Tuesday, 22 May 2012

To Warwick and beyond

Leaving Braunston on Sunday we had to exercise caution to avoid a duckling which seemed to have adopted our boats.  The poor thing seemed not to have a mum nearby, so we hope it is OK.  Here is a photo of our feathered friend:

 Earlier today we had another altercation with ducks when two landed in a lock just in front of our boats coming in.  Both became trapped between the two boats and we feared the worst.  However one escaped from the gap at the stern, the other swam around in front of the boats as the water poured into the lock.  Once the top gates opened she swam out only to be jumped by a passing drake and submerged as he had his wicked way with her!

We have been tackling lots of locks in the last few days.  First up the Stockton flight of 10 locks then gradually down to the Avon valley at Leamington Spa.  Coming down we passed a pair of 100 year old canal boats – a motor boat driven by the man towing an unpowered butty steered by the wife with two young kids on board.  Just like the cargo boats of times gone by.  In Leamington we walked down to the river Leam and tried the Spa water by the Pump Rooms.  Rather salty and slightly sulphurous.  Not very pleasant but I’m sure it’s very good for you.  Here are some photos of Leamington:
The Pump Rooms
Bridge over the River Leam

Last night we spent down the Saltisford Arm near the centre of Warwick.  This was a delightful backwater with loads of narrowboats.  To reach the visitor moorings near the end of the Arm we had to go gently half way down, turn round in a winding hole and then reverse the rest of the way.  Quite tricky as a narrowboat does not go that well backwards!
Saltisford Arm, Warwick
Today we spent a good four hours climbing 150 feet up the 21 locks of the Hatton flight.  The weather today has finally turned to summer with hot sunshine, so lots of water and squash was necessary up this flight.  We found the best way to tackle the flight was to tie the two boats together so that one of us could drive both boats leaving 3 people to work the locks, including one to cycle on up the flight to set the next lock.  The picture here shows Ian driving both boats together.  In the distance, down the flight, you can just make out the tower of St. Mary’s Church in Warwick.

After a very late lunch at the top of the flight we went on a little way including through the Shrewley tunnel, a very drippy 400 yards!  If you look at the picture you can see another tunnel to the right of the canal tunnel.  This unusually is a towpath tunnel for the horses pulling the boats.  More commonly the horses were walked over the summit of the hill.

And tonight we are moored on a delightful stretch of canal with good views over the surrounding countryside.  The next few days should see us moving on into Birmingham where we hope to spend a night at the famous Gas Street Basin, once a commercial hub of the whole canal system and these days gentrified and civilised with restaurants, bars and the like.


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