Friday, 3 March 2017

Lapworth (stanking planks and weddings)



After a wild wet and windy Wednesday night, Thursday morning was calm and sunny.  Actually it was still wild and wet when Karen left for work at 5.45 but it was lovely when I got up.

Our new mooring below lock 22 at Lapworth

I know our latest mooring spot looks the same as the last one, below lock 23, but I did move on Wednesday, albeit up one lock, in the wrong direction.  we'll make our third visit to Stratford by boat soon.

It looks like there’s a wedding or some sort of celebration about to happen opposite us.  A marquee is being erected in the field attached to a large house.  We’ll still be here at the weekend so no doubt will find out what’s going on.

Marquee being erected opposite us

For our morning walk I thought we’d go down to lock 30 and see how CRT are getting on with the repairs.  The lock is currently closed and is not due to reopen until 17th March. This is preventing us from moving any further down towards Stratford.  The next water point is beyond the lock and as we will need to fill up before the reopening I will just reverse back up a couple of locks to Lapworth basin where there is a water point.

Before setting off I rang round local suppliers to find out if any stocked the engine oil I need for the next engine service which I plan to do next week.  I tried several boatyards and motor factors before I was successful – it looks like a quick car trip to Fenny Compton on the Oxford canal.  

It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many different types of engine oil.  I’m not a mechanically minded person but two boatyards said, “Oh, put any 10W40 in, the API rating doesn’t matter”.  We used to have the old boat serviced by boatyards so it makes me wonder what they did.  

Anyway, I decided that with the new boat I would do all the servicing myself.  I was fortunate when I did the first oil change as I called in at a boatyard at Stoke on my way down to the Midlands after picking up the boat in Cheshire and they had the oil I needed.  Little did I know then that it’s like hens’ teeth.

Coincidentally when I spoke with a guy at a yard in Wootton Wawen (further down towards Stratford) we got talking about the stoppages and he too missed the email about lock 30.  Like me, he wrongly assumed it was about another tree that had blown down.

Back to the morning walk and I arrived at lock 30 to find they were steam cleaning the inside to make it easier to check for damage.

CRT workboat in lock 30


Steam cleaning the inside

I had a chat with one of the guys working there and he told me the stanking planks (he called them stop planks as he’s from Dudley) would be going in during the afternoon.  I told him I would return to watch the operation and asked him about the numbering on the planks.  The 97 ½ was obvious as it indicates the length in inches.  The planks for the head (top) of locks are shorter than those at the tail and on the Stratford canal they vary from 95” to 101”.  He couldn’t explain the other numbering which is what I was particularly interested in.  

The stanking planks waiting to be slotted in


The slots where the planks are dropped in

The stanking planks for this canal are stored centrally at Hatton and the CRT guy agreed that it’s a sad sign of the times that they cannot be stored by the locks like they used to be – too many got chopped up for firewood.  The canals with double width locks have to have much wider planks which  consequently weigh a lot more and are therefore less mobile which is why they are still seen at locks and bridge holes.  Some of the narrow canals still have stanking plank stores but, sadly, they are usually chained up.  Click on this link for mystanking plank musings or click the Stanking Plank tab at the top of the page.

Walking back to the boat I passed an old iron structure by a lock that would have been used to store stanking planks in the past.

Old stanking plank store

After lunch we walked back down to lock 30 but unfortunately the gang had got ahead of schedule and the stank was already complete.  Unlike the stank at the head of the lock at Stoke Bruerne that Karen and I visited with Mike and Lesley on a CRT open day recently, the planks weren’t caulked with clay.  Hopefully I can be around to see them lifting the planks out – which will be just as interesting.

The stank (wooden dam)

All drained between the stank and the top gate – the ground paddle is open exposing the entrance to the underground culvert

If you look at the picture above you will see the opening at the bottom where the water flows into the lock when it is being filled.  The winding gear at the top opens the ground paddle which covers the opening, thus letting the water into the lock via an underground culvert.  The winding gear is operated by use of a windlass (usually Karen’s job when we’re locking together).

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