The day has come, we are now saying goodbye to Warwickshire and other counties of the Midlands. For the last 27 months we have continuously cruised the many rivers and canals in the area whilst Karen took a contract in Warwick. She left last Thursday and after a weekend of preparing and saying our goodbyes we are finally off.
It was only a couple of miles to Braunston, our first stop, so Karen walked on the towpath with Buddy and I met her at the water point. We spent a fair bit of the morning there; I did things like washing whilst Karen sorted out her pots and plants. No one else came along for water so we were able to get all our chores done.
When we got rid of our rubbish we noticed that by the bins were the remains of a garden slide and sections of a large garden shed; we cannot believe these were left by boaters. It’s this sort of thing that is causing rubbish points to be closed down by CRT thus making the job of rubbish disposal even more difficult for boaters. The public have easy access to the rubbish point here so I wonder how long it will be kept in operation before it goes the way of the one at the bottom of the Hatton flight I talked about a few weeks ago.
There was only one boat moored opposite the water point which was the quietest we have ever seen it in Braunston. We found out that there had been a share boat show over the weekend and the towpath spots had all been reserved for exhibitors who have now all gone.
The ornate iron towpath bridges at Braunston junction where the Oxford canal heads left and the Grand Union continues to the south
As we were getting ready to leave the water point I noticed the couple in the boat moored opposite were having trouble removing their bowline. They had tied it round the retaining railing rather than put a pin in and with the passing boats it had wedged firmly against a retaining bolt. They were trying to lever the railing out with a mooring pin to release the rope but without success. In the end I suggested they use one of my especially long pins in order to get more leverage. The reason I say “In the end” was because I was worried they would damage the fixings and that they should really cut their line and leave it there.
I know heavy metal objects shouldn’t be thrown, but there was no one around so I tied one end of one of our spare lines to the long pin and the other end to the boat. I then threw the pin across the cut with Karen holding on to me to stop me falling in.
The guy collecting the pin
They soon had their line free and we just pulled the rope to get the pin back.
Passing Richard on his ‘butterfly’ boat on his permanent mooring at Braunston
We were now on the north Oxford canal and I was soon reminiscing about our first trip along here five years ago.
Leaving Braunston with its many signs of medieval fields
A mile or so out of Braunston we passed yet another new marina. This one is called Dunchurch Pools and already had dozens of boats moored in it.
This will make this very busy area even busier but at least the new towpath bridge over the entrance is in keeping with those elsewhere on the canal, many of which are over 230 years old.
We stopped for lunch at the top of the Hillmorton flight of locks. These are the busiest locks in the country and with the new marina are just about to get even busier. In the early days, second locks were built in order to speed up the flow of traffic.
The pair of locks at the top of the flight
It was good to be going through narrow locks again and there were lock keepers at the top and bottom who were setting the locks.
When we spent a few weeks in the area at the beginning of Karen’s contract I used to talk about a new water main that was being installed opposite one of our mooring spots at Hillmorton. The children often take the mickey out of me and The Pipe and I was pleased to find that there was still some of The Pipe left above ground.
On the approach to Rugby we passed works on the offside…
…with traffic control in place:
We moored up in Rugby to pay a visit to the 24hour Tesco. Now we are without a car we have to plan our supermarket trips around the route we are taking. The trip up to the Peak District passes many large supermarkets at places like Atherstone, Rugeley, Stone, Kidsgrove and Whaley Bridge so there’s no danger of running out of anything.
Just before we set off again the oil boat came past. Not only does he sell oil and grease, he takes old oil away (for free). We had a quick chat and I told him that I had just got rid of 20 litres last week at a council tip after stockpiling it in the engine bay for months.
After leaving Rugby we approached Newbold tunnel.
This tunnel was added 50 years or so after the canal first opened in the 1780s as part of the straightening work to reduce journey times. As a later tunnel it was built with towpaths on either side; one of only a handful of tunnels with twin towpaths in the country.
The offside towpath is gated off at each end nowadays
If you’re wondering what the inverted wigwam is then it’s the top of the willow twigs I cut for Karen last week that she made into a sweet pea container in the morning at Braunston. When we’re not cruising it sits on one of the side seats, otherwise it has to go on the floor to avoid the low bridges.
Stanking plank store just outside Newbold tunnel
Just before we moored for the day we passed the entrance to Lime Farm. This is on part of the original canal that was cut off during the straightening works. It has looked a miserable place for years but is now being spruced up and I hope the new owners do well. We had our dinette cushions covered by Sarah who has a workshop here and we have been really pleased with them.
Entrance to the Lime Farm boatyard
We moored for the night at Cathiron on a strip of Armco just long enough for one boat, so we knew we wouldn’t have any neighbours. Mind you, it was the closest we have ever moored to a railway line 😉
In all we travelled 12 miles through three locks today – now that’s a lot of miles for us in a day 😊