Friday, 17 February 2017

Lapworth (mallards are mating and a bit about mooring gear)

The swan on the right was making a right old racket through the open hatch because I wouldn’t give him any of my breakfast on Thursday morning

As it promised to be a spring like day I fancied going for a circular walk first thing.  I planned a walk that went down the Stratford canal and after a couple of miles, cut across the fields to the Grand Union and back up that canal until it reaches Lapworth junction where we have been moored for nearly two weeks.

Walking across the first field – no lambs yet in this part of the world

After a couple more fields I found an unclassified country road.  As many of you know, I am always keen to find these old unadopted byways and imagine how life was when they were last used in earnest.  I like to think of the reasons why they weren’t well used enough to become adopted into proper country roads.

The road must still have been used when the railway was built as a bridge was built for it

At first glance I thought the bridge was installed as an accommodation bridge for the local farmer whose land would have been divided by the railway.  Looking about 200 yards to the right there was another bridge, this time with a metalled road so maybe it was a proper road bridge when first built and has since fallen into disuse.

Old farm machinery stored in the bridge

I passed a lovely old brick built barn in the next field, Warwickshire’s answer to the protected stone built barns in the Yorkshire Dales.

Barn in a field still intact

Clouds building up as we got back home

There are plenty of signs of spring around but I have yet to see any butterflies; plenty of different species have been seen in the south already though.

Bulbs coming on well on the front of the boat

The clouds continued building up and it started raining soon after lunch and carried on for most of the afternoon.  It wasn't until I went to take Buddy out for his final walk that I remembered I had left my boots on the back deck, warming in the sun; they were soaked through of course.

The other day I said that I like to find mooring spots against Armco and someone asked what Armco was.  For those who don’t know, it is the same as a road crash barrier and is fixed to the metal pilings that are driven into the side of the canal.  Some canals have a lot of piling and Armco and some have practically none so it’s always worth remembering where the different spots are.

Armco where we are currently moored

I like parking/mooring against Armco as I can use nappy pins that slot behind the Armco.  The lines are then passed through the top of the pin and secured back on the boat.  This makes for a good secure mooring that is not easy for pranksters to untie and set the boat adrift.

Nappy pin (mooring hook)

Sometimes I use mooring chains instead of nappy pins.  This will usually be the case when old railway lines have been used instead of Armco.  Railway lines aren’t as wide as Armco so nappy pins can easily pull out but chains can be looped round the line and back through themselves.

Mooring chain

The front is currently attached through a permanent mooring ring which is also a secure way of tying a boat up.  The rear is attached by one nappy pin.

Front attached via mooring ring

Rear attached by nappy pin

When a lot of boat traffic is expected, i.e. when the season starts and the marina dwellers and hire boaters are out in force, I sometimes attach the rear with two nappy pins.  Both will have lines running at 45 degrees to the boat – one rearwards and the other forwards.  This makes the boat more secure and it tends not to get rocked by speeding boats causing food and drinks to slide off the table or kitchen units!

The most insecure way of mooring is to use stakes that are hammered into the towpath.  Sometimes there is no option but to use these but they need to be checked regularly as they can pull out especially if the bank is moist and there are speeding boats.

Mooring stake

Sometimes people loop their lines through the loop at the top of the stake which is not a good idea.  The metal hoop is only welded on and will eventually come adrift as will the boat.  It’s OK to loop through it as long as the line goes round the stake too.  Constant hammering of the stakes also works the joints loose - we have lost three loops over the years through hammer shock but at least the pins can still be used.  The other thing to do is to knock the stakes in at a good angle (with the top pointing away from the boat) to give more strength to the mooring.  I always knock a second pin in at an angle to the first to help secure it.

In all the miles we have travelled we have only been set adrift once and that was in Stalybridge where we were moored against bollards.  It’s too much of a temptation for someone in high spirits (we were near a pub) to lift the lines off the bollards even if they are wrapped round several times.  The first we knew about it was at three in the morning as we were awoken by a branch rubbing along the boat.  I went up on deck and it took me a while to orientate myself as I hadn’t initially realised we had been set adrift.  I was trying to work out why I had moored on the wrong side of the canal and then I realised that we had drifted down to a winding hole and across to the other bank.  It was just a case of pulling the lines in and then motoring back across to the towpath side to moor up again.

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