Friday, 29 May 2009

Onto the Avon

Thursday 28th May(9 miles 7 locks)
We bought our Avon license yesterday (£55 for 15 days) and after a wander round Stratford we set off about 11. Much later than usual for us so the tourists were out in force to watch us through the lock.

A gentle drop down onto the Upper Avon and quite spectacular when you emerge from the lock

Just a short way down we passed Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.

Geoff walked the first two locks but then came aboard. Barney prefers to walk we think so this is his pose to show his displeasure.

The weather is now being so kind to us and we moored at Bidford on Avon at teatime. The mooring was by a large recreation ground so there were lots of people around at first but eventually they all went home and it was a delightful spot.

Friday 29th May (8 miles 4 locks 3 hours)

A shorter day today for the run down to Evesham. Once again the weather has been kind. We shall stay here for the weekend as we are expecting visitors. Boe leaves us tomorrow. She has managed to catch up on a fair amount of sleep whilst on board but has also managed some work. She is coming to the end of her 1 year Post Graduate Teaching Course. She spent most of the trip today sitting on the roof in her nightie and on her phone!!

The lock keepers cottage at Evesham is real....lock keeper as well! An unusual design as you can see below.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Soggy in Stratford!

Tuesday 26th May. (8 miles 9 locks)
One of our early starts today along a very pretty stretch of the canal. Below is one of the ex lock keepers cottages with it's distinctive rounded roof.

As you can see Barney is still enjoying himself and has to assist Geoff at every lock

All the locks on this stretch seemed to have the mooring bollards that there has been so much fuss about. These are single locks so three bollards along the side seems a bit OTT, since we don't use any of them!

All these bridges are very narrow and this one proved Geoff's undoing. He misjudged it slightly so we bounced through!

WE had phoned ahead to Anglo Welsh at Wooton Warren to check on their diesel price and policy. 70p and we could declare our own split, however when we arrived we could not get on the fuel quay without blocking the canal so had to leave it. Luckily we were not desperate.

Shortly afterwards we went over the aqueduct at Bearly. We had been warned by a passing boat that it was extremely windy going across and they were not wrong!! Not my favourite few minutes.

Eventually moored at Wilmcote ready for the run down to Stratford the next day.

Wednesday 27th May (4 miles 16 locks)
This was a day that we would not have chosen to travel, but daughter Boe was catching a train to Stratford to meet us later in the day so needs must sometimes.......
Moored just before the entry to the basin as it seemed better for Barney and we thought there would not be so many gongoozlers, however in retrospect it was not such a clever idea as we, together with the other two boats moored there, were cast adrift in the night. There was no great harm done as there was no wind and the canal is very narrow there, just annoying. However to look on the bright side at least the ropes were not cut!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Monday 25th May towards Stratford

Kingswood Junction (looking towards Stratford Canal)

We set off at the moderately early time of 0830 to negotiate the junction and start the journey towards Stratford. The start of this involved reversing back to the junction where we were moored and then a sharp turn. Why is it when one is doing things like this that an audience appears! Two men (it would be men) on a boat which had been moored behind us appeared to cease what they were doing and watch me avidly.............they were goal was achieved with nary a bump........
Our big mistake then was to stop at the sanitary point to water etc. By the time we were complete 4 boats had gone ahead of us so it was a slow tripUncritical Audience
We had intended to try and reach Wilmcote as there was a station there for Emma to catch a train back to Lapworth to collect her car. However after 2 1/2 hours travelling 3 miles and 8 locks we decided enough was enough and moored opposite the Fleur de Lys pub in Lowsonford. A pleasant run with no rain, although no sunshine either....yesterday was definitely summer!

Locking is thirsty work

Just opposite our mooring place we have been watching a pair of moorhens diligently making their nest. They have been at work for over 6 hours since we have been here. The male (I think!) goes off to collect twigs etc and brings them back and the female takes them and goes and puts them inside the nest.

Sunday 24th May Kingswood Junction

Sunday morning we awoke to an almost perfect morning on the canals. A gentle mist was rising above the water and it was so quiet (It was only 6am!) The two pictures below show what I could see as I looked behind Petroc.

A little later on it became entertaining to watch boats trying to negotiate the sharp turn at the junction!
Later in the morning we set out for the walk to Lapworth Church. This involved walking up all the Lapwoth locks which are in a beautiful setting. Initially I did not think I remembered this stretch but as we reached the junction itself the memory came flooding back. About 5 years ago we came this way in Tickey, our previous part owned boat. In the lock just above the junction we came to a grinding halt as we had picked up huge mans sweater around the prop........

Narrow cut through to the junction

After the double locks of the Grans Union these single locks look so small......

The small boat yard here looks to be in a lovely setting. We think this must be where SUNFLOWER keeps their boat. We had met them two years ago going up the Wigan Flight and then bumped into them again (not literally) albeit briefly in Banbury a couple of weeks ago. They had kindly said we could use their mooring if we had to leave the boat for any reason. However we are pressing on now so shall not need to avail ourselves of their kind offer.

St Mary the Virgin, Lapworth
The end of the almost two mile walk brought us to the church at Lapworth. It looked a huge church from the outside but inside it was relatively small and very well kept. They had just started an interregnum, but the service of Choral Matins was lovely. They had a good choir and everyone was most welcoming. It was one of the few services we have been to where they did not have coffee afterwards. With the thought of a return walk of 2 miles it would have been most welcome!! There wasn't even a pub in the village.......
Alovely gentle afternoon in the brilliant sunshine....what more can one ask.......
Our normal routine was to have lunch in a local pub but Emma had returned to Leamington on Saturday night to catch up with some of her old friends and didn't think she wold be back in time for lunch. (Or fit enough) Instead we booked at the Boot Inn for an evening meal which was excellent. When we first arrived we thought we would not be fed as they had had a power cut but luckily it was restored.
It was the perfect end to a brilliant day on the canals....I guess that's summer!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Travelling Again

Just in case anyone thinks we are on our summer holidays!!! This is Geoff en route to Leamington in the pouring rain....I was sheltering below

We had intended to have at least one rest day here to see if my back would improve but it ended up being 3 days (and the back is not better!!) We decided to wait for the weekend as Emma had promised to join us for the Hatton flight of 21 locks. Our mooring at Leamington was quite congenial on the offside near some residential housing but with a public footpath alongside. It was incredibly quiet, but just a short walk away were all the facilities we needed including a huge Sainsburys.

On Friday (22nd May) we moved up to the bottom of the flight stopping en route at Tesco's for a mini stock up. You can moor very close and very conveniently for us we could bring the trolley all the way back to the boat (we did return it!)

Also en route we stopped at Kate Boats. We thought we would top up with diesel as the fuel quay was free. However they would only do a 60/40 split so we did not buy. I have been keeping a spread sheet of our propulsion v domestic split usage and we are running on 20/80 at the moment. We last topped up at Sovereign Boats in Banbury where we could declare and sign for our own split. At that time we were on 30/70.

Emma arrived mid afternoon and in the evening we walked back to the Cape of Good Hope for a drink

Cape of Good Hope
Nothing Personal!

To reach the pub from the towpath we had to walk over the double mitre gates. I am never very keen on this pastime but Barnaby was not having anything to do with it. Emma had to carry him over. Unfortunately the camera decided to play up and I missed recording the very funny sight.

The skipper (Geoff, in case you are wondering!) had decided on a relatively early start (0815) and Emma and I were duly ready. We set off with no other boats in sight but as we were in the first lock we saw another boat approaching so we waited for them. We were joined by Novea Vitae together with Rosie & Jim and the Duck

Rosi, Jim & the Duck

Barnaby is quite good at posing for photo's and we are trying to get a good one to submit for the Labrador Rescue Calendar (no success yet!) As you can see whilst we are locking he wears his least if he falls he we will have something to grab.

Coffee break half way up

Big Hill to Climb

Still some way to go
No More Locks Now
Moored at Kingswood Junction

Emma thought 21 Locks were very hard work!!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Tuesday 19th May Leamington Spa

We did manage to get away last Thursday (after the rain had stopped!) and moored in a very congenial spot just above the bottom lock at Napton and close to the shop by the Folly Inn. Above Napton Bottom Lock

On Friday, once again after the rain had ceased (is this to be the story of this summer yet again?) A gentle 3 hours and we moored by the Boat Inn above the Stockton Locks. We had made a short stop at Calcutt Boats to buy a new winch handle as Geoff had left one behind at Napton (Good find for someone)
On Saturday we went down the 10 Stockton Locks. Now we are back to double locks it is nice to have company and we were lucky. After the first 2 on our own STAFFORDSHIRE BULL waited for us and so life was easier. Half the work for Geoff at the locks and much easier when two boats are wedged in and I don't drift all over the lock. Give me single locks any day!

Ex-Lock keepers cottage bottom of Stockton Locks

It was great to see this cottage obviously well looked after. Such a contrast to the one we passed on the Oxford.

Stockton Locks

Two Boats Inn, Bottom of Stockton

We found a good mooring below bridge 26 not far from the Two Boats pub. In fact one is spoilt for choice in this area. There are two pubs on the canal and 4 in the nearby village of Long Itchington. The village also boasts a shop and a church so we were all set for the weekend.
Saturday evening I recc'ed the two canalside pubs. Food at the Two Boats looked good BUT they didn't do a roast on Sunday and the Cuttle Inn no contest really.
From my point of view the only downside of the mooring was no internet connection........maybe not a bad thing as I managed to do much more reading. Luckily at the last stop I had downloaded several geocaches in the area and printed them out. (If you don't know what I am talking about see the link to the right under 2009 cruising). In between the bouts of rain we managed to find 3 which gave us some pleasant walking. However another one which involved lots of clues all the way down the locks had us stumped as we couldn't find one of the clues. Very frustrating.

Long Itchington Church viewed from our mooring

We had a warm welcome at Church on Sunday morning followed by coffee and a chat to some of the locals. We had walked up to the village in the dry but came out to pouring rain yet again. Still very windy as it has been for days...makes getting into the locks so interesting!

Long Itchington Church

One of the geocaches was near the top of the Bascote Locks about a mile+ from our mooring. Barnaby and I set off to do this one on Sunday Evening. The path was very muddy and part way along we had to shelter under one of the bridges during a heavy shower but I did manage to find the cache....first time on my own....

The sign on the door of the cottage in the picture below says Toll House, wonder what it was like here when all the working barges were coming through.

Toll House top of Bascote Locks

Monday 18th saw us on the move again. The goal was Leamington. We shared the first few locks with a small hire boat but then they caught up with a single ahead and we were left alone. However at the next lock we saw another boat coming in the distance so waited for them......what a mistake!!! They were 4 reasonably mature (can't say older!) men on board and sharing the locks was no problem. However when we came out of the last lock we said they could go ahead as they were planning to go further than we were. They then proceeded to go at snails pace (we don't go fast) which was very frustrating. To add insult to injury when we reached Leamington they took the last mooring space outside Lidl's which was where we were planning to moor! We tried to get in slightly further ahead but it was too shallow. By now it was pouring with rain again and life was not congenial! Eventually we managed to back up to some mooring bollards on the offside near some residential housing. In retrospect dare I say we are better off here!

The plan was to continue today and do the Hatton Flight but my back is playing up (could it have been the horse riding!) so we will have at least one rest day. At least I have a reasonable connection here so can catch up with various things.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Thursday 14th May
The big gap in this blog is due to our going away for a weekend at a country house! Sister-in-law Edith had invited all the family and lots of friends to celebrate in style. She had hired "The Dower House", one of 6 houses in the grounds of Knowlton Court which is a large country house where they do wedding receptions, situated between Dover & Canterbury. Whilst it was not luxurious it was a lovely house, extremely comfortable and a good time was had by all.

The Lounge

Small Lounge or Library

Front of the Dower House

Rear of the Dower House
Several of us indulged in rather energetic pastimes during the course of the weekend as you can see below.....I had not ridden a horse for well over 20 years and in retrospect it was a rather foolish thing to do! Getting up was hard enough but I seriously felt I would never get off again, and it was a very undignified descent! The bit in between (2hour hack) was fine, but I certainly felt the effects in the following couple of days.

Gill Astride!
On the Sunday Morning I indulged in another pastime which had not been tried for longer as there was a tennis court...this was an altogether less painful occupation.
Geoff did not partake of any of these strenuous activities, preferring to save his energy for the eating and the drinking!
The main party was on the Friday night and there were about 50+ people there. Catering staff came in to do the whole thing and we were really spoiled. All the family were there for the weekend including the two grandchildren and the weather was extremely kind throughout.
Monday we drove our car back to Giles & Susannah's, had supper with them and then Giles drove us back to Petroc in the evening.
Tuesday was supposed to be the day to start our journey northwards but we decided to have a day to recover and do the laundry.
Wednesday ( 6 miles, 9 locks) we set of early from Cropredy and were moored at Fenny Compton before noon. The weather by now had turned it ugly face towards us and most of the journey was done in the rain, which is not to my liking.
In the evening Ian ( Christine Gillespie came to visit and we had supper in the Wharf Inn. They returned to Petroc for coffee afterwards and when they left Geoff walked them back to their car together with Barney. On the return journey Barney slipped into the canal and discovered that he could swim!!! Geoff had to haul him out and Barney was not overly impressed.
Thursday (today) (9 miles, 8 locks) Geoff had a bout of press-onitis and decided we should have a really early start (0630!!). Being a dutiful wife ......... I complied, but by now I was feeling less than wonderful and the blame has to lie at the feet of grandson Finley as he has given me his cold...the penalty for too many cuddles over the weekend I feel.
However the rain held off and we managed to get as far as The Folly at Napton and Geoff decided that enough was enough (it was 11.15 by then and coffee time) Barnaby does not seem to have been put off by his dunking and still followed Geoff faithfully over all the locks
Middle of the afternoon brought a loud knocking on the side of Petroc and we found Phil & Victoria from Clifton Cruisers (Petroc's winter home). The had Heidie & Ben the Alsations with them so Barney was pleased.

Three dogs would like a piece of cake too!

The forecast for tomorrow sounds dire so we could be staying put, but we shall see what the morning brings.