I keep a annual diary of our days. Every January I take last year's diary and I transcribe important events from it to the bottom of the same day in my new diary. So I know when we moved and where, and any dates of personal significance to our lives that took place the previous year, such as when we bought our new galley range from Joe and Lesley on NB Yarwood on July 17th, 2014, when we purchased our Easi-Yo Yogurt Maker a year ago in Leighton Buzzard, or when we called RCR out for an emergency repair to our broken drive plate.
I see in my diary that it was a year ago last week that Les and I were moored up at Stoke Hammond. It was a beautiful, hot sunny afternoon. We were on our way back down to Cow Roast to prepare for Les' Stoma reversal surgery which was scheduled for October 2014 and we were both in high spirits.
Les looked wonderful and felt great. He kicked off his shoes and cracked open an ice cold beer; it was hot and so was he and a beer was just the thing! He sat at the dinette, as I sauntered back in from picking a pound of blackberries to freeze for later. Life was good! We had been through hell, high water, cancer, neutropenic sepsis, and months of recovery. With the stoma reversal scheduled and all but done, we were looking forward to normal life.
As I stepped into the boat, Les' phone rang. It was a clerk from the Surgeon's office saying that Les needed to come in to Mr. H's office right away; something had appeared on his scan taken two weeks previously to prepare for the stoma surgery and the surgeon needed to talk to Les right away.
Since then Les has undergone Liver surgery and two Radio Frequency Ablation surgeries and we spent winter moored up in Cow Roast Marina. Now here we are a year on from that fateful afternoon phone call, cruising through sunny autumn days and seeing new sites! It feels grand to be back on canals with narrow locks! It has been three years and I missed them.
We decided to go up the Lapworth Flight and into Birmingham since we have three weeks to wait for my first physio appointment for my knee. For those of you who read this blog but have never been on a narrow boat or visited a British canal, a flight is a series of locks close together. The canal systems has flights of three, five, eight and nine locks and really daunting engineering marvels like the Caen Hill flight of 29 locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal which rises 237 feet in two miles, or the 30 lock Tardebigge Flight on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal which rises 220 feet in two and a quarter miles. The Lapworth flight of nineteen narrow locks lies at the junction of two canals: The Northern Grand Union and the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canals.
Saturday dawned sunny with a bright Autumn blue sky. We were moored up on the Grand Union across from the Navigation Pub. Since I cannot walk far or fast with my gimpy knees Les took the windlass and I steered, turning the boat into the Junction, dropping him below the first lock, bringing the boat into the lock and off we went!
|Google Map view of Kingswood Junction, where the Stratford-Upon-Avon Canal and the Northern Grand Union Canal meet.|
|Lock 20--the first lock in the flight we encounter, turning right out of Kingswood Junction and heading up the Lapworth Flight.|
|A lock side pond is a miniature reservoir to the side of a lock to capture and save water. The side pond of lock 20 is a serene place to sit with a fishing pole on sunny autumn day.|
|Les keeps the bench warm with our cups of tea while we fill with water. This is the pound between lock 20 (out of sight behind the boat) and lock 19 in font of the boat, which we will go up when the water tank is full.|
|I steer NB Valerie underneath the split bridge and into the narrow lock|
|Back when this canal was built in the 1800's boats were towed by horses. the split in the bridge allowed the rope attached to the horse to slide through the gap.|
|Windlass in hand, looking hale and hearty, Les is a happy boater on the move!|
The towpath is busy with walkers, joggers, but mercifully no bicyclists speeding along. We are greeted by a couple who call out to Les. It is John and Cathy--former owners of NB Maramduke. John recognized Les whom he'd met six or seven years ago. After eighteen months of cruising they decided living aboard a narrow boat was not for them. They sold their boat and moved back to the land. It was nice to meeting you both. One just never knows who will appear over the next rise on the towpath!
I thought those of you who have never been on a boat might enjoy a series of pictures I took as the boat rose in a lock. What I see as the driver is quite different form what Les sees as he stands up above me closing gates and opening and closing gate and lock paddles.
|Les opens both gates with a minimum of work--something that can be done on a narrow lock!|
|I bring the boat into the gate as Les opens the other half of the bottom gate.|
|As I stop the boat, Les closes the bottom gates behind me and strides to the top gate to wind the paddles up, letting water in to raise the boat. My view is comprised mainly of dank, dark, wet brick walls with a fringe of light at the top.|
|As the boat rises to the top a beautiful autumn day unfolds around me. This lock has a long, narrow side pond, to the right. While it was filling, Les walked up to the next lock and raised the bottom paddles to empty it for me.|
|NB Valerie has risen in the next lock. While Les is setting the lock in front of me, I look back and down on the last lock and the short pound between them.|
|A CRT Volunteer Lock Keeper appears suddenly, walking up to set the next lock for us. Dear Sir takes a break on the lack gate beam, stretching out to enjoy the autumn sunshine while this lock fills.|
|This is a good view of the close lock gates stacked up in front of us as they rise. I've had my eye on that tall structure sticking up in the distance. It appears to be a chimney. I wonder about the structure bearing it so high and proud.|
|A view of th lock gates descending behind us.|
|This view looking back from inside a lock offers a perfect perspective on how some pounds between locks are VERY short and bendy. A narrow boat however does not bend, so one has to glide slowly out of a lock almost come to a stop, gently turn the boat away from the towpath, and point the bow towards the entrance to the next lock which is at an angle, slowly creeping inside.|
|Sometimes one gets lucky though and the entrance to the next lock is a pretty straight shot from one lock to the next.|
|I find the view behind as fascinating sometimes, as the view above and in front of me. It's a long way down to the last pound from the top of this filled lock.|
|Sometimes I raise up in the lock...|
|to find a fine a local store or chandlery.|
|...And sometimes I rise to nature's green embrace.|
|This lock stone bears the chisel marks of its maker.|
|One never knows for sure what will appear around a lock.|
|We move from sunlight around an open lock to shadowed tunnels made by trees, as the Lapworth Flight continues to carry us ever upward.|
|Looking back on a small marina hunkered down mid-flight. As I passed the couple eating their lunch on the bench, I called out, "Great place for a picnic," and smiled. She replied very drolly, "Yes, and you are the entertainment!"|
|The lock paddles on this flight are unusually low to the ground. Too bad about my knee--these are just my height!!|
|Remember the chimney I spotted in the distance oh so long ago? It belongs to this house sitting cheek by jowl with this lock. Under the split bridge and in I go...|
|to rise and find a vista of lat, rolling farm fields...|
|... as we say thank you and goodbye to the Volunteer Lock Keeper. There are a few more locks left but they are spread out now.|
|Les indulging in one of his favorite past times!|
Les took some time to saw up several large logs he scored on the Grand Union last week. This has been a lovely spot to chill out and plan our next move. We will up sticks again, stopping for lunch at Wedges in Hockley Heath--a 150 year old bakery, delicatessen and butchers, and Les has spotted more wood so we will be working outside tomorrow, bringing it to the boat and sawing it up. What a joy to be moving as and when we choose, finding new places to fetch up for a few days to enjoy nature and catch up with chores before moving on again. For us two, this is what our life on the cut is all about!
|Wood pigeons have a hidden nest in this shrub across from our boat.|