Monday, 5 March 2018

Hatton bottom lock (rescuing a fieldfare)

The thaw had well and truly set in on Sunday morning, so it was off to visit Mike and Lesley in Cropredy and see the latest progress on their house build and their new boat in the flesh for the first time. 

They are building a house in the middle of Cropredy with frontage and a mooring onto the Oxford canal.  As they didn’t have a boat when they started building the house last year they let us use their mooring during the summer which was also handy for going to the Fairport festival.

We got down to the site and Mike spotted a fieldfare struggling in the water.  It took a while, but we rescued it, but the poor thing was soaked through.  It was so wet it couldn’t climb out of the water, so I helped it out with a boat hook.

Fieldfare rescued (I know it’s not the correct way to hold a bird, but it wasn’t struggling at the time)

Left to dry, out of reach of dogs

Whilst we were there it started drying out and even had the odd hop so hopefully it will fully recover.

The house is coming on well and it was good to see it for real rather than on plans.  When we were there in the summer it was at the footings stage.  They are currently waiting for the Welsh slate to arrive for the roof and then things will really start taking shape.  Their blog on the house and boat build can be seen by clicking here.

Charlie Mo at the bottom of their garden

The driver’s end

The willow tree in the picture above had its leaves dangling in the water last summer, making it extremely difficult for boats to see if anything was coming the other way.  We spent an afternoon cutting it all back, using our boat as a platform.

It reminded us of the day that Mike was in the water clearing out the stones that had fallen in from an old wharfing wall.

Having a laugh when we were moored there in the summer, before we cut the willow tree

We had a good lunch and a few pints in the Brasenose arms and then it was the drive home.  Nearly all the snow had melted during the day, leaving just the deeper drifts which will probably be there for a while yet.

Driving back up the M40 to Warwick

As I look out this morning there is very little snow left, but the water is still frozen.  The ice is quite mushy but surprisingly is still about 3” thick.

Before I sign off, a quick glimpse back at Wast Hills. Our friend, Alison, knows about our interest in the Worcester & Birmingham canal tunnel in the southern outskirts of Birmingham; we spent a lot of November and December in the area last year.  She had found an Ordnance Survey map from the early part of last century and it clearly shows the position of two of the three remaining air shafts.

The northern and central shafts ringed in red

This was the northern shaft, in what is now the Hawkesley estate, when I saw it last November…

Greatly extended in height to stop things being thrown down the shaft into the canal
… and this was the central air shaft on the same day

Brick farmer's storage shed built next to the central shaft
We never managed to find the southern shaft and, strangely, it doesn’t appear to be marked on the OS map either.

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