Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th April 2022
We set off early from Hockley Heath to travel down Lapworth Locks to Kingswood Junction where we had previously dropped Robert’s parents on the first leg of our narrowboat adventure way back in early February. This time we had arranged to meet our daughter Jaime at Kingswood Junction as she had kindly agreed to drive up to join us to help with the Hatton Locks the next day and then take Ralf back home.
There was a moment of slight panic when she called to say that all the local petrol stations on her way out to the motorway had run out and were only selling diesel. None of us had taken into account that this was the beginning of the Easter weekend and the forecast was glorious sunshine. Thankfully, she found petrol further away from the motorway, back towards home and she messaged to say she was on her way.
We were hoping that by setting off early we wouldn’t have to follow another narrowboat down Lapworth Locks refilling and emptying each one on the way.
The Lapworth flight starts at Lock 2 since the Guillotine Lock mentioned previously is technically Lock 1, even though it is now kept open. There are 26 locks in total, but it is unlikley any boat will complete them all in one go since Lock 20 takes you down to a short canal branch leading to the Grand Union Canal whilst Lock 21 continues along the Straford-upon-Avon Canal. After Lock 19 we would be turning left onto the Grand Union Canal.
The flight passes through some very pretty settings and we particularly liked the houses by the canal facing the cricket ground. On our way down we passed another of our sister narrowboats, The Laird and chatted to the occupants.
Some of the locks are very close together, particularly Locks 8 to 14.
After Lock 7, there are footbridges at the end of many of the locks, which Matilda much prefers as it means she does not have to do the precarious “gate walk”. The bridges on this section are made of cast iron and were built with a one inch gap in the centre to allow the towrope to pass through without having to unharness the horse at each lock.
Bridge 32 is also a turnover bridge [where the towpath changes from one side of the canal to the other] and features a surviving cog, like a cotton reel, which was used to guide the towrope round to avoid it becoming tangled as the horse crossed over the canal.
Once at Kingswood Junction, we found a mooring and waited for an update on our daughter’s progress. We didn’t have long to wait.
Matilda really enjoyed catching up with Jaime face to face after so many weeks away while taking Ralf for a circular walk.
14/04/2022 – Miles: 2.92 – Locks: 19 – 4h15m
Day 59 dawned bright and calm in Kingswood Junction and with Jaime to help, we set off confidently to tackle the 21 Hatton Locks.
When we arrived at the top of Lapworth Locks, it seemed as though we had got Jaime to join us under false pretences as we found there were plenty of volunteers in attendance.
Another narrowboat had gone down through the first lock just before we approached but as these are double locks, the volunteers arranged for them to wait in the next one so that we could descend in tandem with Tamworth Green to conserve water. It is also less turbulent with two narrowboats in the lock, and as Ralf is very sensitive to the knocks and bangs this was ideal.
On exiting the first shared lock together, The Duke had to move to the left and Tamworth Green to the right to allow a pair of narrowboats which were roped together to pass in between [see Video of the day].
Jaime remembered a previous narrowboat holiday when she had “helped” with opening and closing locks. This time she opened and closed the paddles and gates herself.
These are some of the most difficult paddles to raise and she had a blister before the day was over.
We moored near The Cape of Good Hope and Robert and Jaime went to recover the car from Kingswood Junction before Liz joined us for a pub meal.
This time Jaime did the “gate walk” carrying Ralf back over the lock.
15/04/2022 – Miles: 7.81 – Locks: 21 – 4h30m
On Saturday, we loaded some things we felt we would not be needing again on this trip into the car and settled Ralf into the passenger seat then said a fond farewell to Ralf and Jaime. We later heard that she had to pull over on the M25 to provide Ralf with his bed to lie in. The effect was instantaneous as he immediately settled down to nap for the last part of the journey. She was home before 13:00, long before we stopped to moor up.
We in turn set off to see how far we could go without the need for canine comfort breaks. At one point we overtook a family out canoeing [see feature photo] who didn’t all seem entirely in control. We passed past murals . . .
. . .and ducklings and . . .
. . . through the Bascote Staircase Lock and the Stockton Locks where Robert perfected the art of looking nonchalant standing on the roof.
A cheerful face greeted us at the top of the Stockton Locks.
Yet another sister narrowboat, The Viscount, passed us.
Robert had suggested we stop at The Blue Lias again but even though it was a bright sunny day and sitting in the pub garden by the canal would have been very pleasant Matilda was resistant to the idea as last time Ralf had only been allowed in the corridor. We agreed to continue on to The Boat Inn where the garden was even sunnier.
16/04/2022 – Miles: 10.75 – Locks: 22 – 6h30m
Days: 60 – Miles: 469 – Locks: 499