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Archive for May 17th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 13

Posted by indigodream on 17 May, 2011

Warwick to Hockley Heath

Friday 13th May

Happy?

Despite the inauspicious date, we headed off to the boat for a very auspicious meeting – during the week I had a surprise email from cousin Denise who was in need of an urgent stress-relieving cruise. After a little family negotiation they decided to come up on Friday night and work off their stress through physical effort on the Hatton and Lapworth flights 🙂

We had a good journey up to the boat – despite the usual queues on the M25 – apparently talking about traffic/travel is one of the top British traits – talking (or should that be complaining) about the weather it THE top trait, but I’ll come back to that later….

As you might expect, Indigo Dream had been fine on her moorings at the boatyard – we’re very grateful for the help that we were offered at Kate Boats. They’d given us a gate key so we could take the car into the yard for offloading Richard  then moved the car onto the street and we moved the boat onto the mooring rings on the towpath opposite. We’d managed to arrive before the Welsh contingent – giving me just enough time to stick a fluffy rug to the floor in order to protect Ty’s elbows. Cousin Denise and family turned up just after 8pm so plenty of time for chatting and eating. We were trying something a bit different this weekend – Wyn and Rhodri would stay at a local B & B, while Denise and Christina would stay on board. But food first – we wandered into Warwick to eat, and, as you might expect, there was plenty of choice. Now, to get to the local eateries from where we were moored – walk onto Coventry Road (Bridge 49) and walk towards town (opposite direction to the filling station you can see from the bridge). Follow the road down the hill and you’ll eventually get to a parade of takeaways of all sorts – from there, the road ahead forks – take the left-hand fork and there’s a street of restaurants. For the most part the restaurants were heaving, and quite pricey, so we plumped for an all-you-can-eat chinese restaurant – the meal was delicious and the service was admirable.

Our new greyhound!

Replete, the boat crew headed back to Indigo Dream while Wyn and Rhodri set off for the B & B. It took some time to set up the boat for guests – Lou and Lynx were very unhappy to be ousted from their sofa (which unfolds into a bed) – Lynx kept jumping back on at every opportunity. There followed a very disturbed night’s sleep. Ty was terrified by all the guests but by 2.30am, with his dose of valium working, he suddenly woke up all confident and decided it was time to eat, drink and go out. This commotion woke everyone up and it was my turn to go out onto the towpath in my pyjamas to walk him. I can report that the mooring was very quiet and the towpath was deserted. With all the dogs awake, there followed a noisy dog-bed shuffle – peace reigned for an hour or so, then the hounds were up and complaining about their beds again. Needless to say, Denise and Christina elected to stay in a B & B with Wyn and Rhodri on Saturday night!

Note: Back in 2009 we acquired a great greyhound tiller pin – we loved it, but sadly the pin came loose and the dog flew into the Stort last year so we’ve been bereft. It’s been very difficult to replace it – in the end we had to buy a brass greyhound statue from America (we actually bought two from http://www.k-9designs.com so we have a spare) then we had a pin attached (firmly) and then we had it chromed to match the tiller. We finally fitted our new tiller pin tonight – it looks magnificent and is twice as big as our old greyhound pin – this means that it’s so heavy it doesn’t swivel around. So now we will always have at least one greyhound on board….

Saturday 14th May

Despite our restless night, everyone was up and about early – we had a long day’s locking in front of us, so our target was to leave the mooring by 9.30am. We’d carried enough milk with us for our morning coffees but otherwise the cupboard was pretty bare so I headed off for Tesco while the crew took the boat up towards Hatton – Sarah and hounds would be joining us there. It all worked reasonably smoothly – Sarah was waiting for Indigo Dream at the bottom of the Hatton (she’s parked in the useful Warwick Park ‘n Ride station at the bottom of the locks); then they found a locking partner in nb Phoenix, and I met them one lock up at the BW car park (free but it is locked at 4pm) just by Hatton Bottom. The timing was a little bit off, but luckily nb Phoenix were glad to have a locking partner and seemed happy to wait for us at the next lock.

Rhodri getting into the swing of locking...

We set off along the Hatton flight in good spirits – between the two boats, we had enough crew to prepare a lock ahead, work us through the current lock and close it behind us – the flight took 2 hrs 15 mins – below nb Phoenix’s record, apparently, but pretty seamless nonetheless. Wyn took the helm for the start of the flight with me supervising – the rest of the crew, including Sarah and the hounds, elected to work the locks, though the crew, especially canine, had the odd rest break on board as we went along!

The wind was very gusty and at first Wyn got the hang of compensating for it – the longer pounds at the bottom gave time for Pheonix to get roped up and steady in the lock by the time Wyn arrived. However, as the pounds became shorter, the timing became a bit tighter, and the wind stronger, so as we got up into the flight proper so I took the helm. Once we got into the short pounds I suggested to nb Phoenix’s skipper that we try moving together – he was game and the process of getting into the locks speeded up considerably. I was surprised to find that the two boats together seemed much less susceptible to the effects of the wind – even though we weren’t roped up. It helped that nb Phoenix is the same length as Indigo Dream.

The flight was very quiet – we were the only boats moving up the locks and we only met one boat coming down. However there were plenty of walkers towards the top of the flight, but far fewer than I’d expect on a spring morning. Having said that, the wind was blustery and cold so that may have put people off.

I must congratulate our locking crews – they worked tirelessly and efficiently through the flight – I can only hope that Denise and family had some time to stop and enjoy the view…

We stopped for lunch at the top of the locks, then Richard cycled back to the bottom to get his car and leave it at the top of the Lapworth flight ready for the evening car shuffle. We moved off with Sarah at the helm, though Wyn soon had another go. We had a slow trip along the long pound – there were a few moored boats and it was very shallow on the offside so anything above 1000 rpm created a wash. We inched along, enjoying the features of the Shrewley tunnel then the high embankment through Rowington. Rhodri had a go at steering but unfortunately crashed into the bank which put him off; it must be hereditary – Denise did exactly the same when she took the helm 🙂 It’s a shame  as the crashes dented their confidence (but not the boat!) and they didn’t have a go again.

The Hatton flight always looks so impressive...

We picked Richard up a little while before Tom o’ the Woods, but we soon stopped to clear the prop and give the dogs a bobble (by co-incidence in the exact spot where we moored three years ago). Ty’s doings are still the subject of much scrutiny – we gauge how scared he is by how many wees he’ll have during the daylight hours – how sad are we! He’s actually doing very well but is a dog and half away from his alter ego ‘Ty the brave’ who lives with us in Surrey…

We eventually got to Kingswood Junction by mid-afternoon and turned onto the Stratford Canal – now this is one of my favourite spots – the ‘Lapworth 19’ is a beautiful flight and perfect for the hounds. This was another of Blue’s favourite rummaging spots and the hounds had a great time.

Note: There is a little car park just above the first of the Lapworth 19.

It was so nice to be back on narrow locks; then we remembered that it’s actually over a year since we’ve done any narrow locks so we needed to get back into practice. But really, locking up a narrow flight is great. Wyn and I took turns at the helm while our trusty crew did all the hard work. The one big advantage of having spare crew was that there were always enough hands to spare for dog handling so even Ty could have a little bobble. The flight was predictably quiet until we got to the short pounds – why is that? Sods law dictates that in miles of empty canal you will only meet oncoming boats at bends, bridge holes and short pounds 🙂

Richard had cycled ahead and we were a bit concerned when he said he’d spotted hotel boats Oak and Ash working their way down the flight with one doing a spectacularly bad lock entry. We’ve met them before and the man in charge has a reputation – we  certainly remember our previous encounters. But our luck was in – they had moored up by the time we came to them – whether it was necessary for them to moor brested up between a bridge hole and a bend on a narrow canal was another thing….

Wyn punching the air - and that's top lock....

We were making good time up the flight but then we caught up with a hire boat – the crew was dressed in roman togas – this did not bode well! They merrily meandered along the canal in haphazard fashion and their lock entries were painful to behold, they struggled with the paddles, tried to fill one lock with a bottom paddle open so our journey slowed…. By now, of course, the ever present wind had really freshened making us meander a little ourselves as our slow pace made us vulnerable to the gusts. We were almost at the top of the flight when we had one of those moments – I was waiting for the crew to set the lock and decided to hover – big mistake – the wind (and current from the emptying lock) pushed my bow across the canal; all attempts to correct this failed, leading to my bow being parked in the canalside cottage’s garden while my stern was nicely placed on the towpath. There followed an expletive-filled 5-minutes while I tried to extricate myself from this situation – but Sarah had to rescue me! She’d come on board for a rest, but ended up agilely hopping off onto the towpath and hauling Indigo Dream back to the middle of the canal using the centre rope. When the lock opened, Richard complimented me  on my fast and smooth entry – my shennanigans in the pound had been obscured by the bridge over the lock!

When we got to Lapworth top lock in 2 hours 20 minutes, Richard, Wyn and Sarah went off to do the car shuffle while the rest of us carried on along the canal – our mission was to find a mooring near a pub – either at the Wharf Inn at Hockley Heath or the Cider House a little further on. I took the helm in the increasingly cold wind and Denise bravely joined me on the back deck – Rhodri and Christina sensibly stayed inside. I thought the crew had done its work, but I’d totally forgotten (again!) about the two lift bridges! They’re both ones where the moorings are on the opposite side to the mechanism so I pressed the crew into action – Denise and Christina drew the short straw as the first bridge was apparently very heavy; Rhodri was drafted in to do the second bridge and turned the windlass with no apparent effort.

It was almost dark by the time we reached the Wharf Inn so we decided to stop there. The moorings beyond bridge 25 looked full, so we quickly stopped before the bridge – I’d spotted a mooring ring there; in fact, there are a whole line of mooring rings. It wasn’t the best spot for the hounds because there is a busy road on top of the embankment, but other than that it was quiet and had easy access to the pub. We moored up and I fed the hounds. Within minutes the rest of the crew had turned up – Sarah had a late pass so we went off to the pub (food served until 8.30pm) and had a good pub meal. We toasted Indigo Dream’s fifth anniversary – she was actually launched on the 16th May but we’d be by ourselves then and it seemed better to have a mini-celebration while we had a larger complement of Indigo Dreamers.

Mother and son....

Denise had researched B & B’s during the last hour or so of our cruise and found two rooms at Rose Cottage, Hockley Heath (B94 5NH – 01564 782936) – they had a bit of trouble finding it at first, but once they’d got their bearings, the cottage turned out to be within half a mile of the mooring!

The road became quiet overnight and the mooring was silent – we had to keep the dogs on lead on the towpath but Lou and Lynx could be let off on the path across the lift bridge which flanks some open fields. Ty, of course, was not to be trusted off- lead here. We had the usual dog commotion at 2am – that’s when Ty decided that it was dark and quiet enough for him to go out and wee. I decided it was Richard’s turn to walk down the towpath in his pyjamas and nudged him awake. We had a better night’s sleep tonight though – Lou had her usual spot on the sofa so we were spared that particular angst!

Photoblog:

This weekends photos and a few missing snaps from last weekend….

Be-calmed - moored below the weir!

View from Lapworth bottom - such a scenic flight....

Rural scene from the Rowington Embankment...

Wyn getting the hang of narrow locks...

Our competent crew....

Scenery on the Lapworth...

Scenes from the Lapworth (1)

Scenes from the Lapworth (2)

Scenes from the Lapworth (3)

Scene from Day 10....

Scene from Day 11 - cheeky duck!

Scene from Day 11 - busy at the winding hole, especially with that sunken boat in the way!

Scenes from Day 11 - happy on Henry H....

Scene from Day 12 - hill/mound overlooking the Fosse locks....

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