Oh dear, we joined the early brigade. For one day only. All sorts goes wrong at unearthly hours, sugar in the wrong tea mug etc. Anyhow by 7.30 we were already into the locks. The mist was probably a good thing as we couldn’t see the daunting flight peering down on us.
Most were for us. And operating a strict one gate, one paddle operation the climb wasn’t too painful. At least not from where I was stood anyhow. A few volunteers about as we reached the top, not something we’ve experienced before but there seems to be some kind of respect thing going on for early morning boaters…
It was evening by the time he asked, ‘What day is it’ (Tuesday), ‘What are we doing here then?’ (What?!) ‘I mean we’re a whole day early, where did yesterday go?’ (?)Perhaps it’s time to visit the real world for a while…
Leaving Long Itchington we set off into locks, locks and more locks. The number of boats on the move dropped off the closer we got to the Hatton Flight. Through Leamington Spa, a quick Co-op fly by then onto Warwick where we finished the shopping list in lovely Lidl. On past Tescos, food comes easily along this stretch.
The sun came out this afternoon, we’ve been flip-flop travelling with a guy on a hire boat whose shorts have been getting alarmingly short. Finally spotted him de-boating at Kate Boats in Warwick, phew.
Boats lurched awkwardly as we rose up through Cape Locks and on past The Cape of Good Hope, with water levels all over the place we had a quick attempt at mooring before moving up through the first of the Hatton Locks. Moored, showered, drinks poured when two boaters headed past, straight from the lazy tree. Locks empty, gates left wide open…we looked out at the easy ride ahead. Too good an opportunity to pass by we untied and worked our way through the open lock gates, cooking along the way. Part way into the Hatton Locks, we’re sleeping in a pound but at least we’re sleeping level unlike the poor wonky boaters at the bottom.
Yesterday was mostly about buying a very expensive chicken, moving a couple of miles and drying out everything from the day before. Moored up where we once heard bongos, the wind whipped through the boat putting right the aftermath of our soaking. In under the step, the water pump looked a bit damp too, a teeny leak was soon sorted by tightening a few screws – any sign of water tank water in the wrong place gets our hearts racing since the big flood.
This morning we wound round endless fields of rape, under pretty bridges and down through Caluctt locks. Lunch and ‘big’ football was followed by a canal dip for Nick. You learn by your mistakes on this boat, he who drops the mooring chain gets in to fish it back out. We’re down to the last two. It took a while, apparently the bottom was pretty mushy and judging by the gunk stuck to the chain when it eventually appeared, pretty grim. An unexpected Sunday roast dining show for the couple on the boat next door. Nice. Lucky lady.
Moved on before dropping down through Stockton Locks, a few locks in and the chase began. An army of energetic lock setters sent out from a boat way back were snapping at our heals. Never one to turn down a challenge, Nick popped over gates, legged it between locks, wounds paddles like his life depended on it. The ferocious pace meant it wasn’t long before we landed in Long Itchington. Busy moorings and busy pub.
It’s getting busy. With more windlasses than paddles, Watford Locks felt like narrowboat speed dating. We did our stint with the upcoming boats then shuttled down spending a few minutes getting to know someone new positioned on each gate. Flight complete we’d subconsciously made note of potential double lock buddies or the more serious long-term commitment of a moor alongside. Mrs Jones exploded at the lock keeper after waiting too long, her virtual feedback might not make happy reading.
A right hand turn away from London we motored on into Braunston Tunnel, disappearing into darkness the rain began to hammer down. Flips, it was busy in there, we were one of three and had two coming at us. Lights darting about all over the place, disorienting on a normal run, one oncoming guy decided to wear a hard lamp…and then bob about all over the place – if you fancy messing with boaters’ heads this is a pretty good way to do it, out the other end nobody had a scooby what had been going down in there.
Shared Braunston Locks with a lovely couple – she’d spent the entire tunnel cleaning their bathroom as they totally terrify her. Raining hard enough to stop anything being fun by the time we moored.
A sad day for Swiss Family R – short arms and deep pockets are no longer a problem with new fangled elec-tron-ic money tranfers…pigs really do fly.
Mist rolled over the hills as we untied from the forgotten rusted rings. More glorious countryside, never ending waves of cowslips, rape, primroses, bluebells, lambs, calves – perhaps there’s one long backdrop continually looping round.
Sunshine by the time we passed Yelvertoft marina, we liked it last year and it looked just as mellow today.
Soon approaching Crick tunnel, a tiny starburst deep in the gloom slowly grew brighter until we crossed boats with a blinding light show. It was pretty wet in there today. Out in daylight, Murk emerged from the boat blinking his usual disorientated traumatised post-tunnel display. He hates them and heads straight for his bed as soon as he realises one is happening to him again.
Beautiful mooring tonight: ducklings, lambs and a couple of ducks who, with not much else on, are waiting by the hatch for more bread and look stubborn enough to wait all night.
Early starters jostled for position at six something, they were long gone by the time we made it onto the stern. The sun came out and midway up the gongoozlers did too. Easy life back in the land of single locks, we hovered half way up for a few boats coming down before finishing the climb.
A load of laundry washed and spun, pulled in for a quick water top up before leaving locks behind for quite a while – the whole run through to Watford is lock free. Miles soon ticked by today, beautiful bluebell woods and fields of lambs.
Our priorities have changed since we left dry land, never thought we’d get so excited about four old iron rings. The rain had just about set in by time our ropes clanged through what seem to be long forgotten mooring rings out in the middle of nowhere.
It was a swift trip up to Wistow thanks to eight guys on a hireboat sharing the locks. What they lacked in skill (little things like winding paddles with boats half in locks and back gates still open) they made up for in strength – ten or so locks flew by without too much windlass contact.
With golden fields stretching forever, Wistow made the perfect Easter hideout, not a main stop on any cruising ring we hardly had a neighbour. The garden got a £6 makeover, that’s that done for this year. It’s also had an upgrade to the roof which will put an end to Nick yelling at it on the bow everytime we moor up. Oh yikes, plants on the roof…things are slipping.
We set about finding a really tricky bridge for Auntie P and Uncle D to pick us up from. With no sat nav assistance we had them circling the area for a while, befriending the locals, posting photo fits, sending up flares etc. Lovely to catch up with everyone after such a long time – a quick drink back at the boat resulted in one boaty convert and two in the ‘floating caravan’ Swiss Family camp. Yes, for sure, we’ll meet at another bridge before too long!
A trip upto Foxton today, the usual…lockside horses?? Eeek it looked so wrong but the owner was merrily muck picking and seemed pretty happy with the whole deal.
Through Saddington Tunnel then out into very green rolling countryside. The sky grew dark and arriving at Foxton we decided to moor up and climb the flight in the morning.
Leaving Leicester we headed out on the straight mile. Rowers, joggers, cyclists, everyone was Eastering out and about. A few wrist snapping, shoulder wrenching locks then on through Aylestone. In the days before environment agency and legislation the Wigston dye works pumped excess dye water through the sewage treatment works, it was spewed out a few miles up in Aylestone producing and inky black ribbon of water, a sinister looking stretch that nobody wanted to boat or be. All much cleaner today, in fact the whole Leicester experience was practically murk free.
Quick mid-lock lunch, then more of the same – the locks continued to be tough going, and pretty much all against us. Past Glen Parva, through Blaby and South Wigston before a water fill at Kilby Bridge. Despite few moorings at Castle Gardens boat turnover in Leicester is steady, hardly anyone seems to over stay which is pretty unusual for a city. Counting the miles on the map water might be the reason why…20 miles and a lot of locks between the last water point in Barrow Upon Soar and Kilby Bridge.
One last lock for the day then tied up on a stretch with beautiful views over fields of lambs, oh and a hireboat cannon firing from the top of the next lock… since pitching up they’ve come thick and fast, at all sorts of terrifying angles.
Somehow narrowboating has wound us round a disjointed Richard III discovery trail. Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, actual battle site, ‘the’ car park, Bow Bridge, Richard III exhibition. It just happened like that, we’re not Ricardian nuts.
Lucky enough to find the car park gates open, it looked like any other dug up bit of tarmac, whilst being turfed out by a security guard I did mange to establish that it definitely was where the remains were unearthed. Onto the exhibition and then to Bow Bridge. It’s changed a bit over the years but having spent his last night in the Travelodge, Richard III rode out over Bow Bridge, cracking a spur on a stone as he went. One gnarly old woman gloomily predicted that his head would strike the same stone on his return, which it did, unfortunately it was attached to his naked corpse slung over horseback. Yawn yawn, not one for you SFR.
Castle moorings continue to be brilliant apart from the bloke who scraped the entire way along the side of the boat before disappearing under West Bridge – the paint removal was met with a port-hole shout out.
Time is ticking on the mooring meter, all set for the straight mile and quite a bit more tomorrow.
Not quite as frantic as the traumatised woman on the Rochdale 18 but not far off, dropping into Leicester we passed a hire boat – ‘Move straight on past Castle Moorings, the kids can skim stones far enough to hit your windows!’ Eeek. So we chugged on, questioning the plan for today.
A bit of rubbish here and there but not so bad, the river gave way to canal and things did get a bit mucky but on a relatively mild level. On past The Golden Mile and though Abbey Park, sweeping round past Friar’s Mill and under West Bridge the greatly anticipated Castle Moorings lay ahead, all looked good – except for the fact they were chock full.
Pulled in for lunch on the rings opposite the floating pontoon, it wasn’t long before engines fired up and boat shuffle began freeing up a space, we jumped out ready for relocation. A boat reversed back, then back a bit more – the couple on the stern smiled as though we should recognise them but nothing was registering anywhere in our brains. Turns out they knew the original owners of our boat, they lived onboard for two weeks while they moved the boat for them. It was one of those part liberating, part unsettling moments – a reminder that you’re only passing through. Lovely couple and funny to think of a whole life the boat had long before us…
Tied up and chatting with our new neighbours another boat soon rolled under the bridge and moored alongside. Everyone talks here, mainly about the horror stories we’ve all read and how in reality everything seems really very lovely. Off towpath gated moorings, bins, access to Castle Park that’s locked each night – what’s not to like?
A trip into the city is only about a two-minute walk, wave after wave of vibrant cultural and architectural mix. The market is amazing – Lois Jane, if you ever read this your great chilli jam got made again! Gave up with the glove half way through then the slow burn began…ending up with a hand dunked in a saucepan of cold water for quite a while.
Our up close alongside neighbour dropped a bit of a bombshell when he enthused about the HWBC rally at Foxton over the Easter weekend – hmmmm that sounds like a busy one, perhaps we’ll stay this side just a little while longer.