Saturday, 19 May 2012

Hatton (mostly).

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
We are slowly moving "Sickle" back towards home from her Easter trip out, and our visit to an event at the Black country Museum.  This has to be worked around Cath's job, and, as has been previously mentioned, gives rise to some "interesting" logistics to getting too and from the start and end position of any move.  Sometimes, like last weekend, there are railway stations that can avoid the need to take multiple cars, but we concluded that for this part of the journey, using two cars was the only realistic prospect.

Before departure from Lapworth
We also concluded that we would not rush this weekend with a particularly difficult target that needed long days.  In fact our departure from home ended up far too unstructured and leisurely, and by the time we had delivered one car to a planned finish point, and then both travelled on up to "Sickle" we were not actually ready to depart until noon.

Junction at Lapworth - GU to left- Stratford to Right
Last weekend we had left "Sickle" at Lapworth, on the Northern Stratford, but had not completed the flight of locks there, so first of all we had six easy locks from our mooring, down and out onto the Grand Union canal at Kingswood Junction.

Strange formations at Shrewley Tunnel
We then had several miles of the Grand Union to cover, before a descent of the very well known lock flight at Hatton.  Coming back to the Grand Union, (finally!), brings mixed blessings.  "Sickle" has been quite hard work on the most recent narrow canals we have visited, which have often been shallow, particularly at bridge-holes, and also where we were repeated suffering fouling of the propeller.  Back on the GU, "Sickle" is more at home, and we were making very good progress on the lock free stretch.

Passing "Tawny Owl" (owned by forum friends) at the top of Hatton
One thing I remember from 1970s boating is bats in tunnels, particularly Saddington, where I'd been assured "don't worry - they may look is if they are coming straight at you - but they have "radar" and never hit you".  This actually wasn't true, as several back then flew right into me!  But since my return to canal boating, I can't recall seeing a single tunnel bat - until now.  The short Shrewley Tunnel produced several bats, generally flying in pairs in close formation, skimming the waters ahead of the boat.  None came close to hitting me this time though, for which I was grateful.

Cath steers away from an intensive part of Hatton.
The Hatton flight of 21 locks is certainly not the longest in the country - it is not even the longest flight of broad locks, but, they can be distinctly hard work.  The gates are quite heavy and tend to swing open just when you would prefer they didn't, but in particular the encased "Ham and Baker" paddle gear from the 1930s, (totally unique to the Grand Union Birmingham main line), is fairly exhausting, with 23 often fairly stiff turns required for each "winding".  With both of us going into the weekend already fairly exhausted, we decided to simply take Hatton slow and steadily, alternating our roles as "steerer" and "lock operator" from time to time, (although the "steerer" still does quite a lot of lock operation, with a crew of two).

Steerer's view back up flight from an emptying lock
The first thing about arrival at Hatton is "is there a queue, or anyone to go down with", but today we arrived to find the top of the locks empty, so we set off down alone.  This situation remained throughout, and indeed we only ever saw one other boat going down the locks when we finally caught up one that was ahead of us, just two locks from the bottom.  Given they had the benefit of all locks set by them for boats coming up the flight, whereas we were for quite a while having to reverse the ones they had used, perhaps our steady progress hadn't been that slow after all ?

Getting there!  Towards the bottom of the flight.
By the way, to the uninitiated, although we generally quote "number of locks" when documenting a day's boating, it is a fairly meaningless statistic.   Had all of today's 27 locks been of the type we started out in at Lapworth, it would have been a day demanding far less effort.  The locks like those at Hatton are a very different prospect, unless you are very young or very fit, and frankly we are neither.

We were early enough that we could have pushed on longer, but actually both fancied a pub meal at the Cape of Good Hope, which is te pub that gives its name top the next two locks, and which it sits at the top of.  So, finding a mooring just long enough for "Sickle's" 40 feet, we tied up for the night,  This is one of "Sickle's" advantages - there would have been no 'slots' long enough for "Chalice", which is 10 feet longer.

Lapworth to Cape of Good Hope (Warwick)
Miles: 8.4, Locks: 27

Totals for extended trip....
Miles: 276.8, Locks: 220


  1. Are you taking in the Stoke Bruerne gala weekend on your way back?

  2. We hope to go to both the Stoke Bruerne gala weekend, and the Braunston show 2 weeks later, but I think we'll take her "home" for a while in the interim.

  3. Tawny Owl is still floating - Hurrah!


  4. Good to know the bats are back in Shrewley tunnel Alan, I haven't seen them for a few years now


  5. Yes,
    As I said, I don't think I have seen a single "tunnel bat" since my return to boat ownership, until those encountered today.

    Saddington use to be famous for it, and has bat boxes in it, but we haven't actually seen bats in that tunnel.

    I often mean to moor up at Shrewley, and investigate the foot tunnel, but must be so "overwhelmed" with enthusiasm for getting on with the Hatton Locks that I've never managed it yet.

  6. The foot tunnel takes you up to the main street above, where there's quite a useful shop. Trying to find the way down the other side is a bit more difficult.