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Down to Warwick

Day 1

18 August 2010 17:31

Wednesday afternoon and we are off again! Sue had spent most of the day setting everything up so all I had to do was to go home and get changed. Having done that we decided to walk to the marina to begin our holiday. It was quite breezy when we left the marina, pausing for a few minutes to fill the diesel tank and then we were on our way. A wave for Jim as we passed the Limekilns and on towards Marston junction and the Coventry canal. Our original intention had been to head north on the Coventry canal and follow the route of the Warwickshire ring. The weather forecast had looked changeable so we decided not to commit to something that we might regret if the rain came like it did two years ago when we travelled the four counties ring. Without making a final decision, we headed south knowing that we still had many options for our final destination. Three hours after leaving Hinckley we were lucky to find a space on the approach to Hawkesbury junction. We tied up for the night and after a walk to the Greyhound for a quick drink, we returned to the boat and had our evening meal.

Day 2

19 August 2010 17:49

We awoke around seven and decided to make an early start. The ditherings of the weather forecasters and the fact that there are not too many places of interest on the northern section of the Oxford canal meant that we wanted to get as close as we could to Braunston. We ascended the Hawkesbury flight in record time and by ten to eight we were cruising between the pylons of Longford. We enjoyed some early morning sunshine as we made our way down through Ansty and its golf course. As we made our way towards Rugby we observed an increase in the number of boats on the move but despite that and the fact that BW were repairing a lock at Hillmorton, we made good time and found ourselves approaching Braunston just before four o’clock. Our good fortune in finding moorings continued with a space opposite the Boathouse pub. We were also fortunate with our timing because the rain came just before five so our decision to make the early start had been a good one. We ate our dinner and listened to music before turning in for the night. We decided to wait until the morning before deciding what to do next.

Day 3

20 August 2010 18:22

The overnight rain had cleared when we looked out at half past seven so once again we decided to make an early start. We turned the boat around at the entrance to Braunston marina before doing a toilet and water stop. By the time we reached the junction we realised just how windy it was. We had already met an out of control hire boat caught in the breeze and as we travelled the exposed section between the turn and Napton, the wind seemed to get stronger. We made the turn on to the Grand Union with no trouble just after ten o’clock and soon we were approaching the first of the Calcutt locks. We descended this lock alone before joining a hire boat in the next. With children running across lock gates and strange boating habits being displayed by the grown-ups we decided to pull over after the third lock and let the holiday makers get well out of the way. Half an hour later and we started off again, reaching Stockton top lock a few minutes later although the boatyard above the lock made life difficult for everyone by mooring boats three abreast opposite a line of other boats. Bad enough at anytime but on a windy day, definitely not a smart move. Our trip down the flight was an interesting one but for all the wrong reasons. We met a couple of boats coming up whose crews had decided to try and set the whole flight in their favour by opening all of the bottom gates, fine if no-one is descending but of course that is never going to happen on such a big flight, especially in August! We were joined by a couple on a private boat in the third lock but instead of making the descent easier, their disorganised approach and desire to try and speed up the proceedings made for some hard work, particularly for Sue . The motto “Less haste, more speed” should be adopted by all boaters. We could take no more and let them leave us at the Blue Lias pub where we tied up and had lunch in the bar. Suitably refuelled, we dropped through the remaining two locks into Long Itchington where we moored close to the Two Boats Inn. We took a walk into the village and visited the local Co-op before returning to the boat where after a refreshing shower, we sat and relaxed for a while. Much like the previous day, we sat inside and watched some heavy rain, again our timing had been impeccable. So far we had been lucky in finding moorings and we had been tied up when the heavy rain came. Tomorrow would be another day but we would wait until then before making our travel plans.

Day 4

21 August 2010 16:22

Saturday morning dawned dull and drizzly but we decided to set off and make our way to Leamington. Half an hour later and we were tying up again to escape the torrential rain. We had some breakfast and then started again, the rain had eased off and we were soon at the first lock, a staircase. We travelled through it with a couple who were turning around before the next lock. As we continued the descent into Leamington on our own, we saw the occasional boat and the odd jogger on the towpath. In the main, our only companion was the rain but even it only travelled with us intermittently. Royal Leamington Spa is a grand Victorian town but by canal we sort of crept quietly in around the back where the bins are. We rejected Nicholson’s advice and chose not to moor near bridge 40, the moorings are good but when we saw a boat vandalised with spray paint, we decided to move on. Soon enough we were able to tie up next to a Lidl store between bridges 43 and 44. Rings and a good towpath seemed inviting enough and with the surrounding neighbourhood looking pretty good too, we settled for the rest of the day and night. We are now only a short hop from the Saltisford arm where we will hopefully be able to spend a couple of days, from where we can use the train services to explore Warwick, Leamington and Stratford.

Day 5

22 August 2010 16:52

We made the relatively short trip to the Saltisford Arm this morning after a quiet night on the good moorings outside Lidl. Topping up the water below the Cape locks and idling a while to have breakfast, we soon reached the point where a wrong turn would mean a trip up the Hatton flight and certain death at Sue’s hands. Discretion being the better part of valour and valour being the better part of cowardice, I turned left and entered the Saltisford arm. We reported to the manager and he directed us to a mooring between the office and the winding hole. After we sorted ourselves out we took a walk into Warwick town centre which is only 15 minutes away from the arm. There was a collection of cars from the sixties and seventies in the Market square and we took a wander around them before heading back to the boat. After dinner, we took a walk back to the cape locks to check out the lockside pub, The Cape of Good Hope which is recommended in Nicholson’s guide. It didn’t live up to expectations, not for us or for the family on holiday who discovered that there was no food available. Still, they had tied up on a water point so we had no sympathy for them. We called in at another pub, The Dun Cow, on the way back to our temporary residence. We chatted with the landlord and one of his locals as we had our drinks before walking across the road and back to the boat before turning in for the night.

Day 6

23 August 2010 16:13

We decided to go to Leamington or rather Royal Leamington Spa to give it it’s full title. We were given directions to Warwick Parkway rail station which is only a short walk from Hatton bottom lock and that was the nearest that we got to the flight. The train ride to Leamington only lasts ten minutes so we were soon wandering into another town centre. After an hour, the heavens opened and like most others around us we took shelter in the nearest shopping centre until the rain died down. We returned to the railway station and caught the next train back, not exactly the day out that we had hoped for but since our rail tickets had cost less than a fiver between us, we weren’t really disappointed. The weather had improved enough to allow us to have a pleasant walk from the station back to the boat. The next hour or so brought torrential rain and brilliant sunshine in equal quantities. It was as if Mother nature was showing off her full repertoire of weather acts in quick succession. Eventually she settled for sunshine so we nipped down to the local Sainsbury’s for one or two essentials before calling in to the Dun Cow again for a quick drink after which we returned to the boat and ate dinner.

Day 7

24 August 2010 16:36

We had planned to visit Stratford today but with a lot of rain forecast for Wednesday, we decided to get our return journey underway. We paid our mooring fees and then made our departure, nosing out on to the Grand Union and turning towards Leamington. There was a short queue at the Cape locks where we also took on water (after we moved the ubiquitous hire boat off the water point) but by the time we cleared the second lock, the traffic had cleared itself and we enjoyed an easy trip to Radford bottom lock behind the Saltisford day boat “Saltie II”. We planned to make the long ascent up to Napton junction in three stages with tonight’s stopover being somewhere in the Long Itchington area. The locks are well spaced out on this section of the Grand Union and we made the ascent on our own, occasionally seeing the odd boat on the way down. The last lock is a staircase lock and thanks to two lazy lone boaters on the way down we made heavy going of it. Not only did they drive out leaving both gates open, we came to realise that they had left one of the middle paddles up effectively draining the top chamber fully. Once we had worked out the problem, we were on our way again. Not daring to risk pushing our luck too much for moorings, we tied up near bridge 27. It was at this time that I discovered that we had developed a coolant leak from the water pump. The pump pulley was loose and so was the alternator, presumably as a result of vibration so I tightened everything up and decided to assess the situation in the morning. We settled ourselves down for the daily dose of rain and waited for the next day to dawn.

Day 8

25 August 2010 16:41

We decided to make an early start and after topping up the coolant we set off at 7.30. By the time we reached the first lock twenty minutes later it was clear that we really did have a problem. We decided to press on and keep the coolant level topped up as we went. We really could have done with an extra crew member or two but we had to make do. We were lucky enough to find most of the ten locks to the top of the Stockton flight in our favour, even being fortunate enough to cross over with descending boats on three occasions. We cleared the last one at ten o’clock, ten locks in two hours is no mean feat but with hard work and some good fortune we had made it. The coolant leak was still a problem but a manageable one so after a quick breakfast stop we ploughed on and did the Calcutt locks as well before turning left at Napton junction. We were still mindful of the predicted heavy rain but we now had to get back to Hinckley as soon as possible. We were trying to work out whether to stop at Braunston and wait for the storm to pass or turn left at the Junction and cover some more miles on the way home. With 200 yards to go, we decided to head home. 100 yards later and the boat decided to have its say, the temperature gauge shot up and I cut the engine sliding to a stop just before the famous bridges. Sue walked to the junction and saw that there was some mooring space to the right after the turn so I pushed the stricken boat to the other bank and hauled her round by the middle rope. By the time Phoenix III had rounded the bend, Sue had enlisted the help of a fellow boater who untied his boat and moved along the bank to make it easy for us to moor. The time was just after half past one when we called RCR for help. It is virtually impossible to get spare parts for the obscure Chinese built engine that powers Phoenix III so after a few more phone calls, an RCR engineer arrived and removed the faulty pump. The pump will be sent to a company in Cheshire who specialise in water pump repairs so hopefully we might be underway in a couple of days. As for the weather? Well the rain started within half an hour of the breakdown and is forecast to last for 36 hours!!! The torrential rain was still lashing the roof when we went to bed but we were warm and dry, thanks to being able to light the fire earlier in the evening. Yes, we lit the fire but looking along the row of moored boats, we were not the only ones. So after a hard winter and the fourth washout summer in a row, the “experts” still want us to believe in “Global warming”. Of course they now call it climate change to get round the fact that the world is cooling down again.

Day 9

26 August 2010 17:22

The rain continued through the night but we managed to sleep on in fits and starts until 8.30. The position that we had found ourselves in was not ideal but once we had taken stock of the situation we realised that we weren’t too badly off. We have a reasonable amount of water that we need to conserve. We are able to empty our toilet and get rid of our rubbish. We have plenty of diesel for the heating, plenty of fuel for the fire and gas for the cooker. We have a generator and enough petrol to keep the batteries charged for a few days. We are within walking distance of Braunston village with its pubs and shops. We are only 30 miles from home and there is public transport. We decided to wait until we had the assessment on the water pump before we decided on our next plan of action. In the meantime we took a walk up to the village and did some shopping before returning to the boat for the day. We rang RCR to enquire about the pump but it is going to be Friday before we know what is happening. We spoke to British Waterways about our mooring which has a 48 hour limit and they are happy for us to stay here. When we started our trip we had hoped to be in Braunston for the coming weekend because the village is having its annual festival. It looks like our wish is to be granted although not the circumstances that we imagined. And we also know that our old friend “The Cheeseboat” is on its way so we will probably indulge ourselves with some truckles of their finest Snowdonia cheeses.

Day 10

27 August 2010 16:47

It’s the Friday before the bank holiday and we are still unsure what is happening with the water pump. The weather has cheered up so we decided to take the bus into Rugby. After wandering around the town for a couple of hours we caught the bus back to Braunston and had lunch at the Boat House pub. We had a call from RCR to tell us that the pump had only just arrived at the refurbishing company and that it was badly damaged; tell us something we didn’t know two days ago!!! We returned to the boat to collect our thoughts and work out what to do next. Realising that with the bank holiday approaching we were unlikely to be sorted for another week or so, we decided to take matters out of the hands of others and into our own. A quick walk to the marina office, an explanation of our predicament, a very quick phone call and another walk to the workshop of Tony Redshaw ( and we had a solution. We would leave the boat with Tony and his son and partner, Paul. They would modify the engine to take a new Jabsco water pump and we would go home. Our immediate future secured, we grabbed a few bits and pieces and headed back to the bus stop. The trip home was an adventure in itself, the trip to Rugby was fine apart from the last mile which took an age to complete due to the Friday tea-time traffic. We had to run for the train to Coventry and only just made it by getting in the guard’s door. At Coventry we had a few minutes to grab a drink in the cafe before getting on another train to Nuneaton where we planned to get the 48 bus home. Arriving at Nuneaton bus station and realising that we had 45 minutes to wait, we decided to complete our journey by taxi.

Journey Home

24 September 2010 17:17

Four weeks after we abandoned Phoenix III it was time to collect her and bring her home. Of course it wasn’t just as simple as picking up the keys, we had to re-fill the water tank and turn around before we could start our journey back. We had only travelled a short distance before we realised that the domestic batteries were flat and that the split charging relay had been damaged when the water pump exploded. We tied up below the locks at Hillmorton and ran the generator until 8pm. Not only did this give us a few hours of television, we were able to charge the flat batteries at the same time. Saturday and with a bit of luck we would make it back to Hinckley. We were prepared that we might have to break our journey with another overnight stop but we had a clear run and made it back in one hit. Perhaps it was an uneventful journey or maybe we saw the trip as a chore rather then a pleasurable experience, either way we tramped on up the North Oxford canal before turning on to the Coventry canal for an hour, stopping briefly at The Greyhound where we took our own glasses into the pub and asked them to fill us up with a couple of pints and a glass of white wine. With our pitstop completed faster than Team McClaren could change four tyres and pump 100 litres of fuel, we were on our way again. An hour later and we were back on the Ashby, only two hours from home. On our arrival back into the marina, we tied up and left everything on board until the following day.27/09/2010