Sunday 28th June
Wilmcote to Bridge 63
Right, it’s me back on the blog – you’ll realise this as soon as you see the word count – I’ve never knowingly done a day’s account in less than 1000 words (Denise managed a wonderfully concise 4 days in 600 words!) 🙂
Our intention this weekend was to get as far as Stratford, or maybe just outside, and mooch around. We didn’t quite manage it – we had a quiet day at home on Saturday and just did a day trip to the boat on Sunday.
We had a great trip up to Wilmcote – the roads were deserted and we got to the boat by mid-morning – that’s a record for us. Indigo Dream was looking safe and secure – Denise and Wyn had done a good job of completing the 20-point guide to leaving the boat long-term! The boat still looked immaculate – we must do a deep clean more often. Blue was very distressed to be back on board – no wonder, his bed had vanished! Richard went back to move the car and to get the dog beds while I cast off ready for cruising down to meet him at the bridge.
I was having a chat with the denizens of nb Rustle moored in front of us when I had an unfortunate incident with the dogs. Lou took a dislike to a timid spaniel running alongside her owner’s bike and decided a chase was in order – all the dogs raced down the towpath for a boat-length before the spaniel jumped into the canal. All dogs unhurt and this wasn’t the spaniel’s first swim of the day. I am very sorry it happened – a momentary lack of concentration on my part as I normally keep a close eye on Lou. The whole chase was over in about 10 seconds – the hysterical shouting from the spaniel’s owner about how horrible my dogs are lasted a LOT longer. I bundled the dogs away and retreated – not being prone to shouting myself I’m at a loss as to how to deal with it.
I cast off gratefully – being able to cruise away from the scene of the crime is surely one of the best aspects of life on the move 🙂
I met Richard at the bridge and reinstated all the dogs beds – clean and smelling of lavender. Wouldn’t it be nice if that lasted!
As always, any sort of conflict bothers me so I kept on turning it over in my mind until I finally managed to clang the boat against one of the narrow bridges and I heard the tart comment of “will you forget about that dog” drifting back from the bow – he knows me so well!
There was only a short cruise to the first of the day’s many locks. Having first looked around for other dogs, we let the vandals out for a run but they soon got back on board. It was already broiling and it wasn’t even midday. Blue hopped off every now and then as we worked down the flight but Lou just basked in the relatively cool 22 degrees inside the boat. I roasted in the 29 degrees on the helm and I’ll never know how Richard managed the heat, the sun, the locks, and cycling between them all.
I’m at a loss to explain how we came down from Kingswood Junction with next to no boating traffic when this lower bit is like Clapham Junction. Where do all the boats come from? “Aha” I hear you cry “they’re from the river” but a fair few said they were too nervous to go on the river. The boats must keep different hours to us – after all, some people actually like getting up early in the morning 🙂
This is a strange lock flight. Richard summed it up beautifully as “leaks fast, empties slow”. As you cruise into the locks you can feel the water level going down through the leaky bottom gates even as the top gates are shutting. I guess that explains why so many of the locks that we expected to be set our way were actually half-empty. But perversely, once the paddles are open it takes an age to empty. There’s only a single small gate paddle on the bottom gates and it doesn’t feel like enough – especially after the efficiency of the giant locks on the Grand Union.
I must warn you about some lively bywashes below some of the locks – they flow from the right as you leave the locks and exert quite a push – you may need a few revs to get out in a straight line.
Despite the slow locks, we shot down the flight and with lots of boats coming up we often had gates left open for us. Of course we had to meet a boat head on in the shortest pound but it was a nifty little sea otter that just pulled neatly into the side and let me through – thanks. If we’d been two 60 footers I’d probably still have been stuck up to the gunwales in the reedy side-pound. The sea otter was a single hander who was very appreciative of Richard’ s help – and of the boat toiling down behind us. We cracked open a few paddles behind us and with so many boats coming up the flight I hope it wasn’t too much of a chore for them.
Note: Lock 47 has a warning that it’s slightly narrow – we didn’t notice any difference but our beam is only 6’10”. Some of the other locks have strangely uneven brickwork that narrow the lock a couple of feet down – judging by the marks a few boats have scraped along here though again, we didn’t have any problems. Our excellent teacher, Malcolm from Top Lock training, advised us to rock the boat from side to side when locking down in order to dislodge anything that might catch the boat in a narrow lock. Good advice here where the locks really are narrow.
There’s no doubt that it’s a beautiful flight in that it’s green, richly wooded and rural. If it had been cooler, Blue could have rummaged to his heart’s content without any concerns about roads or other hazards (won’t comment about Lou – she’s in my bad books, but it never lasts for long!). But maybe we didn’t appreciate the flight as much as some of our favourites – I finally put my finger on it when we got to the bottom – there aren’t any views. We caught the odd glimpse of Stratford between the trees, but the flight is so enclosed by the thick vegetation that you don’t see the panorama of the flood plain that you know is beneath you. It made me realise that watching the scenery unfold as we ascend/descend is one of the things I enjoy most about lock flights.
Bridge 63 is just a short cruise from the bottom of the flight – there’s a length of rather overgrown towpath mooring (14-day) then a very neat strip that marks the water and refuse point just before the bridge. We stopped off for water – it gave me something to do while Richard gamely cycled back to get the car from Wilmcote. As we started to fill, another boat came up to the water point. They sensibly (and patiently) had their lunch as we’d warned them that our tank would take at least 30 minutes to fill. They were a share boat from the Canal Boat Club at Alvechurch – brand new and pristine. I got chatting to the crew (male, the women were inside cooking) and gave two of them a guided tour of the Indigo Dream – she was looking so magnificent inside. They especially liked the extra-large drinking decks – many people do!
Richard timed his trip to perfection – he came strolling down the towpath just as the water tank finished filling. We chatted with yet another member of the share boat’s crew – he has a nastily swollen hand from an accident with a rope – just goes to show. He said it looked worse than it was, I thought he should be starring in casualty!
We pulled the boat back up the towpath and moored up in a convenient spot where a previous boater had hacked away the undergrowth. We banged in 4 pins and managed to leave the boat in record time, given our usual reluctance to leave her. Mind you, we did have some incentive, just as we were leaving a torrential shower moved over and took away the temptation to linger.
But alas, we were soon back. We’d just negotiated a mega-tedious traffic queue to the M40 when Richard realised he’d forgotten his wallet so we had to go back. We then decided to take a different route home which fortunately took us via Tesco where we picked up lunch. For future reference there’s a Costa here as well!
We then had an outstandingly slow trip home – partly our fault. We blindly followed the satnav back to the queue we’d negotiated previously, decided to do a U-turn and take the route through Banbury. All very scenic, all rather slow. But it was supersonic compared to the M40 which was jam-packed for its whole length – why? We’ll never know – no accidents (mercifully) and no roadworks – just lots of other cars.
We finally got home and to our horror, the torrential downpours that had drenched Stratford had failed to visit our poor parched plants. We spent the rest of the day watering!
We’ve got a bit of a gap now. My singing group is doing its first public performance next weekend and I’ve said I’d do a solo as well! Luckily we’ll have a friendly audience – it’s at the house of one of the members – it’s their 50th wedding anniversary and I’m sure it’ll be lovely.
So, we’ll be back on board in 2 weeks’ time and will take a week off to do the rivers – the Avon to Tewkesbury followed by the Severn to Stourport. If there’s a rain god then please send the rain to Surrey where we sorely need it and keep it from flooding the midlands……