Monday, 6 April 2009

Sutton Stop and back - a Sunday outing

All week long I have been opening up the Met site for Church Warden and looking at the five day forecast to see what Sunday would bring. Each day it promised sunshine all day and lovely spring temperatures. Come Saturday this had changed to cloudy with sunny periods with a max of 14.

So we decided to go ahead with our plan for a barbecue at Sutton's Stop (Hawkesbury Junction in Nicholson's and Pearson's guides). This should entail a two or two and half hour trip - although one pessimistic loony here told us it would be four hours each way.

Six thirty on Sunday brought the predicted sunrise in a clear sky and things certainly looked good, so after a hearty breakfast, I set off to St.John the Baptist church to ring in ther 09:00 Palm Sunday service. Brinklow was bathed in morning sunlight and primroses speckled the grass in front of the church - very spring.

Didn't stop for the service - bellringers are renowned for sneaking out of the tower and heading to the pub instead, but not at 9 o'clock! So down to the shop for tom sauce and bottle of wine for the barbecue. But wait! not allowed to purchase from the off licence until 10:00am on Sabbath, so back to the boat.

A trip to the garage at Newbold reveals that this rule doesn't seem to apply to 24 hour garages with an offie attached so, fill the tank and shopping bag and back to the boat.

This is going to be quite a long day. The next job is a pump-out, the details of which I am sure can be left out: suffice to say that the mission was accomplished by 11:00 when our visitor and fellow traveller for the day was due to arrive.

With Emily through the gate and having moored her La ndrover at pier 17w, We headed out of the marina and turned left (for a change) on our way to hawksbury junction. Emily proved to have a wealth of local knowledge as we motored down Cathiron straight and past Brinklow before reaching Rose Narrowboats ( where we let Mr Mercury through the pedestrian swing bridge before continuing on our way.

There was a forty mile orienteering event this Sunday, which meant that on the towpath, adjoing footpaths and bridlways were throngs of walking and jogging competitors with whom the crew had frequent conversations from the stern. There were also many farm animals about, some drinking from the canal.

Wildlife was in abundance and in particular birds in the hedgerows. The wild birds kept up a lively conversation with the fluffy toy ones that we bought at Wyvale nursery - which goes to show that the makers claim the these stuffed toys have bona fide calls for 'educational purposes' is true. A blackbird and a robin to wit(sic). Audrone kep[t them chirping by pressing their buttons.

The sun was well over the yard-arm by the time we reached Ansty, so wet rations were broken out and we cruised onward and closer to Hawkesbury junction, passing a garden full of dead 'classic' and 'super' cars and a few other unidentifiable pieces of motoring has beens.

When we arrived at the junction, the Greyhound was teeming with Sunday afternoon revellers and their families - at least outside was, we didn't see inside. Gongoozlers thronged the towpath and lock side, even leaning over the towpath bridge. Unfortunately for them we didn't touch anything or run aground before negating the stop lock again and heading out to find a mooring for our barbecue.

We found a great spot not far back down the cut from the junction nice deep earth to sink the pins into. So we moored up and fired up the barbecue. The wind was up a bit, but the sun still shone and conversation flowed freely between passing boaters and towpath walkers.

The district was of course the heart of the warwickshire coalfields and has a very rich industrial history - there is still a huge power installation alongside the canal not far from where we were moored; but the scene was rural and very tranquil from where we were moored.

Well this time the barbecue worked perfectly, though for those who think is going to start cooking things in 7-10 minutes, it doesn't. But properly loaded with charcoal, does an magnificent job and could easily cook enough to feed eight people three times over if you planned it right. The plates keep up a cooking temperature for a long time after you have done your first lot, you could use it for another two or three rounds!

This has another advantage in that the whole unit can also be then closed and kept burning slowly while the steerer straddles it to keep warm as the afternoon chill creeps in on the way back to the marina. Not a patio heater, but a counter heater - most efficatious for semi trad boats.