Gibraltar Bridge to Bascote Aqueduct
With rain forecast for the afternoon we wanted to be on our way whilst it was still dry. Ten locks lay ahead of us, would we beat the weather?
We pootled past moored boats, many with decorations up. One boat in the summer has a mass of bears sat in it’s hatch, but understandably now it’s winter the hatch was firmly closed. However sat in the wheelhouse was the largest bear, which might actually have been an orangutan, wearing a Santa outfit including a beard. A shame the glass wasn’t clear for the photo.
We’d considered stopping at Kate Boats for a new bottle of gas, but there was no sign of life and the thought of carrying a full gas bottle over another boats bow was not appealing, it’ll have to wait.
The boat that used to be moored by Calias Lane is no more. Here the towpath used to be full of interesting stuff, the boat almost melding into it all. Late last year there was a fire on board and the owner, Malcolm, was quite badly injured, the boat almost certainly a right off. Now there is no sign of where the boat used to be and winter mooring signs sit along the stretch, all lonely as nobody has taken C&RT up on this location.
Father Christmas peered out through portholes and at The Boat Inn two reindeer levitated by the outside tables.
Looking over our shoulders we’d both thought we were being followed, someone to share the locks with, we’d wait at the top lock to see if they arrived. The top lock was in our favour and I soon spotted a boat coming up the lock below, so we entered the lock and dropped down.
The lady working the boat up came for a chat. They’d been planning to moor in Leamington Spa for Christmas but had changed their minds as there was no diesel to be had, so they were hoping they’d make it to Banbury in time. There was time to suggest good places to moor in Banbury as they’d not been before and we were warned that a pound lower down the locks had almost been empty when they got to it.
As their boat passed I recognised it. We had crossed the Ribble link with the boat a couple of years ago, friends of NB Quaintrelle. However I hadn’t remembered the lady having a Scottish accent and the couple on board had been younger. It appears the boat changed owners a year or so ago.
Much of the flight was in our favour and the levels were only a touch low, but as we were bringing a lock full of water down with us this didn’t concern us. One lock had a bottom paddle left open a touch so the chamber had drained. The boat that had been following never showed itself so we descended solo.
With last nights rain, and most probably the last two months worth, the towpath was filled with puddles and was a quagmire in places. The grassy banks more like brown ski slopes, my waterproof trousers now need a good wash. The temperature today had risen so as we worked our way down layers were removed.
Was this the bridge where a widebeam got stuck in June this year? They got jammed in a bridge as they headed up the locks. The Grand Union was originally built for narrowboats but in the 1930’s the locks were widened so they could take two narrowboats. Most widebeams fit, but the one earlier in the year didn’t, coping stones had to be removed.
We spotted familiar boats, overtaking Kate Saffin who was moored up on the off side, NB Jameson moored before the last lock of the day where new houses are going up. The builders returning from a break came and watched as the water emptied out from the lock.
I walked on to where we’ve moored before away from the road and where there are rings. On our own we tied up and let Tilly out. I wonder if she recognises places, she’s certainly been here a few times before.
At around 2pm the heavens opened, thank goodness we weren’t battling our way down the locks in it. Tilly wasn’t too pleased with it either!
During the afternoon and evening I got very close to finishing my last sock before Christmas whilst we watched The Importance of Being Earnest. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it in the last 1st class post tomorrow.
10 locks, 2.47 miles, 1 awol email, 3 familiar boats, 1 muddy cat, 14 rows left, 0 cratch lights yet, 1 Queens speech with possible ramifications for us, 1 afternoon of rain.