Stairway To Heaven

Yesterday we made a stop less than half way up the Hatton flight. We weren’t sure we would make it before dark and had reached a good place to moor. Our walk along the rest of the flight showed they were close together so probably could be done relatively quickly even without a large locking crew, but we didn’t regret our decision to stroll along and check out the plum tart in the cafe in stead of pressing on.

Yesterday’s view down the Stairway looking back towards Warwick

When the route was for working craft, it was named The Stairway To Heaven because the workers were paid when they reached the top. Led Zeppelin probably didn’t base their song on it – but it is facing to the West. We were planning to make use of the rubbish and recycling facilities when we reached the top.

This morning was not as bright as yesterday. The gate we had moored beside was bright and cheery though.

Top half of Stairway to Heaven, taken on yesterday’s walk when the sky was blue, not grey
Welcoming gate by the canal

We had hoped to double up with someone else on the way. Shane was hopeful of company when he saw another boat looking active but seemed to be just getting a dog out for a walk. I had a quick check and the locks were still set for us. We thought we could see someone coming down. This might mean harder work. Should we wait a while for another crew to help us through?

It seemed Shane’s spirit was crying for leaving though, as he’d already started to get the lock ready and pull Bartimaeus round into the jaws while I was in my slippers and not dressed for the very much more autumnal day. I was alerted by some bumping. When I popped my head up he said I could drive. I grabbed a waterproof and drove in. Shane was warming nicely and I popped back down to grab a pair of gloves. Although they were set for us, leaks mean they still needed some winding and were not ready to open. Shane was running ahead trying to prepare the next one and returning to open the gates to let me out. Shane threw me his fleece after a couple of locks.

Halfway up the Stairs -Sitting in the middle Lock

The person we had seen ahead was in fact a volunteer lock keeper. We hadn’t expected this as the fundraisers had said they stopped for the season at the end of October. After a few locks we saw he was getting the one ahead ready for us.

Lock keeper assisting as I drive in.

I had been driving in to these without difficulty, but with the lock keeper watching I banged in like a game of bagatelle. I wasn’t quite sure why and Shane and I were both busy informing him it was not my usual standard. The lock keeper gave me a five out of ten. Once in I used a tap of bow thruster to get closer to the side, and the lock keeper remarked that if I had that “girly button”, why had I not used it coming through the gate. I had actually been surprised to hit at all. I hadn’t approached differently from usual. On the next I didn’t do much better, and Shane concluded I must be weeded (or leafed more like). A blast of reverse to clear the propeller made a big difference to the power and steering and I was able to hold my head high for the remaining locks and the lock keeper remarked that I was doing alright now and explained to me why they call it the “girly button”. I hadn’t heard that term before but I was in no doubt about the reason….you only need one if you drive like a girl… He also said he wished his boat had one.

He commented that the wind was probably catching too. ‘ Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know, Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? ‘ he didn’t say. I agreed it certainly was windy at times (and that makes more of a difference when you aren’t going fast, and I wasn’t getting up to speed with leaves on the prop). As he talked, the water sloshed me hard against the wall so he said he was going to explain to Shane how to open the lock to reduce that happening. He no doubt knows the ins and outs of each lock on the flight. He was certainly a help to us getting through easily and reminded us of the facilities at the top. It wasn’t even lunch time yet.

We stopped to use the CRT refuse facility, had a quick coffee and swithered about the lunch options. The cafe came highly recommended by others and ourselves but we also wanted some povisions and there was a shop a little ahead above a tunnel and we wanted to charge up so we pressed on to the tunnel.

Shrewley Tunnel

It was not far to the village shop which was well stocked, with fresh vegetables and had a counter with home made pies, pasties and samosas, so I was able to get all I came for and more. Well almost, I had wanted stamps but while it had a post office counter, that had just closed.

I was hurrying back to the boat, pleased with my purchases, through the path between two hedges towards the wood, when I heard loud barking, getting nearer and louder. A black labrador ran up from behind and jumped around me barking continuously. It kept running after me, barking and circling as I carried on nervously. I thought it might stop chasing after me if I stood still and perhaps lose interest, but it stay jumping up and barking. I turned to see a woman running and calling to the dog, to no effect. I stayed still to let her catch up. It started to head towards her but as soon as I headed off, it resumed following and barking. I was less alarmed though as it wasn’t aggressive, just lively and noisy, and I felt help would soon be at hand. She was very apologetic when she caught us up and held him, attaching his lead. I don’t know if it had escaped or was behaving out of character, but didn’t get any explanation from the owner. I remembered my bag had fresh pasties in and it made me wonder…

We enjoyed our fresh unexpected lunch then went through the tunnel and the afternoon was more relaxing enjoying the autumn scenes and catching sight of a kingfisher several times. It stayed well ahead though so no chance to photograph. The sloes stay still at least, not as bright a blue but lots of it.

Sloe bushes at their best
Blue sloeberries

Shane spotted mooring rings. I hadn’t noticed them as was too busy looking at the goats on the other side of the canal but did notice us slowing and steering towards the bank so we pulled in and tied up.

Goats across the canal

I had a little walk but couldn’t get any closer to the goats. I heard a lot of birds in the trees and hedges and despite the road noise, Merlin heard them. We saw quite a lot of birds through the day today, not all identified, and of the ones heard in the app, not all seen. The redwing is a winter visitor so we may see it yet.

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