After yet another peaceful night’s sleep we awoke to blue skies again this morning. We were in no hurry to get going so we took our time and after breakfast we moved Caxton on to the water point just beyond the junction. While the fresh water tank filled, we emptied the cassettes and prepared for the next leg of our journey. It took a while to fill the tank due to the low pressure from the tap but eventually we squeezed the last few drops in and started to reverse back to the iron bridge and the junction with the Oxford canal.
Gongoozlers were already gathering around the bridge and around the Greyhound but we made the turn easily and so were of no interest to any of them. Sue had stayed on the bank and had already prepared the shallow lock by the time I had stuck Caxton’s bow under the cast iron bridge which spans the junction.
nb Dodona was waiting to enter the stop lock as we were leaving so it made for an easy transit for us as we had no gate to close behind us. From there on in we had a very pleasant cruise, the sun shone and the wind only just cooled us slightly as we made our way in a southerly direction. We have passed this way many times before and very little has changed over the years but sometimes familiarity doesn’t breed contempt and this was one of those occasions. It was around three o’clock when we reached the approach to All Oaks Wood and we found a very suitable mooring there.
After sorting ourselves out we locked up and made the three-quarter mile walk into the nearby village of Brinklow. Those who know Caxton will recognise that in a way, Caxton is at home here.
We found the local church close to the remains of Brinklow castle and climbed to the top of all that remains of the main mound of the Motte and Bailey castle. A full explanation of the construction can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motte-and-bailey_castle
The view from the top was far reaching although too vast to be worth photographing, certainly with a phone at least. Descending the hill was probably trickier than the ascent had been but we managed both without incident and then we made our way back to the towpath where we found our boat awaiting.
After yesterday’s exuberance we decided that we would have a quieter day today. Following a leisurely breakfast we walked along the towpath in the direction of Coventry until we reached the Ricoh arena. We killed a bit of time over a coffee in Starbucks before catching a train from the nearby station and made the six minute trip into Coventry. Sue wanted to visit the nearby Hobbycraft store and while she looked at knitting related items, I checked out the art supplies. In contrast to the day before, this Saturday has been a cloudy and drizzly affair but it wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t walk around the city centre. Lunch was taken at one of our regular haunts, The Establishment and we weren’t disappointed although it was rather busy and noisy today because there were a number of Saracens rugby fans there on their way to the match against Wasps at the Ricoh arena. A little more shopping after lunch followed and then we made our way back to the station and re-traced our steps back to our mooring at Hawkesbury.
Unlike yesterday when the blue skies ensured that the solar panels charged the batteries to 100%, today’s thick cloud prevented a repeat so we ran the engine for an hour to keep them topped up.
Friday 5th May had eventually arrived, it brought with it my 55th birthday and my retirement date. Sue had cleared the apartment of the last few items that we would be taking on our journey and stowed them on board Caxton on Thursday afternoon. After eating in the nearby Marina restaurant, we returned to the boat and settled in for what would be our last night in Hinckley for some time.
When we awoke on Friday morning, the sun was already shining in a clear blue sky, it looked like we were going to have a perfect start to our trip. We made a final trip to the apartment to check that we hadn’t forgotten anything and that everything was switched off. We were back on board by 8.30 and after carrying out the usual startup checks, we untied, engaged forward gear and set off, leaving behind the mooring that had been our home for the last week. The next thing that had to be done was to turn around at Hinckley wharf and return to the marina to fill up with diesel. It was 10 o’clock when we were passing our mooring again but this time we really were on our way at last.
It remained bright and sunny all day but the cool north-easterly wind that accompanied us on our voyage meant that thick fleeces were the order of the day. We didn’t encounter many boats on the move as we made our way along the Ashby canal and it wasn’t any busier after we had turned left on to the Coventry canal at Marston junction. It took the usual three hours for us to reach our destination and we found a good spot to moor near Hawkesbury junction. It was time to start the celebrations and on this occasion we did so by popping the cork on a bottle of vintage champagne which had been provided by Sue’s son Brett and his wife, Kerry.
Sue had booked a table for dinner at the Greyhound so at half past five we took the short walk along the towpath to the iconic pub. As usual, the food and service were excellent and we washed it all down with another bottle of champers. A bit decadent of course but it had been a special day.
We awoke this morning and changed our travel plans, electing to revert to plan A and go aimlessly south. Caxton’s engine burst into life just before eight o’clock and we made our way to the winding hole beyond Springwood Haven where we turned tail and headed back toward Nuneaton. The entire day has been a typically beautiful summer’s day with light winds, blue skies and white fluffy clouds overhead. Just under two hours later and we were passing the entrance to the Ashby canal at Marston junction. A few minutes later and we had the Charity dock in our sights. We had just cleared the corner when we spotted a Valley Cruises boat coming towards us, no problem since both boats were going straight and there was plenty of room to pass. With approximately three boat lengths between us, Sue said, “Here’s a panicker”. I thought the remark to be a bit harsh since the hire boat was behaving perfectly. Thirty seconds later and the steerer was turning towards us and the angle was getting sharper as she pushed the tiller in the wrong direction – panic really had set in. Fortunately, we were only in tickover but despite full revs in reverse and managing to get Caxton moving backwards, the oncoming boat still hit us. With the two boats moving in the same direction, the impact was minimal but still noisy and the only damage done was to the pride of the young lady steering.
After all that excitement, we carried on to Hawkesbury junction where we turned on to the North Oxford, no stop off at The Greyhound today. It’s probably a year since we last travelled this way so it was an enjoyable trip as we covered familiar waters, noting changes to the landscape as we went. There was a light but steady stream of boats coming in the opposite direction but although we knew that were boats in front and behind, they were out of sight for most of the time so didn’t trouble us. The perfect boating conditions continued through Ansty and on to Stretton stop, along the way we got a blast on the horn from a freight train and a friendly wave from the driver as he headed north on his journey. Eventually we reached Newbold tunnel, sadly it is no longer illuminated as it once was – maybe it is too costly to maintain. Once through the tunnel and under the bridge by the Barley Mow, we were pleased to discover that there was plenty of space on the Visitor moorings. We’ve tied on rings, the spacing isn’t ideal but it’s good enough. So from three o’clock we have been sitting in the shade of the front deck just watching the boats go past.
We didn’t travel very far today, retracing part of our trip yesterday as far as Marston junction and then on to Nuneaton where we have moored until Thursday so that we can sit out tomorrow’s storm. Today’s weather gave no hint of what is on its way and we enjoyed an excellent cruise under blue skies and sunshine. We only encountered one boat but that provided plenty of entertainment when it was driven at full speed into the bank on a right angled bend. The crew seemed unhurt with perhaps the only damage being done to the steerer’s pride. Once we had passed him it was easy to see what had happened, he had been blinded by the low sun and its reflection on the water’s surface and hadn’t seen that there was a bend!
We tied on the visitor moorings and after a shower, walked into town where we had lunch here at Saints Bar. Afterwards, we ambled back to the towpath where we have settled in for the evening on board Caxton.
After spending our fourth night in Trinity marina on board Caxton, it was time to get out on the cut. First of all though we had to say goodbye to our visitors, Sue’s son Brett, his wife Kerry and their two children. They had arrived on Sunday and stayed in our apartment overnight. They were just finishing breakfast when we got to the apartment so we chatted with them for an hour before they set off and we walked back to the marina.
We were ready to start our trip just after midday and despite the strong wind, we managed to exit the marina and point Caxton in the direction of Marston Junction. The mild weather is continuing but the wind makes it chilly after a while. Luckily for me, Sue has bought me some new thermals and knitted a sort of polo neck capelet that can be worn under a coat which keeps my neck warm and draught free. Fully insulated, I was able to steer Caxton along the six miles of the Ashby canal that leads to the junction with the Coventry canal. We passed a handful of boats along the way including Mister Pip, skippered by one of our acquaintances, Phil. Two hours later and we reached the junction so Sue went to the front to look put for any traffic on the Coventry canal. We were in the narrow section approaching the bridge when the bow of a narrowboat came into view from the direction of Nuneaton, it was the unmistakable “Miner Bill ” with Ralph at the tiller. Ralph indicated to Sue that he was turning on to the Ashby and she signalled back that we intended to turn left. This turn can be interesting at the best of times with Caxton being 68 feet long but with a bit of wind and a misbehaving bow thruster it looked like a perfect nightmare was about to unfold. In the end it wasn’t too bad and we all ended up where we wanted to be. Nicki appeared, camera in hand and took these photos.
We pressed on and made our way to Hawkesbury. Along the way, Sue stoked the fire up with some peat but unfortunately this coincided with us entering the cutting that is the Bedworth straight. We were suddenly protected from the gusting wind that had been clearing the smoke from the chimney and now it was just drifting in the almost still air. After a few minutes of being smoked like a kipper, Sue returned to the fire and removed as much of the smouldering peat from the fire as she could. The smoke subsided pretty quickly after that and then a few minutes later we were out in the open again. The smoke still hung in the cutting behind us but we were breathing fresh air again!
We reached Hawkesbury just before half past three, winded under the bridge then found a mooring for the evening. Neither of us fancied the walk back to the Greyhound so we settled down and had a bowl of home made soup that Sue had made as we had travelled along.
It was cold and dull when we poked our heads out of Caxton on Easter Saturday. Across the way, the old dog that we had become acquainted with in the Greyhound the evening before had barked at every passing boat but was quite happy to watch us untie before we started our trip into Coventry.
We were away for nine o’clock on the two hour journey into Coventry’s canal basin. The route continues to be improved but we saw only a handful of people on the towpath and met no oncoming boats as we made our way into the City centre. Nevertheless, we arrived in the basin two hours later, turned around and reversed onto a mooring where we tied up for the day. After we had showered and changed, we had some soup and then headed off through the City in search of the local Hobbycraft store which we found half an hour later.
After Sue had raided the “Fat Quarter” shelf, we wandered back into town and visited “The Flying Standard “, one of the local Wetherspoons pubs. We called in Sainsburys on our way back to the basin and then we sat on the back deck in the late afternoon sunshine. We engaged in conversation with a group of Asian ladies who expressed an interest in our boat and Sue then showed two of them around the interior of Caxton. No sooner had they disappeared inside than I was approached by an Indian couple who asked if they could have a look inside our boat. Needless to say, we obliged and Susie the tour guide continued with her work! Soon enough we were left on our own and we retreated indoors for the evening and had ourselves a roast beef dinner before settling down.
As expected, it was damp and drizzly when we awoke on the morning of Good Friday but we had no intention of hanging around for the day so we got up and were underway by nine o’clock. We passed a few boats heading towards Snarestone for the Easter weekend event as we made our way to Hinckley. Sue nipped home for some cough medicine for me while I bought some diesel and coal at Trinity marina. We had a brief chat with old friend Jim who has had a winter mooring there before setting off again. We were photographed by the crew of a tug heading north who told us that the pic was one for the first owners, we presume that she meant Lesley and Joe so maybe our mugshots will appear on another blog somewhere. The drizzle persisted for a while but it wasn’t like travelling in the rain and eventually we reached Marston Junction at the end of the Ashby where we turned hard left.
Sue rustled us up some soup to keep us going until we reached our stopping place for the day, the seven day moorings on the approach to Hawkesbury junction. Along the way we had our photo taken again and later appeared on this guy’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/CanalSideArt?ref=ts&fref=ts
No sooner had we gone through all of the normal mooring procedures than the heavens opened, we had been lucky again with our timings but would there be a window of opportunity to nip to the Greyhound for a pint?
Of course there was, we toddled off down there during a dry spell and not only did we have a drink but we had haddock & chips too! Suitably appropriate fare for Good Friday.
By now you will have read from Sue’s posts that I am in a bit of a sorry state. Yes, I should have done what I was told and got to the dentist sharper than I did. I didn’t though and as a result had one of the roughest night’s non-sleep that I can remember.
Back to yeserday though, we left our mooring at the Hawkesbury engine house and after filling the water tank, made our way to Marston junction where we made the wide sweep necessary to gain access to the Ashby canal. This is only the second time that we have been along here in Caxton but it is a trip that we made many times on Phoenix III. After three hours travelling, we pulled up outside the Lime Kilns on the A5. After making my dental appointment, we walked home and then drove into Hinckley to do some shopping.
On returning to Caxton, we just hung around until it was time for bed. Sue prescribed some codeine tablets that she had for the pain that I had. I notice on her post that she says I was a bit spaced out. Far from it, the effect was horrible, how anyone gets addicted to them is beyond me and I’ll never take them again.
Anyway after the rough night, we went home again to kill time until the dental appointment and when we returned to Caxton, we set off again for the short hop to Stoke Golding where we have moored outside Nigel’s Ashby canal centre marina. As we tied up, another boat was doing the same just a little way in front of us, I suspect that it is nb Muleless by the look of the bow and ordinarily I would have gone to say hello as I read their blog but with having a badly swollen face and a bit of a miserable outlook today, I’m not in a sociable mood. Maybe tomorrow, if the swelling has subsided, we’ll see.
A number of working boats passed us by in the evening as they made their way to Shackerstone for the festival this weekend. Just before ten, we heard the unmistakable sound of a Bolinder engine, we could see his headlight but when it passed by it was too dark to identify the boat.
We had no complaints about our night in Coventry basin, it was very quiet indeed. We left our mooring at nine o’clock and made our way back to Hawkesbury junction in the glorious sunshine.
It was a lovely trip which ended when we found a mooring opposite the old engine house, a spot that we have been lucky enough to have occupied on a few previous occasions. It was just before midday and Sue offered to buy lunch at the Greyhound so it was difficult to refuse. We spent the next couple of hours eating, drinking and basking in the September sunshine at the waterside watching the boats go by. Eventually we had to call it a day and retire to the front deck of Caxton where we resumed our sitting in the sun and watching the boats going by.
We pronounced our Coventry trip a success and vowed to go again soon.