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The travels of narrow boat Racundra

Grand Union: Main Line

Wednesday 24th September
(20L 1450.12M)
Warwick

We had tentatively agreed to meet up today on the Stockton flight with our Oxford prospects, but in the event we decided to delay until after we had seen our other party (preserving anonymity is all a bit awkward!) .

Early morning mist

Grand Union Main LineStockton LocksWe got up and got going early and were at the top of the flight by 10am. Our increased boat speed on the Grand Union seems to be making a difference. By the time we had descended the eight locks it was still only 11am – not bad going for these broad locks. Once again it was cold to start and a mist lay on the water. But the sun came out and created a curious glistening effect on my beautifully clean paintwork.

Bascote staircase lockAfter a couple more locks at Long Itchington (an interesting name!) there was a long enough run for Glyn to get a shower, just, before we arrived at the Bascote flight – a double staircase and two singles. Then three well spaced locks before stopping for water at Fosse Road bridge. I had thought we wouldn’t reach Leamington Spa today but it was now becoming clear that we would easily. A boater going the other way warned us not to reckon on stopping in Leamington – either stop short or pass through. Something to bear in mind.

Royal Leamington SpaAs we pulled away from the water point a boat (Large Marge) came up behind us. They joined us in the lock and accompanied us through the following two as well. We were in a summit pound yesterday and now we entered the bottom pound as we entered Royal Leamington Spa prior to crossing the River Avon. I think it would be fair to say that the town does not show its best face to boats coming from the east. A rundown industrial zone is never very attractive – even if the factory is producing Rangemaster cookers.

Royal Leamington SpaRoyal Leamington SpaOn the plus side we were able to stop by a large Morrisons store near bridge 42 and get a load of shopping. A little further west there is a LIDL and a Tesco. Leaving the town the planners are doing a better job and there are some nice canalside developments.

Aqueduct over River AvonAn aqueduct carried across the Avon and after a very brief break in the urban environment we entered Warwick, eventually finding a mooring before bridge 49 opposite Kate Boats. This looked like a good spot to meet our prospective purchaser and I sent him instructions to enable him to find us tomorrow.

Thursday 25th September
(2L)
Warwick

Mark duly arrived in the morning and spent a hour or so looking around the boat with us, while we tried to think of everything to tell him. One of the advantages, for both parties, of selling privately is that we can be on board and talk to prospective purchasers of our experience of operating and living on Racundra. Of course this blog attempts to do that too but there is no substitute for a hands on visit. So Mark was able to open the cupboards, see the occasional beds put up and down, run the shower, use the loo(!), feel the depth of the mattress, watch the weed hatch being checked. When we bought the boat through the broker we weren’t able to do a number of these things. When we arrived on the boat we still didn’t know if the shower and the loo actually worked – fortunately they did.

Mark was also able to travel with us on the boat and ascend through the two Cape locks and see Racundra in action, and to take the helm himself. Another opportunity that we never had. After a short trip we moored again and sat together to have lunch.

Mark declared himself well pleased and when pressed indicated that yes he would like to buy at the price we were asking. The problem now is how to provide adequate safeguards for a private transaction. It is a lot of money to hand over to someone you don’t know, but the biggest danger that I can see is how do you know that there is not a loan secured on the vessel – because if there is then the finance company can come after the new owner in case of default. Although we bought through a broker, the only guarantee we had was a statement signed by the previous owners. Did we have better security dealing through a broker? I don’t know, but in a naive way we had more confidence.

We can sell to Mark through a broker but he will have to pay the broker’s fees – typically over £2000. It’s a lot of money for peace of mind. Is there another way? This is a question to which we will jointly seek an answer. For the time being we are continuing our travels, but we have an agreement to sell to Mark on 31st October.

Warwick

After Mark left on his journey home, Glyn and I took a walk into Warwick. In fact we thought it might be a little far for Glyn so we caught a bus, descending at the bus station. We walked through the town centre and down to the castle. This has been promoted in theme park style. I prefer my national monuments au naturel, and without all the razzmatazz, and anyway we did visit some years ago. Instead we walked up to the Church of St Mary’s, as it seemed to be on our way home. It turned out to be a gem – originally a Norman church that has remained in use through the centuries. I was impressed by the recent addition of circular choir stalls with their beautiful carpentry.

St Mary's Church St Mary's Church St Mary's Church

We managed to walk back to the boat.

Friday 26th September
(30L 1460.13M)
Lowsonford

Waiting at the bottom of Hatton LocksWe have a landmark ahead of us. A bit of a surprise as I am still adamantly not planning ahead. The Hatton flight of 21 locks will lift us up from the Avon valley to another summit before the Grand Union heads into Birmingham. With its industrial standard locks this is an imposing piece of engineering. We loitered a little over our breakfast and making our way to the bottom of the flight in the half-hearted hope of finding another boat to travel up with. Unfortunately, Glyn wasn’t feeling at all well, and I was suffering from a delayed reaction to my Snowdonian challenge.

Volunteer on Hatton Locks

Hatton LocksThe good news for us was that the flight was manned by volunteers who very ably assisted us by going ahead and ensuring that each lock was emptied and ready for us as we went along. By the time we reached the top we had picked up a second volunteer and were steaming along. The locks are in excellent condition, and it wasn’t necessary to rope up as the boat could be reliably held to one side by opening one sluice at a time. The locks filled quickly, and when full the gates started to open quite naturally on their own.

The reason for the quality of locks on this section of the Grand Union is that it was the target of a modernisation scheme in the 1930’s. Originally the locks were all single narrow locks but it was decided to try to promote greater use of the canal by building new widebeam locks alongside the narrow ones. Unfortunately, no boats were built to take advantage of this enhanced capacity.

Eventually we arrived at the top and stopped to eat our lunch. The pound at the top is 8 miles long before the next lock is reached. This lock free stretch comes at the price of some engineering in the form of the Shrewley tunnel (433 yards), cuttings and a substantial embankment. The canal crosses some open undulating country before arriving at Kingswood Junction.

Shrewley Tunnel Embankment Countryside above Hatton Locks

Kingswood JunctionKingswood JunctionThe junction comes at a point where the Stratford Canal and the Grand Union Canal come within a long stone’s throw of each other. The railway which follows the Grand Union becomes trapped between the two canals. As we turned left leaving the Grand Union to continue on its way north we passed under the railway and into a very picturesque area of canals, bridges, locks and basins. It’s a beautiful spot and there are 48hr moorings. We didn’t stop but we really should on the way back.

 

Stratford CanalStratford CanalInstead we immediately turned left again and headed south on the Stratford Canal. Having climbed all the way up from Warwick we are now rather pointlessly going to drop all the way back down to the Avon at Stratford – what a shame we couldn’t have navigated down the Avon itself. After descending another 9 locks we decided that we had both had enough and we moored past the motorway on the approach to Lowsonford.

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