Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Blown Away. 18th 19th September

Saltisford Arm to Radford Semele
I woke at around 4:40am with the first big gust of wind on Tuesday, this was the start of a few windy days.
The washing machine was worked hard again for a second day, towels, bed linen all took their turn. Maybe we should have ventured out to visit the sights, but we’ve visited quite a few of them on previous visits, leaving the Castle and Lord Leycester Hospital for another time. The Castle comes across as a bit of a theme park, £28 entrance each is a bit dear, although apparently you can save money by buying your tickets on line in advance now. As the washing went round I got on with knitting socks and refilling the damp traps around the boat amongst other chores.
P1400830smIn the afternoon we braved the gusting wind and walked up to Sainsburys to restock the wine cellar, not a full restock I have to say!
Emma, an old college friend of mine had invited us round for a drink to her house on West Street. She visited us three years ago when we were in Warwick and at the time was in the process of restoring a house with her then partner. Since then they have moved in and recently got married. Our visit was more of a guided tour of the house accompanied with a glass or two of wine. Sadly I didn’t take any photos as we were too busy hearing about all the work they did.
5069_WAW100048_IMG_00_0003_max_656x437I’ve found a few photos of the house from when they bought it back in 2012. On the British Listed Buildings website the house is recorded as being listed in 1996 and was dated as early 19th Century with a brick frontage, canted bay window, 3 storey and a basement. No inspection had been done internally.
33-west-street5069_WAW100048_IMG_01_0003_max_656x437However, what lay behind the woodchip and plaster board was  far far older. Link to an article. Cob walls that have now been dated to around 1433, beams, decorative paintings on panels. Really wish I’d taken photos now. They have painstakingly restored much of the house, replacing floor beams where needed and using lime based products to help the old building breath again.They have installed an eco friendly boiler, solar and have a very efficient wood burner in the back room which helps heat most of the house.
33-west-street-roof5069_WAW100048_IMG_02_0003_max_656x437A small modern extension to the kitchen was added. During the works for this another discovery was made, a very big hole under the floor! A friend of theirs was breaking up the floor one day and his drill suddenly slipped into a gap between paving slabs. A stone was dropped through the hole, no sound of water. A 5m tape measure didn’t reach the bottom. Below their kitchen lies a hole cut into the sandstone that measures 3m diameter by 6m deep. Archaeologists are not sure what it had been used for, maybe an ice store for the castle. They then got distracted with what had been found on the house walls. Emma and Dave had to create a foundation for the rear of the house to sit on above the hole and now they have a metre glazed viewing hole in their kitchen floor. Who needed to go to a museum when you can see things like this. Their master bedroom is amazing with so many layers of beams and yet they have a modern ensuite!
It was a lovely evening catching up with them, having the tour and seeing some of their wedding photos. Hopefully we’ll get chance to meet up again this winter as we’ll be in the general area for a while.
P1400846smP1400848smAs our boat neighbours had returned yesterday afternoon and had plans to move today we made sure we were up and dressed early, they may be wanting to be off at 8! Despite the wind having increased overnight we decided to move on ourselves. Once the water tank was topped up, rubbish disposed of and our mooring fee paid we were ready for the off, just as our neighbours were having toast.
Out of the arm we turned right back towards Cape Locks. The top lock was empty and a hire boat could be seen just about to enter the second lock, we’d not be able to catch them up to share, so I set the lock in our favour. Just as the levels equalised a boat came round the bend, we’d be able to share the locks. NB At Ease is a hotel boat and the two crew knew very well how to handle their boat. They had come down Hatton this morning and were hoping to moor up before the wind got even worse.
P1400859smWe followed them to Tescos where we pulled in at the 24hr mooring, another boat was already moored there. They could really do with a couple more bollards here, we managed to get the stern rope round one of the bollards but had to make use of a tree at the bow. With a big shopping list in hand we wound our way around the store. With no big shops, as far as we know, until we reach Banbury we wanted to be stocked up.
P1400860smP1400864smLunch next and then we decided to stay put, the gusts of wind were very big and we didn’t fancy trying to cruise in it, Tilly would have to wait for her shore leave a while longer. 30 rows of sock and Cake week on the Great British Bake Off caught up with and we thought the wind had calmed down enough for us to move on. As soon as we were back outside the wind kicked up again. With trees surrounding us, we didn’t want to stay put so braved the gusts and set off.
P1400885smThe going wasn’t too bad, other than the amount of leaves. We had leaf porridge that clings to the prop for the first time this year. A quick blast of reverse gets rid of it, but the leaves soon returned again!
P1400890smP1400897smThe artist who painted the cat, also did a couple more paintings along the stretch near the student accommodation. One is of two bunnies doing what bunnies do (I suspect a signature of hers) and the Grim  Reaper in a black boat painted on an off side wall. A slightly jollier painting further along has made use of a drain pipe.
We pulled in back where we’d moored a couple of days ago as it started to rain, a bit close to the road, but up ahead looked full and we wanted to be on chains and hooks rather than spikes if the wind continues as it is. Tilly for a change wasn’t that bothered about the wind. This outside again! I bet tomorrow they tie up one where I can’t go out again, best make the most of this one.
2 locks, 4.99 miles, 1 right, 2 moorings, 4 loads washing, 2 drying, 1 fantastic house, 400 years older than originally thought, 1 big hole, 1 woofer next door, 4 full bags, 2 blowy days, 1 canal turned to porridge, 1 gluten free mac cheese tonight, 0 snakes.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Hooking Up For a Bit. 17th September

Radford Semele to Saltisford Arm

Before heading off to the Oxford we need to stock up on supplies so we needed to turn round. As we’d be heading westward we decided to see if there would be space at the Saltiford Arm for a couple of days where we could catch up on the washing and be plugged in.

Several boats came past as we were getting ready to push off, we spotted a gap and went for it. A second push to the bow was required due to the wind  pushing us back against the towpath, but we got away before we became a problem to the next passing boat. We winded and headed back into Leamington Spa.

P1400784smI had some work emails to do so left Mick to cruise us towards Cape Locks. The costume designer for the Panto had been asking about the size of a boat due to the size of the Dames costume and I’d asked about suitability of a rubber ring for a scene. Emails went back and forth for a while until we both had answers to all our questions.

P1400741smBack on deck we passed over the railway line we’d gone along on Saturday, no trains though. When we’d been at the station yesterday Mick had requested I took a photo of a train approaching the station, I was already doing so. The line in Leamington cuts it’s way through what was the old town, crossing a major crossroads at second floor height. I was fortunate enough to capture two trains whilst we were meant to be looking at the station gardens.

Our supplies would last us a few more days, so we decided to push on past Morrisons, Lidl, Tescos, Sainsburys and Aldi and do a proper stock up on our return in a few days.

P1400803smAs we approached Cape Bottom Lock there was a boat just entering it to go up. We’d already passed two boats that had been heading this way this morning, so it might be on it’s own. The gates closed, oh well. Then they opened again and a lady appeared and waved us in to join them, we’d been spotted. We weighed up whether we thought we’d be able to turn Oleanna below the locks. Jaq and Les from NB Valerie spent a winter in this pound, they called it Prison as they were locked in by stoppages and they both needed the local hospital. NB Valerie could be turned here after making use of the water point below the locks, we’re not sure how long she is, but we think Oleanna could possibly just do it too.

P1400807smP1400817smWe shared the two locks with the shareboat NB Endeavour who had plenty of crew and had come from Long Itchington this morning and were aiming to do Hatton today too. The lady seemed a bit put out that a C&RT chap who was there to grease the paddles didn’t help, but there were four of us working the locks so there was no need. It being lunchtime the moorings around the Cape of Good Hope pub were busy. Two boats were on the water point where we wanted to go, two boats were heading to the pub moorings. The ones on the water point then wanted the lock so there was some do-c- do-ing to be done as NB Endeavour had insisted that we leave the lock first. It would have been better if he’d gone and got out of the equation as we got in his way and he was then in the way of the boats from the water point who were in our way! It all got sorted in the end.

P1400815smWe pulled up mostly so that we could empty the yellow water tank before we might have to breast up at our mooring today. As we were by a tap we took advantage of that too. Empty and full we cruised up to the junction and turned left the easier option as right takes you to the bottom of the Hatton flight. Slowly we made our way down the arm, a lady came out from the office to say hello and tell us where to moor.

The visitor moorings are just beyond a winding hole, so winding first is advised and then you back down to find a space. There was one bank side space free, but we’d been told it was only 55ft, later once it had been taken Mick paced it and we would have fitted, however it was closer to the road. We reversed to find a suitable boat to pull alongside, NB Joanna. Unoccupied but with signs of a dog, this wasn’t going to be so good for Tilly sadly. Cat Health and Safety discussed our mooring  and decided that should the owner return whilst Tilly was out she’d have difficulty getting back to her boat, there would be a conflict of territories and that wouldn’t be fare on either Tilly or the Woofer. So no shore leave.

Late lunch before the hook up was sorted and then the washing machine was put to work pausing only for the dishwasher to have a go. TV was tuned in, our last stay here was prior to me starting to do TV thumbs. It deserved a diagonal thumb in the upwards direction, not perfect reception, but not bad.

P1400825smThe last of our Bramleys were chopped up and put into a Dorset Apple Cake still warm today for pudding and enough to keep us going for the next few days.

DSCF7121sm2 locks, 5.6 miles, 2 winds, 1 left, 0 shopping, 1 cat who is very aware of which her boat is and wouldn’t give 2 hoots about a woofer being inbetween! 1 cat still locked in despite her complaints, 2 many good trees to be missed! 2 boaters ignoring their cat, 0 visits to the pooh box if they let me out! 1 empty wee tank, 1 fill of the water tank, 2 loads washing, 1 dishwasher, 1 refill required in the morning, 1st pair of socks started, 1 yummy gf apple cake.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Trees, Medication, Waters, Trains, Gardens And Poles. 13th to 16th September

Leamington Spa to Radford Semele
The Heritage Open Weekend has been keeping us busy. This year it has actually stretched over two weekends and a few days in between. Sadly we only remembered it after the first weekend had passed, missing out on a few things that appealed to us. But there was still plenty to choose from.
P1400332smOn Thursday we joined a tour of The Pump Room Gardens and Jephson Gardens. Meeting by the Royal Pump Rooms our first guide, Archie Pitt (Chairman of the Friends), has been involved in raising funds to restore the  Gardens back to their hayday for many years. The gardens were used for gentle exercise by Victorians who came to the town to take the waters.
P1400335smPaths are being moved back to their originally intended positions, the Linden Arches have been restored with new lighting, these date back to 1875. The band stand has been removed for renovation leaving a low wall that has seen some work. New flower beds, the river bank tidying up and works done to York Bridge which spans the River Leam in the park. The Band Stand is due back in November when there will be a small celebration, but a bigger party will be held next year when all the flowers are in full bloom and the gardens look at their best.
P1400360smNext we walked across the road to Jephson Park. A very posh park originally created in 1831 as an informal garden with walks along the river. In 1846 they were redeveloped into more formal gardens for the seriously rich and given their name to honour Dr Henry Jephson who had promoted the town as a Spa. Formal flower beds and a collection of trees were planted. Tennis courts laid (Lawn tennis was invented in Leamington), it was a place to be seen.
P1400456smWhen it was being laid out there was a slight problem of a right of way which ran straight through the park. This had to remain, but be disguised and the poor kept out from the formal garden. So a hill was built over the top of the path and planting added so that it is almost invisible from above.
P1400351smP1400380smThe fancy flower beds were eaten by Canada Geese, so a small fence was erected around them, which did the job. However this didn’t stop them from leaving their poo everywhere. It was then realised that Geese can only take off and land on water or very soft mud, so putting a fence around the pond would do a better job. Have to say there was very little if any goose droppings. Whilst we were there something startled the geese and a group of them took off, a few aborting at the last minute. One poor bird missed the pond, clipping it’s legs on the fence and landing on the wrong side. It then spent a long time trying to return to the water, the fence being just as effective in stopping birds from entering the water as exiting!
P1400347smP1400356smP1400363smOur guide walked us through the gardens pointing out the interesting trees and telling tales. A very informative walk, I never knew there were so many oak trees, including evergreen ones without the typical leaves. At the far end the walk ended by a gate house now used as artist studios. The majority of people headed back with the guide to enjoy tea and biscuits , but we thanked her and went to look at the art on display. Better than your usual gallery, some work very good indeed including a photographer who specialises in close ups of natural textures and colours, these were stunning.
P1400376smWe’d passed the rather ornate building which once housed the Aviary and went back to have a better look. Outside was a menu for chilled medication, we had to oblige in partaking of some. White chocolate and Raspberry and Chocolate Brownie and Marshmallow. My gluten free trial may have to exclude chilled medication! Very tasty it was too.
P1400329smFriday we joined the tour of The Royal Pump House. A small group was guided round the building expertly by Alan a very jolly chap who knows his stuff about Leamington and its inhabitants through the years.
The Royal Pump House was the only spa north of the river, numerous other establishments had grown up on the south side where the original town was sited. Waters flowed at the southern spas, but the geology to the north was different and the salty waters were hard to come by. Plans to build other pump rooms were stopped and soon afterwards the fashion for taking the waters at such places switched to visiting seaside resorts such as Scarborough, where you could also take of the waters.
P1400403smBuilt for the seriously rich there was a large ballroom which was used to dispense the waters, a large well on one side and table and chairs to sit and sup your water. People would come and stay in Leamington for several weeks staying at the grand Regents Hotel nearby. They would come to the Pump Rooms and drink their water in the morning, partake of gentle exercise in the gardens, have plain food at lunchtime (fruit and veg were bad for you), swim a couple of times a week in the waters and return to their hotel to indulge for the remainder of the day. The amount of food in an average meal at the time would last most of us two whole days! They would then return home, boasting of their well being having lost maybe a few pounds and having bathed the grime off their bodies. Leamington waters have been found to have no medicinal benefit whatsoever!
P1400406smP1400409smThe pump rooms housed boilers to heat the waters, two swimming pools (male and female) and rooms of slipper baths for the upper working class to have a dip at less expense. We were shown into a marble corridor (now tiled as the marble had deteriorated before the restoration) easy to wipe clean and resistant to fire should the boilers get out of hand.
P1400412smP1400435smThe gents swimming pool now houses the library, the ladies the art gallery and where the slipper baths once were is now office space.
P1400414smP1400426smBefore the renovation works were done to the building it was used as a location for Mick Jaggers video for Sweet Thing. The swimming pool is shown off along with the marble corridor. Woman meld into the tiled walls and Mick struts his stuff around the Turkish themed room. It’s worth a look at the video to see what lays behind the modern interior of much of the building.
P1400293smSunday there was an opportunity to have a tour around Leamington Spa Railway Station and gardens. About twenty people turned up including a couple we’d seen yesterday in Warwick. Two ladies showed us around the Deco station which opened in 1939. Built from granite and Portland Stone it is a very fine building. As with many buildings in the 60’s a lot of the building was covered up to make it look modern, but luckily back then this meant that the good things that laid underneath were preserved.
P1400726smP1400730smThe first station had been opened in 1852 by GWR, it was added to through the years and LNWR built their own station next door. In the late 20’s unemployment was very high and the Government introduced the ‘Development Act 1929’ which provided financial assistance to public utilities for capital expenditure in the form of low interest loans. Great Western set about with a scheme of improvement works, quadrupling the Birmingham Main Line approaches and the rebuilding of Leamington Spa Station being two of them. The building was made from a prefabricated steel framed structure, sheathed in brickwork and then clad with stone and granite. There is an interesting article about the station  here if you want to know more, it includes a lot of very interesting photographs taken through the buildings history.
P1400722smP1400724smWhen plans to revamp the cafes were suggested, action was very quickly taken by the friends of Leamington Spa Station, the building becoming Grade 2 listed. In 2008 the booking hall was sympathetically refurbished original tiles being revealed and in 2011 the two waiting rooms were also restored.
P1400757smP1400760smThe deco doors into the cafes are particularly fine. Two running boards have been placed on the platforms to help announce your arrival at the station.
P1400738smAt the end of platform 2 is a garden, which in 2009 gained the title of Best British Garden. Volunteers work hard to keep it and the terraced gardens leading down to the front of the station in good order. Sadly the grass has suffered this year with the drought and most of the planting is now past it’s best. The star attraction though is the topiary hedge. An engine and two carriages with a plume of Pampas grass as steam. This can be seen from most of the station and is a treat.
P1400735smP1400750smFree tea  was on offer at platform 3, but we decided to head on to our next visit, The Polish Centre.
P1400773smOriginally the Town Hall the Polish Centre sits on High Street south of the river where the town centre originally was before the town spread northwards across the River Leam. The building housed meeting rooms, a ballroom, magistrates court, police station and cells.
P1400769smP1400771smA lot of the building was built with Queen Victoria in mind. A small balcony was constructed at the front of the building where her short stature catered for with the view of a smart building opposite, high window frame so she wouldn’t have to see the poor people who’d come to see her. However she never visited.
P1400768smWhen the Town Hall was moved to the Parade north of the river the building was taken over by the police. Most of the interior was gutted to make better use of the space for offices, the ballroom was split in half height wise and only the main staircase remains as an original feature. Eventually in 1968 the building was sold to the Polish Catholic Mission, Monsignor Jozef Golab loaned his own money for the purchase, funds he received after successfully suing the German Government for the years he’d spent in concentration camps during WW2.
Much of the building is now rented out as a dance school, the top part of the old ballroom now being the chapel for the Polish community of Leamington.
P1400766smWe had a very warm welcome with tea and coffee and some very tasty looking cakes before we were given the full history of the building and the Polish community. I think we could have spent all weekend drinking tea and eating cake at various locations around town.
P1400774smBack at Oleanna we decided to move to give our second mate some quality time ashore. She really hadn’t liked it here and watching the rats on the off side had become boring. So we pushed off as soon as we could and made our way back out of town mooring up by Radford Semele for the night. Once our grid reference was noted and the trip computer turned off the back doors were opened and Tilly disappeared straight through the sideways trees. A much happier cat now.
DSCF7121sm0 locks, 1.22 miles, 4 more Heritage day venues, 3 gardens, 1 pump room, 1 station, 1 evergreen engine, 2 terraced gardens, 1 ex town hall, 4 pairs pants returned, 2 chilled medications, 1 roast chicken, 1 curry, 1 happy cat in the undergrowth.