Monday, 30 January 2017

Hatton top lock (taking it easy for a couple of days)

There has been a mini dawn chorus for the last couple of mornings from about five o’clock so we have been able to lay in bed imagining it’s springtime!

It rained all day on Sunday so we didn’t venture out until after lunch.  I had worked out a 4 ½ mile circular walk starting along the towpath and returning through woods and fields.  It was grey, dismal and raining hard but we needed to give Buddy his walk.  even though we put his coat on him, he was not impressed with the weather either.  Normally, when we let him out he leaps off the boat to wait for us to get ready.  Not so on Sunday; he just sat on the back deck looking at us forlornly whilst we got togged up.

Every time we went under a bridge he sat on the towpath, in the dry, looking at us as if we were mad.  At Shrewley the towpath has its own tunnel giving a welcome respite from the rain.  It isn’t lit and it is steeply sloped making it rather disconcerting when walking through it.

Towpath tunnel at Shrewley

When we got to the point where we were to branch away from the canal we decided just to turn round.  The path across the field was so clayey that we would have found it hard going and the rain was getting heavier.

Monday dawned dry and mild but foggy and when Buddy and I went for our morning walk I came across our first snowdrops of the winter.  I know others have been seen round the country since early December but these were our first and a welcome sight they were too.  It reminded me that on Saturday we had noticed fresh catkins whilst locking up the Hatton flight. 

A few snowdrops in flower – our first of the year

When we got back I saw that our chives have started shooting – we had left them outside all winter.

Chives shooting

We had also left the thyme plant out all winter and it seems quite healthy still.  We were never successful at overwintering thyme in the garden of our bricks and mortar home.

Plenty of thyme

The winter pansies seem OK on the front of the boat even though they are very exposed

On Monday afternoon I walked north along the canal, in the direction we will be travelling, to find the next likely spot to moor for a few days.  Outside Hatton station looked pretty good as there was a short stretch of Armco and Karen can park in the free station car park.  We much prefer mooring against Armco as we can use mooring/nappy pins rather than having to knock mooring stakes into the towpath.

Looks like there’s enough room for us to moor on the short stretch of Armco on the far side of the boat in the foreground

Monday afternoon’s walk was a lot drier than Sunday’s, albeit still cloudy and grey

This map shows where we are cruising over the next few weeks.  We are currently at the bottom right of the right hand page.

I think of these two pages showing two canals forming an “H” with the centre of the “H” (Kingswood junction) in the middle of the right hand page.  The thick brown line running across both pages is the M40 motorway.

The Grand Union canal forms the right hand side of the “H” and runs up to Birmingham via Solihull.  The North Stratford canal runs up as the top half of the left hand side of the “H” – it meets the Worcester & Birmingham canal at Kings Norton junction which tracks north into Birmingham past the university and south to meet the River Severn at Worcester.

Our plan is to go up to the middle of the “H” and down the South Stratford canal (the left hand bottom leg of the “H”) to Stratford on Avon.  The trouble is, is that some of the locks are closed on the South Stratford canal for maintenance so we will have to wait until we can go down there – they are due to open towards the end of February.

Whilst we are waiting we shall probably carry on up the right hand side of the “H” to the water point at Rising Bridge near the top and stay there for a couple of weeks before turning round and heading back to Kingswood junction whilst we wait for the locks to open.

I’m looking forward to the South Stratford canal as it has single width locks which are generally simpler to operate when single handing.  We haven’t done single width locks since last coming through Hillmorton on the North Oxford canal last October.  Although there are 35 locks on the short 13 mile drop down to Stratford, both Karen and I find the South Stratford canal a pretty and peaceful canal especially with its ornate iron bridges.  

We are both looking forward to spending a few weeks cruising down to Stratford where the canal meets the River Avon outside the RSC theatre. We may also spend some time cruising along the River Avon assuming it is not closed due to high water levels as often happens in the winter.

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