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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 13

Posted by indigodream on 18 June, 2008

Warwick to Lapworth Top Lock

Looking up to the aqueduct

This was our last full day of cruising and set to be a big day as we wanted to get up onto the Birmingham plateau – it meant that we had to do 42 locks today but that would make the next weekend’s cruising so much easier.

We did not quite get the sleep we wanted as we had a bit of trouble overnight in our mooring. It was such a shame – up until 3am it was the perfect spot – the towpath was occupied by a pleasant array of walker and cyclists, and the loudest noise was from the sheep bleating in the adjacent field. At 3am, however, the peace was broken by drunken shouting from the towpath and a loud thump against the side of the boat. We woke up but at first hoped they would just pass on; then we heard this bit of dialogue:

Drunk 1: “Come on”

Drunk 2: “Naw, I wanna do the boat”

Drunk 1: Come on, youz can do the boat any time”

At this point we decided it was time to take action!

Thankfully we never found out what ‘doing the boat’ might involve but I have a vivid imagination………

Richard went onto the front deck and handled the situation brilliantly – he is a big man and standing on our front deck he did loom over the four totally p***** lads on the towpath. His approach was calm and non-confrontational – he just talked to them and they quietened down and were positively respectful considering they’d just broken a stolen estate agent’s sign on the side of the boat! I’m glad he went out – I favour the ‘screaming banshee’ approach myself! While this was going on the dogs were barking ferociously – Richard would not let them out as teeth were showing and they were trembling with fear and anger. The man who lives in the canal cottage opposite kindly came out with a big torch to investigate and told us he’d report the lads to the police (Thank you – we did appreciate your support). In the face of all this attention the lads left us alone and went to chase the sheep in the field instead ….

I stayed up ’til 4am because I was a bit worried that they’d come back but they’d long since scarpered. We did find that the cheap solar lights that we put out to mark the mooring pins had been stolen – we don’t think it was the same lads as they weren’t in a state to hide them effectively. The police never did turn up – shame – I would have been reassured by a community officer just taking an interest.

As the law can’t help us here I thought I’d try an old-fashioned curse! So, to the people who stole our light – may you be cursed by absolute honesty for the rest of your days; to the four drunks – may you develop an allergy to alcohol and never get drunk again!

I’ve spent a bit of time today musing on whether I’d moor there again. My current answer is ‘maybe’ if we were on board BUT we’d take in or nail down every movable object on decks and roof. We would NEVER leave the boat there overnight unattended. Talking to a few other boaters we may just have been unlucky as Warwick is not known as a black spot (though there weren’t many boats moored along this stretch).
Let us know if you’ve heard differently.

Canal\'s supremacy over rail (for a change!)We did get a somewhat jaundiced view of Warwick – it’s not that attractive from the water though the guide books say it is fantastic in the centre by the castle/cathedral. We didn’t stop to sightsee – we were on a mission of get to Lapworth! . However, there a few things to note:

If you’ve ever been to Chirk you’ll know that the viaduct carrying the railway was built higher than the canal aqueduct to show the supremacy of rail over water. But here we have the canal in it’s proper place! Richard took photos of transformers next to footpaths below on the old power station site – their in the photoblog below for the geeks!

There is a useful Tesco and various other shops/takeaways by bridge 46 – the Tesco doesn’t have a Starbucks but it does do Krispy Creme Doughnuts! There are moorings here but they looked pretty full.

That\'s not daunting!Anyway, on to the locks – first we faced the Hatton flight. The guide books called these a ‘daunting sight’ but if you’ve done Tardebigge or Caen Hill then you have nothing to fear! According to Richard what made this flight manageable was the well-balanced gates and smooth mechanisms – much easier than Caen Hill. I’m just standing on the back wiggling the tiller so it’s all the same to me!

Dogs unitedIt was here we met another greyhound – Kirkstone Gem (aka Sally) travelling on nb Blue Moon. Our two were very pleased to meet her (even Lou but we think she recognised that this was one very fit looking greyhound). Sally was superbly muscled but very dainty for a girl, nearer in build to Blue – Lou is so stocky we sometimes doubt her pedigree! In the way of the Welsh we logged onto to see if our dogs were related and they are (in a very convoluted way!) Sally’s great-grandfather was Blue’s grandfather and somewhere back in the generations they share a link with “I’m Slippy” who seems to turn up in every bloodline.

At lock 33 we met some interesting birds – there was a family of three grey wagtails perching on the lock gate – they weren’t bothered by the boat grumphing past them and I got a great view. There was a wren on the lockside – so bold for a bird the size of a walnut! We have them in the garden – they make the most amazing racket but it’s rare for us to see them out in the open.

Loads of boats were coming down the flight, hardly anyone going up so we were single in a double lock. Best technique to keep the boat steady in the lock (we tend not to use ropes unless we are on the Wey) was to open the ground paddle on the same side as the boat to halfway – 11 turns, then pause. Once you can see appreciable flow into the lock open the paddle one turn at a time. This way the boat stays fixed nicely to the the lock wall. Once you have that first paddle open you can open a second and boat stays steady. For most of the flight we went up opening just one paddle – this gave Richard just enough time to cycle to the next lock, set it, then come down to finish the lock I was in. Surprisingly it did not take longer – we got up the flight in under 3 hours and think that opening two paddles just took longer as Richard could not quite get back in time. But if you try this, watch out for the odd leaky gate – there were a few where we had to open the second paddle just to get the last 6 inches.

Hijack!!!!The pounds between the last three locks were ridiculously low (by about 2 feet) with clear mud banks visible on the right. Watch out for this – we didn’t meet anyone coming down here but I was glad that I could keep to the middle of the pounds.

There’s a lot of interest at the top of the flight. We genuflected and chanted ‘we’re not worthy’ when we passed Stephen Goldsborough Boats – they were utterly out of our price league when we were buying a boat but they had stunning designs.

A slightly sinister dragonfly at Hatton top locks

Lots to see at Hatton Top Locks

Notice on the friendly cafe

We also met a lot of ramblers today. One old gent was indignant when I told him that Richard did the locks while I drove. He thought I was letting women’s lib down and ought to be sharing the heavy work! I tried to convince him that driving WAS women’s lib as it’s a technical task but he wasn’t having it.

There’s a water point and rubbish bins by the top lock but you have to moor at the lock moorings to use them – we always feel a bit guilty about that as our tank takes so long to fill! Past that there’s a long line of long-term moorings so if you want to explore the top lock then moor up past these. It’s a cool wooded embankment and a good place to stop. We had a wander down to top lock – there are interesting exhibits there and a fine cafe which does very good ice-cream!

The next feature was Shrewley Tunnel. We were surprised to find 48-hour moorings by the tunnel mouth – it might be a useful place for the future. We had lunch there before setting off – it’s another 2-way tunnel but short and straight so no more clanging and banging!

Our ‘Nicholson’s’ guide is getting a bit old so we were pleased to see an unmarked water point just after the bridge at “Tom ‘o the wood”. Water pressure was excellent so we filled up and washed the boat. We met nb Lord Portal there bedecked with white ribbons – the ‘crew’ of 2 were on honeymoon! He works for the RAF and the narrowboat is actually owned by the RAF – I didn’t like to tell him that it’ll never fly (though they were wrong about bumble bees!).

The BW man that we met in Stockton told us to abandon the Grand Union at Kingswood Junction as the route not very scenic and runs through bandit country with difficult moorings. He advised us to head up the Stratford on Avon Canal instead – after Warwick we were happy to comply and it’s another bit of canal we haven’t done before. We joined the Lapworth flight halfway up and joy – narrow locks – proper narrow locks with an inch to spare (rather than the foot to spare on the Aylesbury Arm). Although it’s a long, closely spaced flight (19 locks) there were 48-hour moorings in some of the pounds – I was tempted to stop but as I mentioned, we were on a mission!

One paddle on lock 11 (downstream end, offside) is awkward to wind up and even harder to wind down – we would suggest not bothering to use it unless you are in the middle of a convoy. Watch out for the pound between locks 9 and 8 – it’s not really big enough for two 60 footers to pass comfortably. My wry thought as I looked up at nb Perintis coming out of the lock ahead was “this pound ain’t big enough for both of us”! The only way we could pass was for Perintis to turn right and poke her nose into the side-pound while I wiggled right and scraped along the lock moorings. Richard had wandered up the next lock so could relay between steerers using our exceedingly useful 2-way pmr radios. The crew of Perintis took this in their stride effortlessly but try to avoid meeting here if you possibly can!.

The lovely lock 5This flight was truly lovely – green and tranquil. We met a few boaters coming down but here was an air of a long sunday afternoon about the place. There are permanent moorings at the junction and I got the impression that the boaters there don’t see many outsiders! To the boater who told me off for manouvering into the lock moorings using my engine rather than pulling it in quietly with a rope – I apologise for disturbing your peace!

The approach to Lock 5 is particularly beautiful and lined with foxgloves. It wasn’t until I saw them that I realised that haven’t seen a wild foxglove for years – maybe not since I was in school. It was a joy to see them now. To the person who owns the cottage just after lock 4 – you’re garden is marvellous and really added to my enjoyment of the flight.

A drift of foxglovesIt was gone 7pm when we got to Lapworth Top Lock – it’s an enchanting time to be cruising as the water looks thick and glossy like treacle and there are perfect reflections in the soft light. Sometimes we cruise until nightfall just for the magic of it but after a heavy day’s locking we were done in. But our labours weren’t over – we got a taxi back to get Richard’s car so that we’d be all set for the morning. After all this we slept so soundly that you could have sawed the boat in half and we wouldn’t have noticed! There really wasn’t any trouble here and local boaters told us that this stretch is a safe place to moor though from a doggie point of view it is near a busy road.
Perfect reflections

I’ll leave you with some perfect reflections at Lapworth Top Lock.



Richard’s been doing a lot of work with electrical engineers recently and the sight of this transformer so close to the footpath with a relatively flimsy fence made him take a photo before running away at top speed!

And the live cables poking through within easy reach under the railway bridge made him wonder how the local yobs had survived so long without being electrocuted!

Live cables

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