Twenty Two Turns. 9th September

Wedgenock Park Bridge 50 to Rowington Hill Bridge 62

A couple of boats came past as we had breakfast, heading towards Hatton. We didn’t rush, on days like today what would be would be. The locks could all be set against us, we may have a partnering boat or not, the forecast thunderstorms may drench us or not. One thing in our favour though was that the temperature had dropped.

Not going that way this time

As we were rolling up the covers (remembering that shade brings bird pooh!) a boat came up the lock behind, as it came past, Mick and the chap at the helm had a quick chat. If nobody was waiting below the first lock they would wait for us, we wouldn’t be long.

Just peeking out from behind the gate

NB Mad Hatter sat in the bottom lock waiting for us, a C&RT work boat having come through a little while earlier. Could this mean that at least some locks would be in our favour? We’d see.

Going up

Richard and Jackie moor at Kate Hire Boats and were just setting off for a three week cruise. Their mooring is close to home, but to go anywhere they either have to do Hatton (21 locks) or Stockton (23 locks), we were with an experienced crew.

Up the first lock we started to sort out what to do and what not to do, a rhythm would soon be set after a few locks. Jackie and I lifted the top paddles, then she walked on up to the next lock to get it set and open, I stayed behind to open a gate whilst one of the chaps dropped the other paddle as the other brought their boat out, then I’d close up and walk on to the next lock, where Jackie and I swapped sides meaning I’d walk up to the next lock, a bit of leap frogging.

The first five or so locks are set at a bit of a distance to each other, as I walked to the third lock I could see someone in blue, a volunteer. He looked in my direction then turned and wound a paddle up to fill the lock. What would be would be. ‘Good Morning’, I said, he turned, ‘Ah you’ve got a windlass!’

Lock above just starting to empty

There was no boat to be seen, a zoom in on the camera and I just spotted one boat coming down with another volunteer. I was asked to leave both top gates open when we left the next few locks as a pair were heading down a couple of locks behind. Off he went to carry on setting the locks a little bit too far ahead!

The boats waiting below

Jackie and I locked the single hander down and we were then on our way again. Following instructions we left both gates open, but where were the boats? All of us were a little bit nervous at leaving so many gates wide open, some of the locks tend to drain themselves so if left too long pounds could be drained. The volunteers would soon be heading back up so hopefully if there was a problem they’d close up and sort things.

Ugly Bridge with its flying beasty

Under Ugly Bridge I wondered why it had the name as it’s built pretty much like the others on the flight?

Lock 29

Then at last the down hill pair came into view. Their emptying lock had already more than half filled the lock below, water flowing over the top gates, so I assisted with the filling and lifted a paddle. A chap came down and asked if we were heading up or down, ‘Up’. He looked at me as if I was stupid. ‘Well why are you filling it?’ ‘Because it was more in your favour than ours’. ‘Ah!’ came his reply.

Breasted up

Their boats were breasted up, meaning both gates needed to be opened so nobody was going ahead to set the next lock ready, so it must have speeded up their descent having the next four locks sat waiting for them.

On upwards we continued. Someone once said that twenty two turns on these paddle gears is all you need to do. They only tend to turn one or two more times, but by then you are not adding anything to the flow of water, so you may as well save your arms from the extra work.

Another swapping of locks

Spied up ahead was another volunteer coming downhill with a cruiser, so we could leave gates again.

Jackie at Middle Lock Bridge

Past Middle Lock Bridge comes the thick of the flight, half way up. Jackie and Richard swapped over and we soon had the assistance from two volunteers who were heading back towards base for their lunch, all giving us an extra boost uphill.

Heading into the thick of the flight

Now with four of us working the locks both gates could be opened and closed, the next lock being made ready. I teamed up with Richard one of the volunteers and had quite a chat as we walked from lock to lock. He volunteers two days a week on the flight, but that will soon change as he’ll be moving to Leamington Spa.

Looking ahead

During the Commonwealth Games next year bowling will be held in Leamington Spa and C&RT have been given some money to champion the waterways. He’d walked the three miles yesterday and thought there was only one stretch that was not so good, by the scrap yard. C&RT are hoping to be able to gain Green Flag status for the stretch. Richard was very enthusiastic and if he couldn’t be on a boat then just being by the canal was almost as good. He was also a very handy addition to our locking team.

The view back to Warwick. I think Mick rang the bell at that church 3 years ago

We passed another single boat coming down, followed a few locks later by an Anglo Welsh boat. With only four more locks to go we lost our extra assistance as the volunteers headed off for lunch, at least the end was almost within sight.

The closer we got to the cafe near the top the more gongoozlers we picked up. A gentle breeze that had started was becoming stronger, welcome to those working the locks but not to those moving the boats.

Rope throwing

I had to set a few gongoozler comments straight as Jackie brought Mad Hatter into one of the locks, the wind making it hard to shimmy over to make room for Mick through the one open gate, then a rope got caught round a mushroom, all just one of those things.

Autumn starting to show itself

I got asked how long it had taken to do the flight. I in all honesty had no idea. I gave up wearing a watch seven years ago and hadn’t noted the time as we entered the bottom lock, counting how many locks are left only seems to make the matter in hand harder, so I save such things for the trip computer to do.

So nearly there

The last two locks needed emptying, I think they were the first that hadn’t been in or almost in our favour in the whole flight. Lifting the bottom paddle on the second to last lock I suddenly ran out of fuel. The extra toast this morning had kept me going up the flight, but now my tank was just about empty, the paddle winding slowed. A last bit of umph and we were up the top lock.

At the top

Thank you Jackie and Richard for your company up the flight. Thank you to the volunteers ( apart from the one who turned a lock on us!). Thank you to the thunderstorms that held off, it was only just starting to drizzle as we reached the top few locks. 2 hours 38 minutes, quite a reasonable time. We waved goodbye to NB Mad Hatter who were stopping for water and carried on to find a mooring for the day.

Shrewley Tunnel came as the rain was starting to increase in strength. But staying dry inside the tunnel isn’t possible as there are quite a few pissers from the sides and roof. Maybe with a bit of careful positioning we could have given Oleanna a rinse down to get rid of the dust she’d accumulated over the last few days, but more importantly the bird pooh!

Embankment mooring

There was space on the embankment above Rowington, we pulled in and let Tilly out to explore the thick friendly cover. She was kept busy for quite a while, even the heavier rain didn’t deter her for sometime. But as dingding time came closer she decided she’d had enough and came in to wait for the bell to ring.

Busy now!

This afternoon we’ve been planning where to go next. Timings with lodgers and panto are making things a touch complicated for us this year. But we now have a plan, let’s just hope the canals ahead of us keep open and don’t throw us a curve ball.

21 locks, 5.76 miles, 700.65 miles this year, so far, 22 turns unless distracted, 1 tunnel, 18 year boat owners, 6 passed, 1 turned, 2 full, 2hrs 38 minutes, 1 mooring with a view, 3 bookings, 0 room at the inn, 0 thunderstorms yet!

2 thoughts on “Twenty Two Turns. 9th September

  1. Adam

    I can’t see the point in breasting boats up — and then keeping two helmsmen! Surely the whole point of breasting the boats is to release crew…

    1. Pip Post author

      It didn’t make sense to me either and would explain why the volunteer thought they were only a short distance behind him. There may of course have been a reason, maybe one person on the boats wasn’t able to work the locks or drive. Not being able to send someone ahead certainly slowed them down.
      Looks like we will have missed you by a day and 5 locks this time.

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