Thursday, 22 March 2018

Leamington (good news and bad news)

In the last entry I mentioned the breach that had happened in the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union canal.  Karen’s cousin Dave, and his wife Barbara, live on their boat and spend a lot of their time cruising in that area.  The breach happens to be between two of their favourite pubs that they spend quite a bit of time cruising between, so we do feel sorry for them.  They will either have to stop going to one of them or take the long way round, down to Birmingham on the Trent & Mersey and back up the Shroppie. 



View of the breach looking towards Middlewich town (photo by VisionExpress)


Mind you, that’s what Brian and Ann-Marie on the local fuel boat will be doing.  Their normal route is round what is called the four-counties ring, the Middlewich branch forming the top part of the ring.  For the next few months they will be serving the four-counties U instead 😉

There are 20 boats grounded between the breach and the lock at the end of the branch in Middlewich.  CRT are building a temporary dam ,called a cofferdam, so the section can be filled with water pumped up from the Trent & Mersey so the boats can make their way out into Middlewich.

Fish rescuers at work in the drained section trying to save as many fish as possible – apparently, they even rescued a 4lb eel

On Saturday we drove down to Reading to spend the weekend with my middle daughter Lauren and some of the other family members.  Catherine, Karen’s eldest daughter, and her friend Sarah were running in the Reading half marathon on Sunday, so we were all there to lend support.  The return of the cold weather and snow had caused half marathons in Coventry, Fleet and Bath to be cancelled as early as Thursday, but the Reading one appeared to be going ahead.

By Sunday morning everywhere was white but there was no sign of a cancellation.  The girls were going to set off for the race village at 7.45, but at 7.30 an email arrived saying the race was cancelled.  Talk about cutting it fine.  As it was we had a good family time and I even managed to do a few jobs for Lauren and Lewis – not bad considering my record for DIY 😉

Monday and Tuesday were spent mainly walking around the outskirts of Leamington and also along the River Avon.  So much for the butterflies I saw last week, the weather had turned cold and snowy again so there have been none to see this week.

I’ve mentioned before about the elephant wash in Leamington where, it was purported, Sam Lockhart, a famous Victorian elephant trainer, used to bathe his elephants in the River Leam.  It was also said that travelling circuses would bathe their animals there too. 

The elephant wash when we visited in September 2017

Contemporary historians are now saying that they very much doubt animals would have been bathed in the Leam as it was like an open sewer in the late nineteenth century.   Anyway, there seems to be plenty of fact about Sam and his elephants, so we had a look for some of the evidence on Tuesday.

Baby elephant house

We found the house where he kept his young elephants, but it seems the main elephant house has long since disappeared. 

Sign indicating which street the old elephant house was in

Sam buried one of his elephants in the garden of one of the houses he used to live in.  This was confirmed when it was knocked down for flats and elephant bones were found when the footings were being dug.  I find it amazing to think he used to ship his elephants all over the world to put on shows; he even put on a performance for Queen Victoria at Olympia.

The plan for Wednesday was to turn the boat round and cruise back to Warwick, getting water on the way of course.  My sister is coming down at the weekend and it would mean we could go out in Warwick if the fancy took us.

Before leaving, I did some washing and when it was nearly at the end of the cycle there was a loud bang, a horrible grinding noise and a lot of smoke (that’s the bad news ).  I quickly disconnected the machine from the power supply and hung the washing out to dry before investigating.  It seemed that the drum was knackered, and the motor had clearly burnt out too.  I know it was only five years old, but it seemed the best thing to do was to get a replacement.

We had deliberately bought a smaller than usual domestic machine so that it used less water and took up less space than the standard sizes.  Of course, being smaller, meant it cost more but we had found an ex-display model so got a good discount.  I spent a short time searching for a replacement on the web and it transpired that the model has now been replaced but at least the new model would still fit.

As luck would have it, I found a company that had a greatly reduced one in stock (damaged packaging but unused) that could be delivered next day – good news 😊  That meant I would have to stay at Lidl as the delivery van could park right next to the boat; however, we needed water so it was a quick cruise to Warwick and back again first.

Leaving Leamington on Wednesday

It was a lovely sunny day and still with a cold wind.  It did mean I could cruise without a coat as the sun was on us the whole way to Warwick.

Entering Warwick by the 24-hour Tesco

As we went past Tesco I stopped by a narrowboat called One Eyed City who was moored there and had a quick chat with the owner.  We had been moored together at Lidl a couple of weeks ago and he had told me he was waiting for the boatbuilder to come and re-lay his floor.  They have since been and it transpired that the poo tank had leaked causing the dampness, so the repairs were a bit more major than he had previously thought.  It must have been pretty unpleasant, living on the boat with that sort of leak

Approaching the boat yard in Warwick

I pulled up at Kate Boats to take on water and get a pump out.  Pete and Sally, fellow liveaboard ccers, were on duty and Pete asked if I wanted him to do the pump out.  I did feel a bit guilty as he was a friend but told him yes as it was so expensive - they charge £20.  He told me it’s only £10 if I do it myself so I quickly changed my mind (more good news 😊).

Doing the pump out three boats abreast

We turned around again at the boat yard and headed back to Leamington.  When we got back to Lidl we moored back up where we were before, behind Mick on his boat and Dave on his.

In the afternoon I walked along the River Avon to Warwick to get into the mood for removing the old washing machine.  When we walked under a railway line a transporter train was crossing. It had dozens of Range Rovers and Discoveries on it and it reminded me just how many they must produce in the Midlands as, whenever we are driving on the M6 or M40 it seems that nearly all the transporters are full of Land Rover cars too.



When we got home I had to get on with removing the washing machine. In the end I managed to get it disconnected quite easily so it’s now ready to be taken away when the new one is dropped off.  

When I took it out I found an unopened large box of clingfilm at the back and that was sort of good news 😊 as I had just that morning added clingfilm to our shopping list.

I know I mentioned we’ve bought a new camera, but I am still using my phone to take blog pictures.  Karen used the camera in Porto as practice and some of the photos are stunning.  We need to buy a macro lens ready for taking butterfly pictures this year. In the days before digital photography I had an SLR camera with a macro lens for taking butterfly pictures. Of course, in those days, you didn’t know whether the picture was any good until the film was processed.  Many were the films that were exposed with no decent pictures on them at all



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