Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Leamington (a few firsts for a few months)

It seemed to rain all day on Monday which was a shame as Karen had the day off and we had been looking forward to having a little cruise and a good walk.  When it came to it we just didn’t fancy it as, although we don’t mind cruising in the rain, the towpaths were just awash.  We didn’t fancy walking either as the fields and footpaths were so muddy too.

Our view for most of Monday

We obviously took Buddy out on a couple of shorter walks but spent most of the day indoors. One thing we did do was re-plan our route to Liverpool for the coming few months.  We had been going to go back to Birmingham and then get up to the north west via the Shropshire Union canal (the Shroppie).  It meant we could explore a couple of the Birmingham canals that we haven’t been on before, but it did mean going up the full length of the Shroppie, which is not one of our favourite canals.  

For most of its 60-odd miles it is very straight; this is because it was built at the end of the canal age when more mechanisation was available. Consequently, it was easier to build high embankments and dig deeper cuttings rather than follow contours to avoid the need for locks.  Fewer locks, coupled with the straightness, ensured faster passage, but boring journeys 😉
On our way to Liverpool we will make a detour to Chester and Ellesmere Port which are two places we haven’t visited on the boat yet.  Our new route will be along canals we have travelled a few times before, the North Oxford, Coventry, Trent & Mersey and then down the Middlewich branch to join the Shroppie.  From there we will be on a new bit of canal for us for the few miles up to Chester and then onto Ellesmere Port.  Also, once we get to Manchester we will be on new waterways again, as we haven’t been across to Liverpool before.

From Leamington that’s 281 miles through 149 locks to get to Salthouse Dock by the River Mersey in the centre of Liverpool.  It’s quite a gentle journey really as, looking at our averages, we have tended to do as many locks as miles over the last 3 ½ years (2,172 miles through 2,022 locks).

Thick blue line is our route until middle of June, light blue lines are other canals and dark blues are rivers (not motorways as they seem to be labelled)

Having not moved on Monday, I really had to move the boat on Tuesday as our two weeks were up.   What a mild day it was – I haven’t cruised without a coat since early November. 

Heading for the first lock of the day – Cape top lock

As I went into the first lock I felt as we had caught something on the prop.  Once I was in the lock, I opened up the weed hatch and, sure enough, there were several plastic bin bags and other items caught round the prop and the shaft.  I soon had them out and got going again.  Before anyone queries me, yes, I did bag up the rubbish for the next boaters’ rubbish point rather than putting it on the bank, like we so often see

Clearing the rubbish from the prop

That was the first time we had got anything caught for three months – a record!

As I was about to climb down onto the boat to leave the lock I noticed another boat approaching the lock behind me.  I saw they had a few crew so I waited for them to arrive and I told them that if one of them goes to set the next lock then I would wait for them to come down the lock I had just been down.  Mind you, it’s not like we needed to save water with the amount that was coming down, but I did feel that I should be polite 😉

Going down the bottom Cape lock with another boat

It seems months since I’ve shared a lock with another boat and looking at my log it was the first time since the end of September last year.

I knew the other boaters had a black dog, but I didn’t realise how much like Buddy it was 😉

When locking down, Buddy stays on the back deck.  What I hadn’t noticed was that he had stepped over to the other boat whilst they were going down.  He obviously got a bit perturbed seeing his route back disappearing.  The guy was keeping his boat right against the bottom gates to keep well away from the cill.  Once the lock was empty I climbed down and brought our decks level so Buddy to hop back again.

After leaving the bottom lock, I moored up to take on water.  Whilst we were there, another boat came past – this time it was a CRT boat and two of the crew were being trained.

Second boat on the moveand Buddy wandering down to see if they have any treats for him

Once we’d set off again, after taking on water, yet another boat came towards us – three on the move in one day!  

We were soon passing through Warwick and approaching Leamington.  I’d planned on going back to Lidl for a week or two if there was space at the moorings.  As luck would have it there were only two boats moored there and I tucked in at the end.  I recognised the boats as being local ccers like us, so were probably going to be moored there for a week or two, but there was still room for passing visitors to moor in front of them for the shops.

Moored back at Lidl again

After lunch I took Buddy for a walk and then popped over to the retail park to get rid of our recycling at the big Sainsbury’s.  A car pulled up whilst I was at the bins and a guy got out and said, “Hi – it’s Neil isn’t it?”.  I was a bit shocked and then I recognised his face; he was a boater and we had passed each other a few times over the last year or so.  We had a good chat and it transpired he has been cruising the same area as us for the two years he has been living on his boat.   

He's a teacher in Worcester and continuously cruises between Napton, Stratford and Birmingham.  I suggested he should use the River Avon as that’s ideal for Worcester, but he was a bit concerned about going on a river on his own.  Hopefully he will try it soon as I told him I did most of the river single-handedly last summer, moving during the day whilst Karen was working.   

Although I asked him his name several times during our conversation I still can’t remember it.  But I do remember his boat was called Iron Druid he had it built by Colecraft at Long Itchington – one of our local boatbuilders. 

In case you were wondering how he knew my name – he recognised my profile picture from an entry I had made that morning on the Continuous Cruisers’ Facebook group 😉


  1. Go on, be brave, take the short cut from Ellesmere Port,via the Ship canal & River Mersey to Liverpool !!

  2. LOL! I am currently investigating if there are any planned MSC/Mersey crossings this year :)

  3. Defiantly a good option as I cant see the Middlewich branch being open again this year due to a major breach below Stanthorn Lock last night (15/03/18) photos on Middlewich community group & Narowboat Users Group on Facebook