Sunday, 5 March 2017

River Thames Cruise - Week 3

Monday 27th February - Kingswood Junction to Hatton Bridge 55

We left our mooring and passed the finger post pointing to the Stratford Canal which we visited on our last cruise.

In this photo you can see the attractive brick bridge leading to the canal link and we were moored up behind the boat just past the junction.

The waterway conditions were quite tricky as there were a lot of fallen trees and wood debris to negotiate a path through.

At Shrewley the canal builders were forced to tunnel under the village and were able to build a 433yds tunnel with space for 2 narrowboats to pass each other.  However there was no room for a towpath so the boat horses were led over the hilltop, across the village street and through their own short tunnel.

We moored up above the Hatton Locks so that we could visit the Hatton Country World and Craft Centre.  Once we had done that we decided to stay for the night and walked down the Hatton Locks to see what we had let ourselves in for tomorrow.

There are 21 Hatton Locks all quite close together and all wide locks.  In the distance is the tower of St Mary's Church in Warwick.

We treated ourselves to a late lunch in a very pleasant cafe beside the 4th lock down, a very busy place which must get even busier during the summer.

Tuesday 28th February - Hatton to Warwick

We made an early start this morning as it was going to be a long day.

Once through the first lock and looking back you can quite clearly see the old narrow locks to the right of the wide locks.  These wide locks were opened in 1934 by Prince George, fourth son of King George V, and drew a large crowd to witness it.

Good to see a Canal and River Trust Welcome Centre, shame it was closed!!

A large shiny dragonfly in the pound caught my attention!!

After about the 6th lock down we came across a lone boater who was working the locks ahead of us.  He decided to wait for us so that we could share the locks.  This is a good idea as it saves on water, two boats using one lock of water, and shares the amount of locking.

However, this lone boater made no attempt to get off his boat and help Dave work the locks and Dave doubled the amount of work instead of halving it!!  Unfortunately for him he had to pull over as his throttle cable snapped and he had no power.  Fortunately for us we were able to continue much quicker on our way.

At Hatton Bottom Lock stands an attractive Lock Cottage, but as you can see the weather had deteriorated and we spent the last part of our journey getting rather wet!! 

We continued as far as the Cape Locks and moored up for the evening.  It had been a long day, fascinating as far as the locks were concerned, but frustrating as well.  We did take a walk into Warwick, but I think being tired, we missed the delights of Warwick and wished we had just stayed on the boat!!  Another day tomorrow!

Wednesday 1st March - Warwick to Long Itchington

Woke to blue skies and a hint that Spring may well be on its way!!  Decided to get under way as soon as we were ready, so worked our way through the 2 Cape Locks heading towards Royal Leamington Spa.

We passed Kate Boats, a hire boat centre. Although they do not sell diesel to the public, they have many attractive looking hire boats.

As the Grand Union is a wide canal, we see many wide beam boats being built, this one in particular looked enormous!!  I think many are built to go down to London as floating offices!

We pulled over at some off side moorings provided by Tesco's and did a shop, very handy indeed. 

We crossed over the River Avon and then the canal started to climb back up the other side of the valley.

Our first glimpse of blossom coming out heralding signs of spring.

I must be feeling better, I am actually working one of the wide locks - Dave has done them all up to now!!  They are very hard work, especially the winding mechanism, but opening and closing the gates was surprisingly easy.

Toby having a rest above what used to be the narrow lock.  He had got extremely dirty by rubbing his face in the mud!!

A well kept boat with the same name as our third daughter, Annie!!

A number of the locks are overlooked by pretty tile hung cottages built when the canal was modernised in the 1930's.

Canal and River Trust were working on a dam at the foot of the Bascote Locks, instructions were to 'coast' past the dam, interesting!!

There are four locks at Bascote, two of which form a staircase, where one lock leads into another.  Quite a daunting sight from this angle, but they were relatively easy to work.

At the top of the locks stands the Toll House Cottage.  It was used to collect tolls from travellers on the canal and would date back to pre modernisation.

We continued on towards Long Itchington where we decided to stop for the night.  We had thought we would walk into the village just north of the canal but the road was very busy and it was too muddy to go across fields, so we decided against it.  

Thursday 2nd March - Long Itchington to Birdingbury Wharf Bridge

Weather was looking good so we decided to set off and tackle the 10 Stockton locks up to Birdingbury Wharf.  As we were preparing to set off a boat passed us going in our direction, so we followed on and shared the locks all the way.  Another lone boater, on nbTiara, was brilliant, doing as much work as Dave and getting us through the locks in excellent time.  A really pleasurable experience!!!

We passed The Blue Lias Inn, the Stockton Locks are set in a belt of blue lias limestone in which the fossils of giant reptiles from the Jurassic Period have been found.

The 10 Stockton Locks raise the canal 55ft and leave only 3 more locks on the Grand Union before we meet The Oxford Canal at Napton Junction. 

We made such good time that we were able to moor up early and spend the afternoon giving the outside of the boat a well needed clean up.  The sides of the boat had been splattered with mud by speeding cyclists and the roof needed a good scrub down to get rid of dirt accumulated over the winter. 

Friday 3rd March - Rest day at Birdingbury Wharf.

Woke this morning to continuous rain and made the decision not to cruise at all today. Instead we gave the boat a really good clean inside to match the outside!!  Toby also had a tidy up with the scissors and we took a walk into the village of Stockton.  

 On our way we passed a boat called nbElla with the Greek spelling underneath.  It was only a matter of time before we came across another boat with the same name.

These boats are part of the Willow Wren Boat Handling Centre and seems to front the beginnings of a new marina.

Saturday 4th March - Birdingbury Wharf to Napton on the Hill

Set off this morning, weather good but only a short way along the canal we realised that we didn't have the camera!!  A search of the boat confirmed that it wasn't on the boat and a phone call to the Boat Inn confirmed that we had left it in the pub last night!!  Dave walked back to collect the camera before we continued on our way!  Where would I be without the camera???

We worked our way up the 3 Calcutt Locks and after the second lock stopped to put on diesel.  Manoeuvering the boat into a small space with hire boats either side was difficult in the wind, but eventually she went in!  The last lock of the Grand Union Canal can be seen over the tops of the hire boats.

Within a short space of time we were at the junction with the Oxford Canal.  We were amazed at the number of marinas in a relatively short section of the canal, 4 in total each with privately owned boats and a fleet of hire boats.  That adds up to a lot of narrowboats!!!

We turned right on to the South Oxford Canal and headed for Napton on the Hill. The canal is 48 miles long and is a winding contour canal with many alarming twists and turns.  Very different from the straight Shropshire Union Canal.  Napton on the Hill has a restored windmill clearly seen through the trees and 

a church on the top of the hill.  Legend has it that the church was to be built on the village green but the devil persisted in carrying the building stones to the present site where the church was eventually built.  

We moored up for the next couple of days just short of the Napton Locks and were lucky enough to get a TV signal and a view of many noisy sheep!  While the weather stayed fine we touched up the blacking and polished the towpath side of the boat.

Sunday 5th March - Napton on the Hill

Today we are having a rest day and Jenny and David are coming to visit us on the boat. Jenny is a wonderful source of useful information regarding the waterways and we spent a lovely few hours swapping stories and learning of different places to visit on our cruise. Many thanks for the boat warming gift - we shall enjoy the Prosecco and smoked oyster canapes!!!

This is the end of our third week, mixed weather, mixed boating, but all great experiences, I feel sure that things will begin to get busier from now on as the season is beginning for the hire boats and more boats are on the move.

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