This is Steve & Viv Carter's log of the trips and travails on the narrowboat Adagio – liveaboards from October 2015. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." (Mark Twain)” email@example.com
We stayed put on Thursday. Nice spot. Very busy but then this stretch is a link canal – part of the Warwickshire ring as well as the GU plus very close to lots of hire bases and boy, did we see lots of boats – 50 or more? Plus 2 or 3 wide beams! The dressing gong sounded at 6, so Steve changed for dinner or at least for another G&T! Meatballs with a tomato & chilli sauce with spaghetti (Nice marriage of Spanish and Italian, albóndigas with arrabbiata sauce con espagueti!). Disaster! No vino! Those Sicilians drunk the last drop (well, we did force them!).
The next day we set off about 10 and found ourselves behind this fat boat! We crept along on tick over for a few miles – he kept stopping to let boats pass and then he waved us on, which was nice. He was heading for Dunchurch (now fully open!)
Only enough room for one wide beam!
It looked so busy, we deployed the standard plan – moor as soon as you find a spot! This one is opposite the Boat Inn. We popped round to Midland Chandlers to spend £150 on paints (bitumen to cover up the lock-rash, maroon enamel for the tunnel flash), replacement mooring chains, brushes and a full set of engine filters & oils for the service (due soon), Elsan Green and giant sticky foam stuff to do a proper job of the weed hatch. Such fun lies ahead!! To reward us for all this and by now, the temperature had rocketed to 30+ in the cratch and 27.8 inside the boat, so everybody back out and over to the Boat Inn (2 for 1 on all meals!), the beer is so-so here but the food was good and £19 for two meals and two beers is very good. We also met a nice couple on an adjacent table who overheard us talking about overwintering in Spain and so very coincidentally, they did too and at the same place – weird – so we chatted about Mojacar and also boats. They had just signed up up with Dunchurch Pools marina that very morning – they had come from the Saltisford arm, where they left their boat. Such an odd but interesting coincidence – their blog can be found here: Linda & Richard
After that, Viv goes shopping for that vital restock (pies from the magnificent butchers, tonic & vino from the Londis!).
Day 50, Tuesday 22nd August was a bit damp but brightened later. Steve picked 12 oz of blackberries and Viv made two pots of jam. Day 51, Wednesday was move off day. Awoke to find lots of diesel around the boat- obviously been a spillage – it was everywhere and it stank. Glad we were going. No other boats seemed to be moving, so we went thru the first two locks ourselves, Steve losing his FitBit in the first locks, oops! We filled up with water opposite the Blue Lias pub – still no sign of any other boats, as we wanted to share the next 11 locks! After the next lock, a boat appeared and we went on to share the Stockton flight of locks. Got to Wigrams Turn and made a left for Braunston. Moored up at a good spot, between bridges 102 and 103 (did this last time), fairly rural and quiet although within the hour, two more boats had joined us. We’ll stay here for a bit.
We did do 13 locks today, sailed thru diesel, lost a FitBit, got in a glum mood, then the sun came out! We had a few afternoon bevvies (Viv’s Winter Warmers!), had a snooze, fixed the tape around the weed hatch cos, at full ahead or astern it was spraying water everywhere – inside the engine space! So rubber draught excluder to the rescue. Come six o’clock, we went for a saunter, over bridge 103, beside some odd crops (flax? Sea lavender? Borage? And Sunflowers . . .), across two ploughed fields, luckily not muddy and then into the wee village of Flecknoe – not one that has much(any?) passing traffic but it does have the Old Olive Tree and they had several beers on, including the Champion beer of 2017 – Church End’s Goats Milk! Yippee, one of our favourites. They also did bar snacks-I had a pork,pie and Viv had a salmon and watercress tart! Nice. Back on the boat, after witnessing some spectacular evening scenes and lo, after all this time, we get a TV signal!
Stay put day in Long Itchington and maybe try another pub! Be a shame not to, says Viv. Dog’s happy as there’s plenty of walking; fields and even the river Itchen to go for a splash, which he did:
Nice spot this – note the mooring rings – saves the boat being pulled out of pins by speeding boats (no, surely not?). Saw Frayed Knot yesterday, trying to paint their boat – they are now moored ahead of us – also on rings, hopefully more stable to do some painting. Oddly and rather unusually, their boat has been stretched, as in the stretched limo sense, allowing a fixed bedroom. Very interesting. (The grey bit is the newly added, stretched bit)
We bimbled around the village in the evening – passing the post medieval Tudor house (16th C) which is said to have entertained Queen Elizabeth for dinner when it was owned by the Earl of Leicester (say no more), as well as the duck pond (largest in Warwickshire, you know). Then we walked past some of other pubs . .
Taken in 1910.
Colecraft narrowboats are based here:
That duck pond . . .
Quite a nice pub/restaurant – dog friendly too but the beer range was not to our liking, so we bimbled on . . .
Ditto the Buck & Bell, looked very friendly . . .
We ended up at the Harvester, we’d been before and they usually have good range of beers. They had a weird Teignworthy “Strawberries & Cream”, which didn’t really taste of that but not for us. We opted for Plain Ales, Innocence – a lovely pale ale. There were dog biscuits for Toby too.
Four nights at the delightful Saltisford arm and it’s time to move on. Just a two hour 11 minute cruise to the other side of Leamington, near the Radford winding point. And then on the next day, Sunday 20th August to Long Itchington – chance to catch up with our friends on Hodmadod and spend a few days exploring this nice village (well, OK perhaps visit more of the 5 pubs!). Time to not move on and have a rest. It was quite a day today as all the boats from Kate boats (Warwick) came our way and all the boats from Calcutt & Napton came down the other way. We let one hire boat carry on as they were on a schedule to do the Warwick Ring. Then our next companions lept ahead with a single boat – it felt like we were moving backwards! Busy, busy busy. Well it is Day One for most of these boaters, it IS a Sunday and it IS August! We got to our mooring – the Bascote aqueduct by about 2:30. By this time the lamb joint from Sainsbury’s had been slow cooked in the Slo-pot. It had been marinated overnight in Sicilian garlic, rosemary, oregano and honey. It then had 5 or 6 hours slow cooking – the end result was yummy indeed. Served with mash & marrowfat peas plus Viv’s gravy. We then met up with David & Sarah with their two charming terriers: Tansy & Teasel, off to try the furthest pub, the Green Man. A good choice – good beers(Purity & Black Sheep), dog friendly and very people friendly too. Some baking hot weather today after a cool start and now rain! British Summer at it’s, er, usual.
After the thrills and spills of the last 5 days, it’s time for some R&R (rest & recuperation in our case). Viv’s consoling her aching face from the A&E surgery, Steve’s cycling off to the dentist (yet again).
This Saltisford arm is very pleasant. And at only £5.50 a night with electricity, water and many other facilities (inc a good laundry with 3 Miele washing machines!), it’s good value too. We didn’t do too much for 4 days – shopping at the nearby Sainsbury’s – discovered our favourite gin (Sainsbury’s TTD Blackfriars) was marked as £16 but was only £13 at the check out – I went back to stock up on some more!! We took the dog to Priory park. We wandered around Warwick – seems so small for a county town. Visited the wonderful church of St Mary’s and chatted to the guide about the tombs of the infamous Earl of Leicester and others. My trip to a dentist in Leamington was a bit fraught with a 35 min mad cycle ride along the towpath! I only just made my 2 o’clock appointment (no, not a 2:30 – “tooth-hurty” one!) but the dentist was a very suave and considerate one. Sitting me down in a leather chair for a chat after the initial examination! Very good. Tooth filled and stabilised – for now.
With no TV signal and Mahler in the Proms radio, we tuned into Amazon music and listened to most of the 50 “tracks from the 80’s”.
Steve “Osmo’ed” all the wood bits that were treated to the leaking pipes under the sink with Osmo Polyx rapid. Hopefully stopping any rot and any further damp. With shore power on, we could use the bread machine and made a huge cheese brioche! Nice.
Saturday saw us move on – just 2 and a bit hours to put us the other side of Leamington and just before the next lot of locks – that’s Sunday’s treat before reaching Long Itchington and all those pubs, plus the chance to meet up with David, Sarah, Tansy & Teasel on Hodmadod!
Our mooring in Saltisford. Note the mooring chain – Viv left this behind thinking it was the marina’s . . . moment of confusion and the 2nd one we’ve left behind now! Time to beat oneself up !!
Here’s that brioche, served with our Sicilian extra virgin olive oil
And the new shape Sainsbury’s gin and from all our very extensive research on the subject, one of the best gins around!
Passing Sapphire’s Dream – previously moored near us at Yelvertoft.
Passing Kate boats in Warwick – very, very busy as lots of guys swarm over the boats, getting them ready for today’s new batch of customers
Rare sight but yes, this is a wide canal!
And our final spot for the day. All done by lunchtime but nice to be back in the “just a few hours” cruising schedule. Moored here between bridges 35 & 36.
Hurrah, Gemma & Antonio made it to the mooring not too late last night. The pub, and I must restore their rating, said they can leave their hire car in the car park for a few days, thank you guys! A splendid pub.
Mr Davies had stirred his now, enlarged crew and they were all up, dressed, washed (I’m guessing) and full English breakfasted by 0800.
So off we went at 0820 . . . . scurrying after the Sicilians . .
It’s about an hour or so to the Hatton flight – one of the most daunting and challenging flights of locks. A flight means, you have to do em all – there’s no stopping – no overnighting or even pausing! This flight I find the worst as you see a whole load of em in one go! But we got there. Meanwhile, some very nice scenary.
And a few cocodrilos (crocodiles) – our name for lumps of wood!
We do share the driving – in fact Viv did the whole first hour . . .
And a tunnel – Shrewley – note the “people” tunnel on the right
And an odd view, looking back at the helmsman – the angle shows just how far away they are and why we use walkie-talkies for our comms!
And into the first of the 21 locks with Two’s Company! Now we have six of us so plenty of help . . . Mr D is in heaven . . .
Happy bunny (does he look more Godfatherish to you?) It wasn’t long before he had cracked open some Guinness, at 1030!! Mind you I didn’t complain when I was offered a glass! I knew what was coming . . . 20 big locks and an improved forecast of 21 degrees!
We now have help – beautiful help in the very shapely, Gemma & Antonio
Lucia does a wind up . . .
Gemma takes the helm
A very hunky Antonio (so very Sicilian) waves and shows us his, er skills
We did swap over and Steve did the locks whilst Viv drove the canoe into the locks but not before Viv had an injury – the windlass bit back. Winding these hydraulic locks up means you get to the top and there’s a bounce at the top – they have no ratchet, so the windlass spins wildly back – not before it had smashed into Viv’s face . . lots of blood! Woe.
Meanwhile we marvel at Antonio . . . .
We finish the big 21 locks and moor up. Stephen cracks open the Prosecco and prepares a cocktail for the 6 of us – many thanks!
A great finale (note Viv still suffering)
We tucked in to Wedge’s produce (scotch eggs, pork pies etc – but not Viv) and then Mr itchy feet was off – “wish me well when you wave me goodbye”! Adios amigos! Hasta la proxima!
Our goodbyes were not for long as our acquaintance was met fairly soon as Mr D had clearly not studied his guidebook and came down the Saltisford Arm rather than carrying on (left turn) down the G.U.
We followed the Trust’s chappie (Ian) and winded at the winding hole then reversed down the arm to moor alongside Nicola Tesla (another strange coincidence as he was one of my idols, being a physicist like wot I is) even more strangely, a boat called Faraday was moored down at the end of the arm
There’s our boat, on the outside of Tesla. Jolly decent place this. Admittedly, not the quietest (road and rail very adjacent). But handy for the town. Plus we have electricity and water. (£5.50 a night).
Here’s the wounded crew back from Warwick A & E – in under an hour. Two stitches – no solid food for 5 days. So, just soup, soup and er, gin then? Poor Viv – such a brave sailor!! Hic, as I write this – getting ever more reliant on the spillchucker, we are on to our 3rd G&T. . . .
And here’s those Physics chums I mentioned
I like this odd arm – might be here for a few days . .. . .
Mr Davies wanted to be the first in the door of Wedges (the marvellous bakery/butchers etc), so he chugged past us at around 0740! He said they’ll wait for us! Worth a shop – sausage rolls, pies, cream cakes, bread, black pudding!! Another hour chugging along in the spotting rain to the Lapworth locks – yes, big flight today 19 locks and we had a queue of 4 ahead of us already!!
First two lift bridges – with Two’s Company taking the lead role today, Lucia gets to do the bridges!
And again! Thanks!
Some of the waiting hire boats decided to stop together after a few locks and let us go by – strange but very charming of them.
Viv & I take it in turns to do a few locks and then drive . . . it proved to be of a frustrating day as a few hire boaters seemed a little clueless but never mind we got to where we wanted to go in the hours CanalPlan said we would. And a wonderful Volly called Roger helped us down the wholes main flight! I met him before a month ago when we came up this way – he has a smart Audi and is into cars – nice chap – thanks!
Nearing the end
Stephen stops to take on water but still finds time to help us into the penultimate lock, cheers mate!
We even get help from a little boy, in awe of the big boats despite clutching a cute toy of Darth Vader!
The Force was definitely strong with that one!
And thru our 19th lock – Roger still helping out – what a star!!
We finished the day just before bridge 63 and the pub, Tom O’ the Wood. Toby is always happy when the boat stops – we are too I think. A long day but a visit to said pub and a a meal as we wait for Stephen & Lucia’s kids to arrive from Sicily (Gemma & Antonia).
We had some great beers and splendid food at the Tom O’the Wood (sadly no pies and only 1 salmon – must adjust my TripAdvisor review!;-) ) but a marvellous jambalaya, fish n chips and two harissa baked fish with cumin samphire and taboulleh! Many thanks to them for this!!
Mr Davies has itchy feet – he always has to be moving! And so he was off at 0830, waiting for us at the water point at Holliday Wharf. Then the lock free chug down the canal to the King’s Norton junction where we turn left and head on to the North Stratford canal to a mooring (as before) near the Blue Bell Cider House. Where, yes, we’ll imbibe some cider before Steve cooks a fish risotto (including Baz’s Zander!).
Here’s a rare view – the centre of Birmingham on a Sunday morning
Gas Street Basin
Worcester Bar – there used to be a small swing bridge here . . .
Two’s Company bringing up the rear as we coast past Bourneville
Making that sharp left turn at Kings Norton Junction
Then under that guillotine lock . . . bit of a squeeze
Pit stop for lunch near the Drawbridge . . .
I spied Stephen washing up! And Lucia shows me the Sicilian flag
No more pix of today – but we had a few ciders in the Blue Bell!
Another day in Brum. Time to do some shopping – Viv for food in Sainsbury’s Local, me on the bike to Conley’s wine shop (for some Shetland Reel Ocean Mist gin) and then to the Western Arcade for some pipe tobacco. Discovered the Indian brewery (and street food but no dogs!). We dragged poor Toby around the place again – looked at Brindley 3 building – trying to work out if the clock had real bells and what was the tune they played – still no idea. The Sicilians were on their way and had done a very long day coming up all the locks to Brum. They moored at the bottom of Farmer’s Bridge locks – one of the dingiest, grimiest places but enough for one day. I cycled down to see em & sampling one of Stephen’s 100 or so gins on board. We’ll help them up the remaining locks on Saturday morning.
Here’s the Brindley building
And Saturday morning . . . Two’s Company coming up the flight . .
They all got going at 0830 . . . Stephen gets itchy feet . . .
Not easy to pass boats coming the other way
Helping this nice chap on Whitstable, a single-hander
Strange mixture of cultures here with the ancient canals; the Post Office tower straddling the canals and offices/restaurants overlooking the rather dingy area. Still it’s better than when we came thru here last – about 30-40 years ago!
In the evening we planned to stroll out, have a few beers then find a suitable Indian restaurant – here’s Stephen & Lucia, all dressed up!
After a rather long walk to the Vaults and an embarrassing encounter with their contrary landlord who threw us out – no dogs, despite having been there 3 times before with our dog! Brewdog, round the corner were much more accommodating. The back to the Celebrities Indian restaurant, near Gas Street Basin (early bird meal, 3 courses for £13.95 and jolly good it was too)
Getting a bit behind? Well, it is the same route going back, for the most part. We try and keep up with the news, via the Internet. Good old BBC. Seems Trump wants another Korean war and the BBC want to debate Climate Change again or is the Earth really flat? “History repeats itself, has to, no one listens” as the poem goes.
Meanwhile, Adagio, what’s happening?
We moved off from Brewood on Tuesday, just a bit to beyond bridge 8 as we had seen some nice moorings, out in the open air and with rings. The batteries were down to 53% – their lowest on any trip so far, so we had run the engine, so better move as well.
The Shroppie does have its narrow bits:
Past the Wolverhampton Boat Club and a boat that has a canopy for the trad stern!
Down at the Autherley junction – which obscures, just, a huge sewage works – now the main source of feeder water for the canals – and here it issues forth
Autherley junction and the “silly” 6 inch drop lock
We turn right and moor up
We’ve only been an hour or so but the rain stopped at 11 and so we bimbled on. Stopping opposite Oxley Marine, where the marvellously named Orpheus Mable supplied us with a pump out (@ £12.50). All set for the early start on the Wolverhampton flight in the morning.
One reason I always snap our “final position” is for the record – so if CRT wanted proof that we don’t overstay, we have it!
Here’s Oxley Marine
With the prospect of doing 21 locks and then maybe pushing on to the Black Country museum or even Birmingham, we got up early on Thursday and with the sun streaming through, we slipped our lines at 0720. Through the dawn’s early light . . . .
Under the magnificent bridges with some hidden graffiti
Only a few hundred yards of the Staffs & Worcs canal, turn left
And straight in to the first of the 21:
Thankfully ALL 21 were in our favour and empty, so the gates just pushed open, making our ascent very easy and rapid. Here’s Viv, doing the first one.
About a third of the way up we spy a chap in blue – yes, a CRT volly, who has been opening lock gates for us, yippee!
Nearly there, lock No 2. . . .
At the top! And lock No 1 – yippee – all done by 11, cool!
Not bad. So we decide to press on to Brum . . . .
How little did we know what was waiting for us just round the corner and for the next 5 miles . . . . WEED and lots of it.
Adds a new meaning to “Down the hatch!”, as poor Steve had to turn the engine off, open the hatch, take the hatch bar off, drag out the heavy steel weed hatch and fish around for the blockage – shed loads of weed.
I know that weed is a blanket term but we had blankets of weed . . . down that f****@#$$ing hatch every 5 minutes – “it do make I vivid” as our late neighbour Ron would say! Extremely stressed I would add.
Still it was not for long. A huge working boat from CRT zoomed by towing another, so hopefully they might have swept out a path for us. Another half hour and we had come to the Tipton junction, where Telford’s new arm meets Brindley’s old one. We took the old arm last time, so we’ll take the new one this time. Down the Factory 3 locks first.
I like these long shots – makes our boat seem even bigger.
Telford’s new cut is very long and straight. Different and now no more weed. (Note the wild Sweet Peas on the right!)
There are connections to the old route – here’s one with 3 locks.
And here, at Spon junction (lovely name)
Here we pass under the M6 and the aqueduct carrying the old line above us.
There’s the aqueduct . . . what we came over last time!
Lots of heritage here – this is Galton bridge – carrying the Engine arm branch
Here’s where the old and new lines meet/part . . . come full circle now
And the Soho factory
Steve looking a tad less stressed now but a bit fatigued after this longest day! Eight and a half engine hours, sixteen miles and twenty-four locks.
Must be getting nearer to Brum as the graffiti increases . . .
We moor up, rather opportunistically, at the first mooring we come to as it’s a 14 day mooring! And hopefully a tad quieter? After showers & a rest, we saunter out to have a well-earned pint at the Vaults then the task of finding some food. Something that turned out a bit tricky. What is it with these giant city centres? Maybe a take away or a pub with a garden? Most suitable places rapidly turned to unsuitable as they wouldn’t accept our dog. In the end we stopped at the Tap & Spile for a Mexican burger and two beers (£28+). Despite their huge sign, they had no Timothy Taylor’s Landlord so we had Mexican beer to go with the burger. Very odd and insipid after a decent pint in the Vaults. Better planning next time. We sat outside – spot the Toby? What a long-suffering dog he is.
Oh and it came on a bread board, with chips imprisoned in a cage. If you haven’t heard John Finnemore’s rant about this . . .
Our mooring, opposite the Oozell’s loop and just by the Gin Distillery.