We enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks with Jim and Chris at the Wharf Inn on Monday evening, and reluctantly said farewell – for now. The weather was pretty bad on Tuesday 21st so we got going on Wednesday easily making it to the top of the Napton flight by the evening. Our friends from Moody Blues, Michael and Jane confirmed that they would assist us with the flight and, true to their word, they arrived promptly on Thursday morning and we were having a snack and drink in The Folly pub by lunch time!! It was so good to catch up with them again and we do hope that we will again some time in the future.
We moored again near bridge 111 Thursday night in readiness for our short cruise to the Calcutt Marina on Friday where we finally met up with Julia and Malcolm from NB Figment. We missed their surprise visit to Fenny Compton a few weeks ago. Following their advice we moored above the Calcutt locks and when we went for a walk after mooring for a look past the locks, we looked over and there was Malcolm unpacking their car! We yelled hello and told him of our location. Not long afterward they walked up to our boat and we got a chance to catch up briefly before walking down through their Marina to check out suitable moorings close by them. We made arrangements to relocate through the three locks the next morning (getting diesel along the way), to moor in the canal side moorings of the Marina enabling us to access power and water (for a small fee of course!). This was also much closer to Figment making our social engagements much easier!!!
Julia and Malcolm joined us for dinner Friday night and we caught up with all that we had been doing since we saw them in July. They helped us move through the locks on Saturday morning and we made plans for the day and to join them on Figment for dinner that night. We also decided to avail ourselves of the on site laundry to catch up on washing so Bob and Julia went off to master its idiosyncrasies while Bron borrowed their vacuum cleaner to get into bits of the boat that a broom just doesn’t reach. Our inverter is not big enough to enable us to use a vacuum without shoreline power. The washing developed into a somewhat convoluted affair with lost tokens, wash cycles interrupted and several items returned to Bron on the boat to dry, before the partly dried laundry was returned to be hung in the Chinese laundry that Celtic Maid had become!!! Fortunately (and finally) we went to Figment for a lovely dinner and relaxing conversation. Albeit a little late!!
On Sunday we were treated to a delicious full English breakfast cooked by Malcolm before Julia drove us on a quick pub crawl – first to The Bridge at Napton and then onto Stockton where we enjoyed the offerings of the Blue Lias Inn. We certainly would love to go back to the latter particularly to see the extensive Christmas decorations that they are currently in the process of creating. Apparently it is a sight to behold!!!!!
Alas, the time came again to farewell Julia and Malcolm but we will make sure we see them soon.
Our plans during this time changed several times. We were originally planning to cruise toward Birmingham and head slowly north for winter, avoiding the canal maintenance closures. Michael and Jane had given us some good advice on which way to go but further conversations with Julia and Malcolm had us changing from this plan. We are now only heading as far as Warwick and will travel to London for the next eye appointment from thereabouts on the very convenient Chilton Railway. Once we know when the following appointment is we will make definite plans but think we might head back to Braunston and up the North Oxford canal spending some time in the Ashby canal before Christmas. This means that we are in closer proximity to friends and family should we need a little help as the weather turns somewhat more unpredictable. But like all plans these may change at a moment’s notice!!!!
On Monday we reluctantly left our shoreline power mooring and proceeded about half a mile down the canal and moored again. Bron has managed to develop a seasonal cold that has been developing over the last week or so and really wasn’t up to tackling the Stockton flight of 10 locks until Tuesday.
Bron rugged up and drove while Bob braved the weather and demonstrated his lock-keeper skills. We found a pleasant mooring near Long Itchington for the night before tackling our first staircase lock on Wednesday morning. A staircase lock is interesting in that the lower gates are the upper gates of the next lock and the boat lowers without going through a connecting pound. It was an easy undertaking with a little assistance from another couple of boats who were travelling together and followed us through. One of them had been moored in the Caen Hill Marina on the Kennet and Avon Canal alongside Celtic Maid before we bought her!!
We discovered along this stretch of the canal and its locks that the water level in the pounds was quite low in places but that the Canal and River Trust were onto it sorting out a faulty pump. There needs to be a plentiful supply of water to the locks from the top all the way down or boats can get stuck in the mud between locks. Sometimes this leads to a bit of congestion as boats move very slowly through shallow water to avoid becoming grounded. We found ourselves in the middle of such a traffic jam just after a lock where the canal became narrow and we stopped to let oncoming boats pass as it was too shallow and too narrow for two boats. However before very long there was a log jam and only by careful maneuvering were we able to continue our progress, stopping briefly at Fosse Wharf (in the increasing rain) to refill the water and empty the Elsan cassette.
For our final few locks as we made our way toward Royal Leamington Spa, we were fortunate in sharing with another boat which made lockages much faster. We moored just before the Radford road bridge on the outskirts of the city ready to walk along the towpath and take a look at what lay before us on Thursday morning. This became a mammoth undertaking – we set off full of good intentions and energy at about 10.30 am and returned exhausted by 1.00 pm having covered almost 10kms!!!
We returned to Celtic Maid with a few essential supplies and a selected mooring site closer to the centre of Leamington Spa. After a quick lunch we cruised for about an hour and moored up between Bridge 40 and 41 alongside a few other boats in a quiet section of the canal but close to services if required. From here we will plan the next few days having now discovered where the train station is, and where to pick up much needed grocery items. The fridge is almost empty!!!!!
Since the end of daylight saving last Sunday, it is now getting dark at about 4.45pm making our days very short. So here we are at 5.00pm all closed up with heating and lighting on ready to face the night. But the sun will shine tomorrow!!!!!!