Friday 4th June
Our guests were leaving today. Very sad but all good things must come to an end and, while the dinette bed is very comfy, it would be nice to have our bed back after 7 nights. It’s more about the making up the bed every night rather than just falling into bed, than anything else. So just sheer laziness!!
We were also expecting a visit from the guys at Ortomarine with a hose. We have a shortish one on board from our caravanning days but needed the long one – just in case.
We all had coffee together and then it was, sadly, time to say goodbye. Lulu was in no hurry to go. I think she had enjoyed her time on the boat. And we’d enjoyed having her. And Paul and Sue – always such easy company. I didn’t envy them their journey home – on a hot day with Friday traffic. But they are coming back later in the summer.
So then it was just us. Exciting! This really was the start of our summer cruise. We were heading out and this time we were not coming back! So it was back through all the tunnels – the 3rd time in as many days! We had not met a boat in any of our previous passages but we met 5 in Wast Hill, alone! Pretty much all hire boaters rushing back to return their boats to Alvechurch Marina.
We stopped, briefly, for provisions at a handy LIDL, just 100 yards from the cut at Bridge 3 and then continued our journey. It was very hot by this time and I had to use the brolley as a parasol!
We moored in a very pleasant place, backed by fields, just past Dickens Heath. Apparently this area is one of the most popular places to live in Solihull . It was certainly a well-used towpath with a steady stream of walkers, cyclists and folk exercising their mutts.
Saturday 5th June
After a lovely quiet night’s sleep we were up and away, with our batteries on 83%, by 10:30. Once again, we had a hot date with a bakery. I’m so glad we don’t live on this stretch – it’s way too tempting! I dropped Paul off at the Wedges bridge and puttered on slowly as there was no one behind us. He soon returned with lunch supplies and more.
It was a sunny/cloudy day to begin with, as if the day could not make up its mind what to be. Luckily, it settled on sunny and we were soon at the top of the Lapworth flight of 20 locks, where we pulled over for lunch.
It was the perfect spot – we had our back deck shaded by a kindly tree and yet our solar panels were in full sun. We decided to wait until the sting went out of the sun and settled down to relax.
Before we knew it, it was evening. Reader – we took an executive decision! The locks could wait until tomorrow, when we’d have an early crack at them. Back to relaxing.
And that’s one of the things I’m going to particularly like about this new lifestyle. Hitherto, when holidaying on boats, we wanted to maximise our boating. Now, when we have all the time in the world and few, if any deadlines, we can relax more and boat when it suits us. Bliss!
Sunday 6th June
Up with the lark! Well perhaps not quite, but we set off and were going down in the first lock by 7:30, coffee in hand. It was overcast and we felt the threat of rain in the air. Time would tell.
We had the help of a volunteer from lock 9 for a few of the locks. Very nice chap – especially as he complimented me on my helmsmanship!
There were some properties along the canal that had clearly had some serious money spent on them, one of which had gone to the trouble of having a toning boat at the foot of their garden! We also saw a very striking boat, which might not be to everyone’s taste but I rather liked it!
The Lapworth locks are rather nice, with side ponds and the occasional strong by-wash, which tries to knock you off course. One of the fascinating things about canals is the variety of different locks you encounter. You’d think a lock was a lock, but they are often quite different -even on the same flight. For instance the bottom lock at Lapworth has one large (heavy) single gate at the bottom of the chamber, when all the others have twin gates, as is more common.
The Lapworth flight also have cascades of water at the bottom as you exit the lock – I dont recall seeing these elsewhere?
The Stratford canal is in two parts, split by Kingswood Junction at which we had just arrived. In living memory, it used to be known as the North & South Stratford. I remember when the South Stratford was not under the British Waterways Board (BWB – the Canal & River Trust’s predecessor) jurisdiction, but run by the National Trust. It was passed over to BWB in 1988.
Both sections had pretty much fallen into disrepair and were unnavigable (South) or unused (North) by WW2. They were restored in the 60s by the efforts of canal devotees. Thank goodness for them!
The Stratford canal – particularly the Southern section is famous for two things. Firstly for its unusual cast iron split bridges, built with a gap to allow the tow ropes of the boat horses to pass through and it’s “barrel-roofed” lock cottages of which there is a fine example at Kingswood junction.
But we were not Stratford bound this time. We did poke our nose into the South Stratford for water, loo and refuse dumping, before reversing and entering the Lapworth Link , which can be seen going off to the left in the picture above. The link deposits you onto the Grand Union Canal.
We had an engagement on the GU on the 17th so had a few days to kill. We turned left in the direction of Birmingham, and immediately pulled over and had a late breakfast. Whilst there, I phoned ahead to the Kings Arms, by Bridge 70, and booked a table for an early dinner. I also, rather cheekily, booked an Ocado delivery for Monday morning as we were low on fresh produce.
The Grand Union caters for wide boats. Two narrowboats fit side by side in the locks on this canal. It was very strange being on such a wide and straight canal after the skinny, windy Stratford.
We arrived at the pub at about 14:30 and tied up, opposite the towpath, on the pub moorings. We got ourselves clean and just generally relaxed. Although there were a couple of rather noisy cockerels in the field behind the towpath. Oh – and Alpacas! Gorgeous.
I actually put some make-up on for the first time in ages for our dinner date. it was quite the novelty!
We had a pleasant meal at the pub, although my steak was adorned with a bit of cling film, which chef had clearly missed. It was no big deal, but I did mention it to the waitress, who apologised profusely and promptly took my meal off the bill, which was most acceptable!
We were both pretty tired after our early morning and fell asleep quite quickly, but not before me wondering at what time Mr Chanticleer would start serenading us. I have a vague recollection of hearing him in the early hours but slept too heavily to care.
Monday 7th June
Paul was up early, bashing away at his keyboard like the good boy he is well before I awakened from my slumbers.
The Ocado delivery arrived promptly and the driver seemed quite amused to be delivering to a boat. I had taken the liberty of using the pub’s postcode and providing my phone number and extra delivery instructions. It worked very well and will bear repeating, I feel.
Paul worked on while I moved the boat further up the canal to the foot of the impressive Knowle flight of locks, where I winded and came back, past the long term moorings, to a very pleasant spot with our name on it for the next few nights. And there you must leave us – for now.
Our home for a few days Knowle Locks