Saturday, 31 March 2018

Leamington Spa (two town tours in two days)


All our children take the mickey out of me saying I should run tourist tours around the different places we visit.  As Sophie and Yanos were staying this week I treated them to my ‘four gates’ tour of Warwick which included a picnic by the River Avon and a trip to Sainsbury’s at the end 😉
 
As we cruised to Leamington on Tuesday afternoon I took them on a tour of the town on Wednesday.  There are a great many places to visit in Leam so I gave them a taster tour taking in one or two items of different tours such as the elephant tour, the spa tour, the garden tour, the water tour etc.

Fishing on an overspill weir on the River Leam

Looking upstream with Robbins’ Baths on the right with the colonnades - one of the long defunct bath spas that made the town famous


Richard Robbins discovered the fourth springs to be found in the town and opened six baths and a pump room on the site in 1806.  Originally called Robbins Baths they were rebuilt as Victoria Baths which was when the colonnades were added. 


For most of its journey through the town the River Leam is lined with gardens on both sides.  The Pump Room gardens with its bandstand were built in 1814 and were originally only for use by patrons of the Royal Pump Rooms.

Crossing the Leam into the Pump Room gardens

Outside the Royal Pump Rooms, which are opposite Jephson Gardens and the opposite side of the river to Robbins’ Baths, is a water fountain which is the only public source of spa water left in the town.  Our boater friend, Les, tried the water once and told me that it was the worst thing he had ever tasted – totally belying the health-giving properties they purported to give.  Because of this, neither Karen nor I have ever tried the water but Yanos felt he had to, even though I had told him about Les’s comment  



Yanos agreeing with Les

Before going back to the boat, we had a quick look at one of the old elephant houses and also the, supposed, elephant wash.


When Karen stops working next week we will no longer need the car, and will leave it at my parents’ house in Yorkshire for the next year before we move the boat over to France.  We have built up a few things we have never used on the boat so on Thursday morning, whilst we still had the car, I paid a visit to our storage unit in Solihull to get rid of them.  I also picked up a couple of things we have been missing and really need on the boat.


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Leamington Spa (received a response from CRT)

I had forgotten to tell Sophie about the notoriously greasy winding gear at Cape locks



Sophie and Yanos came up to stay for a few days on Monday; Sophie is my eldest daughter and they are getting married in June this year.  They arrived at Saltisford on Monday evening just as Karen and I returned from our weekly bridge session at Stratford.  We only have three more bridge evenings before we leave the area and will miss our weekly get togethers, over the last two years, with Jo and Ileen – lovely ladies who always have fascinating stories to tell through their connections with eminent residents of Stratford and the local area.

Even though Monday was another sunny day I only saw one butterfly, a male Brimstone, on our walks during the day.

Preparing kindling on Monday – hopefully the last batch until the autumn

On Tuesday I took Sophie and Yanos on a tour of Warwick as it was their first visit there.  We couldn’t go around the various secret gardens as only one of them allows dogs in and a couple weren’t yet open for the tourist season.  We visited the four gates and wandered around some of the prettier streets and had a walk by the river.  It was quite a contrast with Sunday when the weather was warm and the town and parks were full of people; we had intermittent rain showers and were the only people in St Nicholas park when we had our picnic!

The pair of mallards that have been in the centre of town for the last few days, looking lost and forlorn, have now made their way to the post office where there is an ornamental pond.  They looked quite content asleep on the edging stones so maybe they'll end up nesting there.

We had a look around St Mary’s church as I wanted to see the ducking stool that is kept in the crypt.  This is one of only two left in the country – the other one is at Leominster.  The Leominster example is complete whereas the one at Warwick only has the wheels and the fulcrum left – the wooden beam and chair have long since gone.  The part that is left is called the tumbrel.

Last used in the late 1700s and has been kept in the crypt for over 200 years
Information board showing the complete item

Later in the afternoon we cruised the two miles to Leamington.  As we approached the Cape locks, we came passed Whizz and Matt on their boat who were just casting off so we went down the locks with them.  They have taken a few months off from their jobs and were setting off to travel around the north.  Coincidentally they had similar plans to us; go up to Chester and then explore the Leeds & Liverpool canal.  Like us they have had to re-plan because of the breach at Middlewich but no doubt we will bump into them off and on over the coming months.

Yanos and Sophie getting the bottom lock ready

When I saw Sophie holding her hands up and away from her I realised she had got them covered in grease.  For some reason the safety chains on the winding gear at the two Cape locks seem to be constantly covered in grease which is most unusual.  Of course, I had forgotten to remind her

We stopped for water before carrying on and mooring back outside Lidl in Leaminton.

Buddy on hose (and daffodil) guard duty


Cruising past Warwick cemetery

Leaving Warwick and heading back to Leamington


Before I sign off I’ll include the email I received from Ian Lane, the Waterways Manager for the West Midlands area.  This email was in response to my complaint about the boaters’ rubbish point being removed from the bottom lock at Hatton.  I suppose it’s reasonable if the promised facilities at Saltisford are available but I really think they should have alerted boaters to the impending change through the email alert system we can sign up to.  

Hello Neil – thank you for your email and please accept my apologies for the lack of information on this. Our actions should have been accompanied by signage which I will chase up. Also thank you for taking to the time to help us keep the towpath clean – it is much appreciated.

By way of background we have seen a drastic increase in the cost of our waste management across the waterway. This increase obviously means that some of our other services are starting to be impacted. Having looked at this in more detail we have identified that the cause of this is that many sites are now being used by non-canal users. Unfortunately we cannot keep accepting this so we are trying to look at ways to reduce this cost whilst still providing the vital facilities to our customers.

In this location we started consultations with the IWA, local waterway partnership and other local groups to see how we could tackle the issues. As a result we are now removing the bins at the top lock (within the public car park) and bottom locks and are improving the bins at the top lock café. We have also spoken to the Saltisford Arm and they are happy for people to use their bins. Both sites are less accessible to the public which we hope will reduce some of the issues we face whilst still providing adequate local facilities. Whilst this proposal was agreed by the groups involved and I must apologise that we didn’t go wider on the consultation.

With regard to putting locks on the stores, we have done this in other locations and people just leave rubbish all around it, or on top, so this has proved unsuccessful. We appreciate that it may take a few months for the unauthorised rubbish to stop so we accept some ongoing costs, however, we believe it is the right thing to do in the longer term. Unfortunately the house adjacent to the bottom lock is a perfect example of where our bins are being used by non-boaters. Whilst it may seem reasonable for them to use them , we are not obliged to offer this service to them which I assume they already pay the council for, and this is typical across the country.

As I mentioned before, this review is across the midlands so this won’t be the only site we take action on. However, I must stress, this plan is not aimed at reducing the facilities, it is about reducing costs that we shouldn’t be incurring so we can provide better facilities and undertake our core duties.

I hope this helps and gives some more background to our decision and apologies again also for the lack of notice.


Monday, 26 March 2018

Hatton bottom lock (not such a good place to moor any more)

Sunrise on Sunday morning – looking promising



When I took Buddy out for his morning constitutional on Saturday I combined it with getting rid of our rubbish.  There is a handy enclosure at the bottom lock with rubbish bins for boaters’ use.  Our rubbish was in a couple of used coal bags and I carried them up to the lock, picking up any towpath litter that I saw on the way.   I wasn’t confident of carrying both bags across the gates at once so left one on one side whilst I walked across with the other.  When I came back to get the other the guy who lives in the lock cottage there was standing, in his dressing gown, outside his front door.  He asked if I hadn’t noticed and I said, ‘noticed what’?  He pointed out that the enclosure and bins had been taken away by CRT.

Apparently, rubbish was being left by non-boaters to such an extent that it was often piled up outside the bins.  Local businesses were even dumping rubbish there, which I had rather suspected before when I’d seen the amount and size of packaging material in the bins.  The guy wasn’t happy as he now must take his rubbish away in the car (the council can’t pick it up as there is no road access to the cottage).

As our rubbish was rather mounting it meant a car trip to the next boaters’ rubbish point at the top of the Hatton flight.  The facilities are really poor in this area.  The next rubbish point is through Warwick and Leamington at Radford Semele.  That point too, is probably in danger of being removed as it is often overflowing with public waste – it seems people can drive in their car to these places but not to the local tip – I suspect they don’t want to queue up.  Tips are also becoming a problem for boaters as they are increasingly only allowing locals in – you have to show proof of residence in the district.

Anyway, enough ranting 😊

The flight is now fully open and we probably saw a dozen boats on the move over the weekend.  Easter week really marks the start of the summer boating season.  It also means that the winter relaxation of mooring restrictions will be lifted soon (31st March) e.g. in the winter you can moor for 14 days nearly everywhere including sites marked for 24 or 48-hour moorings.  That doesn’t bother us as those sites get too busy in the summer, which is why the restrictions are put on in the first place.

The second lock up the flight was one of the ones being worked on over the last couple of months and now has nice new bottom gates.

Lock 27 with its new bottom gates

The side lock ladders had also been replaced as the previous ones were, apparently, unsafe:

   
The cill had been rebuilt and some of the barge boards replaced too:

  
Judith and Nigel came to stay for the weekend and we spent Saturday afternoon in the Old Post Office and Rigsby’s – two quirky real ale pubs in Warwick.

On Sunday we walked back to Leamington Spa along the River Avon so they could catch a train home.  It was a gorgeous day and we saw quite a few butterflies, including at least a dozen male Brimstones, several Small Tortoiseshells and a Comma.

I included pictures of a Brimstone, when we saw our first of the year, in a recent blog entry so here are a Small Tortoiseshell and a Comma that we photographed in previous years:

Male Comma


Underside of a Comma showing the white comma mark

An out of focus Small Tortoiseshell