With high winds and rain forecast for Sunday, we decided that we would end our trip on a high note and travel home today. We set off at seven, seeing nothing else on the move until we reached Sutton’s Stop. The early grey cloud had given way to blue skies by the time we had negotiated the stop lock and the 180 degree turn on to the Coventry canal. The temperature was rising quickly by the time we reached Marston junction and we completed the last two hours of our journey in perfect summer conditions, a perfect end to our holiday.
We got to the marina, dumped the unmentionables, packed a couple of bags and then simply walked home.
We’ve done 168 locks and covered 208 miles in the last three weeks in the space of about 120 hours (about 3 lock miles per hour). The weather has been good with only two days of rain and we sat both of those out in Tewkesbury and Stratford, other than that only two five minute showers while travelling. We found moorings in every place that we had hoped for and explored towns and waterways for the first time. To that end, we can only conclude that we had a successful trip!
Of course we’re now down to the last few days of our holiday and back on very familiar territory so we got up when we awoke at six, got ourselves organised and set off forty minutes later. With two hours between us and the locks at Hillmorton, I steered while Sue got on with some chores. When we reached Hillmorton we saw that there were two lock keepers on duty and that meant that we were out the other end of the flight in about 25 minutes. There were now a lot of boats on the move, mainly narrowboats and then a cruiser came into view, it was Stormin Norman who we hadn’t seen since we parted company on the Staffs & Worcs a couple of weeks ago. We had a laugh and a joke with them as we passed each other again.
We pulled over to take on water at Rugby next to the new retail park, only to discover that the tap is out of order while construction work is being carried out. Shortly afterwards we met another acquaintance, the river Avon, as we passed over it for the last time. Having travelled on it from Tewkesbury to Stratford and then crossed it again near Warwick, it seemed strange to see it below us again near Rugby. So it was on to Newbold on Avon where we filled with enough water to see us through to the end of our holiday.
With boat traffic having eased off, the trip became very easy through these familiar waters and by two o’clock we had reached Ansty where we moored for the night. A phone call to the Rose & Castle secured us a table for our evening meal.
The rings at Ansty aren’t quite spaced right for us so I hammered a couple of pins in at the back and put a spring in the stern line. This next bit is specifically for Steve (nbAmyjo). The picture below shows two hammers. The one on the left is what most boats carry to bang in mooring pins, the one on the right is one that I found in a container sent from Costa Rica. The one on the left makes the sound “dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink, dink” as it hammers a pin into the ground. The one on the right goes, “dink, dink, dooff, dooff” and that’s all it takes, it is made from a piece of steel pipe welded to the head from a sledge hammer after all!
We were up reasonably early this morning and set off at eight o’clock. It had been raining but it was dry again when we left our mooring at Ansty. We pootled on along the North Oxford and with the exception of a solitary boat on the move near the M69, we were alone. Alone that was until we reached the last bend before the straight run to the stop lock at Hawkesbury junction. Who should we meet but Richard and Sharon on board Barnowl No. 12, Oakapple. Well it was a bit awkward being on that bend but with nothing else about we were both able to slow to a crawl and have an early morning conversation before going our separate ways. We read each others blogs so we knew where we both had been the day before, it was lovely to see you both again, no doubt our paths will cross again in the future. The steady beat of Oakapple’s engine faded into the distance as we made our way to the lock which happened to be in our favour. Nb Indulgence rounded the bend as we drained the shallow lock which meant that Sue was able to walk round to the service point and wait for Caxton and me.
Half an hour later with the rubbish dumped, the cassettes emptied and the water tank brim-full, we began our trip into Coventry. It started to rain, not heavy, just a steady drizzle and with it being reasonably warm with no wind it wasn’t unpleasant (note to Fiona – “Dry Rain”). Susan took up residence inside at my insistence, no point in us both getting wet I said but the rain didn’t stop until we reached the basin at Coventry.
The only craft that we saw on the water as we made our way into the city was a canoeist!
So what was the trip like, you may ask. Well I think that it was pretty good, the canal wends its way into the city in a convoluted sort of way but it’s strange because it’s lined by trees and parkland. You don’t see much in the way of industry, even the old Courtaulds site which was cleared a few years ago is gradually being taken over by weeds and wild plants. The towpath is of good quality, populated by the odd jogger, a few cyclists and one or two pedestrians. There is graffiti in places but nothing offensive, there are odd bits of flotsam and jetsam in the cut but nothing that is troublesome. If there is one criticism, it would be that there appears to be a complete lack of litter bins along the way, something that the City Council should be ashamed of. It’s noticable, not because there is lot’s of litter strewn everywhere but rather that some good citizens have hung carrier bags to gates along the towpath providing makeshift bins. Now I know that the answer is for everyone to take their litter home but in the absence of bins, it’s a solution of sorts.
As we approached the basin, we saw three kids on the towpath, only aged around ten or eleven but they were hurriedly collecting stones! We did what we normally do and engaged their interest, they dropped the stones and talked to us all of the way into the basin itself. The two boys and a girl were actually alright and maybe we were wrong to fear the worst, we chatted to them as we tied up and answered all of their questions. The three were desperate to see inside Caxton, Sue warned them that they shouldn’t ever get in a stranger’s car or boat. They reassured her that they knew the dangers of being kidnapped by paedos! Sue showed them through the boat while I chatted to the owner of the boat moored behind us. They were suitably impressed and then ran off to annoy another boater who had just arrived in the basin.
The Valley Cruises hire fleet is based in Coventry basin now and they occupy the left hand arm as you enter, despite appearances there is enough room to turn and reverse into the other arm which is what we did.
We walked into the city centre shortly after we arrived in the basin, we’re quite familiar with the place since we only live about 15 miles away so there were no surprises. We had lunch at a pub called The Establishment which used to be the old County Hall and Courthouse, it is reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in Coventry.
We wandered back through the old and new Cathedrals and took some pictures just in case you are one of the people who think that Coventry is just a bombed out city that was rebuilt using concrete in the fifties and sixties. There is a bit of that of course, but there is still a lot of history here too.
Coventry is also home to an excellent transport museum, it’s not far from the basin and the entry is free. We didn’t visit it today but we have been there many times before.
We didn’t take pictures on the way in because of the rain but hopefully we’ll get some tomorrow on our way back, in the meantime here are some pics from around Coventry City Centre.
We had a peaceful night at Brownsover, unlike the last time we overnighted here (Read about it here). With little urgency required, it was almost ten o’clock when we set off on the next leg of our journey. Shortly after, Sue presented me with a bacon sandwich and took over the steering while I scoffed it down, finishing it just before Newbold tunnel. Sue took us through the tunnel now lit only by one coloured floodlight and then went off to make her own breakfast.
There weren’t that many boats on the move as we made our way along the north Oxford but we did pass a modern boat pulling an old butty near the bridge that carries the West Coast mainline over the canal. There was the usual long line of moored boats just after the bend at All Oaks wood, most of which were GRP cruisers, 9 in all. It got me wondering about the collective noun for a gathering of such craft. I know that it’s probably fleet or flotilla but I’m kind of thinking that it should be a Tupperware party.
After passing through the swingbridge at Rose narrowboats, Sue steered while I went for a shower. Eventually, we were re-united with the WCML as we passed under the M6, all three routes will take you to Manchester or Liverpool, it just depends on how quickly you want to get there!
We passed through the golf course and decided to pull up on the visitor moorings behind the Rose & Castle at Ansty. Once secured, we had some green soup that Sue had made which was very good. We then sat in the cratch enjoying the sunshine on this the last day of August. This is the same spot that we had occupied with Phoenix III when she was iced in during the winter of 2010/11 (Read about it here and here). Working close by, I came and checked the boat over regularly but on the first occasion I thought it would be a good idea to heat up some soup and have lunch on board, I have never been as cold as I was on that day.
It was just gone half past six when we awoke, the sun was shining and the sky was blue so we got up, got the kettle on and set off. Sue sorted out a bacon sandwich for me and thus fortified, we made our way to Ansty. By the time we reached said village it was just after eight o’clock and one or two hire-boaters were starting to stir.
We continued through the golf course and under the M6, eventually getting to Stretton stop. We shook off the two boats that we had in tow, a couple of Rose Narrowboats returning to base. With light winds and temperatures in the low twenties, we enjoyed our morning cruise. There was a bit of congestion after we exited Newbold tunnel but nothing serious and then it was clear to Rugby. Boats were moored both sides at Brownsover but we managed to tickle Caxton past them and a couple of oncoming boats before we saw Bruce & Sheila on Sanity Again tied up on the Tesco side of the canal. We had a brief conversation with them and then carried on to Hillmorton where we tied on the visitor mooring.
Off we went into the village, did some shopping in the Londis and then called in the Stag & Pheasant to carry out some research. I had a couple of pints of Stella, Sue had a glass of wine. The staff were pleasant and friendly and we had a sandwich each, pretty basic but at £4 for both of us, no complaints.
We wandered back to Caxton, opened the Houdini hatches and the cratch covers, poured ourselves a drink and started to relax. Minutes later we were joined by Bruce and Sheila who had moved on from Rugby and were now moored a few hundred yards behind us. We had a drink and shot the breeze for an hour before they returned to Sanity Again. Sheila had brought us some chilli plants so we are now looking forward to a crop of spicy peppers later in the year.
Afterwards I put up a couple of artistic works that personalise Caxton for us.
Tomorrow it will be on to Braunston where we will find our new mooring before returning home. Funny really, normally we take the car to pick up the boat, this time it is the other way around!