Saturday, 17 March 2018

Leamington Lidl (a nature reserve in the middle of town)

Although Thursday was mild and sunny, and we spent a lot of time outside, I didn’t see any butterflies.  There were other signs of spring around though with plenty of blackthorn in blossom along the banks of the River Leam that runs through the town and joins the River Avon to the west of town.

As we’re off up north soon, I started doing those things that you need a town for such as getting a sight test.  I found an optician who was happy to allow Buddy in whilst I had an eye test so booked an eye appointment for a week or so’s time.

My phone reception has been playing up recently, especially when I’m inside the boat, so we will replace it before leaving Leam.  The phone shops allied to the networks always seem to charge more for an outright phone purchase as you also have to buy the cheapest contract or pay as you go.  I found this in the first three shops I went into so wandered up to Carphone Warehouse which seems to be network independent and therefore sell phones without a contract which is probably have the cheapest option.  I want another iPhone as Karen and I have had iPhones for years but not sure whether it’s worth paying all that money for the latest version.  So, I was standing there comparing the iPhone 8 and X when the manager came up and said that they have a new policy and dogs are no longer allowed in.  Such a shame, he could have sold a new phone to me

After that escapade we went to the vets (where dogs are allowed on the premises) and picked up Buddy’s passport.  As dogs have to be microchipped they don’t need a picture in the passport, but Karen is going to put one in the optional space anyway 😊


On the way out of town we went to Victoria Park, home of the National Bowls championships.

Some of the greens being prepared for the new season

The park was laid out in 1899 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and has a perimeter path that is exactly ½ mile in length.  This makes it very popular with local runners wanting to run measured distances.  Buddy had a good run with a few dogs whilst we were there to release his pent-up anger from being banned from Carphone Warehouse.

On the way home, we had a wander around Foundry Wood.  This is now a little nature reserve in the town.  The plot of land is wedged between the two railway lines heading west out of town and, until the 1960s was used as sidings.  It is maintained by volunteers and seems to get plenty of local school visits.  The information boards describing the history of the area and the flora and fauna that can be found are very good.

Not a sight you often see as rail tracks used to be taken up and reused or recycled

It’s called Foundry Wood because there were a succession of foundries to the south.  The first foundry, Radclyffes, made castings like drain grills until 1905 when the Imperial Stoveworks moved in and made stoves and ranges until 1939.  Ford then took over and made tractor, lorry and car parts until 2006.  As locals will know the site is now occupied by a large Morrisons. 

As you may know, neither Karen nor I are great fans of the Canada goose now it has become so widespread.  When Karen left her office on Thursday evening she even found two on the grass outside and sent me this picture, captioned, “Grrrr”.

Buddy and I walked down to meet Karen on her way home and I found a new water gauge.  I replace it every year and it takes a long time to select a new one that is the right length and thickness.

New water tank measuring gauge

Those of you who aren’t boaters may not have heard that a major breach occurred on the Middlewich branch this week.  This will mean this important northern route from the Trent & Mersey over to the Shroppie will be out of action for some time, necessitating a large detour back down to Birmingham and up again just to get from Chester the short distance to Manchester.  This will have scuppered many people’s cruising plans as well as ours, but we are investigating going on the Manchester Ship canal and then across the Mersey into Liverpool that way.  If we don’t do that then Chester will be off our plans for the first part of this year.

One of the many internet pictures of the breach(that boat near the breach was nearly in the wrong place

I may have mentioned that we are meeting up with friends on their boats before we set off.  We originally met when most of us worked, years ago, at Legal & General (L&G) and have become friends since leaving and realising we have a common interest in boating.  Anyway, Chris sent me a message during the day asking if the breach will affect our plans of attending the L&G regatta next month.  This really tickled me, and I keep smiling at the phrase.

Karen and I went up to Yorkshire to see my parents for the day on Friday.  Both are still doing well and Dad is now hoisted into his wheelchair so he can spend time in other parts of the home during the day.  The conservatory is a particularly good spot as it overlooks the River Wharfe that runs through the village.  The water levels fluctuate widely and quickly as it is fed from the fells higher up in the Dales, making the view even more varied.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Leamington (a few firsts for a few months)

It seemed to rain all day on Monday which was a shame as Karen had the day off and we had been looking forward to having a little cruise and a good walk.  When it came to it we just didn’t fancy it as, although we don’t mind cruising in the rain, the towpaths were just awash.  We didn’t fancy walking either as the fields and footpaths were so muddy too.

Our view for most of Monday

We obviously took Buddy out on a couple of shorter walks but spent most of the day indoors. One thing we did do was re-plan our route to Liverpool for the coming few months.  We had been going to go back to Birmingham and then get up to the north west via the Shropshire Union canal (the Shroppie).  It meant we could explore a couple of the Birmingham canals that we haven’t been on before, but it did mean going up the full length of the Shroppie, which is not one of our favourite canals.  

For most of its 60-odd miles it is very straight; this is because it was built at the end of the canal age when more mechanisation was available. Consequently, it was easier to build high embankments and dig deeper cuttings rather than follow contours to avoid the need for locks.  Fewer locks, coupled with the straightness, ensured faster passage, but boring journeys 😉
On our way to Liverpool we will make a detour to Chester and Ellesmere Port which are two places we haven’t visited on the boat yet.  Our new route will be along canals we have travelled a few times before, the North Oxford, Coventry, Trent & Mersey and then down the Middlewich branch to join the Shroppie.  From there we will be on a new bit of canal for us for the few miles up to Chester and then onto Ellesmere Port.  Also, once we get to Manchester we will be on new waterways again, as we haven’t been across to Liverpool before.

From Leamington that’s 281 miles through 149 locks to get to Salthouse Dock by the River Mersey in the centre of Liverpool.  It’s quite a gentle journey really as, looking at our averages, we have tended to do as many locks as miles over the last 3 ½ years (2,172 miles through 2,022 locks).

Thick blue line is our route until middle of June, light blue lines are other canals and dark blues are rivers (not motorways as they seem to be labelled)

Having not moved on Monday, I really had to move the boat on Tuesday as our two weeks were up.   What a mild day it was – I haven’t cruised without a coat since early November. 

Heading for the first lock of the day – Cape top lock

As I went into the first lock I felt as we had caught something on the prop.  Once I was in the lock, I opened up the weed hatch and, sure enough, there were several plastic bin bags and other items caught round the prop and the shaft.  I soon had them out and got going again.  Before anyone queries me, yes, I did bag up the rubbish for the next boaters’ rubbish point rather than putting it on the bank, like we so often see

Clearing the rubbish from the prop

That was the first time we had got anything caught for three months – a record!

As I was about to climb down onto the boat to leave the lock I noticed another boat approaching the lock behind me.  I saw they had a few crew so I waited for them to arrive and I told them that if one of them goes to set the next lock then I would wait for them to come down the lock I had just been down.  Mind you, it’s not like we needed to save water with the amount that was coming down, but I did feel that I should be polite 😉

Going down the bottom Cape lock with another boat

It seems months since I’ve shared a lock with another boat and looking at my log it was the first time since the end of September last year.

I knew the other boaters had a black dog, but I didn’t realise how much like Buddy it was 😉

When locking down, Buddy stays on the back deck.  What I hadn’t noticed was that he had stepped over to the other boat whilst they were going down.  He obviously got a bit perturbed seeing his route back disappearing.  The guy was keeping his boat right against the bottom gates to keep well away from the cill.  Once the lock was empty I climbed down and brought our decks level so Buddy to hop back again.

After leaving the bottom lock, I moored up to take on water.  Whilst we were there, another boat came past – this time it was a CRT boat and two of the crew were being trained.

Second boat on the moveand Buddy wandering down to see if they have any treats for him

Once we’d set off again, after taking on water, yet another boat came towards us – three on the move in one day!  

We were soon passing through Warwick and approaching Leamington.  I’d planned on going back to Lidl for a week or two if there was space at the moorings.  As luck would have it there were only two boats moored there and I tucked in at the end.  I recognised the boats as being local ccers like us, so were probably going to be moored there for a week or two, but there was still room for passing visitors to moor in front of them for the shops.

Moored back at Lidl again

After lunch I took Buddy for a walk and then popped over to the retail park to get rid of our recycling at the big Sainsbury’s.  A car pulled up whilst I was at the bins and a guy got out and said, “Hi – it’s Neil isn’t it?”.  I was a bit shocked and then I recognised his face; he was a boater and we had passed each other a few times over the last year or so.  We had a good chat and it transpired he has been cruising the same area as us for the two years he has been living on his boat.   

He's a teacher in Worcester and continuously cruises between Napton, Stratford and Birmingham.  I suggested he should use the River Avon as that’s ideal for Worcester, but he was a bit concerned about going on a river on his own.  Hopefully he will try it soon as I told him I did most of the river single-handedly last summer, moving during the day whilst Karen was working.   

Although I asked him his name several times during our conversation I still can’t remember it.  But I do remember his boat was called Iron Druid he had it built by Colecraft at Long Itchington – one of our local boatbuilders. 

In case you were wondering how he knew my name – he recognised my profile picture from an entry I had made that morning on the Continuous Cruisers’ Facebook group 😉