Friday, 31 July 2015

Waving our guests goodbye

Going down the Stockton locks
Hotelboat Harry said goodbye to its guests today and reverted back to being quiet Tug Harry. No more overeating, over-drinking and games of Scrabble in the evenings. No more eager lockwheelers during the day. Our guests went home for a rest – and so did we, though we'll certainly miss their company.
Heading off the narrow and onto the wide
We've spent the last couple of days making our way from the Oxford Canal and onto the Birmingham-bound Grand Union.
We've swapped narrow locks for wide ones, a diet of just narrowboats for a medley of narrow and wide beams, Dutch barges and assorted miscellaneous craft, and a narrow, shallow waterway for a wide, deep one.
The wide canal brought a wider variety of boats too
At least we thought we had but it wasn't long before the GU started to look worryingly silty and the going got slow. Even though we had already dropped steeply down from the Oxford summit at Napton we still had more descending to do; a small flight of three, followed not long after by a drop of 13 locks in a mile.
And here we discovered what the trouble was. A sizeable queue of boats had formed to go up the flight – they'd been waiting for two hours because a pound had leaked dry and had to be refilled by C&RT workers. And they had only just got moving.
That was a bonus for us – we just minced from lock to lock as boats coming up from the lock below automatically left it ready for us to go into and head downwards.

You go your way and I'll go mine in Bascote staircase
Our luck held at the next flight of four: the top two are a staircase, meaning water from one goes straight into the other. A boat was coming up the bottom part, so we went into the top and as we went down, they came up and we passed in the middle. Sounds weird but it works.
Three more locks brought our total for the day to twenty and we moored up. Our guests looked a bit shell-shocked but revived quickly after substantial portions of Harrywoman's steak pie.
Partly restored wooden narrowboat now looking for a home
The next morning we meandered gently – there wasn't any option; the water levels were still very low – into Royal Leamington Spa where we moored up so our visitors could get a bus back to Fenny Compton to retrieve their car.
Somewhere in Leamington is a very handsome town, allegedly, but it's not what you see from the canal. Here you're on a disheveled backwater running through a desperately run-down quarter of town.
We moved out to the edge and and found ourselves a perfect little overnight stop – right outside the local Lidl! Our guests arrived back for one last monster meal – a curry – and another bottle or two before settling in for their last night on board.
We waved them off this morning and meandered towards Warwick, via the pair of Cape Locks where finally we began to ascend once more. We are moored tonight in the secretive and delightful Saltisford Arm on the edge of Warwick, enjoying its charms and preparing for some serious climbing – the 21 lock Hatton Flight.

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