Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 52 – Stratford Canal
Posted by indigodream on 19 September, 2016
Rewind to Monday 22nd August
Tom o’ the wood to Lapworth Top
Having had an early finish and a lot of sleep yesterday, we woke up early and refreshed for a day full of locking and logistics!
I was relieved to find that my ankle had subsided overnight so my first job was to take the dogs for a walk along the towpath. I was surprised to find that a boater moored a few boat lengths away scowled mightily as I walked past with the hounds (who were behaving), yet he’d been quite genial the day before – not a morning person or did he disapprove of my bright red patchwork trousers?!
It had rained heavily overnight, so it wasn’t the best time for foraging, but I couldn’t resist a long thicket of plum trees and enlisted Richard’s help to pick another punnet for the Tidy’s.
Unusually for us, we managed to get underway by 8.30am, but although we got to the Lapworth flight by 8.50am, there was a boat coming up from the Stratford end just setting the next lock up from the junction. Our hearts sank a little, but they were really courteous and having spotted that we’d be ready for the next lock before them, they let us go first. We got into a nice rhythm as the super-efficient crew of the boat behind kept pace, with us cracking a paddle for them before setting off to the next lock.
At first, it looked as if we’d have the flight largely to ourselves, but that was an illusion! A few locks up, there was a positive stampede of boats coming down – most were genial and at most locks we managed to cross in the longer pounds.
There was a CRT volunteer lockie walking up and down the lock flight, trying to organise the flow, as some of the pounds are really short and awkward to cross. He was doing a great job until he encountered a hotel boat, who insisted on coming down a lock, forcing a crossing with us in a short pound. It wasn’t a big deal, but the skipper had left a child on the helm and the boat really needed a more experienced (or taller, at least) hand in such close quarters. The skipper was scowling and giving the CRT volunteer some stick, in the end I had to point out to him that he needed to move his boat forward or there wouldn’t be room for me to get past – he scowled some more. I was surprised, it can’t be very pleasant to be on a hotel holiday with such a miserable crew 😦
It was a tiny incident and not enough to disturb a lovely day’s locking – Lapworth is one of our favourites and the hounds enjoyed the freedom of hopping on and off for some light rummaging, though it was obvious that they were tired so they spent more time snoozing than looking!
We got to Lapworth Top Lock and moored up opposite nb Nanshe, who has kept an eye on Indigo Dream when we’ve left her there before. Richard got his bike out with the intention of cycling back to Lapworth train station, where he’d catch a train back to Leamington Spa to pick up the car. Things didn’t go quite to plan – his train was showing on the station board, then, when it was due, it vanished from the noticeboard and the train didn’t show either – no explanation was given! Rather than wait an hour for the next train, he decided to cycle all the way back to Leamington Spa – it’s downhill, but the towpath is pretty lumpy bumpy and it’s quite a distance, so that’s a good workout!
In the meantime, I dragged the weary hounds out for a foraging trip – firstly up to the first lift bridge, then down the flight to see if we could catch nb Willy No Name and give them a hand up the flight. We got a few punnets of blackberries, though I was gutted that a laden victoria plum tree growing by the side of the towpath had a heavy infestation of maggots so the fruit that looked so tempting was rotten inside.
It took a while for Richard to come back with the car, especially as he’d done a bit of foraging himself – at Patisserie Valerie – and had some luscious cakes to take for our afternoon tea with Helen and Andy (aka Captain Ahab and Belle). We left the hounds behind and drove up to their house with gifts of cake and fruit. It was so lovely to see them – we talked jam and boating and chemotherapy – we could have talked all night but Helen tires quickly so we only stayed an hour. Just as well, if we’d stayed longer our shed/kitchen envy might have spoiled the conversation. As professional jammers, they have a wondrous new kitchen and Richard tells me that Andy’s shed is a sight to behold!
On the way to Walsall, we’d spotted the Miller and Carter steakhouse not far from the boat – sadly the service was a bit lacklustre, the seats were uncomfortable and the steaks were ok but not good enough to overcome the poor service, which is a shame. Nonetheless, the portions were generous so there were enough steak trimmings to guarantee our forgiveness when we got back to the hounds 🙂