Monday wasn’t really a boating day: having got all the washing done in the morning, I took Buddy into Leamington. All of my parents’ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are gathering in the Yorkshire Dales to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday at the end of February. We have taken over the entire Youth Hostel in Malham but, unfortunately, they don’t allow dogs. So, I was taking Buddy to meet a new dog-walker/sitter. She was a lovely lady and Buddy was very happy with her and her home, so we’ll be happy to leave him there for that weekend. It’s best for him anyway as he doesn’t travel well and it’ll be boring family stuff all weekend.
It was very mild on Tuesday morning and I set off for Hatton station straight after breakfast. First, we had to get to the end of the Lapworth Link to the junction with the Grand Union canal. I can’t believe it’s well over three months since we were last on the Grand Union canal. In that time, we’ve travelled the North Stratford canal to Kings Norton; been into the centre of Birmingham on the Worcester & Birmingham canal and, on the same canal, been as far south as Alvechurch. We had a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on the way and travelled 62 miles through 50 locks and ten tunnels – that’s only one mile and one lock every two days. Before Karen went back to work when we used to cruise most days we averaged just over four miles and four locks a day!
Birmingham left – Warwick right – Stratford Canal back where we had come from
Just before we left, Buddy met up with Brodie and was able to have a good run around before sitting on the back deck for the cruise. We stopped at The Tom o’the Wood pub moorings at Rowington to top up with water. Being by the pub reminded me that we’re meeting Mike & Lesley and Chris & Sue there for lunch this coming Sunday, which should be good fun.
At the water point – in the summer, moored boats will stretch as far as the eye can see and around the corner
It was quite windy so I struggled for quite a while to get the boat moored up securely. I managed in the end, but it did get me a bit worried about mooring up at Hatton station. The spot we like is a little exposed and I knew the wind would be cutting across the fields. To make it trickier, there is no Armco so I would have to use mooring pins. Knocking pins in takes a while and therefore gives more chance that the boat will drift away from you. I decided not to worry about it and, when I got there, if I felt it was dangerous I would turn around and come back to some Armco right by the station.
You may ask why I didn’t want to moor right outside the station anyway and it’s because it’s next to a couple of houses and we would rather be away from anybody. Also, it is a popular spot for ccers to moor as it’s right next to the station, so we would be bound to have a neighbour over the next week or so.
The Grand Union is generally wider than the Stratford canal and does cater for broad beam boats by having double width locks practically all the way to Birmingham from London
I always like cruising through Rowington cutting because of the proliferation of Hart’s Tongue fern that grows on the steep banks. I also always marvel at the thought that the cutting was dug without mechanical aids.
Hart’s Tongue ferns in Rowington cutting
Coming out of the cutting sees a dramatic change as the canal then winds over the massive Rowington embankment which overlooks some of the old farms in the village.
Between Rowington and Shrewley there are two old working boats which have been derelict for years. These are probably the most photographed non-working working boats in the country, but I make no apologies for taking yet another picture.
Tuesday 23rd January 2018
When we went past them on 12th August 2015
Just after the working boats, Shrewley tunnel appears in the distance. Again, other than Standedge tunnel in the Pennines, this is probably the most photographed canal tunnel. This is because it has a separate tunnel built for the towing horses and is still in use as the towpath today.
Silt is constantly being washed down the old horse tunnel and drips into the canal creating a massive mud overhang which gets knocked off every few years. It is now so large that boats are bound to knock it off when it gets busier later in the year.
Canal tunnels generally have fluorescent markers showing the way to the nearest exit and at the centre, there are usually arrows pointing both ways. Most longer tunnels also have markers at every 100 yards or 100 metres, but not Shrewley, it’s too short I suspect.
We then arrived at Hatton station – the moorings on the Armco were free but I decided to carry on to our spot. As it was, I managed to moor up OK but used plenty of pins as there are storms forecast for Wednesday again.
After a late lunch I walked Buddy down to the Hatton flight which, just like everywhere else we have been for the last few weeks was devoid of boat movements. There are two locks closed in Warwick for maintenance over January which will be stopping through traffic, but I’m surprised that no one has ventured out from the moorings at the Saltisford Arm in the centre of Warwick in the opposite direction to the closure.
At the top of the flight is a mile post confirming the length of the Grand Union as 136 ½ miles from Brentford (at the River Thames) to the centre of Birmingham.
We will stay here until the weekend after next. There’s no point moving down the flight before then because of the lock closures in Warwick, but we will have to go down on the weekend they reopen as the Hatton flight itself is closing for six weeks from the following Monday. Last time we did the Hatton flight I put my back out when single handing the first half dozen locks at the top and a few times previous to that, Karen did the same. Fortunately, Mike and Lesley want to help us down so we’re not going to say no 😊
If we need water or a pump out before doing the locks I will spin the boat at a winding hole just in front of our mooring and go back to Lapworth and then return again. It’ll take a good few hours as it’ll be a nine-mile journey but at least it’ll be a pleasant cruise. In the evening, Karen suggested we do that at the weekend anyway as we are meeting friends back that way. So we will stay here until Saturday and then, on Sunday morning, cruise back to the Tom o'the Wood for lunch. We can then stay overnight there and I'll bring the boat back here to Hatton station next Monday.
Walking back to the boat – not a soul around – just as we like it 😊
There are a lot of mallards courting on this stretch and also a couple of cormorants that keep swimming past the boat. As this is such an open mooring it is also great for watching buzzards that constantly wheel in the air whilst mewing.