Flowers, fountains – and a fan

Tuesday 28th June: Warwick to Bascote, 10 miles, 12 locks

    This morning for the first time the battery state of charge read as below 50%. Why? Because yesterday’s cruising was all over by 11am, the fridge was working flat out in the heat – and so hot was it that the Tesco-bought electric desk fan was dug out of a cupboard and turned ON! After mooring up the manager at the Saltisford Trust moorings had rattled off facilities, which apparently included an electric hook up but the sizzling brains did not register what a boon that might have been… still, today, the fan is tucked back into the cupboard and the batteries have recharged.

    Though the last few hours of today’s boating have been through quiet Warwickshire countryside the day hasn’t been without a few curious sightings.  In a conversation yesterday evening the Captain had gleaned that not far away was moored the steam-powered narrow boat President, en route back from Braunston to Dudley.  The annual working boats rally last weekend was apparently well attended with 108 boats gathered there from far and wide; today several passed by returning to their home moorings. Strangest craft sighted, though, was one grey blunt-ended job whose origin and purpose remains a mystery.

    On the adrenalin stakes the encounter with two narrow boats which between them were carrying 17 excited young teenagers ranked high: Cleddau approached a bridge, the route of the canal beyond turning sharp left. Half way through the bridge hole an oncoming boat hove into view; a woman smoking on the front deck flailed her hands about while three teenagers were standing on the roof.  Their boat’s only course was straight forward – into concrete edging.  It juddered sharply, the teenagers clung to each other – and all survived.  Behind was a second boat, also carrying a youthful crew. “Beautiful boat, beautiful boat,  we like your boat,” smiled – or sneered – a girl from the front deck.  Cleddau moved on, shortly afterwards to espy a group of collapsed youths on the towpath.  Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition? Late June surely is the season for summer adventure.

    The Captain gave permission for Boatwif to dive into Leamington Spa.  The canal skirts the back end, the grubby end, of town, although there is much canal side new residential building. The railway line dominates the end of the street leading from the canal, but after that there are hints of Regency style. The destination was the Royal Pump Rooms, transformed in 1999 into a cultural centre (ie. housing Tourist Information, Library, Museum, Art Gallery, tea rooms). No viewing possible of the one-time Assembly Room but the remnant of the Turkish Baths was delightful and the museum very informative. From there to Jephson Gardens, named after Doctor Jephson, he of the spa waters treatment and diet fame. Floral abundance is obviously a Leamington feature and the gardens are truly a delight. The finer Leamington architecture seemed to be further off the walking map but apparently the Crescent or thereabouts was used for the most recent filming of Upstairs, Downstairs. All Saint’s Church, (not open), looks pretty big: it’s reputed to be the third largest parish church in the country and served as a temporary cathedral after the 1940 bombing of Coventry’s Cathedral.

    Then back to the canal.  In one area of the pound to Radford Bottom Lock there seemed to be a sea of waste plastic, a dismal view. Then ducks and locks regained prominence.  These Grand Union locks demand respect. They are large – but loyal. They work efficiently, steps and bollards are well placed  and it was a relief to find that operating just one paddle and one gate each end was perfectly feasible. At one point a curious mallard and two young chicks slipped into the lock behind Cleddau, rode out the rising waters – and clambered out, relatively unscathed! Crew members concentrated hard at the last two locks, the  Bascote Staircase Locks, to make sure the water was organised into the right place in the right order…

    Moored now far from flowers and fountains, but the towpath grasses and reeds are attractive enough. Just avoid gazing across the canal towards the cement works at Rugby!

    Tomorrow to Napton (or beyond).

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