Wednesday 29 February 2012

Grand Union and Stratford canals. Kingswood Junction.

It was just as well that we climbed up Hatton locks when we did; this was the scene a week later.
And this is what we did with it.
As it was all melting away down here we jumped into the car and journeyed north to York (where it wasn’t) to join these good people and celebrate our dear friend David’s 60th (can you believe that?) birthday.
We’ve known these guys since their kids were the age their grandchildren are now, David was best man at our wedding and we hadn’t seen them since we left these shores 18 months ago. It was emotional.

Although there was still a fair bit of ice still around we slipped our moorings and headed away from Hatton to the Tom o’ the Wood moorings at Rowington. Bob and Mandy came on board for the day and then treated us to dinner in the pub in the evening. The idea was that they were going to pick our brains about live-aboard boating, as that is what they intend to do. Which was all well and good but left us feeling a bit fraudulent; they’re experienced hirers and have done far more boat miles on many more canals than us. Anyway it was good to see them and we enjoyed their company immensely. It was also interesting to compare our live-aboard lifestyle in which we don’t go very far very often, (and when the weather is poo we don’t go anywhere at all) with that of the holiday hirer who, while not exactly rushing around – this is boating after all – are still on a schedule and have to be at point B by a set time. The first hire for these two was for a week; the sun shone and they loved every minute. The next time they went for a fortnight and did the Cheshire ring; it rained every day and, once you start on a ring there’s no stopping. Guess what? Yep, they loved every minute. Nearly.

Our new headlight (1960s 2cv – how cool!) got its first test in the little Shrewley tunnel. It failed. We think it’s a blown bulb; it was working just before it got all dark and of course you can’t tell until you’re in there, by which time it’s too late to stop and do anything about it. Still, we could see the other end and with all the interior lights on it wasn’t that difficult. This is us emerging from the other end.
The chains were used by horse drawn boat crews to pull the boat through while the horse was led through the little upward sloping tunnel you can see above the main one. Quite why the horses had a separate tunnel and why the path didn’t just zig-zag up the side of the cutting we don’t know.

This is Kingswood Junction; our last few yards on the GU before we turned left under the bridge and onto the narrow Stratford-upon Avon canal.
Unlike the industrial sized 1930s waterway that we’ve just recently been used to, the Stratford is chocolate-box pretty, with cast iron spit bridges, unique winding gear and a real sense of tranquillity everywhere you look.
Except for here.
This is the scene at Bucket lock which is between us and Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s due to open up again with new gates on March 9th. While we wait we’re moored at Lapworth, just below Kingswood Junction. Instead of sitting around twiddling our thumbs we’ve been up to Buxton to borrow Wiltz’s garage and service the car, we’ve been to Anne’s for our post, Dave’s been to the dentist and the bathroom transformation is almost complete. We’ve also been out walking in the lovely Warickshire springtime. As you can imagine we’ve got hundreds of pictures of scenery- here’s just a couple.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Grand Union Canal. Hatton.

Last Sunday was an exciting affair. Showing impressive loyalty and after two weeks on “Operation - Hatton 21” standby, including two aborted attempts, a baker’s dozen of our friends and family turned out to help us work Legend up the hill. Many, many thanks to all of you. We trust you all enjoyed it, we know we did.
In the style of the best laid plans it nearly didn’t happen. On Saturday, Dave walked up to the locks to make sure that the work was indeed finished, and that there would be nothing preventing us from proceeding. He came back to report that not only had the Day-Glow gang removed all their gear and vacated the site, but that he had watched a boat entering the bottom lock on its way up. We were all systems go for Sunday; what could possibly go wrong?

The crew from the boat he saw (and yes, we know who you are!) had left a top paddle open on the second lock of the flight. By the time we got there in the morning all the water had drained out of the pound above it. Now, to be fair leaving one paddle open shouldn’t have resulted in a drained pound; the gates at the other end of the lock should have kept the water in. Sadly, the gates at the other end were the ones that BW had just installed in a bit of a hurry and, without the luxury of a spare day to fill and test for water-tightness, had left them with a bit of a leak, to put it mildly.

After a prolonged and tea induced period of chin scratching, we drained some of the water out of the pound above the next lock. Enough to float our boat, we hoped, but not so much that we’d just move problem along. Dave gently steered up the shallows, trying to remember where the deepest channel was and where all the submerged bikes, shopping trollies and other clichés were. He ran aground once, necessitating a bit more water being drained down, but all in all we got it about right. We had to go steady through the pound we’d depleted as well, but after that it was plain sailing!

We stopped for a lunch break after the first 7 nicely spaced out locks, then got into the flight proper.
By the time we got to middle lock everyone knew what they were doing; James was proving to be a steady hand on the tiller, and as we got into the top 6 with the general public at their thickest, we looked like a well-oiled machine in action. It felt great, and at about 3pm Legend was moored up outside the Top Lock Café, where we all had more chocolate cake, carrot cake, stollen, sausage rolls and felt even greater.

Around this happy event our whole weekend was joyful; part of our lock crew - Andrew, Karen, Emily and James - stayed over on the boat on Saturday night and we all went to Rugby to see a concert. ColvinQuarmby were on top form, acoustically the best we’ve ever heard them, as talented and funny as always, and still promising that the new album will be finished soon. Then after the locks and after everyone else had gone home, we went into Warwick for a meal with 8 other members of our lovely family.

A week later and we’re in the cutting at the top of the locks. As we can’t go down the Stratford-on –Avon canal till after the 9th of March, we’ve chosen to stay here for a bit while we re-fit the bathroom. Actually the decision to stay put is out of our hands, for the last 3 days we’ve been iced in. We’re lovely and snug in here though, our little Squirrel stove has been constantly alight all winter. At night we give it a shovel full of coal for supper, then in the morning, open it up and give it a breakfast of free wood.

Here’s a DIY tip. If you never, ever want your bathroom tiles to come off a plywood wall, stick them on with solvent-based No More Nails. For the last 3 days we’ve been sending ceramic splinters flying around the boat as we chisel away at the old tiles.
Apart from wanting it to look nicer, our main reason for attacking our bathroom in the depths of winter is so that we can lower the bath to give us enough room to stand up and have a shower in it. This has not been easy, and has involved removing the legs and the flooring under them, but now the bottom of the bath is at the same level as the surrounding floor; a good 6” lower than it used to be. We will now be able to emerge from the shower refreshed and without a crick in our necks or lower back pain.

(Sorry, we have to put this in – two people have just skied past our window!)

This is the latest addition to the things we have to remember to take with us each time we move on.
From our window, in the last week, we’ve seen bullfinches, jays, blackbirds, pheasants and all manner of other birds. There are 2 fearless robins who discovered the bird table as soon as we put it up and in the opposite bank there is a rabbit burrow and a fox’s den within 10’ of each other. Who needs a television?

New Haw Lock to Boveney. River Wey. River Thames.

After pulling the pins at New Haw we dropped down the last four locks on the Wey... Cox's Mill Lock Town Lock The final stretch of the W...