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March 19th 2010 - Warwick

The alarm went of at 7.00am - groan!  I really hadn't slept well for some reason, having seen 2.00am, 3.00am and 5.00am then naturally at 7.00am when the alarm went off I was out for the count - typical!  Oh well - time to get up and face the day and the Hatton Flight!

We had a quick breakfast and I went up on deck to brush my hair and spotted activity from Jemima, the boat we were going to share the locks with, one of her crew also spotted me and waved - we were all ready for action!  We set off as planned at 8.00am and headed to the top lock.  It didn't take long for us to get into a good rythm with the locks. 

Clive and Tim at their tillers - they had the easy job! (though they might dispute that!!)

Two would go ahead and set the next lock, whilst two stayed behind with the boats, emptying the lock then opening the gates, waiting for the boats to leave the lock, closing the gates then heading down to repeat the process at the next lock - it worked a treat.  After 16 locks it was agreed that we would moor up in the pound and take a half hour break and have a coffee then we set off again to do the last five locks. 

Unbelievably we made it down the flight in only three hours - absolutely fantastic and it just goes to show what can be done with a bit of teamwork!

The Locksters: Mel, Jim, Kelvin holding Bentley the dog and Ian on the right - what a team!

Jemima and her crew were only out for a few days and had to have the boat back in Warwick by Saturday.  When we reached the bottom of the flight they moored up to have a late breakfast (we had been able to smell bacon cooking whilst doing the last lock!) then they were continuing on to Leamington Spa.  We on the other hand wanted to stay in Warwick for a couple of days so we moored up a little further on just before  another couple of locks near a pub called The Cape of Good Hope! 

We hadn't been able to make our minds up what to have for dinner as our supplies were a bit on the low side so in the end we decided to go to the above pub and sample the  fayre.  It wasn't bad at all, cheap and cheerful and I always enjoy a meal I haven't had to cook myself!  Then it was back to the boat and bed - we were both absolutely shattered! The one thing that puzzled me was that I didn't have "lock" ache, even after 21 locks and the only reason I can think of is that the winding gear on the paddles on this flight are set higher up than the regular paddles so I am not bending over as far to open and close them.  Well I will have plenty of opportunity to put this theory to the test as I have another 22 of them to do on the way up to Napton Junction! I am keeping my fingers crossed that we might be able to team up with another boat again but I am not holding out too much hope, there aren't many boats out on the cut at the moment!   Ah well!

I didn't wake up until 9.00am today but I had slept well, thank goodness!  Clive on the other hand was awake at 7.30am so he decided to get up and leave me slumbering.  (That gives him an hour or so of peace in the morning!)  Finally I hauled myself out of bed and after a bit of breakfast we decided to head into Warwick.  I had a quick look at Google Maps to see exactly where we were in relation to the city centre and discovered that we were on a bus route - excellent!  Sure enough we found the bus stop a few minutes walk from the boat and after a short wait a bus came along and took us right where we wanted to be! 

We have been to Warwick before  but only with the sole purpose of going to the castle and have never really looked at the city itself.  Its lovely - full of wonderful old buildings and there are several antique shops.  We found one place that was like an emporium and spent quite  a while inside just browsing around looking at all the collectables.  I had to chuckle to myself when I noticed one stall selling Hornsea Pottery - I remember it well, my mum had a Hornsea Pottery coffee set - a really tall coffee jug and tall mugs to match - very 70s!  The worrying thing is that they are now classed as collectables!!!

We wandered over to take a look at the castle but decided not to go in today, having been twice before and it is quite expensive to go in  - £17.50 per adult!!!  Shame we aren't proper pensioners yet!  However we did go into the Castle restaurant and had a coffee and some lunch.  We met a couple of American tourists in there and both of them had iPhones so we ended up chatting to them and Clive got some good advice about how to do things with his!

After lunch we went for a walk to the bridge over the River Avon and from there we had a great view of the castle, we haven't actually seen it from this aspect before - it really is huge!

Warwick Castle and the River Avon

There was one place in Warwick that we wanted to see.  Again, having been to Warwick before we have passed this amazing place but never really been to look at it so we decided to remedy that today.   We left the castle behind and walked back up into the city and then turned left and not far ahead we saw the object of our interest; The Lord Leycester Hospital!

Lord Leycester Hospital

Contrary to what it's name suggests, this edifice has never ever been a medical establishment.  The name "hospital" is used in original ancient sense, which means "a charitable institution for the housing and maintenance of the needy, infirm or aged".  Although some parts of the building date back to the 14th century it was in 1571, during the reign of Elizabeth I, that Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (or Leycester as he signed himself) established a retirement home for old soldiers disabled in the service of the Queen.  Amazingly it still serves the same purpose today and is occupied by retired soldiers, though they are not exactly infirm or needy and they contribute greatly to the upkeep of this wonderful piece of history.

Clive in the magnificent courtyard

We wandered around drinking in the amazing atmosphere of the place, which really has hardly changed at all.  The only difference now is that the occupants have been reduced from the original 12 to just 8 and they now have individual self-contained flats. The gentleman in the ticket office was very knowledgable and explained to me why the bear is a symbol of Warwick (I have often wondered) and then he went on to explain some of the other interesting history of the place and how it has passed down the ages to the Sydney family.  It turned out that he is one of the residents and this is one of their duties, working in the ticket office and other areas of the hospital.  They have a rota of duties and he explained that currently there were only 7 occupants and they were looking forward to a new person arriving to take on the 8th apartment which was currently under refurbishment, then their rota would work much better!

One of the interesting things he told us was that it is only by a quirk of fate that this wonderful building is still here at all!  Across the road from the hospital are another couple of half-timbered buildings however all the rest of the buildings up this street are of red brick or stone.  It turns out that in 1698 the Great Fire of Warwick started in this area and due to a strong south-westerly wind the fire was driven straight up the High Street and virtually all the buildings in its path were destroyed, the newer stone and brick buildings replaced them.

The Hospital survived the Great Fire of Warwick in 1698!

Finally we took our leave and headed back to the High Street.  I was extremely thirsty so we decided to pop into a pub and have a drink before returning to the boat.  By this time it had started to rain, it was not much more than drizzle though.  After quenching our thirst we set off back to the bus station and there was a bus waiting ready to take us home. 

Tomorrow we are going to go down the two locks ahead of us then mosey on a wee bit further to the next lot of visitor moorings, which just happen to be right next to a big Tesco store!  We will be able to do a really good shop and stock up on the heavy items, like potatoes and bottles of wine!

After that, Leamington Spa - a place neither of us have been to before.

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