Day-by-Day: 2004

First Trip

Date: 20 – 21st November 2004
Route: Lowsonford to Heronfield and back
Crew: Jim and Hil
Completion of the purchase took place on 17 November and the first opportunity for a trip was the following weekend. Starcross had a mooring at Lowsonford on the Southern Stratford Canal, which we were fortunate to be allowed to inherit (we didn’t realise the chronic shortage of moorings at the time). There is no winding hole anywhere near the moorings so as Starcross was facing north the decision as to which way to go was easy.
On Saturday morning we drove over from Hereford, loaded up, refamiliarised ourselves with the boat and set off about 12.15. Although we both had plenty of experience with hire boats, its different when its your own as we quickly found out! The bywashes on the southern Stratford locks are inconveniently placed right at the tail of the locks and as there was plenty of water coming down it was difficult to get a cleanly into them. Hil also found the single bottom gates very heavy. We soon stopped for lunch and then carried on to Kingswood Junction, using the Lapworth Link to cross to the Grand Union, where we tied up at bridge 65 as by now it was about 16.00hrs and nearly dark. We had seen no other moving boats all afternoon, but two passed us after we stopped, one of them considerably after dark.
After our meal we visited the “Navigation”, one of more unspoilt pubs in this part of the Midlands.
Next morning, we continued north along the Grand Union to Heronfield and winded at the Black Buoy Cruising Club moorings before returning via Kingswood to Lowsonford where we arrived about 15.45.
Not very adventurous for a first trip perhaps, but we were still getting used to the boat and were also constrained by the short late Autumn days.

To Wootton Wawen

Date: 10/11th November 2004
Route: Lowsonford to Wootton Wawen and back
Crew: Jim and Hugh
Hugh at this time was part owner of Starcross although he shortly had to relinguish his share. He continues to be a regular crew member however. This was his first visit to his new purchase.
As Starcross was facing south after its last outing, the direction of the next trip was pre-determined. Another short, winter trip down the Stratford Canal to Wootton Wawen. Arrival on Friday evening found the domestic batteries completely flat, so the engine had to be started to get light and power for the water pump. The power had not been switched off at the “mains” which hadn’t helped. The remainder of the evening was spent in the “Fleur de Lys”, Lowsonford’s only pub which we found rather too “upmarket” (not to mention expensive) for our tastes.
A check over the electrical system in the morning showed that the water pump and lighting circuits were leaking power. Fortuitously, this lead us to check the water pump installation, where we found a leak of a different kind!  The pump was replaced shortly afterwards.
Departure to Wootton Wawen soon followed where we winded and returned to Preston Bagot, mooring above the bottom lock for the night. The “Crab Mill Inn” here is even more “upmarket” than the Fleur de Lys and drinkers are not made to feel exactly welcome. Fortunately its a short walk into Henley-in-Arden, where there are a number of real pubs. Sunday morning saw us return up the locks back to Lowsonford arriving early afternoon

Christmas Trip 2004

Date: 21st – 27th December 2004
Route: Lowsonford – Birmingham – Hatton – Lowsonford
Crew: Jim and Hil

Lapworth – on the link between the Stratford and Grand Union Canals.
Tuesday, 21st December:
Set off from Lowsonford at 12.30: the stern rope broke in half as we untied! It was a lovely, cold and clear day with brilliant blue skies – pity it’s the “shortest day”!  We arrived at Kingswood Junction at 15.00 and continued up the Lapworth locks to moor on the visitor moorings at the bottom of the thick of the flight.
Wednesday 22nd December
Woke to cloud and rain, but the fire had stayed in all night so warm enough. The village shop had no Guardians or Independents (but a thick pile of Telegraphs) at 0900, which says a lot about this part of the Midlands. I made do with the “Birmingham Post”. The rest of the flight took us 90 minutes (not bad when only two-handed). We stopped at Swallow Cruisers for a new stern rope and some diesel and took the opportunity to empty the toilet cassette before continuing to Earslwood, where we tied up at Bridge 18 for the night.
Thursday 23rd December
Its a straightforward, level run from Earlswood into Brum with only the electric lift bridge at Shirley to contend with. We stopped briefly for lunch at Kings Norton (despite its reputation) and tied up in Birmingham near Old Turn junction at 15.00. We just managed to get tickets for a Christmas concert in Symphony Hall that evening, which we rounded off with a jar or two in the Prince of Wales on Cambridge Street – a pub we remembered from our winter trips in 1970s, except then it was hidden down a back alley rather than fronting onto a dual carriageway as it now does.
Christmas Eve
We were away by 09.20 and heading down Farmer’s Bridge locks where we met a boatman bow-hauling an empty day-boat back up the flight. He had been delivering scaffolding to a waterside building – commercial traffic on the BCN! We were at the bottom by 10.45 and carried on down Ashted locks and through the tunnel, which is very low and narrow. We foolishly neglected to remove the chimney before entering the tunnel and managed to bend it! There is nowhere in this area to stop for lunch so we carried on up Camp Hill where the sun went in and it started to rain. We caught our first placcy bags on the prop in Tyseley but arrived at Catherine de Barnes by 15.30, which is the first stopping point out of Brum. That evening we called in at the Boat Inn. Its a bit posh (again) for our tastes, but not unwelcoming and is apparently run by three middle-aged men. We were a bit surprised that it closed at 23.00, despite it being Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day
Awoke to yet another bright crisp morning and set off towards Knowle locks. These were our first broad locks and it took us a while to find a sensible system to work them two-handed. They seemed vast after the narrow locks so far encountered. We stopped for lunch just short of Kingswood Junction and the gas bottle immediately ran out! Fortunately we had a spare and could remember how to change them over. We tied up that afternoon at the top of Hatton for our Christmas meal, next to “Forget-me-Not” a very famous boat, being the first hotel boat on the cut but now in need of a lot of restoration work.
Boxing Day
We awoke to a wonderfully cold and clear morning, with ice on the cut. As the alternative, in the time available to us, would have been to go down Hatton locks, turn round and come back up (!) we decided instead to go for a walk across the fields into Warwick for the day.
Monday 27th December
The canal was frozen over this morning, but we were snug and warm aboard Starcross. We were advised we could wind above the top lock, but found we couldn’t quite manage it so had to drop down through the lock to turn. A hire boat coming south had broken the ice through Shrewley and Rowington. Our friends Hugh and Jeanette were due to take the boat over the following day so at Kingswood we topped up the water tank. As we arrived at Lowsonford they rang to say they wouldn’t be able to come so as the boat would be unattended for a while we had to empty it  -a process which takes considerably longer.  So ended our first extended trip on Starcross. A week which brought back memories of the 1970s and convinced us that despite all the changes on the cut since then we still wanted very much to be part of it.

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