Tuesday 9 March 2010

Steph's Last day.

A thanks to James Brindley and John Rennie too;
To Telford and others of fame;
Without their bold vision for transport, it’s true,
Our landscape would not be the same.


We’ll hire us a narrowboat, we’ll go in style;
And we’ll travel the countryside, mile after mile.
We’ll cruise over England from Yorkshire to Kent;
As we travel the cut where the working boats went.

A thanks to the navvies, a thanks to the Duke,
To Jessop and all of his pals.
These are the people we must thank the most;
For they gave us all the canals.

Two hundred years on and the boatmen had gone;
And abandoned their boats in the mud;
But with boats run aground there were many still found;
They’d the waterways still in their blood.

Their boats they refitted to cruise the canals;
Right from the south up to the north;.
With derision and scorn was the pleasure boat born;
As upon the canals they set forth.

There’s holidaymakers where once there was coal;
With all of their friends in the crew.
Would Brindley and Jessop both turn in their graves;
If the use of their labours they knew?

Or perhaps they’d rejoice in the waterways’ life;
So long after many great men;
Foretold of their downfall to railway and road;
In judgement again and again.

But what of the future upon our canals?
How can we expect them to be?
Pollution and traffic upon all our roads;
May yet be the obvious key.

To launch a renaissance of waterways, old,
And those that are still to be made.
With bold inspiration and vision that’s sound;
We soon could return them to trade.

Where the Working Boats Went

© Graeme Meek 2008

Day five of our cruise.  Overcast and cold.

Hawkesbury to the Rugby visitor moorings.

Up at about 7am. Made tea for three before doing my morning ritual ablutions. Then took Pops for her morning constitutional. Came back in time for a good traditional breakfast of bacon eggs and tomato, hot coffee with several rounds of toast smeared with a good layer of honey. As prepared by the Memsahib. Real boating food!

Steph would have to leave us at Rugby to return home by train. It is only a 15 minute walk from the moorings to the railway station. But first, we would enjoy a gentle cruise along the northern section of the Oxford canal.

We were underway by 10am, at a slow pace as we did not want to arrive at Rugby to early. Shortly we arrived at Whitings bridge (5)  and passed what looked like an old branch arm.  The towpath looked to be in reasonable condition (part of the Coventry way) so Steph took Pops for a jog along the bank, whilst we plodded along in their wake. After a half mile the towpath turned very muddy so they both came back on board.

As we approached Anstey we spotted moorings with a watering point so we pulled over to fill our tank. There were several aqueducts along this section where we could see that the recent rains and the melting snow had filled them with swift moving water. We had seen few Gray Heron on the cut but the aqueduct streams seemed to harbour many more of them.

Off, in the distance, we could see the M6 road bridge and the traffic noise was very loud. We had a chance to show Steph where we had moored up on our first night out on the cut. There was a large amount of Phragmites growing at this point. So the water must be quite shallow here.

In daylight, it was easy to see how close the railway line and the M6 bridge actually was to where we had moored up on our first night. That's another lesson learned!

Then on to Stretton Stop. There were many hire boats in the area some of them breasted up and it did not leave much room to manoeuvre past. It was at this point where the girls had fun trying to manhandle the "swinging" foot bridge by pushing it the wrong way. However, working as a pair they eventually moved the bridge out of the way. I paused the boat at the bridge exit whilst they reset the bridge closed and they were both easily able to step aboard.

After a while we were passing Brinklow Marina. We saw a boat quite a way off in the distance coming the other way. The boat was creating a large wake. When the boat passed, we saw that it was an old boy at the tiller who should have known better. I don't understand why people treat the cut this way? When I next looked back, he was some 500 yards behind and busy winding in the gateway to Brinklow marina. We then had to slow down a bit for some moored boats. One of the owners was up in arms about the boat that had just passed going the other way. I told him that the boat was winding at Brinklow, he said he would be having a word when it came back....

Then it was a steady bimble along the cut to All Oaks Corner, the woodland at this point is full of mature trees and is an haven for the Green Woodpecker. We also saw a couple of boaters liberating fallen branches for their log stores. Green Woodpeckers and Green Boaters!

Passing through Hungerford, Caithron and the end of the Newbold Loop. Over the River swift aqueduct and the old Brownsover arm (disused) 

In no time at all we were back at Newbold Tunnel. This time because it was a bright sunny day, the coloured lights did not seem as effective as they had been last time (it was just before sunset) we passed through. It was also at this time that I noticed a coot for the first time... We had seen plenty of moorhens, mallards etc on the cut. But I had not realised that we had not seen a single coot all week.

All to soon we were at the Rugby visitor moorings the place that Steph would disembark..  We moored up on the delightfull moorings next to the park carpark  We had a meal and Mags helped Steph to pack her things. Then the two of them toddled off to the Railway station whilst I was left in charge of the boat and Pops.

On Mag's return we set off to make our way steadily to the winding hole at Hillmorton. Somehow the boat seemed quite empty after Steph had left. But the crock pot was ready with our evening meal. As we were close to Hillmorton we went through the lock and started to moor up for the night.

For some reason Mags was not comfortable with the boats position. So we decided to move into the Hillmorton marina. It was at this point that Mags gained her spurs and became an official member of the boating fraternity. Whilst poling off the bow, she slipped and went over the side and into the canal.

I was proud of her reaction - she took it all in her stride.

Hopefully it will be a quiet night.


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