We were travelling to Barton Turns Marina on the Trent and Mersey canal, via the North Oxford and the Coventry canals to attend the annual Cutweb gig. A week after that we were going to attend the IWA National at Burton on Trent before returning to our home mooring at Napton.
Our total journey consisted of 180 miles and 84 locks with 103 engine hours including time spent battery charging.
We arrived at our moorings on Sunday 15 August 2004 around 3 pm. just as David and Jane on “Willy No Name” where locking down, after a few words we were informed that Guy and Connie were on their way on “Thorn and Persephone” and they were all meeting down at The Folly for a meal. This would be after they had done a car shuffle back to Cropredy to bring all the cars to Napton.
At 5 pm we set off down the flight. The traffic up the flight was quite steady and we met boats in every pound. Due to the number of boats going down before us we decided to moor in the pound above the bottom lock and walk down to the pub expecting all the visitor moorings below the locks to be full. As I was packing the tiller away I heard a load splash and lots of shouting, the little lad on the boat in front of us who had been feeding the ducks had just joined them, head first. I sprinted round (no laughing) but by the time I arrived on the scene his dad had come out of the boat and fished him out. Apart from wet and frightened he was non-the worse for a free swimming lesson. Shortly after this “Thorn and Persephone” moored behind us for the night. Guy and Connie went off with Dave to get the cars, while we went to The Folly to reserve a table for 6 and have a drink. As usual the beer was fine and the food was better than last time I visited.
Next morning we woke to the sound of Guy starting his engine but I didn't hear him come passed. I stuck my head out of our engine room door to be informed that the alternator wasn't charging. They decided to moved T&P down below the lock, take the car to Barton Turns, on the way leave the alternator at Daventry for repair, leave one car at Stockton on the way back. Pick up the alternator from Daventry and then set off on the boats for Barton Turns. We got a phone call at 3 pm to tell us they were back on the boat and on their way. We found travelling on the North Oxford surprisingly good and were able to make good headway. We met quite a few boats but none were where we wanted them, like the Hillmorton flight where all the locks were against us. We moored for the night just before Newbold Tunnel in light rain.
We were about to leave our moorings on Tuesday morning when a boat pulled in behind us to fill up with water. It was the same people we had met at Evesham on the Avon at the end of June. Just as I dropped the mooring ropes to push off a boat passed us and stopped to let a boat come through the tunnel. This tunnel is at least 15 foot wide with a towpath each side. Once the boat coming the other way had cleared the tunnel we were ready to set off, but there were 3 more boats about to enter the other end, watching them they appeared to wait for us so the boat in front set off, as he got almost to the tunnel mouth he realised the other boats hadn't stopped so he put his breaks on and pulled into the side, due to moored boats I had no alternative but to overtake him and meet the other 3 boats in the tunnel with no problems at all. We carried with no problems to Sutton Stop with just one boat going down ahead of us, but behind us were a pair followed by a least 3 other boats who all had to wait their turn for the lock, I makes a change for us to time it right. We did a hard right hander into the Coventry Canal and continued on to the Anchor Inn at Hartshill where we moored for the night and waited for Guy, Connie, Dave and Jane to catch up before going into the pub for a meal.
As there were quite a few boats moored by the Anchor going in the same direction as us we decided on a late start on Wednesday to let the queue at the Atherstone flight subside, so we pushed off at 10 am. When we arrived at the locks we were number 8 in the queue, so much for planning. It was 12-40 pm. before we entered the flight with very mixed weather. There was a fair stream of boats coming up and I think we only had to turn 3 locks. As the afternoon progressed the sky darkened and the wind picked up, we worked out that at would probably be 6 o'clock before we reached Tamworth and quite a bit after that before we found somewhere pleasant to moor so we decided to stop just before Polesworth with a hill between the railway and us. Two flashes of lightning and a large rumble of thunder decided the exact spot and we just got tied up and inside before it started to rain.
Following Wednesday mornings problems I decided to set off just after 7 am. even so there were still 4 boats in front of us when we arrived at Glascote Locks. As we waited and the first boat a cruiser went into the lock. I went to see what was happening in Steve Hudson's yard. I then walked down to the lock to give the next boat "Sparrow hawk" a hand through as he was single-handed. As there was nothing coming up I closed up for him, but couldn't draw for the next boat, as I didn't take a windless with me. The next boat was a Canaltime and instead of coming to do the lock he started getting his water hose out and bunkering water. I walked up to the next Canaltime boat to tell him the boat in front was taking water but he wanted water as well, likewise so did the boat in front of us, so Diana went down to turn the lock and I pushed Harnser off and headed for the locks. As I passed the back Canaltime he called out that he was in front of me and I was a queue jumper and should stay back. I pointed out that he wanted water and I wanted the lock, he replied that he would take water while he waited for the lock, so I pointed out that the other Canaltime boat was taken water. He said that he was taking water while he waited for the lock and I replied that no one was using the lock and that Diana was turning it for me. After a few more words, I'm not sure how much English he spoke I told him that if he had finished taking water before I entered the lock I would let him go first. A bit of shouting that I didn’t understand took place between the two Canaltime boats. As Diana started drawing the paddle a man from the first Canaltime boat came to draw the other side. As soon as the lock was full he ripped out his hose, left it where it fell, untied his boat and headed for the lock, I held back and let him go. The second boat now came down to take water using the first boats hose. By the time he had tied up, found the key to open the water filler and got the hose untangled and in the filler, Diana had helped the other boat through and was turning the lock for the second time. As we left the lock the Canaltime boat was still taking water and the boat that had gone down in a rush ahead of us was tied up and waved us by as they were travelling together. We carried on for an uneventful trip to about 250 yards short of Fradley Junction, where we stopped and Diana went ahead to see if there were any moorings at the junction but returned to say it was solid, so we stayed where we were for the afternoon. We walked to the junction and it looked as if there were 4 to 6 boats waiting at any time to go down the flight and anyone coming out of the junction had to work out where the end of the queue was and slot in at the right time. About 7 pm. and decided to go out of the junction and down the first lock while things were quiet. We moored just below the first lock and walked back to the Swann for a meal.
We departed Fradley quite late after filling with water and only travelled as far as Alrewas where we stopped to do some shopping and have lunch in The Old Boat. This is much more a restaurant than a pub with prices to match, having said that the food was very good, all the specials of the day were fish and the meat locally produced. After lunch we locked down onto the river section and it started to rain and rain and rain. We arrived at Barton Turns where the Cutweb gig was being held over the weekend and were directed to our mooring spot, which as we have a dog was bank side. Most conveniently the boat that was booked to moor beside us turned into the marina about 5 minuets behind us, so we were able to moor together. We had a very enjoyable week end of activities meeting up with old friends and making new ones.
Following a fine and mainly sunny weekend for the GIG at Barton Turns it rained most of Sunday night. We left our moorings just after 9 am. on Monday morning after our neighbours on the outside of us departing. No sooner had we pulled the pins than the rain started. We followed our new friends out of the marina both turning left. Just as we approached the marina entrance a Canaltime boat slipped between us so we were third in the queue for the lock. There was so much water coming down the cut that the bywash had flooded onto the towpath under the bridge. We found the Canaltime boat pulled over to the side a little further down the pound so now we only had one boat directly in front. As we approached the next lock BW were helping to pull the boat in front backwards out of the lock. They had managed to get a tarpaulin round their prop and had to pull out of the lock to clear it making us now the lead boat and it carried on like this for the rest of the day. We caught up with Terry on his boat about 4 miles before the double lock who was waiting for us so we could work down together. He had left the marina some time before us, as he likes making an early start. A little further on there was a car in the cut with BW in attendance. It was hard to say how it got there as it was on a bend of a track but all the doors were closed, so maybe the hand break failed. We moored in Shardlow in a thunderstorm and were planning to heading down the Erewash, but abandoned that idea due to the risk of the Trent closing before we could return and risk missing the IWA National. Later we decided to eat out and wandered down to the New Inn to see if they did food on a Monday night, but due to the storms they had no electricity in the kitchen, we then went over to the Malt Shovel, but they only do food at lunchtime. From there we walked back passed the boat to The Navigation where we had nice home cooked pies with real pastry.
We planed a late start today after taking a wander round the village, as we passed the Clock warehouse I noticed that Day Star Theatre were performing there that night, so we decided to stay put all day and just took a walk down to the Trent and Derwent to see how high the water actually was. It didn't look to bad but there were very few boats coming up.
On Wednesday morning the Trent was closed and consequently Canaltime boats could not get back to Sawley marina. This resulted in the turn round crew coming out to Shardlow to clean and service the boats outside the Clock Warehouse. When we left there were about 12 boats in the basin and above the lock. We pulled our pins at 10 am. and winded in the rain seting off up all the double locks as far as Stenson and it was still raining. At Stetson we pumped out the toilet tank for £12 and that was the DIY price with no chemicals. While we were there we saw a Wilson Covers man working on a boat and I got him to do a slight modification to our steerer’s shelter. By now it had stopped raining and as continued to Willington in sun shine. We moored for the night at Willington just above the bridge. As we came through he village we spotted several cutweber's moored which included Vital Spark, Gamebird, Arun, Albion, Zavala, Harnser and Owlet. We ate at the Green Dragon where they were doing a pie and a pint for £6, which is the best value we saw all trip.
Thursday we only had a very short run to our moorings at the IWA National at Burton, we had a bank side mooring and the boat on the outside of us didn’t arrive until Sunday, due to being stuck the wrong side of the Trent, it’s a good job we didn’t go down the Erewash or we wouldn’t have made it either.
After the IWA National Feastival we had to leave on Tuesday in time to make our 8-30 am. booking to lock up Dallow Lane lock. BW had a lock keeper on duty and we had to wait while a boat came down so it was about 8-40 before we cleared the lock and made our way at tickover passed the moored boats for the next 2 miles to Braunston lock, we should have been there at 9-30 but it was well after that when we arrived. The next lock saw 4 boats waiting and the queue grew longer at each lock. We called in a Barton Turns Marina to fill up with diesel at 25p lt. and still rejoined the queue only 4 boats behind where we had left it. By the lock that took us onto the river section we were about 8 back and I went to help the volunteers who were operating the lock. At the top of the river section there were 4 volunteers working the lock and no queue, it’s just as well because there is not much room to moor before the weir goes off. Once we were back on the canals it was back to the queues, only one boat at the first lock but loads by the Fradley flight, so at 5 o'clock we put the pins in and called it a night about 300 yards before the lock and almost opposite another boat called Harnser with a nice picture of a heron on it. I put 4 pins in which was just as well as boats were streaming passed all evening, some slower than others. The weather has been fine and sunny all day, it was a bit windy at lunch time while we were manoeuvring around the marina to get diesel but by the evening we had bright clear blue skies, very light winds and a couple of balloons drifting by.
We heard the first boat go by about 6 an Wednesday morning followed by several others and then it went quiet for a bit. About 8 am. there was a different sound, it turned out to be the steam boat President with her butty, Kildare which we could well have done without, holding things up. We joined the queue for the first lock, which took a little over an hour to negotiate. BW was working on the second lock as the pawl had snapped on the top paddle winding mechanism. With old paint and even older rusted in bolts the chap couldn't find a spanner to fit, so I loaned him one of the adjustable clam type wrenches I carry, but he still couldn't shift it. After I cleared the lock I stopped and got the blowlamp out, a bit of heat soon had the old paint and locknut off and a bit more heat and the help of a pair of stilsons saw the bolt out, as I had already lost one place in the queue for the next lock I left him to it. As we exited the top lock a boat who wanted to go down reversed out of the Coventry arm in front of me and winded, I think he may have been afraid that someone might had turned the lock if he had let me out before starting his manoeuvre. About a mile before Fazeley we caught up with 2 other boats that were following President at about 2 mph. One boat stopped at Fazeley and the other turned off which left us directly behind President and Kildare until they stopped for lunch above Glascote locks. We pushed on quite well from here until we moored for a BBQ just above the second lock of the Atherstone flight around 1900 hrs. in warm and sunshine.
Thursday morning I knew that President and Kildare were only 30 minuets below the lock so I went out at 7 am to get started, just as “Tarn” was passing us and they told us there was a boat coming up the lock behind. By the time I had started the engine, fitted the tiller and loosed the ropes the other boat had left the lock, so I did the gentlemanly thing and let them pass, following them to the next lock. We worked up helping each other quite well and didn't meet any boats until three locks from the top. We then followed Dorothy and Eric on “Tarn” all the way to Newbold where we moored for the night at about 5-30 pm. Later we joined Dorothy, Eric and Sean for a meal in the Barlymow.
As we only had to get back to the moorings at Napton today we had a very leisurely start and a pleasant and almost uneventfully run, arriving back about 5-30. Shortly before we came to Braunston there were 4 people on the off side with a Hawk/Falcon and they were trying to catch another Hawk/Falcon that was flying free with bells on its legs. It came to his hand once but then preferred to have a bash at a duck swimming in the canal. Fortunately for the duck, he managed to dive just as the bird swooped on it, which resulted in the Hawk landing in the cut about 6 feet in front of us, Diana went rapidly into reverse and the bird flapped to the side and managed with beak and claw to hang on the piling just clear of the water, after a few more minuets rest it was able to get on the towpath at which point we passed it and lost sight of it.