Thursday, 30 March 2017

Edstone (all that for water)

Buddy hasn’t adjusted to the clock change yet and why should he as he doesn’t understand.  He is still sound asleep at nine in the morning so I have to wake him up to get him out.  He doesn’t hassle me for his dinner at five in the evening either.  I wonder how long this will last?

There are 45 steps leading up from the road to where we are moored by the aqueduct.  There is a convenient dog waste bin at the bottom but Buddy doesn’t bother following me down when go.  He just sits at the top thinking what a waste of time and energy going down and up those steps.

Buddy waiting for my return

He also knows that’s where Karen parks the car and as he hates car journeys he finds any excuse to keep away from the car.

A duck is nesting in the hedge by the towpath near our boat.  This really is a silly place to build a nest as a dog will get the duck and/or her chicks one day.  I have to keep Buddy on his lead as we walk past as he is very alert and wants to get in there.  Natural selection must favour the ducks that build nests on the side opposite the towpath.

Wednesday was the day that I decided to get water so I set off to find the first winding hole so I could turn round and head for Wootton Wawen where there is a water point.

Starting to wind at the winding hole just before Wilmcote

After turning I went back past where we are currently moored and headed over the aqueduct which is actually the longest aqueduct in England.  There is only room for one boat to moor where we are and I left early to get the best chance of the spot being free when we returned.  If people are out cruising they tend to keep going all day and moor up in the evening.  Mind you, if the spot had been taken then I knew there were spaces on the other side of the aqueduct.

When canals run by railway lines or main roads boaters often get tooted and waved at by passing train or lorry drivers.  Here is no exception – going over the aqueduct a train went underneath at just the right time.  The driver and I waved at each other and he tooted.

As I approached Wootton Wawen I passed the marina that is being built there.  Unlike last week when Karen and I cruised down together there were several people busily at work.  Karen had been concerned that there was no one working on the site on a weekday so she will be happy when I tell her all is OK.

Just before Wootton Wawen is a group of trees by the canal that have been dead for years and are slowly breaking up.  They look almost alien and would be worthy of a skilled time lapse photographer.  I think this every time we have passed them over the years.

Clearly I am no skilled photographer, time lapse or otherwise

Ironically, as there has been so little boat movement, there was a boat at the service point when I arrived.  The service point is at the boat yard by a smaller road aqueduct and boats have to moor in the trough to get services.  I had to wait until the boat moved off before I could get water.

Bright blue boat on the service point

After filling up I had to carry on to the next winding hole before winding and getting back to our mooring spot which, as expected, was free.  By the way, for those non-boaters amongst you, the wind in ‘to wind a boat’ or ‘winding hole’ is pronounced like the wind in winding a baby.  For some reason though, Karen calls them windy holes as in windy (bendy not windy) mountain roads.

So we travelled almost five miles across four aqueducts, under seven bridges, through two locks and winded twice just to get water.   

We are nearly ½ mile from the nearest lock but we can feel when it is being emptied as the boat rocks slightly.  I think that we can feel it so far away because of the aqueduct which is quite a narrow channel and therefore the effect of the extra water coming into the pound is dissipated over a longer distance.  Being on water, where sound travels very well, we can actually hear people when they are operating the lock when we have the side hatches open.  I think four boats have come down in the week we have been here and I have felt and heard them all at the lock.  All four have come back too; they seem to spend a night at Wilmcote, no doubt with a trip to the Mary Arden Inn or the Masons Arms, before returning to continue their holiday.  Remember, they have to come back as the locks are still closed between Wilmcote and Stratford.

The lock in the far distance beyond the aqueduct – we can always tell if someone is coming down

For the record, Wednesday was another day of changeable weather and Buddy and I got soaked on our afternoon walk.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Edstone (a quiet couple of days in Warwickshire)

As far as Buddy and I were concerned our activities on Monday and Tuesday were quite similar.  A cycle ride to Wootton Wawen in the morning followed by lunch and then a walk to Wilmcote in the afternoon.  The weather was different though; on Monday I wish I’d worn gloves on the morning cycle ride and on Tuesday I wish I’d not taken a coat.  The sun came out at lunchtime on both days and was warm enough to sit outside to eat but, sadly, no butterflies.

The days did differ dramatically later in the afternoons.  At about 4 o’clock on Tuesday a girl walked past the boat with her dog and stopped for a quick chat and then said she was in a hurry to get home before the rain started.  I thought she was probably using it as an excuse to get away as no rain was forecast then I saw the heavy black skies starting to roll in.  For one of the first times this year I had the washing hanging out and I just managed to get it in in time.

Hail on Tuesday afternoon even though no rain was forecast

View from the back deck only an hour before

Earlier in the day I met an old guy on a bike who had his binoculars trained to a tree.  I knew the tree and that he was probably looking at a Greater Spotted Woodpecker that always seems to be drumming there.  We struck up conversation and I found that he lives near my parents in Yorkshire and has done all his life.  He and his wife love Warwickshire and have a park home near here that they try and visit for a week every month of the year.

During the day I came across a couple of flowers that I hadn’t seen yet this year.


Germander Speedwell

The Speedwell is reputed to give travellers luck on their journeys hence its name.  It does tend to be found at the edges of paths and byways and is pretty widespread across the country.

Regular readers will know that we were stuck at Lapworth for just over seven weeks waiting for a lock to be repaired.  The works were finished early and so we have started making our way slowly to Stratford.  

There are still some locks closed for winter maintenance further on at a place called Wilmcote which is three miles outside of Stratford.  The works are due to be completed by the end of the month but we will stay here for our full two weeks as we like it so much.  We will probably then move on to Wilmcote for another couple of weeks before going down the final 15 locks into Stratford basin sometime towards the end of April.

Buddy sunning himself whilst I ate my lunch on Tuesday

Because of the lock closures very few boats are coming along this stretch.  I have only seen two since we have been here and both of those have since turned round and headed back up towards Lapworth.

Our mooring at the end of the Edstone aqueduct – looks grey but the sun was breaking through hence the washing hanging out

Monday, 27 March 2017

Edstone (a visitor and yet more ice cream)

Karen’s eldest daughter, Catherine, came to stay on Saturday evening; she is on a bit of a whistle-stop tour saying farewell to people as she is off to live in Spain for a while on the next journey of her life.  It goes without saying that we had a lovely time and wish her well on her travels.

We all went for a circular walk on Sunday including a stop in Wilmcote for yet more ice cream.  With almost a week of dry and warm weather the towpaths and fields have been transformed.  There are now very few muddy spots and walking is so much easier.

Ice creams finished!

Catherine was interested in seeing Edstone aqueduct which is just where we are moored so we had a good look around.  I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t noticed the drainage tap before; we found it under the northernmost arch.  When the aqueduct is due for a regular inspection, stanks (dams) are put in at either end and the trough is drained into the field below by opening the tap at the end of the drainage pipe.

Aqueduct drainage pipe that we hadn’t noticed before

Before Catherine left we went through the photographs we took when we visited her whilst she was living in Ecuador three years ago.  We spent a pleasant hour reminiscing before driving her to Coventry station for her train journey home.

Our Monday night bridge classes have now finished – it’s hard to believe we went for two years.  We now have to consolidate our learning and will practice with our friends Jo and Ileen in Stratford whenever possible on Monday evenings.

Another change is that now we are nearer Stratford I no longer take Karen to work on bridge days.  She will now pick me up on her way her home which means I no longer have the car on Mondays.  This is actually quite handy as I won’t have to worry about the car if I want to move the boat on a Monday.  Saying that, we will probably stay here for the full two weeks apart from a trip to the water point at Wootton Wawen when we need to top up.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Edstone (butterflies at last)

Male Brimstone at Wilmcote

We thought we might see some people on the towpath on Saturday as it was the weekend and sure enough, when I opened the back doors at 8.30 a large group of walkers had already gathered by the aqueduct.

Walkers getting ready to walk to Stratford

As it was forecast to be such a nice day we packed a picnic and cycled the 5 ½ miles into Stratford.  It wasn’t long before we saw our first butterfly of the year, a male Brimstone – see picture at the top.  Suddenly it seemed they were everywhere and we saw at least 15 individuals during the day.  They were all males, which are distinguished by their bright yellow colour; females are much paler, almost lemon coloured.  Unlike most butterflies Brimstones never open their wings at rest.  The Brimstones seen at this time of year have overwintered as adults, usually in trees hidden in ivy leaves.  The wing shape is noticeably leaf shaped too to aid their camouflage.

When we reached Wilmcote we caught up with the large group of hikers I had seen when we got up in the morning.  A cyclist was telling them that the towpath had collapsed half way down the 11 lock flight and there was a diversion through a field.  He said it was extremely muddy and best avoided.  The group leader had a change of plan and they set off to walk into the village to visit Mary Arden’s house (and probably one of the pubs) instead.  We carried on regardless.

Karen waiting for me and Buddy to catch up at one of the Wilmcote locks

We soon hit the diversion and cycled along the footpath at the edge of the field.  It wasn’t that muddy so we weren’t sure why the cyclist was putting the hikers off.

After five miles we hit the start of Stratford and saw our first Small Tortoiseshell of the year followed almost immediately by a Peacock.

Peacock taken by Karen last year – the one we saw today didn’t stay still long enough for us to get a shot

Small Tortoiseshell by the canal in Stratford

We chained our bikes up at the end of the canal at Bancroft basin and walked up to the market.  During the winter you can moor for 14 days in the basin but from April to October it is 48 hour only.  We had hoped to get here a lot earlier this year so we could stay for two weeks but the lock closures have prevented us.  As it is we won’t be arriving until April so we will only be able to stay for two days.  There is a lock at Bancroft basin that leads onto the River Avon so we will probably head onto the river for a while after the two days and then return to the basin for another couple of days.

Tourists everywhere at Bancroft basin (me being a tourist by taking pictures)

We had our picnic on the banks of the river in the unseasonably warm sunshine.  Again it was packed with tourists – I seem to remember that Stratford receives the largest number of tourists outside London.  Karen remarked how ironic it is that we don’t like being amongst people but we chose to come into Stratford to have a picnic; however, there is a sense of being alone even in a crowd.

Our view across the river into the RSC theatre whilst having our picnic

On our way back home to the boat we saw a Comma butterfly.  This made four different species on the first day of seeing any butterflies this year.   In 2015 we saw our first butterflies of the year in Stratford too but it was over a fortnight earlier – we saw Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones on March 6th that year.

Comma at Edstone by the boat
Catherine is coming to visit us for Sunday so I suspect we will have a good walk with her.