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March 17th 2010 - top of the Hatton Flight

Tuesday morning dawned bright and fair and as soon as we had eaten breakfast we left our moorings at the Camp Hill Services and headed off towards Olton.  Once again the canal was very grubby, full of all sorts of rubbish but also lots of tree branches which did their best to grab hold of the boat or impale themselves on the propellor - it was like running the gauntlet!  We even encountered a submerged motor bike at one point!  However after a couple of hours we arrived at Olton and managed to find a spot to moor up just before the bridge.  The amazing thing was that for the first time this year we actually dispensed with our coats - it wasn't cold!  Well at least not initially.

There was a very good reason for coming to Olton - there is a launderette!  We were delighted to find that it was only about a hundred yards from the bridge as well so it only took a few minutes to get there with our bags of washing.  It was a pretty good launderette all in all.  The machines were all very clean and very efficient.  The wash itself took about forty minutes so as soon as we had set the machines going we headed off following the directions given to us by the laundry lady to find the shops.  It was quite a long walk but we finally arrived at a row of shops and managed to get all the things that we needed, however we really hadn't time to walk all the way back before the washers were due to finish so we got a bus!

It wasn't long before we were back on board with lots of lovely clean clothes, towels and bedding - bliss!   We had a quick lunch then set off again - we didn't fancy staying in Olton overnight, the moorings weren't particularly inviting!  By this time though the temperature had dropped a little so we had to put our coats on again. 

We had spotted a place on the map another couple of hours along the cut called Catherine-de-Barnes!  Now you may be forgiven for thinking that this place was named after some elegant Norman lady, I did!  However it was not, it was actually named after a man, the 12th century lord of the manor, whose name was Ketelberne!!  The name metomorphosised int Catherine-de-Barnes for some reason but evidently the locals call the place Catney Barnes.  The old working boaters who frequented the Grand Union in days gone by however simply knew the town as Kate! 

Just South of this oddly named town the area was made famous by Edith Holden, the lady who wrote "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" which she compiled in 1906 purely for herself.  However her great niece discovered the work in 1976 and had it published.  Of course everyone knows of it today.  Edith evidently used to frequent the towpaths around here collecting wild flowers along the hedgerows and was apparently quite at ease with the boat people even though they must have seemed very lowly to a genteel Edwardian lady!

Our moorings in Catherine-de-Barnes were very peaceful, or at least they seemed so when we moored up, however not far away is Birmingham International Airport!  So we could hear planes taking off and landing all evening!  Not that we really mind, it wasn't that intrusive and it certainly didn't keep us awake.

Clive was up bright and early this morning - I wasn't!  I had awoken about 7.00am then got back to sleep - Clive brought me a cup of tea at 8.45 and announced that he was setting off and I could join him at my leisure!  I drank my tea in bed then got up and had some breakfast.  Finally I joined Clive up on deck.  It wasn't long before we reached the top of the Knowle Lock flight.  There are five locks in this flight and they are all double.  As it happened there was another boat waiting at the top of the flight as well so we decided to go down the flight together.  There were four guys on that boat, they were on holiday and had only been on board for three days!  So with one of them at the helm that left three crew members to work the locks - and me!  They weren't totally organised at first, all three of them were standing around the top lock so I left them to work that lock and I went down to set the next lock.  They got the idea then and we soon got into a rythm, two of us emptying the lock, opening and shutting the gates whilst the other two went ahead to set the next lock.  We were down in no time! 

It turns out that they are going to be setting off down the Hatton flight tomorrow morning, early, about 8.00am (gulp!) and they asked if we would like to go down the flight with them!  We said yes because even though it means getting up early (for us!) it is worth it just to have the help getting down the flight.  So, we made a date!

We cruised past their boat whilst the crew was being collected and continued on our way and it wasn't long before we reached the Shrewley Tunnel.  We had passed through some deep, dark, treelined cuttings very reminiscent of the Shroppie on the way.  At Shrewley the canal builders had been forced to tunnel right underneath the village.  The tunnel is wide enough for two narrowboats to pass inside but there wasn't enough room for a towpath as well so the boat horses had to go over the top of the hill and they had their own little tunnel to go through!

Shrewley Tunnel

As we were approaching the tunnel we could see lights inside showing that there were a couple of boats coming through from the other end.  Although there was room for us to pass them going the other way we decided it would be a good time to pull over and moor up for half an hour and have a bit of lunch, so that's what we did.

Once through the tunnel we contined to cruise through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside.  It really is very pretty here, very pastoral!  Then a short while later we reached the visitor moorings at the top of the Hatton Flight.  We moored up and decided to go for a walk and investigate the locks.

The Hatton Flight with Warwick in the distance

Wow - what a daunting sight and that's only part of it, there are four behind me in this photo plus more below which are out of sight!!! 

There are in total 21 big double locks in this flight and it drops the canal 146' 6" (or 44.68 meters if you're metric!).  Whatever, its a long way down!!  I sincerely hope we don't sleep in and miss the other boat in the morning - doing a flight like this on our own would be very, very hard!  Mind you we did do the Caen Hill Flight on the Kennet and Avon on our own, which was 29 locks but that took us seven hours!  According to the guys on the other boat it took them three hours to do this flight on the way up.

So, until tomorrow then!

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