On Thursday Dreams scaled Hatton locks. I had arrived at the bottom lock on Tuesday, but had no help until Thursday- and having spent an hour doing just one lock solo in the previous day or so, I felt extremely daunted by the thought of doing 21 locks on my own in one go. Visions of starting at 7am and still trundling through in the wee small hours. So I spent a good part of Wednesday going back to my car via the G1 to Leamington town centre, a 3-mile walk back to where I’d parked it, and finding a new place forward of the locks for me to catch up to it. (I must confess, I also visited a branch of Tiger- a new shop for me- and came away with a telescopic duster, some plant pots to screw to the wall, and a circular knitting loom for Boat Girl. These were accidental purchases but I’m confident they’ll be well used!)
Anyway, on Thursday my lovely mother came to help (a former NB owner and enthusiast, she took no time at all to get back into the swing of things) and we were also lucky enough to pair up with another boat mounting the flight, which made things much easier. I set the first 10 or 11 locks before Mum and I swapped over and I took the helm, steering close by the side of our paired boat as the pounds between the locks got shorter and shorter.
The gongoozlers were out in force as well, because it was a lovely sunny day, and lots of them pitched in once we got nearer to the visitor centre at around lock #18. One American man, a Mormon missionary wearing a tie, was fascinated with the whole thing and thrilled to help operate the machinery. Another helper was around ten and she had never been on a boat, so our paired boat took her on for a ride up inside a lock and into the next one. The narrowboating community is, in general, incredibly kind and supportive.
We were tired after the locks, as despite the maintenance and grease, you’re still shifting quite a weight of water and wood and some of the machinery is pretty stiff to operate. You really have to put your back into it, and run between the locks to set the next one for your boat to go straight in; no gym membership required when you’re boating! So when we’d moored up we headed for the Hatton Arms, which I believe used to be the Waterman, on a hill overlooking the lock flight and the vista over Warwick. I’d checked out the pub the previous day to see if I could leave the car in their car park (no problem, which is another mark in their favour). They have a gluten-free menu alongside their regular one, Wye Valley Brewery’s Butty Bach among other ales on tap and the food was lovely. Service was attentive and friendly, the beer was superb and we could find almost no fault with it at all. We had starters, mains, coffee, one dessert and the cheese board, and two pints each, and the bill was around the £70 mark- so not the cheapest, but not stupidly expensive.
I don’t take photos of meals as a rule (maybe I should start!?) so no pictures, but we both had the beetroot-cured gravadlax to start, which was a beautiful deep pink colour, with perfectly tangy horseradish cream and just a little balsamic across the plate- perfect to cut through the richness. Mine on ordinary bread and Mum’s on the gluten-free, and we were both very pleased with it. To follow, I chose the burger, which was very good and came with a relish which really was proper- tomatoes, gherkins and/or capers, a tiny dab of chilli- ketchup it was not and for me that’s a good thing. It was amazing both on the burger and on my chips. Mum had the Cajun pork tenderloin and, as excellent as my dish was, when I tasted hers I wished I’d ordered it. It was pork, but not as I knew it. Brilliantly cooked, with a crusty, grilled outside and a tender cooked-to-perfection inside, the Cajun spices sang and complemented the chargrilling. I’m not always the world’s biggest fan of pork but this was pork as I dream it’s going to be.
The mulled creme brulee was tasty, but didn’t dislodge “The Parisian” on Mum’s quest to find the best creme brulee in the world. The cheeses were nice, but two were rather similar in flavour. Mum found them too cold (I quite like my cheese cold, I’m a philistine I know) but they were good- the board could have used a contrasting cheese like a Brie or a Roquefort or something quite different from the others (a mild Cheddar, a Cornish Yarg, and two hard mild blue cheeses which I don’t know, and they were the ones which tasted similar. Nice, but too samey to share a board).
I would 100% recommend the Hatton Arms. The staff were friendly and obliging, the garden is huge, and the food is lush. So was the beer we had. Go there! Climb the flight of 21 locks and quench your thirst there afterwards.
It’s written up here as something of an afterthought which is perhaps unfair to it, but after my big walks on Wednesday I went to the Cape of Good Hope pub at the top of the two Cape locks in Warwick. I drank Butty Bach there as well, which went down very well. I was on my own and was left alone to read my book (which isn’t always the case, it must be said). I had the chicken burger and I did sort of wish I’d gone for the veggie burger with halloumi, but the smashies alongside it were the stuff of dreams for fans of crunchy roast potatoes. I don’t think they’re very healthy food (!) but they were absolutely delicious. Again, it’s a lovely pub right on the water, with tables outside and plenty of room inside. They were happy for me to charge my phone, and later to monopolise the charming bar staff to a certain extent as the beer went down and I got chattier. Another pub to be recommended for boaters, and non-boaters.