I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Sunday 23 July 2023

July 2023 - The Last Few Days

Below Wood Lock No. 19 (Grand Union Canal) – Tuesday 18th July

Today was a very quiet day.  We didn’t have that far to go and only 6 locks to negotiate. 

We did the 2 Cape Locks then moored up just outside Tesco in Leamington, just for a top up of fresh stuff. 

4 more locks and then that was us for the day! 

I’m not too sure about these short days.  I seem to spend the afternoons listening to my talking book and missing half of it as I have gone to sleep!  I never sleep in the afternoons, but maybe as I’m now 70, I am allowed to! 

Here is a potted history of Royal Leamington Spa and how it got its name.  Originally a small village called Leamington Priors it was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Lamintone.  it grew into a spa town in the 18th century following the popularisation of its water which was reputed to have medicinal qualities. In the 19th century, the town experienced one of the most rapid expansions in England.  Leamington became a popular spa resort attracting the wealthy and famous, with numerous Georgian townhouses built to accommodate visitors. In 1838 Queen Victoria granted the town a 'Royal' prefix, and 'Leamington Priors' was renamed 'Royal Leamington Spa'. Queen Victoria had visited the town as a Princess in 1830 and as Queen in 1858. The growth of Leamington was rapid; at the time of the first national census in 1801, Leamington had a population of just 315, by 1851 this had grown to 15,724, and by 1901, the population had reached 26,888.  As the popularity of spa resorts declined towards the end of the 19th century, the focus of Leamington's economy shifted towards becoming a popular place of residence for retired people and for members of the middle class, many of whom relocated from Coventry and Birmingham.  Earlier this year The Sunday Times named Leamington as the best place to live in the Midlands.

Today’s photos are some left over from Stratford-upon-Avon as we left on Friday.

6.69 miles
6 locks

Daventry Road Bridge No 19 (Grand Union Canal) – Wednesday 19th July

We set off with our destination being the Blue Lias. 

Just after Wood Lock we came across where HS 2 will be going.  It really is a big scar on the landscape, but I guess it will go back to green and pleasant fields one day, though there will be trains speeding through it.

The next lock was Welsh Road Lock and I love the history of the Welsh road which goes over the adjoining bridge.  The road is so called because it was the route of the old drovers’ that dates from way back before the Elizabethan era. There was a time when men spent all summer on the roads driving cattle from Wales to the Midlands and to the cities of Southern England for fattening and for butchering.  As more people left the countryside to work in towns, the demand for fresh meat increased and drovers from Wales brought herds as large as 300 to fulfil these demands. With six to twelve men per herd, and only the foreman on horseback, they herded animals with the help of corgi dogs. They covered about ten miles a day, taking up to three weeks to reach London. Then there was the long walk back home.  Drovers were paid a couple of shillings a day. In October 1836, David Johnathon’s drovers spent 18 shillings in the Southam taverns, Southam being one of nineteen overnight stops on their way. Some drovers never made it home again. In Southam churchyard there are the graves of several Welsh drovers, including Robert Lloyd of Dduallt who was buried there on August 31st 1773. He is recorded as having died through ‘drinking small beer when hot’ at the King’s Head (Craven Arms) when on his way to London.

Next were the three Bascote locks.  1 single and a staircase of 2 locks.

We picked up a single hander at Itchington Bottom lock (I often wonder where the top lock is).  The guy had only had his boat for 2 weeks and seemed more than happy to let Richard do all the work!  We pulled over at the Blue Lias as planned, moored up, went and had a drink and thought, the sun is shining and a boat has just come down the Stockton flight so why don’t we just go for it??  Back to the boat, cast off and up the locks.  They were all in our favour and we did the 8 locks in just under an hour.  We cruised on until we found a nice spot to moor up for the rest of the day.

The Blue Lias is a riot of colour. 

We will go to the marina tomorrow and then drive home on Friday instead of Saturday.

5.2 miles
15 locks

Dunchurch Pools Marina (Grand Union/Oxford Canals) – Thursday 20th July

We didn’t have far to go today. The three Calcutt Locks weren’t far away, and they were all in our favour. 

Calcutt Marina

I found this little fellow while I was waiting for Richard to open the gate at Calcutt Locks. 

Richard already had the gate open for the second lock. 

Down to the junction with the Oxford Canal and along one of our favourite stretches of canal though it is getting very overgrown now.  While we were cruising along, I made a chicken dish for dinner and the freezer.

Dunchurch didn’t have the flags and banners out for our return – huh!

We spent the afternoon sorting out and getting ready for leaving in the morning.  Poor Muffin was exhausted! 

Braunston is at the very heart of the English canal system – a key point between North and South. Braunston captures the imagination of waterway writers, artists and photographers, and, with its unique environment, is a living historical monument.  In 1768 the Oxford Canal was formed to link the Coventry Canal at Longford, via Banbury to Oxford, then to London via the Thames.  Ease of construction was crucial to avoid unnecessary locks, embankments and so on, so by 1774 it followed the contours via Rugby and Hillmorton, to Braunston. The canal came to where the entrance to Braunston Marina is now, turned sharp right and continued to Napton.  Soon a shorter, faster route to London was needed, resulting in the Grand Junction Canal Company Act of 1793. The canal joined the Oxford Canal at the present marina entrance, up the 6 locks, through the tunnel and south to Brentford via Tring and Hemel Hempstead. All the locks are double width, and the canal is straighter and wider than the contour Oxford Canal.  Between 1829 and 1833 the Oxford Canal was shortened to avoid some of the twisting route from Braunston to Napton. This resulted in a new junction at Braunston, the ‘Braunston Turn’ and the original Oxford Canal being terminated to form an arm at the wharf.

9.82 miles
3 locks

Hayling Island – Friday 21st July

It didn’t take long to pack up as we have it down to a fine art now.  We soon said goodbye to Mary H and set off on our journey home.  It was a relatively good journey home bearing in mind it was a Friday and the fact that a huge lorry stacked high with enormous straw bales had broken down on a roundabout and caused a long tail back.

To sum up our summer cruise.  We were aboard for 7 weeks in total, 2½ weeks back in May and 4½ weeks this time.  Richard had a bad back in April which meant that he and his son didn’t get to the boat and take it up to Stone, which curtailed where our original plan.  However, we joined the Staffs and Worcs going via Leicester (as you do!) and enjoyed the River Soar as always.  Having left Mary H at Otherton Boat Haven at the end of May we returned in mid-June.  We were dubious about joining the BCN Explorer Cruise, but decided to go for it and I’m glad we did.  The BCN canals were interesting, to say the least.  We were surprised at how rural about 95% of it was but the canals were very weedy with Richard spending a lot of the time down the weed hatch.  The people we were with were interesting as they all came from different parts of the country.  We were able to cruise with old friends Steve and Diane, which was lovely, and we made new friends in Steve and Tracey with their dogs Maggie and Ted.  We cruised the River Severn and the River Avon (my favourite river) and then returned to Dunchurch Pools.  We have been surprised at how quiet the waterways have been.  There was mooring available at practically all the mooring places on the River Avon, usually it can be a bit of a struggle to find somewhere.  Most schools break up today so maybe that will change.

Total miles    298
Total locks     293

I’m going to finish the blog with this lovely photo of Ted from Over the Moon.  His mother was a Westie and his father a Bichon Frise.  He really is the most adorable dog.

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