On Sunday evening we didn’t moor up until 9.30 and knew it was likely to be quite a dark spot so I would have to move on the next day. As usual we needed to be close to a road bridge with handy parking for Karen.
|Sunday night’s mooring below Welsh Road lock and bridge|
It looked like rain all day on Monday so Buddy and I moved the boat as soon as we completed our morning chores – it didn’t seem worth waiting to see if the rain was going to stop.
Locking up on my own is slightly tricky with Buddy as I don’t want to leave him on his own on the boat and I can’t trust him not to chase anything if I leave him lockside when I’m on the boat. Most of the locks on the Grand Union have steps either side at the bottom which is helpful for single-handers. Once the bottom gates are open the boat can be taken in and as you pass the steps it’s a simple matter of grabbing a centre line, jumping off, climbing the steps and guiding the boat into the lock with the rope. Fortunately Buddy is more agile than me and so I know he will always follow me when I jump off.
|Handy steps either side at the bottom of Grand Union locks|
Once we have filled the lock and opened the top gates we can take the boat out and stop it with the stern just outside the lock. This means I can get off to shut the gates and Buddy and I can easily step back on.
Each time we come through this lock we chuckle at the lock cottage – it is called Welsh Road Lock Cottage – with several extensions, especially at the back, it can no longer really be called a cottage. Nice place to live though as there are no other houses around.
|The owners have planted up flower boxes on the side of the lock (which is not their land) so it makes it even more homely and welcoming|
We moored up just above the lock on a nice wide bit of water and close to the road bridge so it wouldn’t be difficult for Karen to find us when she returned home from work. As it is only a country road there is no noise during the evening and nightime other than the soothing sound of water flowing through the lock overspill. As I have mentioned previously, the broad locks on this section of the Grand Union canal were added soon after the canal was opened because the single width locks were bottlenecks. The old locks are still in place and are used as overspill weirs which avoided the need to build weirs specific for the purpose.
|A much nicer location than the dreary mooring below the lock the previous evening|
By the end of the day two other boats had moored up with us but I knew they would only stay overnight as they were both hire boats. They will be on holiday and keen to move on first thing in the morning whatever the weather.
|A couple of hire boats moored up with us for the evening. The old single width lock is on the left - it has a concrete slab across it but water can still run underneath and out the other end when the pound is too high|
Sure enough, by ten in the morning we were on our own again.
|On our own again - is that blue sky up there?|
Mooring by a lock entrance means you see some sights during the day. I really enjoy watching how different people tackle the locking operation. Traditionally, the person steering and therefore in charge of a boat is the skipper and it’s quite right that someone needs to be in charge to avoid mishaps etc. But some couples take it really seriously; it’s nearly always the case that the man steers and the woman does the locks (that’s the way we usually do it as well) so the man is the skipper. Some of them are really over the top shouting all sorts of instructions to their partner; most of which are unnecessary and just for show because they know how each other works and are just performing the same old operation.
When we came down this way about six weeks ago we saw a pair of Canada Geese with six young that had just hatched. The three goslings that have survived so far are quite large now but their parents are incredibly protective and won't let them near any boats.
Thinking about birds we haven't seen any kingfishers along this stretch of the Grand Union. In most other parts of the country we probably see at least one most days but for some reason there are none to be seen around here. Likewise there are very few heron - usually another common bird on the canal system.
The rain was due to hold off on Tuesday until later in the morning so Buddy and I cycled up to Stockton cutting to look around the nature reserve. When we arrived there were about a dozen people working there, clearing shrub and planting seedlings. They were from Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation and it was good to meet up with them as I have been exchanging emails with some of them on our sightings this year.
After lunch (yes, it had started raining again) we went to explore one of my favourite things – an unclassified country road.
|This picture shows how wet and dull it was|
Even though it is an unclassified road it has a weight warning sign where it crosses the canal. In most places it would be impossible to get through with an ordinary car as it was so rutted.
|The road is really only suitable for proper 4x4s, like our old Defender, but the sign has a picture of a large van on it|
We had had a lot of thunder during the day but clearly not as much rain as had fallen in Birmingham judging by the pictures on the local BBC website I looked at in the evening.
Rain is forecast for the rest of the week and as we are rather behind on the washing I decided to get some of it done on Wednesday morning. There was no chance of it drying on our rotary line on the tiller so I lit the stove to get things dry. In fact it wasn’t particularly warm anyway so, truth be known, it was quite welcome to have a stove on. Whilst the rain wasn’t falling too heavily I did keep all the boat doors and hatches open to stop it getting too stuffy with washing drying inside.