Deja Vu

Rowan quickly found out the purpose of the duck hatch

No sooner were we on the boat on our own again, then we left it. Dan, Lianna and Rowan took over for a week. We spent it in Dorset, and they cruised the boat back to Brinklow. Oh well, we got to enjoy Pumpkins Deli for a second time!

The Newbold Tunnel revisited

So, back in possession, we repeated the journey we’d already taken on the Oxford Canal, down through Rugby, Hilmorton Locks and Willoughby to Braunston. This time, on a busy day on the canal (where we seemed to cause all sorts of chaos trying to moor at the chandlers), we turned right at Braunston Junction, towards Warwick. Everyone who had been there had recommended The Folly at Napton and the Napton Cidery, so we detoured there, but everything was closed when we cruised into Napton. Oh dear. Don’t visit on Monday.

Calcutt Locks, looking warm

The next day we turned back onto the Grand Union Canal, familiar territory from a holiday we had a good few years ago. At least this time we managed not to throw a windlass into the first of the Calcutt Locks. By now we were into the summer of 2022 Heatwave 2.0. and the 11 locks of the Stockton Flight were roasting and exhausting. At one point I was just laying on a balance beam in a rare shady patch praying either for more shade and less heat, or for it to all be over. Thank goodness for the Blue Lias Inn at the bottom with cold beer and good food!

Three boats in a lock? Thats different.

Now anyone who knows us knows we aren’t morning people. That changed in the heat, with the order of the day being to set off well before 8 am and to moor up before lunchtime. On we went, hunting for moorings in the shade and spending long drowsy afternoons doing not much of anything in particular. Via Long Itchington and Radford Semele we found ourselves in Leamington Spa and had a bit of trauma there. Martyn’s wallet was stolen from the boat, right in front of him. There wasn’t a lot of cash in it and only two bank cards, but the hassle factor has been a nuisance. We’ve had to replace his driving licence, bus pass, National Trust and Chelsea membership cards amongst others. We were surprised how seriously the police took the crime, even to the extent of dusting Beau Romer for fingerprints. They found some too. We shall see what transpires.

The perfect antidote to a hot day’s boating

Since Leamington Spa, the weather has cooled down and we haven’t had any further dramas. We went up the mighty Stairway to Heaven, the Hatton Flight, with a lovely family on a hire boat and then up the Knowle Locks to Catherine-de-Barnes, where we stayed for a couple of days while I went to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC with friends, and Martyn went to play on the Severn Valley Railway.

Friendly lock keepers at Knowle rendered me surplus to requirements

Having gone nearly all the way into Birmingham we have now turned around and are aiming to enter the city by a different route.

Street art on the Grand Union

Legal Aliens

Four happy boaters

Back on the boat and in a marina it was rather frustrating that a Sainsbury’s delivery driver couldn’t find us. With all the activity around Lichfield due to building HS2 I’m not surprised. We haven’t seen any track being laid yet, just enormous construction depots and road works. Thankfully – and eventually – a taxi driver could find his way from Lichfield station with our guests for a week, Bailey and Anna, all the way from Washington DC and Jackson City Tennessee respectively. I’m amazed that a solid week of rain last October apparently hasn’t put Bailey off the English canals, and that she not only came back, but brought her sister with her.

Bailey and Yours Truly, lock keeping

it did make us laugh in the middle of this exceptionally hot and dry summer, that the girls, along with the Sainsbury’s delivery (eventually!) arrived in the middle of a rainstorm. The lack of rain is starting to cause us some problems. So far the Leeds and Liverpool, Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals are closed, the Trent and Mersey just as well may be, and there are restrictions on many others. I’m sure we will get back to our home mooring in Rufford at some stage this winter, but it wouldn’t be looking good if we turned north now.

Patiently waiting on the Atherstone Flight

Water levels are so low that somewhere on the Coventry Canal we came across a party of scouts who had got their boat thoroughly stuck. Martyn and I weren’t on the boat at the time, the girls were doing a great job in charge. The scouts didn’t have a boat pole (that they could find!) so Bailey and Anna attached a line and gave them a tug to get them going. Of course we grounded ourselves in the process, but we know how to get free!

Beau Romer to the rescue

We’d planned to journey with Bailey and Anna from Lichfield to Rugby, and had a lot of fun on the way. They bought cheese and sweets from a couple of tradingboats, we found a fabulous deli in Brinklow and we enjoyed several pub visits.

It’s a tight turn at Hawkesbury Junction

There was a lot of wildlife in evidence, mainly rats. We were in one of the Atherstone locks when one decided to use the stern of the boat as a bridge from one side of the lock to the other. The next day as well as a dead one in the canal there was a live one swimming alongside the boat. I also spotted a cheeky squirrel using a telegraph wire as a tightrope. The wildlife highlight of the week was a water vole on the towpath practically running over Bailey’s foot!

Concentrating in Braunston Tunnel

Because none of us can help overachieving, we went far beyond Rugby and ended up at Long Buckby on the Grand Union Canal, where the girls had to leave to fly home. That gave us a couple of days to cruise down as far as Stowe Hill, the first place where many years ago I ever got involved in winding a narrowboat. And a right mess up that was! I think we do a bit better these days.

Another day, another pub lunch. The Tame Otter at Hopwas