Day Two, Saturday Sept 24, Long Itchington to bottom of Hatton Flight. 21 lock miles (10 miles and 11 locks) in five hours.
Day two, Saturday, and after what Sue and I – doffing our hat to an American friend’s pronunciation – like to call a lee-jer-ly breakfast, it’s down the short Bascote Staircase (how odd, we always think, to emerge from one lock straight into another) with our London teammates, pairing up nicely with other boats and their friendly crews sharing the locking as we head slowly westwards towards Warwick.
In late September, with the leaves turning gold and yellow before our eyes, the Grand Union at this point is surprisingly busy. More than on any of our previous trips with the Molly May, we keep bumping into (well, not literally) other boats from Kate Boats in what’s clearly been a much better hiring year for the company than recession-hit 2010.
We lunch on board. Sue used to cater professionally, and does the best soups I’ve ever tasted. Towards the end of the afternoon, we wave cheerily to the Kate Boats team at their Warwick yard just as they’re packing up after a busy day turning guests around.
It’s getting towards dusk, so on the right bank beyond Warwick there’s some pressure on what are, with the low water, a relatively few good mooring spots before the long slog up the Hatton flight. We’re rather relieved to find a good tying-up spot just beyond the turnoff left into the Saltisford Arm and before the first lock of the long, long Hatton flight.
Where, once committed, you have to keep going till you reach the top, 21 locks later.
The Cape of Good Hope pub at the bottom of the flight is one of the most popular on the canal, and walking back the few hundred yards from our moorings, we find it full of the crews we’ve spent the day locking with, and while not exactly Michelin starred, the food is reliable, tasty and first-class value.