Friday, 26 October 2012

Leamington Spa

This week schools are on half term holiday. As a result Kate Boats are very busy sending out their hire boats. So when I phoned them to confirm our arrival at Warwick, Cheryl asked If we could possibly hold off till Monday, when it was anticipated all would be quieter to receive us. So we’re happily dawdling for a little longer before ending our voyage and settling down for the winter.

Currently the Sun is shining but for a few days earlier the cloud base was zero and we were enshrouded by a damp, drizzly mantle, which kept everything dripping wet and visibility to less than two hundred yards. It is cooler today but much brighter so it is no hardship for us to be contentedly moored for the time being on the visitor rings at Leamington Spa. We are at the bottom of the main Street and only fifteen minutes walk away from a large Sainsbury’s on the retail estate.

We filled our tanks at the last water point so what more could two contented boaters possibly want?



A muddy tow path at Leamington


It’s been a pleasure in fact to enjoy the delights of civilisation once more. We have visited the shopping malls and experienced all that the glossy expensive occupiers have to offer and we’ve walked around the town marvelling at the architecture of the grand town houses that were, with their big ornate porticos and steps down to the kitchens and servants quarters. Most of them are now occupied by firms of accountants or expensive estate agents….

And the prices of houses here….. Wow!

We’ve had lunch at the Pump rooms and though one can no longer ‘take the waters’, the ornate marbled Victorian fountain remains, albeit with flowers in its bowl. The building also houses a large library, the local museum and  a very fine art gallery.

After our lunch Janis and I sauntered around the Jephson Gardens filled now with the golden colours of autumn and watched little children, with their mothers, excitedly feeding ducks on the ornate lake. Grey squirrels, well accustomed here to lots of visitors, crept up on us soundlessly, sitting up perkily on their hind legs close to our feet and looking at us with alert and expectant little eyes. All we had was chocolate, but the offer was quickly accepted straight from Janis’ hand.


005  Janis in Jephson Gardens

Janis in Jephson Gardens



An Autumn Scene


015-1  Hungry Squirrel

Hungry Squirrel



Foraging Squirrel

Last night we went to the local municipal theatre called The Royal Spa Centre. It is really a most splendid place and Janis and I enjoyed ‘The Sound of Music’, performed very enthusiastically by a local amateur team called The Spa Opera Group. We have both seen the show many times but last night’s was as good as any of them I thought. We returned to the little ships afterwards, happily singing all the well known tunes.



Leamington Old Town from the River Leam


Today we have one of our quiet days organised, when we both do our own thing. The towpath alongside is not the best, considering our proximity to the town so I shall go outside now to enjoy what remains of the Sun and wash off the starboard side of ‘Futurest’ which has been liberally splashed by bikes speeding through the muddy puddles.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Approaching Warwick at Radford Semele

The end of our voyage is close, as we moor near the small village of Radford Semele. It is just four miles to our destination at Kate Boats in Warwick. Our quota of locks, tunnels, swing and lift bridges for the year is accomplished and soon all of us will be able to wind down to rest for the winter.

Unlike last year’s tumult of major engine breakdown on the Chesterfield Canal, the resultant but nonetheless thrilling tow on the tidal River Trent and the necessary but very expensive replacement engine at Stretton Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal, by comparison this year we have enjoyed a quiet excitement.

The season has been different to those in the past in that ‘Futurest’ and I have been accompanied for the whole period by Janis and ‘Roots and Wings’.

And such a success this has been too.

While being able to maintain my role as a single hander, this year there has been somebody else always close by to share every experience. To a limited degree this has happened in the past of course as in this travelling life one is always able to make new acquaintanceships by sharing locks and even moorings for a time. Many firm friends I have made in this manner. But our period together has been for a limited period only and always we have needed to separate after a few days, or a month maybe at the most, in order to accomplish our own personal plans. This year Janis and I set out from the beginning with the same cruising plan in mind and with the intention of staying in close convoy together for the whole time.

The plan has worked well.

All the machinery on board ‘Futurest’ too has worked so well and using the new Russell Newbery has been a very definite pleasure. She has always answered my commands very faithfully and has never let me down while ‘Futurest’ herself (bless her) has been a tower of strength and reliability too. I have given her some very difficult tasks sometimes but she has always uncannily kept me out of trouble. She behaves very promptly and is wonderful.

It is sad that all this has to end soon.

But next year is another year that I am sure will be equally as memorable.

At Rugby Janis returned after her visit to Newark, and we set off eagerly to the south glad to be en route again. All the way the autumn weather remained perfect for our passage. Sunshine was with us all the time and we made good progress as far as Braunston Turn.


021  Braunston Turn

Our arrival at Braunston Turn


There was no need for us to moor at the village itself, which wasn’t on our direct route towards Napton Junction. Instead we decided to moor on the Oxford Canal somewhere just round the corner but within walking distance of the village shop, where we needed to buy bread and milk. However we soon realised that nothing was available along this route so in the end needed to reverse approximately a hundred yards back to the junction. Neither ship has a bow thruster but we didn’t need one anyway. We both accomplished the manoeuvre brilliantly and, with great satisfaction, were happy to tie up at the mooring outside the ‘Boathouse’ pub for the night.

Peter, a friend of Janis, having cycled from Long Eaton, joined us here during the day and later we all enjoyed a meal at the pub together. The following day, just prior to our departure, Peter left to cycle all the way back home.



‘Roots and Wings’ Passing on the way to turn round at Braunston


On Friday afternoon, having descended the Stockton Locks, we moored for the night at Long Itchington, a small rural Warwickshire village sitting near the River Itchen,  in an area of pretty, criss-crossed footpaths and disused railway lines. On Saturday Janis and I went on a long walk to explore what we could. The weather was wonderful and the day was a great success.


037  Appr entrance to the Warwick Grand Union

Napton Junction


013  Autumn poplars

Autumn Poplars reflecting the sunset at Long Itchington


017  Entering the lower chamber of Bascote Staircase Lock

Entering the lower chamber of Bascote Staircase Lock


Though we could have travelled from Long Itchington to Warwick in a day, we have decided that while the weather remains so favourable we’ll make the season last for a few more days and arrive at our destination sometime towards the end of this week.

Janis has to leave for her planned flight to New Zealand a week on Thursday.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


The two little ships and myself are on our own at the moment. I’m quietly boat-sitting while Janis has returned to Newark to see old friends and to take part in what I can only call a physical test of endurance; but more specifically a 12000 metre run with some obstacles thrown in as well.

I’ve just received a phone call from her to say that the event happened today in Nottingham, that she’s okay and happy, though somewhat disabled as a result. She is on her way back to Newark to stay the night, and lick her wounds no doubt, at the house of her friend Lorna.

All being well she should be back here on Monday. Me and the two ‘girls’ will be most pleased to see her. Both ‘Futurest’ and ‘Roots and Wings’ must be feeling very put out and frustrated to be so stationary for so long.



Statue to commemorate the founding of Rugby Football



Unusual Sculpture in Caldecott Park


I’ve been fine and quietly enjoying the rest, while the weather, though being quite chilly with temperatures just above the frost level during the night to remind us that winter is not that far away, has  been quite remarkable during the daytime with plenty of sunshine to keep us cheered.

 Having spent six days here now, I have managed to do quite a bit of sightseeing so I know the town and its surroundings fairly well. I have shopped briefly everyday at the nearby large 24 hour Tesco, have found a footpath that runs into town (as straight as a dye and directly as the crow flies, for a real cliché bonanza) and managed to explore the old Brownsover waterway that was the original course of North Oxford canal when it looped flamboyantly in the beginning and in true Brindley style around the north of the town.

The canal had many of these meanders at one time along its whole length but in order to compete with the railway, in the eighteen hundreds all the loops were taken out and the canal benefitted briefly by being straightened and thus shortened. However I was surprised to find that the Brownsover course was still there and in water mostly. The whole surface was covered in a light green weed but both the Mallards and the Moorhens were making the most of it and seemed to cherish the quiet and lack of Human infringement.



Weeded Canal……



…… and overgrown towpath



Bridge 56 on the Brownsover Loop


020  Green weed

Green weed


024  Rugby's Green Man

Rugby’s ‘Green Man’


Unfortunately I have found the town, in spite of being host to one of the top public schools, to be fairly uninspiring and apart from the usual run of pedestrianised streets and arcades for many of the nationally  known and used shops and pubs it seemed to have nothing more to offer me. There are numerous trading and industrial estates as well like many Midland towns but I found very little of historical interest including the buildings and churches.

I shall be glad to be on my way again.

Quite a strange thing happened this afternoon as I returned after doing my daily shopping. As I was climbing on board at the stern of ‘Futurest’, a short narrowboat came by. I couldn’t see any name but it was quite old with lots of roof clutter and it had a permanent port list. It looked a bit like an ancient ‘Springer’.

As it passed by the helmsman shouted across: “I enjoy reading your blog.”

I acknowledged and said thank you, as I usually do. It is comforting always, to know that people do actually read it as well as gain pleasure from it.

But then he followed it up with something I didn’t quite understand. He was by this time moving away from me and I’m not too certain as to whether I heard him correctly even over the rattling and noisy sound of his engine.

But what I thought he said was:

“And tell that crew member of yours to mind their own flippin’ business.”

I didn’t answer as I’ve no idea what he expected to hear. I certainly don’t know what he was on about, so all I could do was to try to look intelligent and smile at him with a big frown.



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Cold and an Army Assault Course

The Old Man’s been feeling a bit sorry for himself over the last few days as he’s suffering from a bad cold. Been sneezing and doing about something awful he has.

Come on you folk….  Altogether now…..

One, two, three….Aaaahhhhh! The poor old chap.  I don’t think he can take it bless him. It’s all been a bit too much for him.

I notice though he’s not doing it today as much, so perhaps he’s past the worst. Let’s hope so. I can’t stand him moping about all day the way he’s been doing.

He’s gone off ashore now……  to find some little tea shop I expect.

Janis hasn’t helped either. Maybe she’s fed up too as she’s left me with him and gone off to Newark for a couple of days to do an army assault course!

Well thank YOU very much.

Suppose it must be a desperate situation for her as well, ‘cos what else would make a lovely feminine female like her do an army assault course for goodness sake.

You can see the sort of people I have to look after though, can't you?

Weirdoes the lot I reckon!

Still ‘Roots and Wings’ seems a nice young lady. She’s tied up snugly just astern of me.

Doesn’t say a lot and has been very quiet all through the summer ever since she left Newark back at the beginning of May. But she seems quite happy to follow my example without question and that’s what I think is best for everyone.

She hasn’t ever travelled so far in all her young life so I expect she has to stay quiet to take it all in.

Still I wish she’d say a bit more as it makes me all nervous as to what she’s thinking.

Even though Janis has gone off to Newark, her and the Skipper do seem to be getting on very well together, as they have done all Summer.

I’m not sure, but there must be something going on there you know that they don't want us to know about. I’ve noticed when they go ashore they always walk close together ….

You know ….. close-like.

I’ve not actually seen them touching but they’re closer than normal people would be, when they went ashore. But I can’t forget that night in Cheshire when he kissed her.

Ahhh! You don’t kiss somebody for nothing without meaning it, do you? I’ll have to let you know what happens……. Ooooh isn’t it exciting!



Wednesday, 3 October 2012


On Monday afternoon we arrived at the end of the Coventry Canal from Hawkesbury Junction. The ‘Y’ shaped Basin that was originally designed to unload boats laden with coal for the growing industry of Coventry, fell into disuse over the years and has been tastefully restored for the use of leisure boats now. The mooring is conveniently close to the city with its numerous shops and monuments and is well worth visiting.



At rest in Coventry Basin


Though the Basin is a delight I found the run down from Hawkesbury Junction rather depressing with its miles of derelict weed infested sites and graffiti over everything that doesn’t move. The waterway too has been used as a rubbish bin over the years and the whole area has the air of being badly neglected. However the sight of ‘Cash’s 100 Houses’ towards the end of the canal helped to restore my spirit. Though only 48 were ever built, for families of ribbon weavers with their looms on the top floor, they are a splendid monument to the industry.  The earlier sighting of the large ‘Tesco Extra. Open 24 hrs.’ sign nearby, did its best relieve my dejection a little as well.


005  Cash's 100 (48) houses

Cash’s 100 Houses


004  Autumn colours

Autumn Colours


It was good to see that Nature had not deserted the canal though. Autumn colours were beginning to flourish and a happy family of Swans, mum, dad and six near fully grown cygnets, followed us for much of the journey to Coventry.

Yesterday Janis and I visited the city to see the sights, as well as shop at Sainsbury's on the way back to the ships. It had changed much since I was last here many years ago, when my parents brought me by car from Banbury. Then the population were in the process of rebuilding their city after that dark November night in 1940 when a greater part of it was destroyed by enemy bombs. What has been accomplished now with the two cathedrals exemplifies the positive attitude that has guided the rebuilding of the city and though most of the ancient monuments are no longer the originals, they have been very tastefully restored to their former glory.


017  Poignant open eye sockets

Poignant open holes that were windows


019  The old and the adjacent new

The old and the adjacent new



The restored Alms-houses


027  The Atrium of the Almshouses

The atrium of the Alms-houses


We spent a good day looking and contemplating quietly to ourselves what is obviously a tremendous recovery. A Phoenix from the ashes.