U-Turns

Before breakfast this morning I had to open a parcel.  The main item was a replacement for the hat I had foolishly lost in June. Clare had somehow manage to knit this one without me being aware of it.

Woolly hat with sheep circling it, and birthday with man fixing puncture on red bike.
Birthday Card and Replacement Sheep Hat

We’d got no further when I spotted a kingfisher flying to a nearby tree.  As we watched, it dived in to the water and came up with its breakfast in its beak.  It perched again to eat, and then flew up on to a wire above us. We watched it there for some while before it flew off behind us, allowing us to start our own breakfasts.

We came further north on the Grand Union Canal yesterday to get the batteries charged. We’d only gone a few boat lengths when we got an opportunity to wind.  A new marina is being constructed.  It looked uninviting in the same sort of way as a new road replacing a country lane, but it did provide us with a chance to turn.

New marina parallel to canal with duckboards both sides but otherwise bare.
Uninviting Marina

We’d not gone far when we saw another (or perhaps the same) kingfisher. This time it flew on a few times as we approached.  Just after we thought we’d lost it completely, Clare spotted it sitting on a branch alongside us.  I backed up to see if we could get a closer look. It never let us get as close again and eventually flew off behind us.  We soon reached Kingswood Junction and turned on to the Stratford Canal

Canal finger signpost pointing to Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford Canal
Which Way to the Stratford Canal?

In only a short distance another decision was needed.  We had already chosen to head north – the way we’d been facing this morning.  We reached another complicated triangular junction.  I knew from the map that two sides of the triangle have locks for northbound boats. The first one we saw was set our way with the gates slightly open.  That made the decision easier – that way!  Clare hopped off the front and opened the near-side gate.  I slightly misjudged my arrival, so Bartimaeus opened the other one.  That isn’t the way you’re meant to do it.

Paddle winding gear with sprockets at strange angle. In the background Shane is driving Bartimaeus in to the lock.
Wonky Winding Gear

We were both struck by the sudden change in scale and character of the locks.  The obvious change is that we are back on a single width canal.  But the locks are made of wood and brick, and have mechanisms that are unsophisticated.  The winding gear on many of them seems to be at the wrong angle, and sometimes it catches on the gate.  The previous locks we were using are young by comparison – built in the 1930s.

Single locks sometimes throw boats about, and I remembered that the “nose cosy” (front fender) wasn’t sitting right.  So once we’d reached the top of the first lock, I rearranged it using the boat hook.

Lifting the Nose Cosy

The next lock was set against us, but as we approached I saw that there was a water point before it.  So we filled up with water and Clare got the lock ready while we were filling.  We made swift work of the next locks.  They are only about three boat lengths apart, so it is possible to prepare the one ahead while the boat is rising in the lock.  Clare is not convinced this saves much time as she has to keep coming back to operate each lock.

There is respite after seven locks (just short of halfway – only nine more to go) so we moored up for lunch.  I’d spotted the Boot Inn nearby (plenty of other pubs are available) had a promising menu.  We both enjoyed our meals with celebratory beer.  After lunch, we wandered further up the canal in the bright warm autumn sunshine.  In November, I had no need of the hat I had lost while needing it on a day out in June.

Pond covered in green weed, with autumn colour leaves on trees above.
Autumn Colours in the Trees, Summer on the Water

We reached Lapworth Church and heard organ music from inside.  We went in to find an organist preparing, presumably for the special service tomorrow for Armistice Day.  The church has clearly been repaired and modified many times over the centuries.  One of the latest additions is a stained glass window depicting the village, including the railway and lock flight.

Lapworth Church Stained Glass Window – Canal Scene Bottom-Left

The warm weather made it something of a surprise that the sun was setting as we got back to the boat after our afternoon stroll.

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