Since we moved Phoenix III to Braunston we have enjoyed a few weekends on board, living in the marina, walking around the countryside and indulging ourselves in the village pubs. Friday afternoon saw us travel to Braunston once again after a three week break from the boat. We had no real plans at all for the weekend so we settled in for the evening after lighting the fire and having dinner. A bottle of wine and a bit of telly in front of a roaring fire at the end of the week is rather soporific and so we turned in for the night still none the wiser as to what we would do the following day.
Technology is a wonderful thing so before we got out of bed on Saturday morning we checked the news using Sue’s iPad. A huge earthquake followed by a tsunami had struck Japan the day before and we wanted to find out the latest news. The situation had deteriorated overnight with an explosion at a nuclear power station so after a brief discussion about it all, we got up and got dressed. A bit of sunshine poked through the clouds and we made our minds up to have breakfast and then get out on the cut. Just after half past ten we had started the engine and untied the strings before edging out of Braunston marina, under the iron bridge and on to the Grand Union, heading towards the junction. Moored boats dictated that we travelled at tickover speed but that didn’t matter, we were in no hurry to make our journey in the direction of Napton. we expect that we will travel this stretch many times in future in the same way that we used to travel the Ashby canal when we were moored in Hinckley. We met a good number of boats on our journey but we made steady progress in a westerly direction. It was windy and the sun played hide and seek with us for most of the way but we enjoyed the two and half hour trip to the winding hole just below the bottom lock at Napton. After we turned around we made our way back to the Bridge Inn at bridge 111 where we tied up on the visitor moorings.
We sat and studied the map before locking the boat up and beginning what would turn out to be a tour of all of the public houses in and around the village of Napton on the hill. First up was the Bridge Inn just a few minutes away from the boat. It would have been easy to while away the afternoon in front of the open fire in the lounge but at this time of the year The Bridge closes at three o’clock so after one drink we headed up the road and soon found the next watering hole, the King’s Head. Another open fire to seduce us but again after one drink we stomped on and up the steep hill to the village centre. After about ten minutes we had reached the summit and were starting to descend again when we saw that the footpath led straight to the third pub of the day, the Crown Inn. Another pitstop there before we headed ever downwards to the village store and then back to the canal bank and oh my goodness! Yes, another pub in the form of the Folly Pie Pub. It seemed rude to ignore it having visited every other hostelry in the parish so we went in and had another drink. We left soon after and walked the mile along the towpath back to Phoenix III. It was six o’clock when we got back. We had been out for four hours, walked three miles and visited four pubs. One less pub and a blonde wig would have given this story a great title, “Goldilocks and the three pubs” but you can’t have everything!
We awoke at six thanks to the noise of ducks jumping all over the roof and deck of the boat. We dropped back to sleep and woke again a couple of hours later to hear light rain falling on the steel roof. By the time we had got up and had breakfast, the rain had passed and we set off just before midday. We made the trip back to Braunston in just under two hours, stopping for water along the way. We turned the boat around just outside the marina entrance before reversing in to our berth. This is a fairly complex manoeuvre at the best of times but today there were plenty of spectators on the bridge and bank. We made our entrance perfectly and turning to our audience of gongoozlers, saw that they had lost interest, presumably when they realised that there was going to be no cock-up to observe. By the time we had tied the boat to the bank the sun had come out as the clouds quickly disappeared so we had a glass of wine on the back deck to celebrate our maiden voyage from our new home in Braunston marina. We spent an hour or so carrying out a few chores and odd jobs before taking a walk up past the lower locks of the Braunston flight. We noted that the Admiral Nelson has re-opened so we will check it out next time we are in the area. We watched a wide beam boat negotiate the bottom lock before returning to the marina. The sun was still shining as we gathered our belongings and prepared to return home.
For six weeks we visited the boat on a regular basis, testing the thickness of the ice and hoping for some sort of thaw. After a couple of false dawns, the visit on Friday 7th January revealed that not only was the ice only 30 – 40 mm thick but that some brave soul had already broken through. It was impossible to know in which direction the mystery boat or boats had travelled or indeed how far they had gone but with another day and night of above freezing temperatures forecast, we were confident that we would be able to complete our journey over the coming weekend.
Saturday morning saw us carting some essentials to Ansty ready for our trip. The cold weather had taken its toll on the starter battery so we had to wait for a while, charging the battery from the generator and warming the diesel injectors and inlet manifold with a hairdryer. After coaxing the engine into life and letting it run for half an hour, we untied and set off, giving a cheer as we left our “temporary” mooring.
The journey down the north oxford canal was most pleasing on this sunny Saturday in January, it was cold but we were well protected with thermals and many layers of clothing. Our aim was to reach Hillmorton for our overnight stop but with not so many moored boats along the way and very few on the move, we were at the bottom lock at half past two. So far we had passed through areas with broken ice and some with none at all, we had seen the coal boat selling a huge number of bags to one grateful boater but in general we had enjoyed a quiet cruise in the winter sunshine. We decided to ascend the lock flight and were pleasantly surprised to find each lock empty and therefore in our favour, this resulted in us leaving the top lock after only 22 minutes! We kept on going, our progress only hampered by the low level sun in our eyes. Along the way we enjoyed a game with Jack, a dog being walked on the towpath who ran up and down as we passed by. He accompanied us for about half a mile before we felt that we should stop to allow his owner to get him back on his leash. Pressing on, we eventually found a good mooring to the south of bridge 78 where we tied up for the night. Feeling very pleased with ourselves and safe in the knowledge that we were only four miles from our destination we settled down in front of the fire for the evening.
It was cold on Sunday morning, the fire had only stayed in for a part of the night and there was a hard white frost outside. We switched the heating on and had a cup of tea before it was warm enough to get up and have some breakfast. We were in no rush to move on since we had such a short trip to make. Just after half past nine we were ready to move and although we encountered some patches of thin ice we made good steady progress on our way to Braunston.
As Braunston village came into view we could hear the church bells ringing out, calling the faithful to service or as we believe, welcoming us to the area. We stopped twice before we reached the marina, once to dump our rubbish and once to plan our manouvre into the berth. We reversed the boat into the marina and using tiller, engine, pole and feet, we were soon tying up in the berth that wiould be our new home. The berth is on the sunny side of the marina so despite the cold weather our first experience of life in Braunston marina was as picture perfect as it could be.
After a short stroll around the marina, we walked along the towpath to the canal shop where we looked at local maps. Moving on to the third lock we discovered that once again the Lord Nelson pub has closed down. We then made our way up to the village where we stopped at The Wheatsheaf for a drink before walking along the main street on the way back to the marina. We were back on board before it was dark where we waited for our friend Simon to come and take us back to Ansty.
By 7pm we were back home, pleased that our boat was where it needed to be, safe in its new home. At last we could stop examining every weather forecast, at last we could stop hoping for the ice to melt. We can finally look forward to another year of cruising from our new base in Braunston.
Back in July we decided to move on to pastures new. We have berthed Phoenix III in the Trinity Marina at Hinckley since we bought her in October 2007. Having cruised up and down the Ashby for three years we felt it was time to have a new base. Braunston is 25 miles or 35 minutes away from Hinckley by road but between 12 and 13 hours away by boat. Not only would a move to Braunston give us a new starting point with a greater choice of routes, we expect that we will spend a good number of weekends on the boat in the marina itself.
Two days after we returned from our winter break in Fuerteventura and it’s time to leave the marina for the final time. Despite the cold weather, we have a symbolic glass of wine after we fill the diesel tank and start our chilly journey to Braunston. We hope to complete our journey by Sunday afternoon and have already left a car at the marina in preparation.
We left Hinckley just after half past two and tied up an hour and a half later near Burton Hastings. We expected a cold night but were surprised at how cold it actually was when at 10pm we saw that the generator which had been running for six hours was encrusted in white frost.
We awoke at 6am and were pleasantly surprised to find that the fire had stayed lit and kept the chill off the boat. We switched the heating on and by 7am when we had drunk our morning tea and climbed out of bed, the boat was lovely and warm. It was soon light enough to see that there was a covering of overnight snow on the frozen canal. Half an hour later and we were off, sort of! Our progress was slow as we smashed our way through the ice on our way to Marston Junction but we reached the turn at around 8.45 so we hadn’t lost too much time.
The turning manouvre itself took about ten minutes as we crunched our way through ice up to an inch thick but soon we were heading south on the Coventry canal towards Sutton Stop. We almost jumped for joy when we reached The Navigation pub and saw that a boat was somewhere ahead of us, judging by the seven foot channel cut in the ice.
Our elation was relatively short lived when we caught up our “pilot ship” just before the turn at Hawkesbury Junction. Another difficult manouvre and then we were through the frozen stop lock. We had expected that the sun would be at least softening the ice and that we might encounter an oncoming boat. Neither of our wishes came true and by the time we had smashed our way to the M69 road bridge we realised that we were travelling at about two thirds of our normal speed. Our concern wasn’t really with how far we would get but with where we would end up. With the canal still frozen, another sub-zero night forecast and no-one else on the move, we figured that we probably wouldn’t be able to move at all on Sunday. We decided to tie up at Ansty, still a long way from Braunston but close enough to civilisation to make the situation manageable. Decision made, we retired to the Rose and Castle at Ansty for an excellent lunch before calling our friend Nigel with a plea to pick us up and take us home. Despite the time we had spent battling our way to Ansty, we were only ten minutes from Hinckley and so by half past three we were back in the comfort of our home. Once again, we have abandoned Phoenix III and now we just have to wait for some sort of thaw before we complete our voyage.
18 August 2010 17:31
Wednesday afternoon and we are off again! Sue had spent most of the day setting everything up so all I had to do was to go home and get changed. Having done that we decided to walk to the marina to begin our holiday. It was quite breezy when we left the marina, pausing for a few minutes to fill the diesel tank and then we were on our way. A wave for Jim as we passed the Limekilns and on towards Marston junction and the Coventry canal. Our original intention had been to head north on the Coventry canal and follow the route of the Warwickshire ring. The weather forecast had looked changeable so we decided not to commit to something that we might regret if the rain came like it did two years ago when we travelled the four counties ring. Without making a final decision, we headed south knowing that we still had many options for our final destination. Three hours after leaving Hinckley we were lucky to find a space on the approach to Hawkesbury junction. We tied up for the night and after a walk to the Greyhound for a quick drink, we returned to the boat and had our evening meal.
19 August 2010 17:49
We awoke around seven and decided to make an early start. The ditherings of the weather forecasters and the fact that there are not too many places of interest on the northern section of the Oxford canal meant that we wanted to get as close as we could to Braunston. We ascended the Hawkesbury flight in record time and by ten to eight we were cruising between the pylons of Longford. We enjoyed some early morning sunshine as we made our way down through Ansty and its golf course. As we made our way towards Rugby we observed an increase in the number of boats on the move but despite that and the fact that BW were repairing a lock at Hillmorton, we made good time and found ourselves approaching Braunston just before four o’clock. Our good fortune in finding moorings continued with a space opposite the Boathouse pub. We were also fortunate with our timing because the rain came just before five so our decision to make the early start had been a good one. We ate our dinner and listened to music before turning in for the night. We decided to wait until the morning before deciding what to do next.
20 August 2010 18:22
The overnight rain had cleared when we looked out at half past seven so once again we decided to make an early start. We turned the boat around at the entrance to Braunston marina before doing a toilet and water stop. By the time we reached the junction we realised just how windy it was. We had already met an out of control hire boat caught in the breeze and as we travelled the exposed section between the turn and Napton, the wind seemed to get stronger. We made the turn on to the Grand Union with no trouble just after ten o’clock and soon we were approaching the first of the Calcutt locks. We descended this lock alone before joining a hire boat in the next. With children running across lock gates and strange boating habits being displayed by the grown-ups we decided to pull over after the third lock and let the holiday makers get well out of the way. Half an hour later and we started off again, reaching Stockton top lock a few minutes later although the boatyard above the lock made life difficult for everyone by mooring boats three abreast opposite a line of other boats. Bad enough at anytime but on a windy day, definitely not a smart move. Our trip down the flight was an interesting one but for all the wrong reasons. We met a couple of boats coming up whose crews had decided to try and set the whole flight in their favour by opening all of the bottom gates, fine if no-one is descending but of course that is never going to happen on such a big flight, especially in August! We were joined by a couple on a private boat in the third lock but instead of making the descent easier, their disorganised approach and desire to try and speed up the proceedings made for some hard work, particularly for Sue . The motto “Less haste, more speed” should be adopted by all boaters. We could take no more and let them leave us at the Blue Lias pub where we tied up and had lunch in the bar. Suitably refuelled, we dropped through the remaining two locks into Long Itchington where we moored close to the Two Boats Inn. We took a walk into the village and visited the local Co-op before returning to the boat where after a refreshing shower, we sat and relaxed for a while. Much like the previous day, we sat inside and watched some heavy rain, again our timing had been impeccable. So far we had been lucky in finding moorings and we had been tied up when the heavy rain came. Tomorrow would be another day but we would wait until then before making our travel plans.
21 August 2010 16:22
Saturday morning dawned dull and drizzly but we decided to set off and make our way to Leamington. Half an hour later and we were tying up again to escape the torrential rain. We had some breakfast and then started again, the rain had eased off and we were soon at the first lock, a staircase. We travelled through it with a couple who were turning around before the next lock. As we continued the descent into Leamington on our own, we saw the occasional boat and the odd jogger on the towpath. In the main, our only companion was the rain but even it only travelled with us intermittently. Royal Leamington Spa is a grand Victorian town but by canal we sort of crept quietly in around the back where the bins are. We rejected Nicholson’s advice and chose not to moor near bridge 40, the moorings are good but when we saw a boat vandalised with spray paint, we decided to move on. Soon enough we were able to tie up next to a Lidl store between bridges 43 and 44. Rings and a good towpath seemed inviting enough and with the surrounding neighbourhood looking pretty good too, we settled for the rest of the day and night. We are now only a short hop from the Saltisford arm where we will hopefully be able to spend a couple of days, from where we can use the train services to explore Warwick, Leamington and Stratford.
22 August 2010 16:52
We made the relatively short trip to the Saltisford Arm this morning after a quiet night on the good moorings outside Lidl. Topping up the water below the Cape locks and idling a while to have breakfast, we soon reached the point where a wrong turn would mean a trip up the Hatton flight and certain death at Sue’s hands. Discretion being the better part of valour and valour being the better part of cowardice, I turned left and entered the Saltisford arm. We reported to the manager and he directed us to a mooring between the office and the winding hole. After we sorted ourselves out we took a walk into Warwick town centre which is only 15 minutes away from the arm. There was a collection of cars from the sixties and seventies in the Market square and we took a wander around them before heading back to the boat. After dinner, we took a walk back to the cape locks to check out the lockside pub, The Cape of Good Hope which is recommended in Nicholson’s guide. It didn’t live up to expectations, not for us or for the family on holiday who discovered that there was no food available. Still, they had tied up on a water point so we had no sympathy for them. We called in at another pub, The Dun Cow, on the way back to our temporary residence. We chatted with the landlord and one of his locals as we had our drinks before walking across the road and back to the boat before turning in for the night.
23 August 2010 16:13
We decided to go to Leamington or rather Royal Leamington Spa to give it it’s full title. We were given directions to Warwick Parkway rail station which is only a short walk from Hatton bottom lock and that was the nearest that we got to the flight. The train ride to Leamington only lasts ten minutes so we were soon wandering into another town centre. After an hour, the heavens opened and like most others around us we took shelter in the nearest shopping centre until the rain died down. We returned to the railway station and caught the next train back, not exactly the day out that we had hoped for but since our rail tickets had cost less than a fiver between us, we weren’t really disappointed. The weather had improved enough to allow us to have a pleasant walk from the station back to the boat. The next hour or so brought torrential rain and brilliant sunshine in equal quantities. It was as if Mother nature was showing off her full repertoire of weather acts in quick succession. Eventually she settled for sunshine so we nipped down to the local Sainsbury’s for one or two essentials before calling in to the Dun Cow again for a quick drink after which we returned to the boat and ate dinner.
24 August 2010 16:36
We had planned to visit Stratford today but with a lot of rain forecast for Wednesday, we decided to get our return journey underway. We paid our mooring fees and then made our departure, nosing out on to the Grand Union and turning towards Leamington. There was a short queue at the Cape locks where we also took on water (after we moved the ubiquitous hire boat off the water point) but by the time we cleared the second lock, the traffic had cleared itself and we enjoyed an easy trip to Radford bottom lock behind the Saltisford day boat “Saltie II”. We planned to make the long ascent up to Napton junction in three stages with tonight’s stopover being somewhere in the Long Itchington area. The locks are well spaced out on this section of the Grand Union and we made the ascent on our own, occasionally seeing the odd boat on the way down. The last lock is a staircase lock and thanks to two lazy lone boaters on the way down we made heavy going of it. Not only did they drive out leaving both gates open, we came to realise that they had left one of the middle paddles up effectively draining the top chamber fully. Once we had worked out the problem, we were on our way again. Not daring to risk pushing our luck too much for moorings, we tied up near bridge 27. It was at this time that I discovered that we had developed a coolant leak from the water pump. The pump pulley was loose and so was the alternator, presumably as a result of vibration so I tightened everything up and decided to assess the situation in the morning. We settled ourselves down for the daily dose of rain and waited for the next day to dawn.
25 August 2010 16:41
We decided to make an early start and after topping up the coolant we set off at 7.30. By the time we reached the first lock twenty minutes later it was clear that we really did have a problem. We decided to press on and keep the coolant level topped up as we went. We really could have done with an extra crew member or two but we had to make do. We were lucky enough to find most of the ten locks to the top of the Stockton flight in our favour, even being fortunate enough to cross over with descending boats on three occasions. We cleared the last one at ten o’clock, ten locks in two hours is no mean feat but with hard work and some good fortune we had made it. The coolant leak was still a problem but a manageable one so after a quick breakfast stop we ploughed on and did the Calcutt locks as well before turning left at Napton junction. We were still mindful of the predicted heavy rain but we now had to get back to Hinckley as soon as possible. We were trying to work out whether to stop at Braunston and wait for the storm to pass or turn left at the Junction and cover some more miles on the way home. With 200 yards to go, we decided to head home. 100 yards later and the boat decided to have its say, the temperature gauge shot up and I cut the engine sliding to a stop just before the famous bridges. Sue walked to the junction and saw that there was some mooring space to the right after the turn so I pushed the stricken boat to the other bank and hauled her round by the middle rope. By the time Phoenix III had rounded the bend, Sue had enlisted the help of a fellow boater who untied his boat and moved along the bank to make it easy for us to moor. The time was just after half past one when we called RCR for help. It is virtually impossible to get spare parts for the obscure Chinese built engine that powers Phoenix III so after a few more phone calls, an RCR engineer arrived and removed the faulty pump. The pump will be sent to a company in Cheshire who specialise in water pump repairs so hopefully we might be underway in a couple of days. As for the weather? Well the rain started within half an hour of the breakdown and is forecast to last for 36 hours!!! The torrential rain was still lashing the roof when we went to bed but we were warm and dry, thanks to being able to light the fire earlier in the evening. Yes, we lit the fire but looking along the row of moored boats, we were not the only ones. So after a hard winter and the fourth washout summer in a row, the “experts” still want us to believe in “Global warming”. Of course they now call it climate change to get round the fact that the world is cooling down again.
26 August 2010 17:22
The rain continued through the night but we managed to sleep on in fits and starts until 8.30. The position that we had found ourselves in was not ideal but once we had taken stock of the situation we realised that we weren’t too badly off. We have a reasonable amount of water that we need to conserve. We are able to empty our toilet and get rid of our rubbish. We have plenty of diesel for the heating, plenty of fuel for the fire and gas for the cooker. We have a generator and enough petrol to keep the batteries charged for a few days. We are within walking distance of Braunston village with its pubs and shops. We are only 30 miles from home and there is public transport. We decided to wait until we had the assessment on the water pump before we decided on our next plan of action. In the meantime we took a walk up to the village and did some shopping before returning to the boat for the day. We rang RCR to enquire about the pump but it is going to be Friday before we know what is happening. We spoke to British Waterways about our mooring which has a 48 hour limit and they are happy for us to stay here. When we started our trip we had hoped to be in Braunston for the coming weekend because the village is having its annual festival. It looks like our wish is to be granted although not the circumstances that we imagined. And we also know that our old friend “The Cheeseboat” is on its way so we will probably indulge ourselves with some truckles of their finest Snowdonia cheeses.
27 August 2010 16:47
It’s the Friday before the bank holiday and we are still unsure what is happening with the water pump. The weather has cheered up so we decided to take the bus into Rugby. After wandering around the town for a couple of hours we caught the bus back to Braunston and had lunch at the Boat House pub. We had a call from RCR to tell us that the pump had only just arrived at the refurbishing company and that it was badly damaged; tell us something we didn’t know two days ago!!! We returned to the boat to collect our thoughts and work out what to do next. Realising that with the bank holiday approaching we were unlikely to be sorted for another week or so, we decided to take matters out of the hands of others and into our own. A quick walk to the marina office, an explanation of our predicament, a very quick phone call and another walk to the workshop of Tony Redshaw (www.vintagediesels.co.uk) and we had a solution. We would leave the boat with Tony and his son and partner, Paul. They would modify the engine to take a new Jabsco water pump and we would go home. Our immediate future secured, we grabbed a few bits and pieces and headed back to the bus stop. The trip home was an adventure in itself, the trip to Rugby was fine apart from the last mile which took an age to complete due to the Friday tea-time traffic. We had to run for the train to Coventry and only just made it by getting in the guard’s door. At Coventry we had a few minutes to grab a drink in the cafe before getting on another train to Nuneaton where we planned to get the 48 bus home. Arriving at Nuneaton bus station and realising that we had 45 minutes to wait, we decided to complete our journey by taxi.
24 September 2010 17:17
Four weeks after we abandoned Phoenix III it was time to collect her and bring her home. Of course it wasn’t just as simple as picking up the keys, we had to re-fill the water tank and turn around before we could start our journey back. We had only travelled a short distance before we realised that the domestic batteries were flat and that the split charging relay had been damaged when the water pump exploded. We tied up below the locks at Hillmorton and ran the generator until 8pm. Not only did this give us a few hours of television, we were able to charge the flat batteries at the same time. Saturday and with a bit of luck we would make it back to Hinckley. We were prepared that we might have to break our journey with another overnight stop but we had a clear run and made it back in one hit. Perhaps it was an uneventful journey or maybe we saw the trip as a chore rather then a pleasurable experience, either way we tramped on up the North Oxford canal before turning on to the Coventry canal for an hour, stopping briefly at The Greyhound where we took our own glasses into the pub and asked them to fill us up with a couple of pints and a glass of white wine. With our pitstop completed faster than Team McClaren could change four tyres and pump 100 litres of fuel, we were on our way again. An hour later and we were back on the Ashby, only two hours from home. On our arrival back into the marina, we tied up and left everything on board until the following day.27/09/2010
It is just over two years since we made our first and only trip into Coventry.
This time we had left Hinckley on the Friday afternoon of what promised to be a warm summer weekend. We stopped for the night near Bedworth after exiting the Ashby and turning on to the Coventry canal towards Nuneaton. This was the first time we had moored here and it was a good place to stay overnight.
The following morning saw us making the short hop to Nuneaton where we tied up and walked into town for breakfast and some shopping. The whole ambience was relaxing as we walked through the streets in the morning sunshine. We returned to the boat by midday and decided to turn around and head for Hawkesbury, hoping that we might be lucky enough to secure a mooring near the junction. It almost came as no surprise to find that it was our lucky day and there was a spot less than 100 yards from the Greyhound pub – perfect!
We took a walk to the pub and had a couple of drinks as well as a bit of banter with a couple of boaters before sitting outside for a while. It was then that we decided to take another look at Coventry. We returned to the boat and settled down for the evening.
Sunday morning found us still looking forward to our trip into the city and we were underway by nine o’clock. Apart from picking up a track suit on the rudder, the trip was much better than the last time. The canal seems more rural now, greener and peaceful. The Courtaulds site has been cleared which also helps make the journey more pleasing on the eye. We tied up in the basin and walked down to the Coventry Transport Museum where, in addition to the normal attractions there was an Alvis car show on the museum concourse. We spent over an hour wandering around looking at the exhibits before making our way back to the canal basin.
After turning around we were on our way back, happy that we had made the trip and given this route another chance, promising to re-visit on another weekend trip. The journey back to Hinckley took us about five hours and we finally pulled into the marina at half past six. The weekend that had seen us change direction time and again on impulse had turned out to be a very rewarding experience.
The start of our big adventure!
Our early summer holiday began today, seventeen days to explore the Leicester Ring. In actual fact, we have previously covered a big chunk of this route on other trips. Fradley down to Marston on our 4 counties ring trip and Marston down to Norton when we took the Grand Union down to Leighton Buzzard.
We pulled out of the Trinity Marina at one o’clock on one of the warmest days that we have experienced since we bought the boat. The outlook for the coming week is good so we are looking forward to a good holiday. By the time we reached Marston junction at the end of the Ashby, we had seen almost all of the Ashby boat company fleet returning to base at Stoke Golding. We cruised through all of our familiar areas in the sunshine; The Charity Dock at Bedworth, Ansty and its golf course, Rose Narrowboats at Stretton, eventually mooring just after half past seven at All Oaks Wood. That was it, our first day done and we were well on our way.
Our rural retreat brought us the dawn chorus at 4am but it was 7am when we woke up properly. We got underway for eight and had breakfast “on the go” near Rugby, crumpets topped with home made soft cheese and bacon bits. The three locks at Hillmorton presented no problems for us and again we enjoyed another beautiful day in the sunshine. The weather had obviously brought everyone out and we passed dozens of boats before we stopped at Braunston. We made a quick pitstop before rounding the corner and mooring opposite the Boathouse pub.
Surprisingly, we had no intention of visiting said hostelry but they were already doing a roaring trade, capitalising on the good weather. We wandered round to Midland Chandlers to pick up a couple of bits and pieces and then spent the rest of the day sitting on the deck, enjoying the summer evening.
We awoke at six which was good because we wanted to ascend the Braunston locks as early as possible. As we approached the bottom lock we met with Bruce and Sheila aboard nb Sanity Again. The couple were waiting to pair up with someone to traverse the flight with and we were the first to arrive. This nice couple were taking their boat, a 70′ liveaboard, to the Crick Boat Show where the builders, Braidbar boats were showing it as their latest offering. The locks were with us for most of the way and we completed the ascent in just one hour. It seemed fitting to exit the top lock together before hovering just outside the top gates to pick up our lock-wheelers. We said goodbye to our new friends and wished them luck at the show before following them into Braunston tunnel.
We have travelled through Braunston tunnel twice before but on this occasion we were making a one way trip. We heard a ghostly noise part way through, probably a bird in the vent shaft but still a little unnerving anyway!
We exited the tunnel into bright sunshine, despite the shade from the tree lined cutting and completed the journey to Norton junction. Finally, we were turning into unknown territory, the Grand Union Leicester Section. We passed Bruce and Sheila as they were mooring up for the day near Watford and we passed Watford Gap services, surely the only service station on the canal network! Soon enough we reached the bottom of the Watford flight with its staircase locks, a new experience for both of us. Sue went off and found the lock-keeper and under her instruction we made our way to the top where we carried out our chores. Almost immediately we passed under the M1 motorway and made our way to Crick tunnel. This tunnel is shorter than Braunston but as we approached the northern portal, we suffered (or enjoyed) a “rainfall” of water for the last 200 metres. This water, when it hit the hot steel roof of the boat, instantly evaporated, creating clouds of steam.
As we exited our second tunnel of the day we were pleased to see that we were able to moor very close to Crick village.
As we tied up, we noticed a hire boat ahead which had come loose from its mooring and was blocking the canal, no concern of ours since we were tying up but once secure, we help a passing family to pull the boat in and re-pin it.
After a quick drink and a shower, we made our way into Crick itself, only ten minutes from the towpath and well worth the visit.
Beer researching took place in the Red Lion (Old Speckled Hen) and the Wheatsheaf (Bombardier). A stop at the Co-op and then it was back to the boat which now sat nicely in the shade. Holiday or no holiday, chores still have to be done and in a departure from previous trips where we took lots of clothes and created a massive pile of dirty laundry, this time we have a washing machine! Sue took charge and washed our towels, t-shirts and our smalls while I sat down and caught up with this journal.
After dinner, we ventured back up to the village where we encountered a South African group who were looking for somewhere to eat. Their intended destination, Edwards restaurant, was inexplicably closed and they had already checked out the Red Lion to discover that there was no evening service. We could offer them no good advice so we left them on the canal bridge and we headed into the village. We found the third pub, the Royal Oak and were disappointed with it. A horrible place with a manager to match, we left as soon as possible and made our way to the Red Lion, a pub which promises so much and delivers so little. All in all with its background noise from the motorway, Crick is very much a village which flatters to deceive.
Waking up in the shade, we were on our way for eight o’clock, pulling past Crick Marina and on our way towards Leicester. This section of canal reminded us of the rural Ashby as we motored on through the Northamptonshire countryside under another cloudless sky. There really isn’t a lot to see along here except the rolling green landscape and of course at this time of year everything is growing, reminding us of the description “Green and pleasant land”. Eventually we reached the junction where we turned right and made our way to Welford. We reached the terminus at half past twelve and turned the boat around before filling the water tank and emptying the toilet and bin at the BW station. After mooring up properly, we took a walk into the village where we visited the shop and discovered that the Elizabethan pub was closed. We returned to the wharf where we had a drink and contacted the Union Wharf at Market Harborough to arrange our stay on Tuesday night.
Half past two saw us back on the boat, firing up the engine and heading off in the direction of Foxton. After passing through North Kilworth wharf.
and Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, we eventually tied up next to bridge 60 above Foxton top lock, ready for the descent into Market Harborough on Tuesday. After dinner, we took a walk down through the partially restored inclined plane to the newly refurbished pub next to the bottom lock where we had a quick drink before returning to the boat.
We were up and about for seven o’clock and after a quick cup of tea we moved on to the top of the Foxton flight. The lock keeper gave us some instruction and at eight o’clock we entered the top lock. We were held up in the middle compound as five boats passed us on the way up. We finally emerged from the bottom lock just after ten and then made our way along the Harborough arm. The sky was cloudy but it was a welcome break from the scorching sunshine of the last few days. It was midday by the time we reached the basin terminus where we quickly tied up on the pontoon before paying our overnight mooring fees.
Plenty of time to catch up on the chores before doing a little shopping and then meeting up with daughter Amy and her boyfriend Jamie who live in the town.
We left Market Harborough around 10am and headed back towards Foxton. It was very quiet and we were soon passing through the junction and heading off in the direction of Leicester. In common with the summit, the route from Foxton to Kilby Bridge is pretty desolate but as lonely as it was it wasn’t a bad journey and we tied up near the bridge just five minutes before the rain started and came on for the evening.
We began our big trip through Leicester at twenty past eight after filling the water tank at Kilby Bridge. Our trip to Birstall would cover twelve miles and include fifteen locks. Reports and articles we had read suggested that the trip would be one to get over and forget so with the distance and the locks involved, we weren’t looking forward to it much. The passage into Leicester was a quiet one, hardly any boats and half filled locks which were well spaced out aided our passage as we skirted the edge of South Wigston and then Blaby. From Kilby to Aylestone the lock paddles all have anti-vandal locks but the journey was pleasant as we passed the back gardens of many houses. After Blaby the canal passes through park land and is joined by the river Soar. With very little rain in the last few weeks it was difficult to notice any significant current, the only difference was that the water ran clear and it was possible to see the plants growing below the surface. The parkland continued as we passed Aylestone, dropping slowly down the Soar valley.
The landscape eventually changed to one of old industrial ruin as we reached St Mary’s Mill lock.
Shortly after that we sat opposite the Walker stadium, home to Leicester City football club where Sue had her moment of glory in front of the “Shrine”.
We avoided the large weir in front of Freemen’s Lock before descending further on our journey into the city.
The next section is a straight mile of wide water crossed by many bridges and it’s fair to say that we were mightily impressed on this particular sunny summer’s day.
We stopped briefly for lunch on board, opposite castle gardens at the nearest point to the city centre.
As we left the city on our northward journey we saw more dilapidated factories and warehouses before passing the National Space Centre and then finding ourselves back in the countryside again.
We reached Birstall just after half past three, a total journey time of six and three quarter hours.
We showered before walking up into the village for a look around before returning to the boat with some groceries from the Co-op. We then rounded off the day with a fabulous evening meal at the White Horse pub, a two minute stroll away from the boat. Reflecting on the day, we came to the conclusion that Leicester gets a bad press, we enjoyed our trip and would recommend the route without hesitation
Another bright sunny day greeted us as we awoke on board Phoenix III in Birstall. From here on in, our busy locking days behind us, we looked forward to our cruise which would take us to Loughborough. Leaving our mooring at eight o’clock we were soon appreciating the width of the river Soar.
The time passed quickly on this fresh summery day. With temperatures in the mid teens, blue skies and white fluffy clouds accompanying us as we made our way down the dark clear water of the river, we were happy with our choice of holiday once again. A short stop at Barrow-upon-Soar for water and the like preceded the rest of our journey to Loughborough. The locks continued to be evenly spread out making this a very pleasant day indeed.
We reached Loughborough wharf just after one o’clock and were pleased to get the last of only five spaces there. After securing the boat we walked the short distance into the town centre and then on to the Great Central Railway.
Shocked by the prices of the platform tickets (£5) and disappointed by the town itself, we returned to the wharf to find that Phoenix III was the only boat left! Seeing that a few teenagers had begun to congregate, we decided to grab a few essentials from the nearby Sainsbury’s and leave the town.
We were soon on our way again and within half an hour, we were back out in the countryside. We passed by Normanton-upon-Soar with its beautiful church, nestled amongst some of the best waterside properties we have seen on our travels.
The wind seemed to be getting stronger as we passed by the emergency moorings above Zouch, so much so that the width of the river and the rough surface made us wonder if this is what it would be like taking the boat out to sea. Once on to the Zouch cut, we found one of the last mooring places and tied up for the night just above the lock.
We were due a day off and with the first rain forecast for more than a week, we decided that this was the best day to have it. We made arrangements with Sue’s daughter and her family to meet for lunch at the nearby Rose and Crown before sorting out a mooring for Monday night at Beeston.
After a quick shower we walked to the pub where Rebecca, Don, Daniel and Rachel joined us for lunch. This lovely, welcoming pub provided us with a tasty selection of food enjoyed by all. After lunch, we all walked back to the boat for an hour of conversation, fishing and games.
Our visitors left us about half past three and then it was just us again, we made some loose plans for the following days cruising before just kicking back and relaxing.
Sunday morning, another lazy day ahead, we dragged ourselves out of bed some time after eight after the obligatory cup of tea of course. The wind was blowing hard as we moved into Zouch lock, the same wind got us all out of shape as we passed out of the bottom gates but a bit of deft pole-work by Sue got us back on the straight and narrow in no time at all. Once on the move we had no problem as we twisted and turned our way along the Soar towards Kegworth deep lock. This lock was a bit of a challenge with big gates and difficult to open paddles but we made it through and on to the following shallow lock which was chained open for the summer. Just beyond here we tied up for the day, had a cooked breakfast and then went off to explore the village. There was a junior cricket match in progress as we passed by the village green but we did not stop to watch. It took us about ten minutes to reach the village centre where we visited the local Co-op and replenished our supplies.
On our journeys, we carry both Nicholsons and Pearsons guides to the waterways. The former has the better maps while the latter usually has more detailed local information. Both publications have information on pubs but on this occasion they differed from each other and from reality. Nicholson lists three pubs in the village, The Anchor, The Cap & Stocking and The Red Lion whereas Pearson only mentions the first two. We saw The Anchor and eventually Sue worked out the location of The Cap & Stocking. We didn’t find the Red Lion but we did see The Old Flying Horse, all very mysterious! In the end, we only visited the Cap & Stocking which was a delightful experience, a step back in time almost with Bass bitter served from the jug.
Well worth a visit whether travelling by water or by road.
After a couple of drinks and a scan of the papers we returned to the boat for the afternoon.
After two lazy days we were up for a bit of a cruise so we got up at half past seven, threw on our clothes and were underway by eight o’clock. We had no real plan although we had made a provisional booking for an overnight stay at Beeston Marina. We only had one lock to negotiate before we passed the Ratcliffe on Soar power station then it was through another chained-open floodlock and we left the Soar and joined the river Trent. Almost as soon as we were on it, we were off it again as we entered the Cranfleet cut. We joined another narrowboat for our passage through the next lock which allowed us on to the river again. Our journey so far has taken us from our native narrow canals onto the broad Grand Union and then on to the even broader river Soar. The Trent by comparison is massive, the Phoenix was like a dog let loose, engine revving freely, clean river water washing high along her sides, she loved the freedom as we shot down to Beeston. We were waved into the lock by other boaters and soon passed into the canal which would take us into Nottingham. We passed by the Boots estate at Beeston before mooring at Castle Meadow where we visited the large Sainsbury’s and replenished our supplies. Surprisingly, we were stopped for an hour before we carried on into the City where we turned around and made our way back out. In fairness to Nottingham, the whole canal experience is excellent, there is nothing for the traveller to fear or be concerned about, unlike many other towns and cities.
Our trip back out of the City saw us getting involved with a fleet of cruisers which included one broken down vessel being towed by another. We took on water at Beeston lock where we encountered a boat full of drugged up filthy hippies. As soon as we could, we made our way back up through the lock and on to the river again, the trip back to the Cranfleet cut only taking an hour. It was here that we caught up with the cruiser fleet again who helped us through the fierce running lock, two narrowboats and a small cruiser whose crew were petrified as the three craft moved back and forth in the chamber. As the time was approaching six o’clock we decided to tie up for the night in the cut, just short of Trent lock. We were helped in by a fellow boater who took our ropes and as we secured our mooring told us that he was setting off early to hopefully reach the tidal Trent by the following night so that he could return to Wakefield by next weekend. We thanked him for his help, went inside and then sorted ourselves out with showers and our evening meal. Our big cruise over, we reflected on our adventure on the mighty river Trent and started thinking about the next leg of our journey.
We awoke to an overcast day and gradually got ourselves sorted out for about half past nine. Once we had untied we realised that we no longer had our boat hook and by the time we had reached Trent Lock junction we had come to the conclusion that someone must have lifted it late the previous night. We passed the cruisers that we had accompanied from Beeston the day before and noted that one of them had a similar pole on board but we passed on by knowing that they would not have taken ours.
We approached Sawley lock soon after and Sue walked up to the lock to see what was happening. There was another narrowboat waiting to go through and soon enough a woman appeared and told me that her husband had gone to the lock ages earlier. A few minutes later the bottom gates opened and two boats emerged. I followed the woman’s narrowboat into the lock and then we waited while her husband took charge of the controls of this automated lock. After a few minutes of no activity, Sue stepped up to the control panel and set the paddles in motion. “Lock Guy” as he became known tried to cover up his lack of understanding but his wife soon put him in his place by reminding him that he had made the same mistake at a previous motorised lock. The full story was that he had left his boat to operate the lock and despite assurances to the two crews in the lock, had been unable to figure it out until Sue had arrived and shown him what to do, to which he triumphantly announced to the boaters below, “We’ve sorted it now!” . Sue’s secret? She read the instructions on the control panel!
Lock Guy was stopping at Sawley marina so we waved goodbye to him and his wife and moved on up to the Trent & Mersey canal by passing back under the M1 motorway ( we first passed under it in the opposite direction nine days earlier at Watford Gap). As we approached the first lock we passed an oncoming boater who informed us that the lock was ready for us. We thought this a little strange because we could see two boats ahead of us so we assumed that he had not noticed both of them. The two boats moved into the lock and then one of the lock wheelers started waving us in, maybe the two were short boats after all? We pulled over while Sue went to check it out, only to discover that the boaters were having a brainstorm, it would be impossible to fit all three boats in the lock, today was proving to be a day for silly mistakes.
We had travelled through light drizzle so when we saw that we could moor at Shardlow right outside two pubs,
we decided to stop for the day and go on a pub crawl. We had lunch in the Malt Shovel and it was excellent. We were probably the youngest customers in the pub but it was still a good place to be. We walked to the Navigation and it was here that I gradually remembered the events of the day before, particularly the episode in the lock with the cruiser. I had handed our boat hook to the lady on the cruiser and I didn’t get it back, it had been the pole that we had seen on the cruiser earlier in the day. All of a sudden I was with Lock Guy and the boaters who thought that we could all fit in one lock in the final of “no-brain of Britain”!
We visited the local museum but found it closed so we returned to the boat and decided to move on. The drizzle had long stopped so we enjoyed our cruise up to Swarkestone where we tied up on some excellent moorings above the lock. We were able to take on water and dump our bin bag before settling in for the night.
We were looking forward to the first lock of the day so we left our overnight mooring and made our way to Stenson where we would find the last wide lock of our journey. The previous day’s locks were deep and the gates had been heavy so we would be glad to return to some shallower narrow locks. At Stenson we encountered a late entrant in the “no-brain of Britain contest” a bloke who leaped off his cruiser, opened the wrong paddles and then asked if all the locks were like this one. Our last broad lock and obviously his first! We were joined in this lock by another narrowboat which got jammed on its way in because one of the bottom gates would not open fully and he had left his fenders down. A bit of manoeuvring and we were sorted before heading off to our next stop, Willington. After stopping for our services we moved on and tied up on the village moorings. We had lunch in the garden of the Green Dragon enjoying the sunshine.
After lunch we continued our journey, passing through Burton on Trent. Sunshine, narrow locks and pleasant canal-side scenery made for a lovely afternoon as we cruised along the Trent and Mersey. We found a good mooring at Branston and although we were close to the Bridge Inn, we stayed on the boat where we enjoyed the sunset and fed the birds. Three families of Canada Geese swam around us before they engaged in a short fight which was over in less than a minute. Peace resumed and we then retired for the evening.
Another sunny day was waiting for us when we awoke on the second Thursday of our holiday. We made our way along the canal as it ran parallel to the A38 and I was reminded of Watford Gap services as we passed a Little Chef which sat between the road and the water.
We travelled on the final section of the river Trent before we arrived at Alrewas. After securing the boat, we walked to the village where we visited the George & Dragon, the butcher and the local Co-op. Alrewas seemed like one of those perfect villages that many people dream of living in.
The national war memorial is nearby but we were advised not to walk there because we would have to cross the busy A38.
We spent the late afternoon and evening hanging out around the boat. Lock Guy appeared and spoke to us, he was actually alright despite his earlier behaviour but he was soon “called in” for his dinner. We ate our own evening meal, fillet steak from the butcher shop, sitting on camp chairs on the towpath and then had a long conversation with the couple on the boat next to us. All too soon and another day was behind us.
Another sunny day! We left Alrewas early hoping to get a head start on everyone else but the journey to Fradley junction was still slow going, particularly when it came to the last junction before the turn.
The last time that we turned on to the Coventry canal at Fradley junction was almost two years ago at the end of our rained -out Four Counties ring trip. On that occasion we were just desperate to get home but this time the turn was made with the sadness of knowing that our holiday was almost at an end.
The lock free trip to Fazeley on a sunny day was a pleasure and with the exception of a stop at Streethay Wharf for diesel we just carried on cruising to the two locks at Glascote. The top lock was a little awkward but we were soon on our way and we eventually moored opposite the Samuel Barlow pub at Alvecote. We ate on the boat but didn’t visit the pub, instead we enjoyed the evening sunshine while we contemplated the last couple of days of our cruise.
We had positioned ourselves at Alvecote so that we could plan our return to Hinckley in conjunction with the weather forecast. On this Saturday morning it looked like we would be able to divide the final leg of the journey over two days.
We untied and set off, all too soon we reached the bottom lock of the Atherstone flight. There was a lot of traffic in both directions but we plodded on and moored at lunchtime between locks six and five. We walked up to the town where we noted that it was carnival day. Most of the girls and young women wore a single flower in their hair and there was an overall happy atmosphere in the town.
We had lunch in the Red Lion almost as a matter of ritual really before we did some shopping and returned to the boat. We then proceeded to ascend the remaining five locks and had a bit of a catch-up with the crew from one of our marina neighbours who were descending the flight.
We left Atherstone and made our way towards Hartshill. Our plan was to stop somewhere before Nuneaton and in the event we were able to tie up outside the Anchor Inn. We showered before heading to the pub for what would be our final meal of the holiday – and it was pretty poor! There is no point in going into detail, it was a disappointment and we won’t go there again. We returned to Phoenix III and turned in for the night.
We have made the trip from Atherstone to Hinckley so many times on a Sunday that we didn’t really expect much from the final few hours of our trip. Sure enough, the trip was an uneventful four hour excursion through Nuneaton, round Marston Junction and on to the Ashby. Just after eleven o’clock we were tied up and found ourselves filling the car boot with our belongings.
Later, as we reflected on our trip, we were in no doubt that this cruise had been our best yet.
We were unsure as to whether we would be able to venture out today but in the event, we headed out around four o’clock. It was quite windy but we made it out on the Ashby and turned in a northerly direction.
We had an uneventful trip up to bridge 35 where we tied up under the conker trees and spent a peaceful night aboard Phoenix III
Saturday 15th May
The sun rose and we could hear the boat expanding in the heat before we got out of bed on Saturday morning. We travelled the hour’s trip to Market Bosworth and then walked up to the town. A quick walk around preceded an hour with the papers in the garden of the Red Lion. We then returned to the boat before setting off for the Battlefield Moorings. After tying up, we walked to Shenton where we had a pot of tea before returning to the boat where we had a sandwich before we set off again.
We eventually settled on the south side of bridge 22 and with only 45 minutes to travel back to the marina we were ready to make our last return before our next holiday.
After spending the first part of the week in Scotland and this morning in London I was glad to see the opportunity of getting out on the boat. Sue as usual had made preparations and we were out of the marina just before four o’clock, not before we had engaged in a bit of banter with one of our floating neighbours who managed to scrounge a home made biscuit from us. The sun shone and the wind was light as we made our way up the Ashby canal. We were approaching the end of the linear moorings when we encountered an Ashby hire boat that managed to collide with the end boat, home of the Ashby Pirates. Our friend Lee was enjoying the sunshine with the owners at the time of the incident but he still found time to give us a bit of friendly abuse as we passed by.
We tied up before we reached Sutton Cheney and ate our evening meal out on the front deck.
Friday 9th April
Pressure of work meant that our departure was later than we had hoped for but we left the marina around half past four for our weekend excursion up the Ashby canal. An area of high pressure had settled on the UK so the next few days promised sunshine and temperatures in the mid teens. Despite the late start we still had plenty of daylight hours left and after a couple of hours cruising we tied up just past Sutton Cheney, near Ambion Wood.
Saturday 10th April
The sun was shining as we left our mooring and headed on towards Market Bosworth, hoping for a space on the visitor moorings there. We weren’t disappointed and after securing the boat we headed up the hill towards town for the umpteenth time since we bought the boat, two and a half years ago. We bought the papers and sat on the patio of the Red Lion and had a couple of drinks. We bought some bits and pieces to make lunch with from the Co-op and returned to the boat by half past two.
We were soon underway, enjoying the spring sunshine as we continued our cruise in a north-westerly direction. The last time we visited the terminus, the canal had been shortened to allow contractors to carry out the beginning of the restoration works which will eventually re-join the two parts of the cut.
We turned around in the new winding hole before making our way back through the Snarestone tunnel. We made our way back to Shackerstone where we moored for the night. Visiting the pub in the village, The Rising Sun, we had our evening meal before returning to the canal, of course we had to make our usual visit to the churchyard first.
Sunday 11th April
Our journey home started about half past nine, light cloud hid the sun and a livelier wind from the north kept the temperature lower than the previous day. We made a pit stop at Sutton Cheney for some sweets and crisps before stopping at Stoke Golding for sandwiches and a glass of wine.
Half an hour later and we were on our way again back to the marina. We met nb Lunny at the bridge which carries the A47 over the canal and despite the fact that this is a bridge where two boats can pass, Lunny wanted the canal to itself. We reversed and allowed the boater through, he apologised and claimed that he was a novice although by the state of his eyes, he was no novice when it came to being drunk. This turned out to be the only unusual event of the weekend and all too soon we were manoeuvring our way through the marina, reaching our berth just before three o’clock. It took no time at all to clear our stuff from the boat and that was it, our weekend cruise was over. By a strange coincidence, we made the same trip on the same weekend last year, something that we didn’t realise until today.
Thursday 1st April
We have been reading weather forecast after weather forecast, trying to decide whether or not we can venture out on to the canal for the Easter weekend. Unfortunately, it seems that the BBC have become as discredited as the Met Office when it comes to forecasting the weather. Presumably someone in that organisation has decided to work to extremes on the basis that by forecasting heavy rain and high winds , no-one will complain when the weather turns out to be better than forecast.
We took the decision to provision the boat and wait until Good Friday before taking our chances with the elements and cruising towards the Marston Junction and the Coventry canal.
Friday 2nd April
We rolled out of bed at seven o’clock and made our final preparations for our trip. We had decided to be philosophical about the weather and just accept whatever nature threw at us. By nine o’clock we were pulling out of the marina heading in a south-westerly direction on the Ashby canal. It was a bit windy and we endured the odd shower but our trip to Marston Junction was a pleasant one. Turning right on to the Coventry canal around eleven o’clock we were congratulating ourselves on making the decision to spend the weekend aboard ‘Phoenix III’.
An hour later and we reached Nuneaton where we moored beyond the bridge near the Cock & Bear pub.
Nuneaton gets very little coverage in Nicholson and Pearson guides. It’s a shame really because although it is true to say that it is not a town that is making the best of it’s canal presence, it really is worth stopping there. A ten minute walk brings the canal traveller into the town centre with its shops, pubs, banks and market. We made that walk, not for the first time and had a drink in the Jailhouse which is just behind the Ropewalk shopping centre. A walk around brought us to the George Elliot Hotel, named after the town’s greatest “son” (look it up if you don’t know about George!). We walked back to the boat after another drink and then settled down for the night on our mooring, safe and quiet and near the flats that stand on the land which was previously the old football ground belonging to Nuneaton Borough. It would be good to think that the residents of these relatively new dwellings are occasionally disturbed by the odd ghostly call of a supporter shouting “Up the borough” or maybe even have the unnerving experience of seeing the ghost of a former player scoring a goal at the town end of Manor Park. We listened to some music, ate our dinner and watched a bit of telly before retiring for the evening.
Saturday 3rd April
We both slept soundly before waking at seven o’clock. The sky was blue and we laughed again at how we were having a good time despite the pessimism of the BBC weathermen. By nine o’clock we had dressed and eaten breakfast before setting off for Atherstone. The trip took us two hours and along the way we took it in turn to shower and change in to clean clothing, taking advantage of the hot water generated by the engine running.
We pulled into Atherstone just after eleven o’clock and tied up before walking into town. A wander around the shops preceded a spot of lunch in the Red Lion where we watched Chelsea beat Manchester Utd, life just doesn’t get much better than this!!!
We returned to the boat and after turning her around, taking on water and getting rid of our rubbish at Atherstone top lock, we made our way back in the direction of Nuneaton, tying up for the night just outside the BW yard at Hartshill. The rain started shortly after but with our mooring secure and a roaring fire, we were happy enough.
Easter Sunday, 4th April
The day dawned, getting light around seven o’clock and we slowly came around to face Easter Sunday. The great thing about this trip has been that there has been no pressure on our time. We had some crumpets for breakfast before untying and leaving Hartshill just before ten o’clock. We enjoyed a lovely cruise to Nuneaton and moored back at the Cock & Bear bridge an hour and a half later. We toddled off into town to discover that all of the shops were closed. Luckily enough the pubs weren’t closed so we had lunch in the local Weatherspoon’s, a building which apparently used to belong to a funeral director called Smith. This escapade is worthy of a separate article so I won’t inflict this story on you, dear reader, at this moment in time.
On returning to the Phoenix, we once again thanked our lucky stars that we have the ability to spend our leisure time out on the canal system. We untied and set off back towards Marston Junction with no real plan in mind. The great thing about this, the “Let’s stick two fingers up to the BBC weathermen” tour has been that it really is a very relaxing break for both of us. At the junction with the Ashby canal we pushed on past and made our way to Hawkesbury Junction. Turning around at the junction with the Oxford canal we headed back and moored up on the visitor moorings. After dinner we took a walk to the Greyhound, purely for the exercise although it seemed a little rude not to have a drink at this ancient watering hole so we imbibed and spent a few minutes there.
We returned to our floating cottage at seven o’clock and settled down for the night.
Easter Monday, 5th April
Seven o’clock in the morning and it wasn’t time to wake up so we both went back to sleep and had another hour.
Eight o’clock in the morning seemed a much more sensible time to get up and have a cup of tea so we did. By ten o’clock we had managed to get dressed and motivate ourselves to the stage that we were setting off and heading back home. Sadly, the wind was quite strong and we had to battle our way around Marston Junction back on to the Ashby canal an hour after leaving our berth at Hawkesbury. Just after midday we reached the Limekilns on the A5 where we tied up and went for lunch. What a laugh we had! Our meals were superb but the entertainment was excellent thanks to the clientele which consisted of some of the boating fraternity. One boater, a bearded scruffy type who reminded us of the Owen Newitt character in the Vicar of Dibley played by Roger Lloyd Pack , bragged about how his boat was “like an oven inside”, Gary the landlord asked him if that was because the inside was covered in grease and had a knob on it!
Mooring at the Limekilns is a bit like being just on the other side of the wardrobe in Narnia. We decided to stay on the boat overnight but took the opportunity to go home and have a shower and get a change of clothes first. So there we were, afloat on the Ashby canal (favourite canal), outside the LImekilns (favourite pub), next to the A5 (George’s favourite road). Tomorrow we will have to get back into the marina, tie up and then return home before going to work.
Wednesday 7th April
Well we didn’t make it back to the marina yesterday but after work today, we took a stroll round to the Limekilns where we collected the boat and made the final leg of the journey. Half an hour later and we were in and tied up. We carried out our usual chores before walking back home.