Yesterday late afternoon, boat after boat came past including historic boats Nutfield and butty Raymond. For those non boating folk a fabulous article on the Evolution of the Narrow Boat explains the way the boats used to pair up and not just for the transportation of goods but for living on as well. It's well worth a read. Because of the sheer number of boats passing, we vowed to leave early in the morning to try and get to Atherstone locks before anyone else set off. We failed miserably as it was turned 7 am when we woke. So even getting indigestion trying to eat a hasty breakfast, still didn't get away until nearly 8 am and this, as we found out later, was far too late.
With the sun low on the horizon, even with hat and sunglasses, the glare from a wet solar panel and from the water made us squint. We had roughly 8 miles to do before arriving at Atherstone bottom lock and not a single boat did we see on the move during the journey. At Alvecote Marina we had hoped to see those two historic boats moored, 2 less at the locks, but no, plenty of other historic boats but not the two we wanted to see.
So through the last bridge before the locks and in the distance noticed a boat pulling away from its mooring. Oh well, one boat to follow up the flight wouldn't be too bad. But then, OMG...what I saw made our hearts drop. Looked to be a line of moored boats but it was very obvious by the people holding ropes that these were no boats moored and a boater coming towards us confirmed it as such. 7 boats, one already in the lock and 6 waiting below. And also in that queue were that historic pair Nuffield and Raymond!
The queue was joined at 10 05 am, I was determined to make a note of the time just to see how long it would take us to do the 11 locks in the 2 miles. Coming up from behind was that hire boat of yesterday, didn't expect to see them again! Anyway Nutfield and Raymond took their time at each lock, and this was how it was done.
Raymond was led to the bottom gate as Nutfield entered the lock, then untied and gates shut. Once Nutfield had ascended the boat then had to exit and stay by the top gate to wait for Raymond to ascend. The gates were opened and both were joined with ropes stern to bow and it was off to do it all again at the next lock. Quite masterly and the crew had it down to a T but oh took so very long!
Between lock 8 and 9 there is that bridge spanning a very short pound. It was extremely low on water and never a wonder what with the amount of boat traffic taking water each time.
This never was the best place to meet another descending boat. I did just that about 10 days ago on our way towards Huddelsford but luck was not on my side again today, as sure enough, with one boat waiting on the landing, as the bottom gates opened, out one popped!
|That hire boat next in line and two more having joined it.|
Our initial plan was to stop for a food shop on the Town Moorings but by the time we had done those 6 locks it was already1.30 pm. A quick look through the cupboards and fridge, a check how much wine was still on board, (three bottles red and two white) and the decision made to continue.
The last 5 locks had CRT volunteers helping and I must say that aided our ascent no end.
|The start of the volunteer stretch. Raymond still waiting to enter lock 5|
|That's one of the hire boat chaps with the volunteer. |
Once again low water was a problem, so much so, that on the penultimate lock I got stuck! Stern was by the landing but the bow was escaping toward the opposite bank. Somehow, and with a lot of revs and tiller movement, I managed to straighten FS enough to head for the lock entrance. No choice other than nose up to the gates and hold FS there until the lock was ready to be emptied. Then with strict instructions to the paddle operator above to let the water out slowly, the pound was quickly filled sufficient for FS to make it over the cill and into the now empty lock.
|Her boat was also slightly stuck and had to be pushed hard for the stern to leave the side. With us being deep drafted, I had no chance of getting anywhere near the landing.|
|Waiting in the lock entrance|
Finally the 11th lock was entered. Time 3.15 pm. From arriving this morning at the bottom of the Atherstone flight to exiting the very top lock, 5 hours and ten minutes had gone by! For us, a first, never has it taken so long and I wonder if someone out there may have taken longer. I would so love to know.
|Top lock at last|
By 4 pm we stopped. Ian was shattered from helping other people and my feet were killing me from standing for 8 hours. It won't be an early start tomorrow. We have an open appointment at the Nuneaton pharmacy for our flu and Covid jabs. They open the surgery at 10 am.