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The Odyssey 2009: Day 20

Posted by indigodream on 12 May, 2009

Sunday 10th May Tom o’ the Woods to Lapworth Top Lock

It's nice to see that the canal has a wide range of uses!

It's nice to see that the canal has a wide range of users!

On Saturday night, Richard was in bed by 9pm which may have been a mistake given that we’d just eaten a huge dinner at the Tom o’ the Woods pub. I managed to stay awake until 10pm and simply had the best night’s sleep – it was so nice I didn’t want it to end so I had a luxurious lie-in while Richard sorted the dogs out and moved the boat to the waterpoint (past the bridge) to fill up and give the boat a wash. It was nigh on 10am before I emerged, feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Which is more than I can say for the dogs – they were still tired after yesterday’s labours and they had another lock flight to explore…..

We had such a lazy start – Richard chatted to people on the towpath as he washed the boat. The side that’s washed looks great – the other side looks decidedly dusty. I was surprised – I didn’t think we were picking up soot and ash from boat chimneys any more and I thought that we’d had enough rain to keep the towpaths from kicking up dust. All academic – I’m sure we’ll soon have the opportunity to clean both sides!

Looking back towards the Grand Union....

Looking back towards the Grand Union....

Richard took the helm for the first stretch and did a neat turn into the cut that leads to the Stratford Canal. There was a friendly residential boater moored just inside the bridge – I wonder how much he flinches when he sees boats heading towards him on the turn?! Richard asked him about that as he went past and as far as he could hear it sounds like most boats that get it wrong have a good bounce of the bridge first which means that they tend to miss him …

It was a lovely day – the biting wind which has plagued us for several weekends disappeared and I finally  got to warm my bones in the sun. I even relinquished my usual fleece jacket and wore my african sun hat for the first time his year – Hurrah! I’m very fond of my sun hat – I bought it many years ago while we were on honeymoon in Zimbabwe (we went to watch a total eclipse – awesome) and the hat reminds me of that wonderful country and the special time that we had there.

It was the perfect day to climb the Lapworth flight. This is only the second time we’ve done this flight but it’s on my list of  favourites. For one thing, it has nice narrow locks in the most lovely setting – the views are gently scenic and the

...and looking forward to the Stratford Canal

...and looking forward to the Stratford Canal

flight is surrounded by a mix of open fields, drifts of hawthorn hedgerow and verges full of old meadow flowers. There’s a spot just below top lock which last year was purple with foxgloves and which now had a mix of bluebells, red campion, yellow buttercups and a delicate lacework of cow parsley. It was like an old country tapestry with colours expertly woven by the passing seasons.

The Lapworth locks have been much improved in the last year. When we passed through in Summer, the bottom gates were as perforated as paper doilies. But most have been replaced with no-nonsense new timber gates – I wonder how long these will last before they reach the advanced leakiness of their predecessors?

It’s an interesting flight because the first few locks raise the canal in a gentle curve that follows the hill’s contours. It leads you into a false sense of security – the pounds are long enough for convenience but short enough to make it easy for lock-wheelers. But then there’s a sudden change and the flight becomes more businesslike – suddenly lining up like

The gentle start of the Lapworth flight (this must be the third or fourth lock up)

The gentle start of the Lapworth flight (this must be the third or fourth lock up)

soldiers and marching straight up the incline. The pounds become shorter and sod’s law says that if you’re going to meet another boat it’ll be here. We met three! There was a bit of jiggling to be done – unless you have bow thrusters then a few crew members on the towpath with a front or centre rope are helpful just to give the boats a tug into position. We managed the crossing without collision but not without a few choice mutterings from me about the chances of meeting three boats in short pounds when we’d barely seen another boat for the entire weekend!

The dogs had a good rummage at the locks – bottom lock was thoroughly investigated then Lou came back on board for a rest. Blue got confused, took a wrong turn and got even more confused as he tried to follow the boat and found himself on a dead end on the wrong side of the canal. He just couldn’t work it out so Richard had to cycle round to fetch him. After that adventure Blue came back on board as well. And so it went,

You'll always meet a boat in a short pound! Luckily N-gage was a short boat......

You'll always meet a boat in a short pound! Luckily N-gage was a short boat......

I’d normally let Blue off at the bottom and see him at the top, but today he cadged a lift every few locks and had a rest (as did Lou but that’s how she normally is!). So Blue’s not turning into a super-active labrador after all – phew! (no offence F & F!)

From Lock 10 onwards we had a group of willing helpers in the form of an extended family walking up the flight. One couple lives at the bottom of the flight and were very knowledgeable about the locks. The rest were visiting relatives, including two children who did a great job of pushing the lock gates (under close supervision of course). They walked up as far as lock 4, where we encountered the first bit of ignorance of the day when a boat coming down turned the next lock right in front of us (and it wasn’t a hirer either!). It’s only a minor irritation but we did see them looking down at us before quite deliberately turning the paddles to fill lock. So different to the hire boat coming down that decided that the lock was probably ours, emptied it and opened the gates for us. Ah well, it gave me time to hog the lock moorings, leaving them to negotiate the shallows in the turn (which I’d have had to do otherwise) so all’s well that ends well.

The Lapworth gets down (or should that be up) to business!

The Lapworth gets down (or should that be up) to business!

I didn’t keep detailed notes on this flight – it was enough just to stand back and be infused with its beauty.

As we approached the last couple of locks, Richard found out that there was a rare direct train from Lapworth to Leamington Spa just after 2pm. We hastened to the top lock and quickly tied up just past the lock moorings so that Richard could be on his way. He cycled off to the station and made it to his train with minutes to spare thanks to some excellent directions from a local man who knew a shortcut via a bridlepath. As ever, Richard marvelled that a trip that had taken us 2 days in the boat took just 16 minutes by train!

In the meantime I bobbled around the boat, packing up and generally getting rid of accumulated fluff. I kept dogs on board – there’s a busy road just beyond the hedge that bounds the towpath and there were a couple of Blue-sized escape routes which would have taken him straight onto the tarmac. They weren’t bothered – they were so tired they just curled up the sheepskins (they have a new extra-fluffy one onboard). I was very tempted to join them!

BIG help.....

BIG help.....

Note: There’s what looks like a rubbish point at the top lock but we now know from the comment below that it is just used by the lock keeper to get rid of daily flotsam from the flight.

Richard got back in no time but this time we ate a proper lunch on board. Big mistake, Richard started pottering around and did some more painting (long story involving a leaky paint tin and the need to use up the dregs). Of course, once you start pottering it’s difficult to know where to stop and it was with some reluctance that I dragged him away.

We drove back via Warwick where Richard had spotted some uniquely interesting buildings on his way up. The town looked fascinating but I was anxious to get back as I had an unusually early start looming on Monday morning. I felt very guilty for dragging Richard away – we must find time for an exploration next weekend.

Photoblog:

A mix of scenery for the canal lovers and a particularly fine crop of cute dog photos.

Handsome boy.....

Handsome boy.....

Happy girl......

Happy girl......

Ah ha, lou's not on board so I'll hog the sofa for a bit.....

Ah ha, Lou's not on board so I'll hog the sofa for a bit.....

Posing for the camera....

Next Lock: Posing for the camera....

A fine tapestry of flowers

A fine tapestry of flowers

Spiky! Gorse and Hawthron on the approach to Lapworth Top lock

Spiky! Gorse and Hawthorn on the approach to Lapworth Top lock

Typically rustic scene near the top of the Lapworth flight

Typically rustic scene near the top of the Lapworth flight

A memento of the old lock gate - now adorning the lock cottage garden...

A memento of the old lock gate - now adorning the lock cottage garden...

19th century 'hole in the wall'???

19th century 'hole in the wall'???

Paddle gear

Top gate paddle gear

Lush......

Lush......

One of my favourite spots towards the top of the Lapworth (and not just because long pounds make for easy passing!)

One of my favourite spots towards the top of the Lapworth (and not just because long pounds make for easy passing!)

On our way home after a busy weekend....

On our way home after a busy weekend....

Lou having a mad greyhound moment.....

Lou having a mad greyhound moment.....

Wait for us......

Wait for us......


Contentment roll 1: It's my 7th birthday and I'm having a nice time - how about a roll.... Contentment roll 1: It’s my 7th birthday and I’m having a nice time – how about a roll….
Contentment roll 2: That's the first bit done....

Contentment roll 2: That's the first bit done....

Almost over......

Contentment roll 3: Almost over......

Phew - I'm exhausted now......

Contentment roll 4: Phew - I'm exhausted now...... (The term 'contentment roll' comes from a very useful book called "how to speak dog" which has a 'dictionary' of doggie body language)

4 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 20”

  1. Nanshe said

    Good to read that you enjoyed the Lapworth flight. You said “There’s a rubbish point marked at the top lock” – where is it marked? On a map or guide? There isn’t one and has not been one for some years. However, you are not alone in thinking that there is one. The BW bins behind the fence are for mostly green flotsam that is collected every day by the lockkeeper. By the way, are you IWA members? I couldn’t see a sticker in your window. Your boat looked OK and well this afternoon opposite me. The hole in the wall hides a lock usage counter.

  2. indigodream said

    Ah thank you for that. Hearing that the boat is ok is most welcome especially as we have had a chat with BW and will leave it there till we head into Brum for the BCN Challenge. That is something that we are really looking forward to. So far we have found the BCN fascinating, the challenge will spur us into going up bits we have not done before mainly because the BCN has been enroute to somewhere else not a destination its own right.

    This time we took 2 days over Hatton and Lapworth so could really enjoy them both. They are such nice flights and the Lapworth flight has really benefited from a bit of TLC since our last trip. I did wonder what the hole in the wall was for!

    I think that the rubbish point was on our old Nicholsons which Sue uses when she writes the blog, I see it is not on the new edition. Last time we came up our BW key fitted and I thought there was a sign? Or is that memory failure? Yes we are IWA members and pleased to be so, your comment has reminded me that I must get us transferred to the most convenient branch for us …

  3. Greygal said

    Are those happy dogs or are those happy dogs? Great pics, guys, and another super Odyssey post, thanks so much.

  4. indigodream said

    Hey Greygal, Blue and Lou are definitely making the best of everything life has to offer at the moment – it’s a such a joy to see them so happy. There’s more to come as we met Blue’s brother this weekend and had a glimpse of what a 5 greyhound bundle looks like! More to follow soon…..

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