With the weekend forecast predicting good weather, we set off from Hinckley on Friday afternoon. We reached Market Bosworth by half past five and decided to walk up to the town. The local chip shop claims to be an award winning establishment so we decided to try out their wares. The haddock and chips were good and tasty but as far as being award winning? Sorry, no cigar this time.
Saturday brought more sunny weather so we headed off to the end of the Ashby, just beyond Snarestone. After we turned around, we made our way back to Market Bosworth and managed to secure a mooring fairly close to where we had stopped the night before. We took another walk up to town and shopped in the local co-op before returning to the boat.
Sunday morning was again a lovely day and although we had planned to walk up to the town and buy the Sunday papers, the thought of climbing the hill again was less appealing than cruising along with the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair. On the way back, we stopped a number of times and picked enough blackberries for Sue to make some blackberry fool with blackberry coulis. We eventually reached Hinckley around one o’clock, stopped briefly at the marina to replenish the beerstocks and then pressed on towards Marston Junction. Our old mate Jim had told us that it was possible to turn a 65 foot boat at Burton Hastings, despite there being no reference in any of the guide books. We decided that this was the ideal day to put Jim’s theory to the test and of course he was right! Elated, we headed back to the Limekilns with the intention of buying the old boy a pint for his wisdom. On reaching the pub, we could not find Jim but we had dinner out on the back deck there before heading back to the marina. Having been driving for most of the weekend, Sue took the boat into the marina, weaved her way around the pontoons and berthed us back in D4 without any difficulty at all.
September holiday day 1
Two o’clock saw us leaving the marina on our September holiday. Unusually there was no wind so our departure was flawless and uneventful. Our first journey in a few weeks towards the Coventry canal was equally uneventful except for our encounter with a steam driven narrowboat presumably heading for the Shackerstone festival. Sue took us through Marston junction and then on through Nuneaton towards Atherstone. We eventually moored near the Anchor Inn at Hartshill.
September Holiday day 2
Up at seven and setting off by quarter to eight gave us a good start to the day. We reached Atherstone top lock by nine o’clock and thanks to the oncoming traffic, we cleared the eleventh lock two hours later. Significantly, locks seven and eight were the first locks driven by Sue and worked by me. We passed through Polesworth just after noon and then broke down just after bridge 54. After some basic checks we called RCR who arrived within the hour and sorted our problem out so that we were moving again within an hour and a half. We ploughed on to Hopwas and moored between the Tame Otter and the Red Lion. We ate at the Red Lion and checked out the Tame Otter on the way back. We later heard what we thought were fireworks but were probably explosions from the nearby military firing range. Half past midnight brought noise from some chavs in the pub car park, a couple of hours later and some teenagers woke us up walking by and then a boat passing by at six a.m. put the icing on the cake!
September Holiday day 3
Setting off at 8am again we plodded on towards Fradley and for the second time in three days, we encountered a steam driven narrowboat. We reached the junction at 11 o’clock where we took on water, emptied the toilet and dumped our rubbish before continuing our journey half an hour later. Fradley, like many of the famous canal junctions is often given a description which is over hyped. After making the turn, we waited for about half an hour before we could ascend the locks. The pound between Fradley and Haywood is a long one which allowed us to push along quite well. Turning left on to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal at Great Haywood, we passed through Tixell Wide before eventually mooring for the night near Baswich, a full day ahead of our original plan.
September Holiday day 4
The sun shone on Monday morning and as usual, we set off for eight o’clock. The scenery was pleasant as we passed the village of Acton Trussell on our way to Penkridge. We stopped at Midland Chandlers just after eleven o’clock before making the final part of the morning’s trip to Penkridge. After mooring, an old boy from a nearby boat came and gave us directions to the various pubs and shops in the village. We spent an hour or so exploring the village and then headed off on the next part of our journey. Then the rain came and although it was heavy, we ploughed on regardless, eventually mooring right outside the Fox & Anchor by bridge 71. We didn’t visit the pub, soaked to the skin, we just put the heating on and relaxed before going to bed.
September Holiday day 5
Tuesday morning got off to a nice sunny start again, so we moved off at eight towards the junction with the Shropshire Union canal at Autherley. This part of the journey took an hour and after rounding the junction we took on water and carried on towards Brewood. We explored this village and found a fabulous village shop selling fine foods. We stocked up on paté, blue cheese and locally produced butter before returning to the boat to have lunch consisting of the newly purchased goodies and they were all delicious! A quick drink at the Bridge Inn to wash it all down and we were ready to move on again. It had taken us more than five hours to travel from Penkridge to Brewood, the distance by road is only five miles! We moved on to Wheaton Aston where we took a drink of beer at the Hartley Arms and gave the boat a drink of diesel at the local garage. This garage is mentioned in the guide books for its cheap diesel and sure enough it cost us 20p a litre less than we had paid in Hinckley. After Wheaton Aston we pushed on again, this time to Anchor bridge but again we couldn’t be bothered to visit the pub.
September Holiday day 6
Another sunny morning but quite a chilly one for our trip to Market Drayton. We moored near the town at midday and went for a wander round. It’s fair to say that we were a little disappointed with Market Drayton so with the knowledge that we probably wouldn’t be travelling much on Friday due to bad weather, we moved on again. Then the rain started and got heavier and heavier, the dull day was only brightened by the sight of a kingfisher. This is only the second one that we have seen since we took the canals. We were pretty soggy when we tied up at the bottom of the Adderley flight at six o’clock. On checking the weather forecast for Thursday, we decided to give ourselves a full day cruising and perhaps make it to Middlewich, the most northerly point on our trip. That way, we should be able to complete our journey even if we did lose time on Friday.
September Holiday day 7
Our spirits were low, there is no denying it. The weather had gotten the better of us and the worse was yet to come. The following day was set to bring high winds and a deluge of rain. We hoped to stop at Nantwich but feared that competition for moorings would be such that we would have to pass on by. Our waterproof clothing had taken such a battering over the previous few days that it let in water. We were a day and a half ahead of schedule but now faced the toughest part of the journey. Turning around wasn’t really an option at this stage because we would have hadto descend the Audlem flight before re-ascending, meaning that the return journey is not much better than carrying on. With heavy hearts we got out of bed at half past six, donned our weatherproofs and set off just after seven o’clock. Within half an hour we were at the first lock and so we began our descent into Cheshire. The trip became easier at the third lock when we started to meet oncoming boats. At the twelfth lock, we took on water as well as emptying the rubbish and the toilet in preparation for our stormy dayahead. Our old friend, the rain turned up as we completed the descent and we were plunged back into misery again for another half an hour. Our spirits were lifted with strong tea and a couple of rounds of butter saturated toast. The rain slackened off to monsoon levels as we passed through the locks at Hack Green, near the so-called Secret Nuclear Bunker. The sign is a temporary one, presumably because of the way the current government is playing a game of brinkmanship with Russia. Another hour and we reached Nantwich, we got a mooring, we visited a chip shop and two lovely pubs, found some quality food shops and bought new waterproof jackets. Within the space of a couple of hours everything had turned around and we were happy again! We would spend Friday in Nantwich, weather out the storm and set off again on Saturday.
September Holiday day 8
We had a nice easy start to the day, walking into Nantwich mid-morning. It was still raining but of course we were all kitted out with our new waterproof jackets. We had a coffee before shopping for fresh fruit and veg. We found Clewlow’s butcher and delicatessen where we bought some more patchwork paté. Crossing the road, we had a lunchtime sandwich at The Vine before making our way back to the canal. Once again, we considered turning around for the journey home, not that it would save any time but we would have an easier trip in terms of the number of locks.
September Holiday day 9
We decided to carry on with our clockwise trip around the four counties ring. We set off at 7.30, making use of the Nantwich services a few minutes later. The rain stopped just after eight and we were on to the Middlewich branch just after 9am. The sun came out for the pleasant trip to Middlewich and when we stopped for lunch near Minshull, we were able to sit out on the deck. There was a bit of a traffic jam at the junction with the Trent & Mersey where the canals join with locks in all three directions. We found a good mooring at Wheelock just after five o’clock and the rain re-started at six thirty. We had enjoyed the day’s cruising in the decent weather so felt no need to complain at this stage.
September Holiday day 10
We always knew that this day would be the most difficult with the number of locks. We set off early and made great progress up Heartbreak Hill despite the fact that these locks were the most badly maintained that we have encountered so far. There was a desperate moment or two just outside the second lock when the water rushing out started to suck the bow of the boat downwards. I realised that the front locker would be starting to fill through the drain holes and wasn’t sure if there was a chance that we might sink. I got Sue’s attention and she dropped the only paddle that she had opened, stopping the flow and solving the problem. It was my own fault for getting too near the bottom gates and not realising how fast the water would flow out. Whether these locks are always this fierce or this was just a combination of being at the bottom of a steep hill after heavy rainfall, we don’t know. Whatever the reason, we only opened one paddle when filling the locks just to keep the boat under control as we ascended the flight. We didn’t encounter enough oncoming traffic to make the ascent easy but nevertheless we did well and reached Church Lawton just after one o’clock and stopped for lunch. We had passed through twenty locks and realised that we could be in striking distance of Harecastle Tunnel, if we could get through another six locks before it closed. Sue rang British Waterways to check the opening times and was told that the tunnel closed at six o’clock but that we would have to be there by four to ensure passage. We calculated that we should be there for quarter passed three so we cleared away the food that we were eating and set off again with renewed vigour. The remaining locks were in no better condition than the previous twenty but we made short work of them and reached the tunnel just after five past three. We were immediately greeted by the tunnel keeper who told us that we were too late to pass and that we couldn’t moor for the night because it was a dangerous area inhabited by drug takers! We had already seen three teenagers loitering near the last lock who appeared to be out of their heads on something, then there was someone who appeared to be unconscious on the bank. The whole problem had been caused by BW giving out inaccurate information and the keeper said that he had no authority to let us through. We stood our ground and eventually spoke to someone who, we were informed holds the second highest position in British Waterways. We were assured that we would get through the tunnel, which was infinitely better than trying to reverse the boat for half a mile back to the junction with the Macclesfield canal, turning around and then heading back down the locks to escape run down and dangerous Kidsgrove. The northbound traffic emerged from the tunnel and were asked by one of the boaters if we were going through, when we told her that we were, she grinned and said, “You won then!”, clearly they had all been told of the argument that was going on at the other end of the tunnel. We cleared the tunnel at quarter to six and moored near Westport lake. This side of the tunnel is completely different to Kidsgrove on the other side of the hill but we were still woken at midnight by someone bawling the top of his voice that he was going to kick someone’s teeth in.
September Holiday day 11
Another early start on Monday saw us start the descent through Stoke on Trent. There has been a lot of regeneration work alongside the canal but there is still a lot to do, in fact it is only south of Trentham that the scenery becomes palatable again. There are still some areas where the canal is used as a dumping ground, in fact we joined in by losing our chimney under a low bridge near Etruria. Strangely, there is only a warning sign for those travelling from the south so for people like us travelling from the north, the chimney doesn’t stand a chance. The weather showed some signs of improvement as the morning progressed and we took lunch on the deck when we stopped at Barlaston. We made use of the services at Stone and although we were tempted to stop for the night, we decided to press on and make the most of the dry weather. Sue was still taking the boat through these locks and faced her biggest challenge with the lock situated between two pub beer gardens packed with customers. Needless to say, she entered the lock with great ease and precision, earning the admiration of some observers. She had been joking with some other boaters that she was under strict instruction not to spill the beer that I had got balanced on the handrail. That beer was safe all through the flight, well, until I got back on board and drained the glass. I got into conversation with an Australian couple who told me that they had once been on a canal holiday and really enjoyed it. I offered the old boy the opportunity to drive the boat out of the last lock but he declined. We carried on with our journey until we finally moored just below Hoo Mill Lock.
September Holiday day 12
We made another early start, it was raining again of course but nothing a mug of tea and a bacon sandwich couldn’t cure. We soon passed through Haywood Junction which signalled the end of our trip around the four counties ring, needless to say, we had no desire to turn right and go around again! A short stop by bridge 66 in Rugeley allowed us to take on some supplies at Morrisons. At Fradley Junction we marked our return to the Coventry canal by making use of the services. The weather then closed in with more torrential rain and we moored to the south of Streethay Wharf. Near some pylons, close to the railway and under an oak tree which was dropping acorns on to the roof might not sound like the most idyllic mooring. However, inside with the fire roaring, we didn’t care.
September Holiday day 13
Once again, we were up and about early, we had stopped earlier than we had intended yesterday so we wanted to get a good enough start to ensure that we reached Atherstone in the afternoon. At Fazeley, I offered Sue the opportunity to turn right on to the Birmingham & Fazeley for a trip into Birmingham but for some strange reason, she wasn’t interested! We pushed on through the two locks at Glascote with no trouble and by two o’clock we were half way up the Atherstone flight. We moored between locks five and six before walking up to the town. After a bit of shopping and a late, light lunch in the Red Lion, we returned to the boat for our final night on board.
September Holiday day 14
Another early start and more rain for the last leg of our journey. The ascent through the top five locks was made easier by the fact that the lock keeper had been managing water supplies and all the locks were set in our favour. Unlike our trip back in June, we had no desire to stay on the boat for the remaining days so we made our way through the familiar waters of the Coventry and the Ashby until we reached Hinckley and the Marina by half past one. We ate lunch before clearing the boat and heading for home.
September Holiday (final thoughts)
It is a shame that we had so much rain because the route that we followed should have given us more enjoyment than it did. With the exception of the poor condition of the locks between Middlewich and the Harecastle tunnel and the usual problems associated with passing through cities, the four counties ring offers varied scenery and passes through some towns and villages that we would not normally have visited. Day after day of heavy rain turned the trip into one where we just kept ploughing on through all weathers before spending the evenings drying out and warming up on the boat. On a positive note, Sue gained lots of experience handling the boat in and out of locks. This means that future trips can be planned with less consideration to the number of locks travelled through in a single day now that we know that the work can be shared. The boat performed well, despite the early fuel problem and we made use of the new inverter to power a hairdryer, a blender and slow cooker.
Another Friday and with yet another week of miserable, changeable weather behind us, we decided to venture out again. Chugging out just before three o’clock, the afternoon turned out to be very pleasant but nowhere near what mid August is expected to be. With no specific plan, we were pleasantly surprised to find a mooring place at Market Bosworth. We lit a barbeque and ate out on the deck until the food had gone and air turned chilly.
Saturday saw us pulling on our walking boots and visiting Bosworth Water Park before climbing the hill up to town. A quick trip around the shops for food and then back to the canal before midday. We did a few odd jobs on the boat and ran the engine for a couple of hours to charge the batteries. We fitted a large inverter and a smaller immersion heater last week and this weekend is our chance to test it all. It soon becomes apparent that either the batteries are not charging fully or there are not enough of them to power the larger appliances. By three o’clock we decided to move on for no other reason than we just fancied a change of scenery. Turning round beyond Shackerstone we made our way back and moored near to Congerstone. A quick hike to the village pub for a bottle of wine while dinner cooked and then back just before the rain started. A surprise firework display from Bosworth Battlefield at half past nine rounded off the day.
Sunday morning dawned with sunshine, only the soaked rear deck and the sheer amount of water on the surrounding grass gave any indication of the torrential rain that had woken us in the early hours. Starting at 2am and carrying on for a couple of hours, the steel roof of the boat amplified the sound of the rain tremendously. We set off at eight o’clock and enjoyed the early morning sunshine as we cruised back to Hinckley. High clouds appeared and soon the sun was playing a game of hide and seek, mainly hiding so the temperature never really climbed. We saw a few boats on the water but the trip back was uneventful. Stopping for fuel at the marina, we carried on to Nutts lane and turned around in the entrance to Hinckley Wharf. Once back in the marina, we laid a new vinyl floor in the kitchen area before having dinner on the boat. We eventually packed up and returned home at five o’clock.
We normally use the bbc website for weather forecasting and until recently this has proved to be very useful for planning our weekends. This week, there seems to be a new tactic for the bbc, one which is no help at all, rendering the service absolutely useless. Perhaps they don’t realise that just saying that the next five days will be sunny, rainy and cloudy and then changing it on the day to match the actual day’s weather isn’t really a forecast at all. The forecast was for rain, cloud and sun from Thursday to Tuesday but with the sun shining we left Hinckley on Friday afternoon at half past two. The light breeze was welcome in the thirty degree heat as we headed towards the top end of the Ashby. We have only made it right to the top on one occasion but that trip was blighted by engine trouble. We cruised until seven o’clock when we tied up near the village of Shackerstone. We walked to the churchyard where Sue placed some wild flowers that she had picked on the grave of the children who perished in the frozen water in March 1965. We had a quick drink at the Rising Sun before returning to the boat for something to eat. We ate outside in the warmth of a balmy summer evening, listening to music and waiting for the sun to set.
The air in the boat cooled quite quickly after sunset and we had a comfortable night before waking up to a continued lack of predicted rain. We set off just before ten o’clock and reached the end of the canal just beyond Snarestone at half past eleven. There is some information about the canal and a small shop whose proceeds go to the Ashby Canal Association at this, the point where the restoration project will begin later this year. We were tempted to moor here for the rest of the day but decided against it because there would be no escape from the strong sun and heat. We cruised back, half heartedly looking for a shady mooring and before we knew it, we were at Stoke Golding where we tied up for dinner. The humidity was higher on Saturday than it was the night before, so with only three miles between us and home, we decided to head back there for the night. The water level in the canal is a few inches lower than in previous weeks, perhaps due to evaporation and lack of rain, this exposes holes in the muddy bank and soon we see that the holes are home to rats. We reached Hinckley just before eight o’clock and despite the fact that the day had been mostly breeze free, the wind across the marina played with us as we reversed the boat into its berth. The trip had been a night shorter than we had originally thought but it was just as good fun and along the way we had seen a few new types of wild life; a swimming snake, a few swimming rats, big brown dragonflies and small metallic blue ones. Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny again so we decided to go to the real top of the Ashby canal at Moira, this time by car. At the moment this is the only way to get to the original terminus but hopefully the restoration project will enable us to cruise the full length in a few years. Despite the usual forecast, we decided to get the roof down on the StreetKa so that at least we were out cruising in the fresh air. The Moira museum is at the old furnace and is quite a pleasant place now. At the height of its industrial peak, it was probably a completely different scene so in some respects, the visitor doesn’t really get a true picture of how it used to be. We walked from the furnace to the canal terminus half a mile away, inspecting the only lock on the Ashby canal. We saw a fisherman land a fish, a three pound bream, he claimed. A solitary Sea Otter narrowboat occupied the basin, another scene that will change when the canal is restored and accessible to all. Next to the basin is Conkers, an educational day out for all the family on the edge of the national forest. We walked back along the towpath to the museum before getting back into the car for the drive back to Hinckley. We tried, where possible, to follow the route of the canal, driving through Measham, Snarestone, Shackerstone and Congerstone. We criss-crossed the canal several times before reaching Market Bosworth where we stopped to visit the farmers market. After this short stop we were soon on our way to Stoke Golding for the second time in twenty four hours. By the time we had returned home we had been to market, walked for an hour and stopped at a café, total time: four hours. The same trip by boat would have been ten hours longer!
So, there we are, the Ashby canal fully travelled by car and by boat, no sign of the predicted rain on what has been one of the best weekends of the year so far and a glimpse of both the future and the past with our trip to Moira.
We had originally planned to go on a trip up the Ashby this weekend but with the forecast being poor for Saturday, we decided that a trip to Atherstone would be better because the canal runs close to the town centre. The Ashby canal is very rural and although there are some villages nearby, Market Bosworth is probably the best one for visiting on a rainy afternoon, however there is “heart-attack “ hill to climb. Atherstone by contrast has more shops and pubs (for research) and is easier to get to on foot. We left Hinckley just after four and moored near the Anchor Inn, four hours later. The journey was largely unremarkable except for an incident in Nuneaton when two teenagers decided that it would be fun to spit on the boat from the safety of a road bridge. Imagine their surprise when the boat stopped, reversed and got close enough for Sue to jump on to the bank and then chase after them. The wasters ran and hid in some bushes, their bravery evaporating as she was bearing down on them, can’t say that I blame them, even I was scared! Ha ha! The language was choice but effective, they didn’t reappear and we carried on with our journey. Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for this, our first “attack “. We actually have a pump action, high pressure water gun on board but hadn’t thought to load it, we’ll be ready next time.
We popped into the Anchor for a quick drink after dinner, it looked quite good but we were both tired so there will have to be further research done at a later date. The run to Atherstone is only about ninety minutes from the Anchor, so we showered and dressed before setting off at nine o’clock, the rain is forecast to put in an appearance after lunch so we know that we have plenty of time on our side. For the first time ever, there are no mooring places available, worse than that, the turning point above the top lock is unusable because there are two boats side by side at the water point. We have little choice but to descend the locks and either turn or moor somewhere on the other side of town. we have never been further than this so we are not sure how many of the locks we will have to go through, then the rain started just to make things even worse. There are no moorings until after lock five which is where we tied up and after checking that we could turn at Baddesley basin below lock six, we had breakfast. We had a little further to walk than we would have, had we been able to moor at the top of the flight but the sun was back out so it didn’t really matter. We wandered around the shops, past the farmer’s market which consisted of three stalls and no customers and then into the Red Lion for a drink and a read of the papers. The sun was still shining as we walked back to the boat, along Watling street and under the railway bridge. We had just got the chairs out on the back deck when the sky darkened and the monsoon came. Back inside then, where Sue spent the rest of the afternoon demonstrating how good she is at knitting and me demonstrating how bad I am with watercolours. The rain didn’t last too long but we didn’t venture out again. We ate, we drank, we chilled out.
Sunday had been forecast to be the best of the weekend, the wind dropping and the sun coming out. Well it started alright as we slipped our mooring at seven o’clock, down through lock six, turned and went straight back up again. Our ascent was straightforward since every chamber was empty and we didn’t encounter any oncoming traffic until we reached the second lock from the top. Half past eight and we we were on the way, optimistically wearing a short sleeved shirt, shorts and sandles, we were soon wrapping up as the wind picked up and the rain came on. I think that we’ve done enough now to combat global warming, it’s now too cold. I suggest that diesel engines are banned, petrol engines must be at least 3 litres and aerosols should be filled with that stuff that depletes the ozone (except for those aerosols in government who are already filled with hot air anyway!)
Water gun at the ready we made our way through Nuneaton but there were no bandits today, the little darlings probably all tucked up in bed with white cider induced hangovers. We breakfasted between Nuneaton and Bedworth before turning back on to the Ashby at Marston junction. It is clear that the wind is probably too strong to get back into the marina so we hatch some alternative plans. Plan “A “ fails because there are no moorings near the Limekilns on the A5, Plan “B “ fails because the canal is too shallow between the Limekilns and our house, Plans “C “ and “D “ fail for the same reason that plan “A “ failed, i.e. lack of mooring space near the house and outside the marina. Plan “E “, which was to travel up to bridge 22, turn round and moor near the Triumph factory didn’t stand a chance because Captain Jack Sparrow decided that he would attempt to take the boat back into the marina. A decision clearly based on too much confidence in his own ability and a complete lack of respect for mother nature! Getting in to the marina wasn’t a problem but with the Phoenix now at ninety degrees to the wind, the boat turned completely in the opposite direction. Fortunately, we were able to get the boat into the wet dock, not ideal but safe in the marina until the wind drops overnight.
After a week of wet and windy weather, Sunday lived up to expectations and the sun came out. Fiona, David, Hannah and Rachael were visiting for the weekend after a holiday in Stratford, so it seemed a good opportunity to take them out on the boat for the day. We made easy passage out of the marina and once on the canal, Fiona took the helm. A veteran of numerous boating holidays, she soon got back into the swing of things as we headed up the Ashby. By the time we reached the first turning point at bridge 22, we realised that the children would be alright with the extended cruise to Sutton Cheney. We stopped for lunch near Stoke Golding and after refuelling on Pizza and Chicken nuggets, we carried on to the next turning point. On the way back, Sue and I sat at the front, something that we have never done before because we have never been out with anyone who could steer the boat for us. We played I-spy with the girls, although we didn’t realise that in Rachael’s version of the game, most things begin with “b “ and the answer could be a sound rather than an object. We all had a good time and on checking that Fiona and David were alright for drinks, I discovered that in fact there was a masterclass in steering going on at the back. All too soon and the Triumph factory appeared on the horizon, signalling the end of the trip and half an hour later we were back in the marina, tied up on berth D4. All in all, a good day out.
Day 1, Friday 13th June 2008
Despite the wind, we left the marina quite easily after topping up the diesel and buying a bottle of gas. Underway by half past one we passed quite a few boats coming in the opposite direction. We swept around Marston junction and then watched with some amusement as a short boat made a hash of entering the Ashby. An hour later and we were round Hawksbury junction without any problem. The crew of the boat in front asked Sue if we were going through and then offers to leave the gate open, the wrong one of course! We looked for moorings after the lock but without success, more considerate positioning by one boater would have created a space. We moored at Ansty just before six o’clock across the line between long term and visitor moorings. This shouldn’t present any problem because we will be gone first thing in the morning. With dinner in the oven we walked over to the Rose and Castle for a pint and a coffee before returning to the boat. In addition to attending to kitchen matters, Sue washed and polished a section of the paintwork and it really shone so she now has a job for the rest of the holiday!!! Dinner was a delicious plateful of lamb shank, peas and roast veg hmmm!
Day 2, Saturday 14th June
After a good night’s sleep, we awoke at seven thirty, the sun was shining and the sky was blue so we got dressed and set off for eight o’clock. We decided to travel for two hours before showering and having breakfast. We picked something up on the prop at Stretton Stop but we were able to carry on until we moored on the edge of All Oaks wood at ten o’clock. The prop had been fouled with a jumper, wire, weeds and a plastic bag. With pond gloves, the removal of the rubbish is clean and safe. After showering we ate a hearty breakfast which meant that we faced the next leg of the journey fully refreshed.
We left the wood at eleven thirty and had a pleasant journey around the outskirts of Rugby. We arrived at Hillmorton locks just before two o’clock and since there was little traffic, we ascended the three locks in half an hour. A stop at the top gave us a chance to empty the rubbish and visit the shop to buy some postcards. It was almost three thirty when we got back to the boat and before we set off again, we helped an elderly couple to tie their boat up.
Our outline plan was to get to Braunston and moor there for the night. As we approached the village, we encountered a narrowboat stranded in the shallows. We attached a rope, pulled her back and then offered some advice on steering. Within a few minutes the beached sailors were afloat again and on their way. By the time we reached the junction we realised that we probably wouldn’t be walking into Braunston that evening. Our plan for Sunday had been a relatively short cruise from Braunston to Napton but now that we had passed through Braunston we decided to press on and gain a day. We moored near bridge 102 just before six o’clock, the same spot that we stopped on the bank holiday weekend. Since we were now half way through our Sunday itinerary, we should finish up the next day in the place we expected to be on Monday evening.
Day 3, Sunday 15th June
The weather was bright and sunny and after the daily checks were complete, we set off at eight o’clock. We took on water, disposed of the rubbish and emptied the toilet before starting the ascent of the Napton flight of locks. We tied up after the first lock and had breakfast. There are another eight locks in the flight and by the time we cleared the top one at Marston Doles it is almost half past one. Sue was by now an expert on the locks and met many people as we ascended the flight. We reach Fenny Compton at four o’clock and tie up. After posting our postcards, we visited the Wharf Inn and sample some cloudy cider which was very good. We visited the Cheese Boat and after some sampling, bought a few different truckles. Back to the boat for dinner and then a relaxing evening as we contemplated the next day’s journey to Cropredy.
Day 4, Monday 16th June
We were underway by quarter to eight on another bright and sunny morning. As we approached Fenny Compton marina, we were hit by an oncoming boater who didn’t want to put his boat into the overhanging branches. The impact of the collision sent us careering into one of the moored boats which luckily seemed to be unoccupied. It took us about an hour before we reached the first of five locks. The traffic through the locks was just enough help rather than hinder our progress. We stopped for breakfast after the fifth lock at about half past ten. An hour later and we were off again and it was another twenty minutes before we reached the next lock and again there was enough oncoming traffic to make our passage through the locks pleasant and relaxing in the June sunshine. Another boater told Sue that there was plenty of mooring near our destination, Cropredy. Sure enough, when we reached the village at one o’clock we secured our mooring just above the lock in the middle of the village. We freshened up and had a glass of wine before going to explore the village.
Cropredy is a beautiful little village with houses built from local orange-brown stone topped out thatch or slate roofs. There is a lovely church in the village, a post office and a couple of pubs. One of the pubs, The Brasenose Arms was closed at lunchtime but The Red Lion was open but only until two thirty. After returning to the boat to sample the cheeses that we bought yesterday, Sue cleaned the port side of PhoenixIII. A little later and we let a little boy called Max on to inspect the boat while his mother walked along the towpath.
Day 5, Tuesday 17th June
We wanted to get to Banbury early enough to moor near the town centre, so with the sun out and the air already warm we set off at half past seven, leaving Cropredy behind. This pleasant little journey only took us two and a half hours. Just to be on the safe side, we moored up near a park on the outskirts of town. We got showered and changed before walking the fairly short distance along the towpath to Castle Quay, a shopping centre by the lock and swing bridge. We explored the town centre which is very nice and we even find the Fine Lady on her white horse. Although only a few days have passed, it seemed strange to be back in a traffic infested town. We had lunch at the local Pizza Express before we returned to our boat-world. Although there are plenty of good moorings actually in the town centre, we decided to press on. It was only two o’clock and it seemed a shame to waste the day. After taking on water, we set off and all too soon we were back in the countryside. We were keeping close contact with the railway, the M40 and eventually the river Cherwell which crosses the canal near Aynho. The crossing is near a lock which proved to be the toughest to operate, so far anyway! We had it in mind to tie up near Aynho wharf but in the event, there were no vacant moorings. We carried on back into the wilderness before finding a relatively nettle free area to moor for the night.
Day 6, Wednesday 18th June
The weather had changed and the morning was windy, cloudy and rainy. Our original intention was to stop at Lower Heyford before continuing on to Gibraltar. After starting out at eight o’clock in the miserable weather we reached Lower Heyford and found a good mooring just after bridge 205. After checking out the local railway station which is adjacent to the canal, we decided to stop here and continue our journey to Oxford by train the next day. As it turned out, this was a good move since we later learned that moorings are so scarce in Oxford that we would have ended up mooring on the city outskirts anyway. We spent the afternoon on the boat reading the papers and writing postcards bought from the canalside shop.
Day 7, Thursday 19th June
Today, we went to Oxford on the train. The railway station at Lower Heyford is adjacent to the canal, so a five minute walk took us from boat to platform where we caught the 9.52. Our journey of fifteen minutes was spent looking to see if we could see the canal running alongside the track. After arriving at Oxford we walked out of the station and caught the open top tour bus that would take us around the city. We listened to the guide tell us about the different colleges before alighting in Broad street. We intended to have lunch at Jamie Oliver’s new Italian restaurant and after finding it, saw that it opened at midday. We had a wander around, bought some postcards and then went to a pub along the road to write the cards, have a drink and wait for noon. At five to twelve we walked the hundred yards or so down to Jamie’s Italian and discovered that there was a long queue to get into the place and there were already a lot of people inside, so much for opening at midday! We went back across the road and ate lunch at Ask and had a lovely meal there instead. After lunch, we visited the indoor market where we bought some beef and vegetables, all good fresh produce. Getting back on the tour bus we completed the city tour and made our way back to the station, realizing that we had a bit of time to kill, we stopped for a drink at an Irish theme pub and sat on a veranda overlooking the canal. In the evening, we walked up the hill into the village, posted our postcards and had a drink in the local pub, the Bell Inn. Day 8, Friday 20th June
We awoke at six o’clock and realized that the fridge was struggling for power. On Wednesday we had a fairly short cruise and on Thursday we only ran the engine for an hour in the morning to charge the batteries, obviously not long enough. We got ready and set off by quarter to seven but we had to travel a while before we turned around. It was twenty past seven before we were back where we started and refilled the water tank. Twenty minutes later and we were moving again, destination Banbury. This day would be a bit of a tough one because we want to get to Banbury early enough to moor in the town centre and we needed to carry out some basic resource management. We had already completed one task by re-watering but we needed to top up the diesel and empty the toilet too. By the time we would get to Banbury we should have charged up the batteries and heated up the water so everything would be ship-shape and Bristol fashion. After the first lock we have to remove a boot from the prop, no big deal but a stop nonetheless.
At the water point we had seen a duck trying to eat a fish that it had caught. A couple of other ducks were hanging around, presumably waiting for leftovers or better still, a dropped catch. At Heyford common lock we saw a steam train, a Great Western express locomotive pulling three chocolate and cream coloured coaches. Soon after, we passed two unattended fishing rods propped on the bank. A few yards away there was a tent with two men in it. A second glance revealed that they had no shirts on, perhaps they were re-enacting a scene from the film, Brokeback Mountain? Today really had been a day for unusual sights.
We stopped at Aynho wharf for diesel and to empty the toilet. We had not really stopped for anything to eat but kept going on mugs of tea and a box of cookies that we had bought in Oxford railway station. After Aynho wharf we negotiated the weir lock again where the gates are difficult to open due to the water flow from the river Cherwell. After that, the run up to Banbury was straightforward and without incident, although by the time we tied up at three o’clock, we were both in need of a rest and a shower.
Suitably refreshed, we walked into town and did a bit of shopping before picking up a couple of truckles from the cheese boat. After a delicious meal made from the shin of beef bought yesterday at Oxford’s indoor market, we took a weary walk to the oldest building in Banbury, which just happens to be a pub! Ye Olde Reindeer Arms dates from 1570 and is a lovely old place to enjoy a pint of real ale in. By seven o’clock we were back on PhoenixIII and relaxing, listening to music, thinking about what we will do the following day.
Day 9, Saturday 21st June
We had a lazy lie in until about nine o’clock before getting up and having a bacon sandwich for breakfast. As forecast, there had been heavy rain overnight which had eased off to a steady drizzle in the morning. We decided to have a coffee in the Banbury museum before exploring the exhibits. There was an art exhibition as well as a comprehensive history of the development of the town. The canal has not been forgotten and there is a special section dedicated to it. From there we passed through the tourist information office and into Tooley’s historic boatyard. This is still a working boatyard and it is apparently one of the oldest in the country. We walked up through the market place looking for somewhere to buy some Banbury cake. We had no idea what a Banbury cake is but it seems a shame to come here and not sample some. Morris’s shop next to the market looked favourite and to our delight we saw a sign that says “Banbury Cake” above a door next to the shop front. On entering the shop we asked if they sell the cake and the shopkeeper says “No”. He read our puzzled expressions and explained that the sign is actually for a newspaper called “Banbury Cake”, whose offices are above the shop. When we asked him where we can buy the cake, he told us to go to the museum and thinking that he was being funny, we questioned his advice. He laughed and told us that the only place to buy Banbury Cake really is at the museum. On the way back to the boat we bought some in the tourist information shop, he really wasn’t being sarcastic after all! The rain had stopped and the sky was brightening when we left Banbury just before one o’clock. We took until just before half past three when we tied up above the lock at Cropredy. The weather had stopped improving and the rain started again just after five o’clock so stopping here was a good move. Roast spuds in the oven with some beef and veg provided us with some sustenance, not that either of us are in any danger of malnutrition!
Day 10, Sunday 22nd June
The weather was exactly as predicted, torrential rain through the night woke us a few times and in the morning the wind was very strong. We had decided the night before, that if the wind was as strong as it had been forecast, we would stay in Cropredy until Monday. We saw a fair number of boats passing in each direction but unlike us they were probably forced into covering a certain distance each day. By contrast, we had all the time in the world so we cleaned the inside of the boat, had a late breakfast and then wandered off to the shop. We helped a few boats to moor up around us by pulling in their ropes and took some photos for the record.
Day 11, Monday 23rd June
We got up at six thirty and after a cup of tea and the usual morning checks, we set off about an hour later. The locks to the summit started almost immediately and before we realised it, we had ascended through all eight within two hours. We headed towards Fenny Compton fuelled by some bacon sandwiches, tea and coffee. Sue took her post on the bow as we negotiated the narrow waters around Fenny Compton and as a result we cleared the area without incident. We calculated that it will take a couple of hours before we reach Marston Doles at the top of the Napton flight of locks. Sue went off to take a shower, making use of the newly generated hot water and a few minutes later I spotted a lamb which had fallen into the canal. I managed to steer the boat into a position where I could grab the distressed lamb and keep its head above water. I realised that I couldn’t lift it out of the water so I tried to steer it round to the bank and safety. This tactic didn’t work so I grabbed a bargepole and fixed it between the bank and the boat, underneath the lamb’s front legs. At this point, realising that something was amiss, Sue emerged from the boat wearing a towel. Straight away she realised what was happening and quickly got herself dressed. With Sue in control of the boat, I was able to get on to the bank where I could grab the lamb by its fleece and drag it out so that it could run off and seek comfort from its mother. With the excitement over we carried on to Marston Doles, where we took on water. The water point is just above the top lock which meant that we had to descend at least one or two locks before we could tie up for the evening. In the event, Sue got the bit between her teeth and we ended up mooring just above the bottom lock. This was ideal because we were able to empty both toilet cassettes and get rid of our bin bags. At the Folly pub we bumped into a Scots couple, Rob and Liz, who we met at the top of the flight. This was an ideal opportunity to exchange some Anglo-Scottish nationalist banter before we headed back to the boat to eat our evening meal of ham, egg and chips. It had been a very long day and with sixteen locks and a rescue under our belts we were falling asleep by nine o’clock. Bedtime was nine thirty.
Day 12, Tuesday 24th June
After a good night’s sleep, Snoozy Suzy became Cruisy Suzy and got out of bed at twenty past six. It was a bright, sunny day and we were on the move and through the bottom lock at Napton by quarter past seven. No more locks until Hillmorton so the windlass got dumped unceremoniously in the cabin. The trip to Braunston was a pleasant one and we reached the junction just before ten o’clock. Cruisy Suzy got a bout of ”No-moor-a-phobia” but Captain Bligh was still riding his luck as far as getting moored up where he wanted and sure enough, just around the turn, there is a prime position just opposite Midland Chandlers.
After we secured the ropes, we took a walk up to the village and bought a few bits in the local Londis and then were entertained by the banter in the famous Braunston Butcher’s shop. After stowing the provisions back on the boat, we headed off to the Millhouse canalside pub for lunch. We met up again with Rob and Liz who seemed to be changing crew members every day on their way up to Macclesfield. We eventually left after we have eaten our delicious lunch and walked up the towpath to check out the Admiral Nelson which is situated next to the locks. We only just managed to get a drink before it closed at half past two. Our walk into the village allowed us to post our postcards but the two pubs in the village were closed so no more “research” was conducted that day. We returned to the boat via the chandlers shop and bought a new tiller pin in the shape of a thistle. There was to be a gathering of historic boats at the weekend and we were almost tempted to stay since we were on a fourteen day mooring. We had already seen a number tied up near the marina and there had been a few passing that evening, including a pair of working boats which at the weekend would be horse drawn to the tunnel and then legged through by a group of enthusiasts.
Day 13, Wednesday 25th June
We got up a little later today, checked all the usual stuff as well as getting rid of the rubbish, emptied the toilet and took on fresh water before setting off at quarter to ten. We were on the voyage home but were so far ahead of where we had originally planned to be that we were hoping to visit Coventry and maybe more before we finally brought the Phoenix home. Two hours cruising brought us to Hillmorton where we stopped for a short while before descending through the three locks. In the bottom lock I managed to catch the front fender on the gates of the bottom lock, creating another repair job for later. The wind by then was pretty strong, so strong that we almost lost our tomato plant from the roof. After stopping to rescue it we pushed on despite being blown all over the canal. A brief stop at Newbold on Avon for supplies at the Co-op and then we were on the way again. By the time we passed through Stretton stop, we knew that we were only an hour away from Ansty so we decided to travel until we found a suitable mooring between Ansty and Hawksbury. In the event we found a place that is only twenty minutes away from the junction of the Oxford and Coventry canals. A steak accompanied by a salad made from the plants that had been growing in a tub on the roof of the boat provided dinner.
Day 14, Thursday 26th June
With the threat of high winds and heavy winds forecast for the afternoon, we were up and on the move for quarter past seven. Twenty minutes travelling brought us to Sutton stop lock and although it was chilly, it is difficult to believe that the weather would change so much, later on in the day. For the first time in our relatively short boating life, we turned left at the junction and headed towards Coventry. After we passed Exhall basin and then under the M6 we started to see pieces of sculpture placed along the towpath. A concrete settee on a concrete raft made us chuckle and we were quite impressed by the good clean condition of the route so far. Unfortunately the scene changed soon after we pass the Ricoh Arena and we were faced with a predictable inner city landscape; racist graffiti, vandalism and a generally gloomy atmosphere, despite the bright sunshine. The basin itself is a different picture, probably because there is no towpath access to it. The sleeping drunk lying a few yards outside the basin said it all really. We turned around immediately and left without stopping. Our progress was hindered by rubbish wrapping itself around the prop and as soon as we reached the Ricoh arena again we stopped to remove the plastic bags and a dress that had become entangled. We were glad that we had taken the time to make this trip but despite the work done at the canal terminus, we won’t be back. In a round trip of nearly twelve miles we saw less than half a dozen boats on the move, less than half a dozen in the canal basin, two moored near Tesco Arena and three permanent moorings with shutters over their windows for protection. Maybe there can be hope for the canal trip into Coventry but it will take a lot of investment and development like the area around Electric Wharf before the city can entice more boaters to travel to the end of this particular cul-de-sac. After taking on water at Hawksbury, we overtook a Rose narrowboat whose captain was probably only then in his third hour of experience, and it showed. Another hour and we were back on the Ashby. Sue sent a text to Rob and Liz to find out how they were doing, the reply came back that they are just beyond Atherstone and they have met a couple who know us. We moored up near Nutts Lane and made a short visit to the house at three o’clock. By quarter past four we had been to the shop and were casting off again. The forecast high winds were really blowing, but still no rain. We found a mooring near Stoke Golding, secured the ropes and then the rain began, good timing or maybe just good luck? After taking a shower and getting ready to sit down for the evening it is noticeable just how blowy it really was but with four mooring pins, the boat is as steady as a rock.
Day 15, Friday 27th June
It seems to make no sense to describe these, the last few days of our holiday, as a winding down period. To do so would suggest that the previous days had been hard work, which they hadn’t. Now that we were back on our home canal it’s fair to say that we were just taking it easy, visiting places just because they are there and not because they are en-route to somewhere else. We didn’t set off until half past eight, planning to stop for breakfast at Market Bosworth. It was eleven o’clock when we tied up and had a hearty cooked breakfast. We walked up to the town and did a bit of shopping including the difficult task of buying a postcard depicting the local area. Eventually we tracked one down, lying behind the counter of the local Newsagents, admittedly after I had been in and declared it to be postcard free. The card was written over a drink at the Black Horse and posted on the way back to the boat. We set off again at half past one, this time heading for Shackerstone, a destination we reached by three o’clock soon after the rain started. The weather looked like it had closed in for the day but we still managed a walk up to the station on the preserved Battlefield line. After dinner we carried out some more ”research” by visiting the local pub, the Rising Sun. It is a traditional village pub selling a variety of ales and after a couple of games of pool, we left to take a walk around the local churchyard opposite. One of the gravestones has a tragic inscription remembering how in March 1965 an eight year old girl lost her life as she tried, unsuccessfully, to save her ten year old brother after he had fallen through the ice. Afterwards, we discuss this tragic event as we reflect on another day on board the PhoenixIII.
Day 16, Saturday 28th June
Another late-ish start saw us setting off at half past nine, first of all to the turning point just past bridge 53 and then back towards Congerstone, our next planned stop. The Phoenix really was heading home and we got moored just past bridge 47 an hour later. After breakfast and a shower, we made the short walk to Horse and Jockey and arrived just after midday. The pub had recently acquired new management and really looked good. There is a restaurant, a comfortable lounge, a bar with a pool table and an outside area too. After reading the papers over a drink, we left, declaring the Horse and Jockey to be one of the best that we have visited in the last two weeks. We were back on the boat by one o’clock and set off straight away reaching Market Bosworth an hour later. The sun was shining as we walked up “heart-attack” hill for the second time in twenty four hours and it seemed as if the road had been extended since the day before. We bought the Saturday papers before visiting Ye Olde Red Lion for some more research. We were not disappointed in our choice of hostelry and neither would a real ale enthusiast either. We were back on the boat for four o’clock and it was time to sit down with the realisation that the next day would be our last day.
Day 17, Sunday 29th June
We were in no hurry to get going since we were only three hours away from Hinckley. We travelled from Market Bosworth to Stoke Golding in two hours, arriving at eleven o’clock. There were quite a few boats out and about and we watched with some interest as one of the Ashby day boats got completely out of shape as they approached an oncoming Rose narrowboat with the result that the Ashby day boat ended up at right angles to the canal. After breakfast we worked out our options on how we should make the final leg of the journey. It was quite windy again and this might make our entry into the marina difficult if not impossible. We decided to assess the wind when we got to Hinckley and if it was too strong, we would pass by and moor outside until the morning. Shortly after we set off we saw our friend Sam and her boyfriend on board their boat Mamta which has the adjacent berth to us in the marina. With them out of the way and the fact that they had managed to get out, no doubt because they had the extra room created by our absence, we were confident that we would get back into our berth in the trinity marina. We were right and by quarter past one, we had tied the Phoenix III up for the last time on this particular trip. After walking home, we returned a couple of hours later to clear our stuff off the boat so that we could start preparing for the next time.
The main problem with owning a narrowboat and still having to go to work, is of course that most of the time you are limited to weekend trips. We knew this before we bought Phoenix III and recognised the fact that it may prove limiting. In actual fact it’s not bad at all but that’s because this part of the canal system is virtually lock free if you ignore the small stop lock at Hawksbury. A weekend trip could take you to Rugby, Coventry, Atherstone or Snarestone at the top of the Ashby canal without any great effort and without being held up in a flight of locks.
Friday afternoon saw us leaving Hinckley just after three o’clock, the wind was gusting a bit and exiting the marina wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been but we made it in the end. Our destination was Atherstone but unlike on previous trips, we had the advantage of having more daylight hours to cruise in. At this time of year, there is a lot to see on the canal, all of the trees, bushes and plants are green and growing furiously as they take advantage of the ever increasing hours of sunshine, the warm temperatures and the heavy showers that are present in April, May and June. There are many familes of ducks and swans, all boasting broods of between four and eight offspring. They all love bread of course so we do our bit to feed the hungry mouths.
By seven thirty, we are ready to tie up. We are near to Springwood Haven, near Nuneaton, home of Valley Cruises. This hire company, like the Ashby Boat Co. and Rose Narrowboats keep their boats in immaculate condition unlike some that we have seen. It is going to be around nine o’clock before dinner is ready so we play some music, sing a bit and have a dance in the boat. DANCE? WHY? You might ask, well why not?!
One of us, no names, no pack drill, fell asleep before ten o’clock so it was an early night for both of us. This was alright except that we both awoke around half past four the following morning, when we had the so called pleasure of listening to the dawn chorus. Eventually one of us, again no names mentioned, dropped off and slept like a log, a log that was being cut up with a chainsaw by the sound of things.
Eventually it was the proper time to get up and after breakfast, we completed the trip to Atherstone in about an hour and a half. Travelling between ten and two on a Saturday is the best time because all of the hire boats have made their last mad dash back to base and the new hirers have yet to take the helm. By the time we reach our destination, the sun is shining and temperature is rapidly rising. After securing our mooring near bridge forty, we dump our rubbish and walk down the towpath beside the locks. We chat to a couple who are ascending the locks and discover that although they live at Hillmorton near Rugby and have a business restoring vintage diesel engines at Braunston, their boat is moored in Hinckley Wharf, not too far from where we live and Phoenix III is berthed. After doing a bit of shopping on the main street of Atherstone, we popped into the Red Lion Hotelwhere we shared a bottle of wine as we read the papers in the conservatory ~ very nice! After an hour or so (who knows? who’s counting anyway?) we returned to the boat for dinner, a delicious menu including lamb shank for the main course followed by bread and butter pudding purchased from Nineteengales farm shop. After dinner, we felt duty bound to do a pub review and decided to walk to the “Bridge & Barge “ nearby. It was closed so we ended up back in the Red Lion again, this time for a coffee and a glass of cider. Back to the boat where we fed the ducks, watched the sun go down and then turn in for the night.
Sunday morning proved to be overcast and not as warm as the previous day so we decided that we would change our usual pattern and set off immediately. We turned around at Atherstone top lock and were on our way for half past eight. We cruised for about an hour and stopped near The Anchor pub, just after British Waterway’s yard at Hartshill. Unfortunately, a succession of passing boats, some of which were travelling too fast, caused our rear mooring pin to become dislodged and as I came out of the shower, Sue realised what was happening and we had to quickly secure the boat again. After breakfast, Sue claimed that she was still traumatised by the event and as a result felt the need to have a glass of port, despite the fact that it was only eleven thirty! (Note the word claimed!).
After a short walk back to the road where we checked out the location of the pub, we returned to the boat, untied and set off again. Other than the fact that there are more moving boats to pass and fewer moored ones than in winter, the two hour trip back to Marston Junction is without incident. Sue disappears into the galley to prepare Sunday lunch; roast beef, roast spuds, veg and yorkshire pudding. If our timing is right, we should be sitting down to this feast around three o’clock somewhere near the Lime Kilns and only half an hour from home.
In the event, it is about ten past three when we moor just before the A5 bridge near the Lime Kilns, normally when we pass through this section, Sue’s nose starts to itch presumably there is something growing in one of the adjacent fields that she is allergic to. Anyway, this time she is unaffected, maybe because her nostrils, like mine are filled with the smell of the aforementioned Sunday roast dinner.
Despite the fact that we have done this trip a couple of times before, it has been different this time. Longer days have allowed us to stop in different places and the changing of the seasons has allowed us to observe nature at work.
After dinner, we rest a while before making the final leg of the journey back to the marina. There is hardly any wind so berthing the boat, stern first is no problem. A quick clear up and then we head for home, refreshed and tired after our weekend trip to Atherstone. Our next trip will be in two weeks time when we go out for a fortnight on a holiday for two weeks -destination Oxford.
After last week’s grueller, we decided to get back out on Friday afternoon with a relaxing cruise. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the low twenties when we left Hinckley and turned towards the top of the Ashby. We tied up two hours later by bridge thirty five and had dinner, a couple of pizzas! Saturday morning brought more sunshine and after breakfast we chugged on to Market Bosworth, just an hour away. After tying up we walked up the hill into the village, did some shopping and then we found our way to the patio at the back of the Black Horse. After a couple of drinks, we headed back to the canal, calling at The William IV pub on the way, purely in the interest of consumer reasearch. Happily both hostelries have passed the test and are worthy of future visits. After we get back to the boat, we start to wash her down, getting rid of the dust and bird muck that has accumulated over the last few weeks. We soon get talking to Dave and Margaret who own a boat which is moored a short distance away. Their boat is styled on the old working boats of the Grand Union and is superbly finished. Dave demonstrates a polish that he uses by rubbing it on our boat, what a finish! We will be taking his advice and wise words when we get our boat repainted. Eventually we turn in for the night after watching a bit of Saturday evening television. Easy start on Sunday, shower, breakfast, set off for the next winding hole, pass Dave polishing his engine. Turn around, through Market Bosworth and down to Stoke Golding. It is important that we review the Stoke Golding pubs so we tie up just after bridge 28 and walk into the village. First stop the White Swan, clean, friendly, good selection of beers, lovely garden. On to the Three Horseshoes, no beer garden so not reviewed this time. Next door into The George & Dragon (too many obvious jokes to mention). Beer garden is part of the car park so just ok, good choice of beers, looks clean but a big jar of dog biscuits on the bar, presumably other snacks are available! So it looks like the White Swan wins but we call in on the way back just to make sure .
Back to the boat and a bowl of pasta for lunch eaten on the benches next to the canal. It is now getting on for three o’clock so we untie and head back for the marina. The weather has been glorious and I have a new name for Susan on account of the colour that she is now turning – “Pikey Sue “. All too soon and we are back, it is a bit windy in the marina but nothing serious, we tie up, clear the rubbish out and walk home. The weekend has been just as we planned it, easy going, plenty of sunshine and fresh air and we are back home refreshed and relaxed. Perfect!
Friday The forecast is good for the Bank Holiday weekend, so we are off! Leaving Hinckley just after two o’clock, we head for Marston Junction, destination Ansty. As we pass The Limekilns pub, we see Jim sitting at one of the garden tables near his boat. He asks us where we are going and we tell him that we are hoping to reach Napton, he tells us that he is heading in the opposite direction, up the Ashby to Shackerstone. We pass “Little England” but there is still no sign of the owner. The journey to Marston Junction is pleasantly uneventful in the afternoon sunshine. As we approach Hawksbury we are aware of a cruiser behind us which is getting closer by the minute, we are on tickover as we pass moored boats on both sides so it will have to wait. Round the corner and through the stop lock and then it starts to rain but we press on anyway, Ansty is only an hour away. The rain only lasted for twenty minutes or so but we have to change plans when we see that there are no mooring places free at Ansty. We carry on for another hour and a half before finding suitable moorings near bridge 26 which is about a mile away from Stretton stop. The time is now just after seven thirty so we have some dinner and a drink and then watch the sunset from the rear deck before retiring for the evening.
Saturday The sun is shining already as we have breakfast before setting off at half past eight. Through Stretton stop and past Rose narrowboats twenty minutes later, we pass Ian Birks on board nb “Nobby” before we reach Newbold on Avon. A few minutes later and we are beyond the furthest point that we have previously cruised to. The canal runs around the outskirts of Rugby before reaching the locks at Hillmorton. We take on water before negotiating the locks and Sue starts chatting to the crew of the boat in front, ten Australian girls who have hired for the weekend. They say that it has taken three hours to get here from Rugby and as they pull away towards the locks, it is easy to see why! At the first lock, Sue meets Ben who offers to assist us up the flight. Teenager Ben explains that he has been fascinated by the canal and the locks for years. He helps people through the locks and by being rewarded financially has raised hundreds of pounds for charity. We are grateful for his help and tell him that we will see him the next day on our way back. The weather is still good, bright, some cloud cover and warm. The canal soon opens up into the long straight stretch at Barby, a few bends then straight-ish for a while before approach Braunston. We have been to Braunston a few times by road and walked along past the marina, however today we will be turning before then on to the Grand Union (Oxford section). We reckon it should take about two hours to reach Napton Junction so we expect to be there before six. We pass a lot of moored boats near Braunston and then it is out in the open again. The sky is darkening and pretty soon it starts to rain heavily, we are still about an hour from Napton but with the length of time we have already been travelling today and the fact that there was no compelling reason to get to Napton, we decide to tie up for the night just beyond bridge 102. The rain only lasts for an hour so after dinner we sit out on deck again, thank goodness we have a boat with a cruiser stern.
Sunday After a solid night’s sleep we have breakfast and set off for the turning point at bridge 107. It is windy today, as forecast but the turning point is very exposed and as soon as we turn into the winding hole, the wind just takes us sideways. After a couple of minutes being heavy handed on the throttle, the boat comes around and we are off again. The trip back is fairly uneventful, we are encountering more traffic today but nothing serious. A few light-hearted moments when we encounter an oncoming boat under a bridge on a bend when Sue tells the helmsman that his friends sitting at the front of the boat had said that the encounter had been his fault because he was inexperienced! He took it in good part and agreed that it was because he had only been doing it for thirty five years! Ben helped Sue through the locks again which was much appreciated and we then head back for our next stop which we have decided is going to be Newbold again. We have been here before of course during the winter months and we are looking forward to mooring early enough to take a walk to the shops and sample the local pubs. After collecting some groceries from the Co-op we head towards the first of the local hostelries, take one look in and turn around. Next on the now shortened tour is the Barley Mow. It looks a bit more promising so we buy a couple of drinks which are very expensive and sit outside on the terrace. Soon we are joined by a group of youths having a playful fight which is rapidly getting out of control. Another customer then says hello but he is a weird character so we finish our drinks and return to the boat. The boat behind us is owned and occupied by Amy and her dog Dylan. Dylan is a collie who was rescued and just wants to play. Amy it would seem has rescued herself from her own entrapment and just wants a peaceful life. We spend half an hour chatting and throwing sticks for Dylan while having a glass of wine before we have our evening meal. As for Newbold on Avon, we are disappointed and will not be hurrying back.
Monday The last day of our journey dawns bright and clear and we head for home, it will be full day’s cruise from here but the sun is out and the forecast is for the same all day. By the time we get to Hawksbury we are tiring, a combination of the long hours we have been cruising and the exposure to the sun is making us give consideration to the idea of stopping now and finish our journey in the morning. In the event, we push on. As we get into the last half an hour of our trip, we catch up with another, smaller boat travelling quite slow. This isn’t a problem since we are passing a lot of moored boats, with two boats behind us we now have a convoy. Entering the stretch between the Limekilns and Nutts lane, the boat in front speeds up a little but is not doing much more than we are doing on tickover. With such a short distance to go to the marina there is no point in attempting to pass it. The boat owner behind has different ideas and signals that he wishes to pass and as he draws up alongside he mutters something about sitting behind the slowcoach in front. A few seconds later and he starts to drop back, presumably he grounded himself in the shallows. Anyway the convoy continued with the boat in front also turning into the marina before us. We are both shattered and agree that we will need to be more realistic with the hours that we cruise in future.