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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 12

Posted by indigodream on 15 June, 2008

Stockton Top Lock to Warwick (just past Bridge 45)

All aboard were well this morning and I think we managed the earliest start of our trip – 9.15am! We had a good day’s locking ahead of us and it made sense not to dawdle. Richard spoke to a BW man at Top Lock who told us that the stretch of canal between Napton Junction and Braunston is the busiest in the country – there are three marinas in Napton and weekenders like the easy toddle down the lock-free pound to Braunston and back. So, yesterday was just a normal weekend – I can’t imagine what it’ll be like there when there’s a festival!

Into the time machine - Stockton Top LockI was so pleased that we didn’t do the Stockton Locks last night – it would have been such a slog. By contrast, there was a positive ‘stampede’ (tell me if there’s a better word) of boats coming up the locks so ALL the locks were set our way, well apart from 2 that got turned in front of us. *&^$£ $&(*$%s. It still took just over an hour to complete the flight of 10 – nowhere near the alleged 17.5 minutes for the main flight of 8 done by someone who has best remain nameless.

All the birds I’ve seen so far have been ones I’ve spotted before (usually in our garden – including herons who come to droll over our well netted fishpond) so I was really excited to see a new bird yesterday – it was small (about the size as a chaffinch) with a totally black head, white collar and brown body. A search of the birds books proved it was a male Reed Bunting – hurrah!

When we got to the bottom lock we started to have pangs of regret that we didn’t do the flight last night – Long Itchington is pub central!

I noticed a good water point and rubbish skips just after Bridge 27. I should say that my definition of a ‘good’ water/rubbish point is that it’s clear of moored boats, accessible and clean!

Red Hot PokersWe soon reached the Bascote Locks. Now I feel as if I’ve spun you a line a few days ago when I told you that Marswoth Junction had the only staircase locks on the Grand Union. I must have mis-read the notes as Bascote Top Lock is most definitely a staircase! We were joined here by hireboat ‘Andean Duck’ and shared locks with them for the rest of the morning. There was a party of Australians aboard (on holiday from Perth) – I’m so pleased they chose narrowboating for their ‘taste of england’ – I think they were having a good time! They seemed unusually reserved for Aussies – or maybe our australian friends are just noisy!

Blue has been very wilful today – we lost him twice – he ran into the undergrowth at Stockton Lock 3 and didn’t catch up with us until we were down 5 locks. At Bascote he disappeared into the bushes at Top Lock and we didn’t see him ’til the bottom despite much shouting and searching. He’s such a boy – he just likes to be independent. I am quietly convinced that he doesn’t go very far away and can always either hear us or see us. He’s doesn’t seem bothered that we can’t see him! Lou was her usual well-behaved self though she’s spent most of the day fast asleep with no interest at all in the world outside her sofa!

One of the locks was littered with a group of ‘mature’ people stretched out on the lockside eating their sandwiches. They were the Sutton Coldfield Rambling Club and were a great advertisment for the benefits of exercise and maintaining your mobility. They said they were out for a gentle 10 miler though apparently they regularly ramble further. They were a fine sight and it was a great pleasure to meet them.

Hill near the Fosse WayBy Lock 20 we noticed this unusual ‘hill’ – what caught my eye first was the pink soil then I thought that there was a man-made feel to the stucture. Was it an old fort or a barrow – where’s Time Team when you need them?! A look at the OS map showed that we were close to the Fosse Way – an old Roman Road so we wondered whether that had a bearing. Let us know if you’ve heard anything.

We’ve enjoyed the locks today – partly because of the company and partly because it was such a pleasure to see lock that were so well-built and well-maintained. As in Braunston, the gates were sturdy and well-balanced with smooth paddle-gear and not too many leaks. Richard reckons 2 minutes from him coming up to a paddle to having a gate open, he will probably start timing all flights now. We read that the locks used to be narrow but these were apparently replaced when the canal was widened at some stage to include the current broad locks. The narrow locks can still be seen though they now seem to be used as side-pounds How we wished the narrow locks were still in place – they’re so much easier for a narrow boat!

Old narrow lockBuilt to last!

We lunched at ‘The Moorings’ pub in Leamington Spa – there are mooring rings just past Bridge 43 outside the pub on the right. The pub does not allow dogs indoors but they can sit in the ‘garden’. We had the sunday carvery – it is HUGE. The chef also generously gave us four sausages for the price of two for the dogs. With these and or leftovers the dogs had a great feast when we got back on board!

The real world intruded then – this bit of our odyssey is almost over and it was time to think about how to get the car from Kings Langley. A train from Leamington Spa seemed to be the best option so we found a great spot to moor just past Bridge 45 (between the rail and river aqueducts – photos tomorrow).

Note: The towpath here doesn’t have mooring rings but although it looks like concrete it is perfectly possible to bang a pin in!

Richard went off to Leamington Spa train station – easily accessible from Bridge 41. The platforms have lift access so easy for bikes! We missed a trick here as what we really need is the equivalent of a canal guide but for the railways as there are a couple of places which might have had more convenient rail links – basically we had unwittingly strayed off the WCML so we needed a change in London.

While he was away I walked the dogs – walk over the river aqueduct and turn left down a steep flight of steps to the river walk. At the bottom of the steps turn right (to get onto the walk) and when you reach the river turn right again – this gives you a long length of river path which ends at a large park. The left turn takes you on a short boring walk to the main road! The walk’s not particularly scenic though bits of it are straight from ‘The Archers’ – cricket on the green, sheep in the fields, platforms for fishing and the sound of church bells in the distance. However it is a great walk for wearing out your dogs – we were out for an hour and three-quarters – even Blue was ready to settle down after that!

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