not so easy working the locks, and it also meant that the gates blew open easily on their own. Nobody at the top waiting and we had to start off on our own. No sign of a voluntary lock keeper either. Helen set to with a will. By the time we were near three locks and by the 'Welcome Station' a bloke (volunteer?) looked at us and opened a gate and never said a word and then went back inside! As Helen went to check the next lock another 'volunteer' told her to stay were she was as there were two boats coming up. They were just leaving the third lock below us and we could easily have got down especially as all the by washes were running anyway. They never lifted a finger. Very different to the lady lock keeper on the way up. I wouldn't have minded bu the boats coming up had two ashore and each had bow thrusters that should have made it easier for them, but for some reason they were still using ropes.

The dragonfly in Dragonfly pond must get a regular polish. The
 tow path was busy with walkers but few wanted to talk and even fewer wanted to lend a hand!

Here come the two uphill boats and we have the lock ready for them.

Well named 'Stairway to Heaven' looking quite smart in the distance and a bit of sun.

I wonder how many boaters go straight on here rather than round to the left. In truth the only way was ahead at one time as the Warwick and Birmingham canal was completed in 1793 and Saltisford Basin was the terminus. The Warwick and Napton Canal was completed in 1794. I'm not sure when the two were connected though. The basin beyond the railway bridge at Saltisford was filled in in the 1970's but the existing bit was the result of a successful campaign to preserve it in 1983.

From this OS map abstract from 1886 you can see the forked basin at the lower right. It served the oldest gas works until filled in back to the railway line.

We decided that we would carry on to Leamington so no stopping at the Cape of Good Hope pub. It seems that it was built by the Warwick and Napton Canal Co as offices shop and a beer house in 1800. At this time the British were in South Africa fighting the Boer Wars. It is thought that it was probably named for this reason.

The Cape pub around 1900.

We moored up after Bridge 41 with a bit of difficulty due to the funneling of the wind. It had taken us 3 hrs and 45 mins to come down Hatton Locks if we take off the the 20 mins needless wait near the top and the 30 mins break for a cup of tea and a bite to eat.

I have promised her a day off tomorrow, especially as today was the anniversary of when I asked her to marry me, and she was daft enough to say yes! Neither of us dreamed we would be doing this 39 years later. (Actually it was yesterday as it was the last day of the tax year, just so I would always remember!).