Tuesday 18th August 2015 Narrowboat Black Bart joins the Grand Union Canal as we depart the Digbeth Branch Canal, after not having our tea. Warwick Bar you know. Not sure either. Might find out, so we can bore you aboat it later. We is now travelling along the biggy of our canal network.
This ‘northern’ stretch is new to us. Black Bart has a 32″ draft/draught when static. As you cruise along she pulls down into the water by another 2″ to 3″. You can see the water level also drops by aboat 2″ local to our tittle narrowboat as we travel along. The Grand Union Canal is apparently 3′ (36″) deep. Today (and probably on most other recent (+) days) the level of our waterway companion is visibly down, by the water marks along the banks. All the above explains why most of today’s cruising has required a fair bit of reversing (& when that fails) pulling over, mooring, turning old Lister off (or fingers & thumbs & then some, will be dropping off into the canal) & delving into the weed hatch to remove unwanted debris/rubbish. There is significant amounts of floating rubbish as Bart swims through the water. Plentiful quantities of soft & hard obstructions you cannot see, are also found (by the propellor) below the water line. ‘Interrupted progress’ is the title for today’s cruise. After we lock our way through a number of narrow chambers (for now), much of the next ten miles of ‘flat’ pass through very steep banked, tree covered cuttings. Not passed through such a long section like this before. Quite impressive. Those Canal engineers were damn clever chaps. We finally moor near bridge 74, a tittle way short of Knowle, having travelled through Solihull, from Birmingham, cruising for over ten (yes ten) hours. Longest day for a while. In more ways than one.
Wednesday 19th August Warm sunny start to the day, moving on through the tree lined deep cutting that transports Bart towards the first wide locks to be seen for a while in Bart World 2015. Five Knowle Locks await our arrival, which is delayed by the exciting site of cut wood, just waiting for a transfer to Bart’s roof. Loads, if you had a butty to store it all, so Bart just chooses a few ideally sized lengths. They must have known we were coming along. A free day is now required for chopping. Might even try & power up the chainsaw. Later. Off we go again, down those locks. Slightly unusual ground paddles. To us at least. Not seen this design before. Probably because we ain’t been ‘ere before mate !!
We negotiate the first two wide locks on our own-some. The cross winds in this open area of contours are making the boating life quite interesting. The only wise approach is to prepare the next lock before you then cruise the wide pound that open out in front of you, at speed (narrowboat talk for brisk walking pace) trying to avoid being completely dis-positioned by ‘playful’ Mr. windy-pops. Usual tack-tick of chugging slowly from one lock to the next is inadvisable in these conditions. The chap sensibly pulling his (recent acquisition) little cruiser round the pound (perimeter) by the bow rope shares the last three locks with Bart. Sensibly, letting us in first, each time, and we, letting him back out first. We don’t want 24 tonne of metal Narrowboat hitting/squishing plastic cruiser do we. No, we do Not !!
As we ‘make hay’ while the sun does not shine (it’s raining) we collect sum goat’s milk (yummy yummy in my tummy) & then continue on past Kingwood Junction (where a short arm/link provides passage to/from/between the Grand Union & the Stratford-on-Avon Canals). At this point the generally south bound GU changes tack, almost sauntering along in an easterly direction, flowing Bart to/&/thru the 443yd Shrewley Tunnel before hawling the old girl to a stop before Br55 nr Hatton.
Thursday 20th August 9.00am. Hatton Flight here we come. Just 21 heavy, hard to operate, wide Locks ‘dropping’ us over 146′ in a tittle over two miles, with an extra too just a tittle bit later just to finish you off, if you weren’t already. After a brief queue-y wait we commence our ‘mammoth’ descent, sharing with lovely couple on (& with) their narrowboat ‘Two Jays’. Hard, sweaty work. Good teamwork results in Hatton Flight successfully ‘seen to’ in three hours. Not bad, me thinks.
We are now entering a place not heard of before, called Warwick. After taking a few deep breaths, we turn left at the soonly, next junction (only short arm straight on), mooring beautifully in front of the (Surprise. Surprise) (No, Cilla Black is not here. She is in her home ‘town’ Liverpool today) Public House that is Called ‘Cape of Good Hope’. Kiwi run. Great pub. Great ale. Great food. Our Lock chums on Two Jays join us.
We enjoy some delightful Hooky Ale & then progress into partaking of a tittle food. We are on holiday you know. No we are Not, actually. We are on WONWOL. If you do not know what that might mean, we suggest you look it up in the Bart World dictionary.
Decision is made to move a smite further. We too narrowboats descend the final two locks of the day (hopefully). That smite becomes quite a way further, to the far outer reaches of (Royal) Leamington Spa as previous attempts to moor in three different locations had to be aborted. CRT – you need to get over here and carry out some dredging operations pronto.
Friday 21st August Go away. We’re tired. Actually – We’re K-NACKERED !!!!!!!!!!
It’s OK we manage to get up. Bodies still seem to be functioning, just aboat. Bart & Two Jays ascend eight locks in a mammoth (compared to yesterday) four miles before we negotiate our first ever wide staircase lock (of two). Continuing on past Long Itchington we see NB Sokai & her crew again, waving them goodbye before we two (Jays) leap up through another ten locks in a mile. We have been successfully fine tuning our cruising from lock to lock in tandem. That’s boat talk for side-by-side.
Soonish after our measly number of water chambers (not wot you’re probably thinking) today, we are mooring for an evening of relaxation & recovery.
Saturday 22nd August Still asleep…………… Oh! OK, we’ll get up. Coffee & cake at 10.00am with our lock chums of over 40 locks now. Our two narrowboats are to share the last three (Calcut) locks of their recent lock companionship, as Black Bart is soon to be turning right/South along the Oxford. Two Jays & her crew of too are turning left to make their way through Braunston on their way to the River Nene. Before we slip all our lines there is a problem. Roxy (poochy) has been stung on her rear right foot. Wasp nest in the towpath, near the bank, close to our companions boat. not sure where exactly, but she understandably distressed. Medication is administered & sting cream is applied over foot. Much reassuring & cuddles ensues. We decide to move off to get away from the little buggers. We drift along, covering the last mile or so of flat water.
The Big Wide locks confront us. Ha!! We are not scared. We know how to deal with these fellow now, even with their unusual pillars of windlass’s shafts. Chambers & mechanisms successfully tamed, we wave a cheery goodbye as Two Jays sails off into the sunset. Bart Pulls over for some water refreshment. Be off with you. We wish you many more happy cruising times, as to all those we meet on our travels. Roxy appears to be recovering well from nasty wasp attack. Just aboat getting past the yard arm now and Black Bart & her crew of three are on their way again, wafting along to Napton Junction where we say cheerio to the newly experienced northern waters of The Grand Union Canal. We also leave the Warwick & Napton Canal at the same time, as these last miles of our recent waterway companion were originally known. The Grand Junction Canal, which then became known as The Grand Union Canal is an amalgamation of several different historical canals/canal companies. These will be covered in more detail when on future occasion, Black Bart cruises this famous historical waterway again. Goodbye for now, loyal follower & reader of Black Bart’s Blog.
Black Bart has cruised from Birmingham to Napton, swimming 38 miles of the interestingly varied Grand Union Canal ascending 5 narrow locks, descending/ascending 49 wide locks and ascending one staircase of 2 wide locks. Black Bart will one day revisit this canal & cruise it’s 137 miles in their entirety.