Return to the Ashby

In the end, we decided to leave Hawkesbury on Friday morning rather than Saturday. We had toyed with the idea of travelling to Atherstone for a couple of days but in the end, decided to return to the Ashby canal instead. Looking at the forecast, we could see that Friday offered sunshine and light cloud whereas Saturday looked dull but dry. Either day would have been good for travelling but sunshine on our return to our home water seemed appropriate. I was about to start this post with, “We’ve lost count of the number of times that we’ve travelled along the first six miles of the Ashby canal” but then I remembered that all I had to do was to go through the log book that we have kept since we bought our first boat, Phoenix III. The grand total came to 88 times! (44 in each direction of course).

Most people find that when they are driving home by car that there is a point where, because they have driven it many times before, it feels like they are already home, even if they still have twenty minutes left to go. We’re like that with Hawkesbury Junction; once we’ve made the turn on to the Coventry canal, we feel that we’re nearly home even though we’re still three hours away. It makes the trip easy to do as there is never a time when you’re unsure of your surroundings, how far you’ve travelled or how long you have left to go. The trip on Friday morning was just like that; we worked the lock, passed under the cast iron bridge and reversed on to the service point where we did all of the necessary things before setting off in the bright sunshine. An hour later, we reached Marston Junction which we had to ourselves long enough to make the turn unmolested by other craft. Soon we were passing under the West Coast mainline for the last time on our trip, we have crossed it, run along side it and slept within earshot of it for most of the way on our return from the bottom of the Grand Union. Just for good measure, we even travelled on it when we returned from our short break in July. Now we were leaving this strange travelling companion for the final time, well until we make trip number 89! On we went, meeting the odd narrowboat now and again and being overtaken by a trailboat but that was on one of the few straight and wide sections of the canal so that caused us no problem. An hour on from the junction saw us at Burton Hastings, after passing the long term linear moorings there and rounding the first bend, we caught our first sight of the warehouses next to the A5 and we knew that half an hour would bring us to the Limekilns bridge where the A5 crosses the canal.

Sure enough, the A5 suddenly came into view with its constant stream of Friday afternoon traffic. Seeing that the visitor moorings on our side of the road bridge were completely empty, we pulled in and tied up.

Our mooring for the night is only a ten minute walk away from where we live so we had lunch on board and then went to check that our home was still standing. Everything was in order so we quickly opened the post and returned to the boat for the evening.

We’re on our way at last!

Caxton sits quietly waiting to begin the great escape.

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.

Three men in a boat

Three men and Caxton Stan, Dan & Derek

Three men and Caxton
Stan, Dan & Derek

No, nothing to do with George, Harris and J as chronicled by Jerome K Jerome but all about three gentlemen from the USA on vacation here on a narrowboat.

Sue knits – a lot. Socks, shawls, scarves, dishcloths, if it can be knitted, she will knit it. She frequents the Knitting Paradise website and over the years has made many friends, learned new techniques and made a lot of her own contributions which have helped other fellow knitters and crochet enthusiasts. A few months ago she was contacted by a fellow crafter, Fran, from America whose husband was planning to have a narrowboat holiday with two of his friends. Fran wondered if Sue could provide some information for her husband, Stan and his two compadres which would help them with their trip. As it turned out, they were hiring a boat from Valley Cruises in Coventry so we were able to email them with a fair amount of information relating to the Coventry, Ashby and North Oxford canals.

Stan called on Thursday and we arranged to meet up on Sunday (today) at the Lime Kilns on the Ashby canal. These things can be difficult at the best of times but with none of the three amigos having a mobile phone (cell phone for our American friends), we hoped that it would all work out.

I was in Winchester on Friday night attending a retirement dinner and didn’t get back to Hinckley until Saturday morning. I pulled Caxton out of the marina and moored in the usual place on the corner by the apartment before returning home. We delayed our departure until after the televised football match between Manchester United and Leicester City. A defeat for the blues brought into question our decision to watch the game!

We were on our way by three o’clock and heading for Marston junction, the problem with heading in this direction in a 68′ boat is that it can’t be turned before the junction. No matter, we wanted to have a run out and fancied a night in the wilderness. We had to contend with a fierce wind as we made our way in a south westerly direction but with very few boats on the move, we were presented with no problems at all. We moored just after bridge three, had dinner and settled in for the evening.

It rained overnight, heavily and therefore noisily but by the time we were ready to set off at eight o’clock, the weather was cheering up a little. We made the short hop to the junction, emerged on to the Coventry canal and quickly turned around before slipping back under the bridge and back on to the Ashby. Sue, the galley slave, soon produced a couple of bacon sandwiches which were much appreciated by the crew in the engine room. Fully fortified, I steered Caxton to a good mooring on the visitor moorings opposite the Lime Kilns.

I walked home, picked up the car and a few bits and pieces before going shopping. On returning to our mooring I could see that the intrepid travellers had arrived and found a mooring space behind us and they were on the towpath talking to Sue. I joined them and we all had a a good chinwag inside after the gents had had a tour of our vessel.

Stan, Dan and Derek have been friends since their schooldays and despite them now being scattered from the east coast the west, with Dan somewhere in the middle, they have maintained their camaraderie over the years. Stan captains a tour boat on the Hudson river, Dan lives in Michigan and restores automobiles, Derek lives in California where he designs and builds sail boats. Stan brought me a book that he co-authored with Derek’s brother about the Hudson river as well as some yarn (hand dyed in New York state) from Fran – for Sue of course! There was also some of Fran’s home made “Apple butter”, a delicious spicy apple purée concoction that is proving irresistible!

We chatted for a while and then headed to the Lime Kilns where we had lunch in the garden. The time flew by as we talked about canals and listened to the boys’ stories, one of those afternoons that you wish would never end. But end they must and so we returned to the other side of the cut where we said our goodbyes to our new found friends. We have stayed tied up here but Derek, Dan and Stan have moved on now, we wish them all the best on the rest of their trip, it really was a pleasure meeting these three interesting characters – the three men in a boat.

Summer summary

We’ve started our main summer cruise and I’ve just realised that the last blog post was at Easter, whoops! Well we haven’t given up on boating, it’s just me being lazy. Since Easter we have been out and about on the Ashby more weekends than not, stopping in all the usual haunts. We’ve had a few trips to the Greyhound at Hawkesbury and in June we took a week to go to Alvecote and back, all exciting stuff! The calorifier sprung a leak and had to be replaced ~ more expense. The cratch board got a make over with a cream paint job to replace the varnished wood which was showing its age. The dark staining could have been bleached before being re-varnished but we decided to brighten it up instead. Other than that, Caxton now has a new, improved mobile broadband system on board.

So that’s the summary, now for the summer cruise. We’ve taken to mooring Caxton close to where we live so that loading is a bit easier than carting stuff to the marina. In fact, we’ve also taken to spending more and more nights on board when moored here, just thirty yards from the front door of our home. Anyway, yesterday morning before work, I walked to the marina, untied and moved Caxton the quarter mile or so to “our” mooring space. (As far as I’m concerned, it became ours when I cut the grass there!). Through Thursday and then Friday morning, we made our final preparations before setting off just after one o’clock. Until Thursday evening we had no plans at all, preferring to just wander aimlessly but after some discussion we have decided to head for Birmingham and then down to Warwick by way of the Stratford canal. There are a lot of locks on the western side of the Warwickshire ring but we have seventeen days to complete the journey so it should be alright.

We had a pleasant cruise through the afternoon to our mooring for the night near Springwood Haven, just north of Nuneaton. Along the way we passed Martin and Caroline on their new narrowboat, Sonia Louise, as they headed north on the Ashby. We visited them a couple of weeks ago and were given the full tour of their magnificent boat which has been built to a very high standard.

Tomorrow, we’ll move on to Atherstone and down the Atherstone flight on the next leg of our journey, where we stop is anyone’s guess. You’ll have to read the next episode to find out.

Two years on

It’s two years since we bought Caxton and it’s two Easters since we took possession of her/him/it albeit that Easter was in April in 2014.

We moved on board on Thursday afternoon and after dining at the Marina we retired to the warmth and comfort afforded by our beloved narrowboat. Friday morning brought blue skies and a fresh north westerly breeze so we were up and out for just after eight o’clock. Turning right from the marina we looked back and saw that a boat had broken free of its mooring acouple of hundred yards away outside the pub and was blocking the canal, luckily we were heading in the opposite direction and were therefore untroubled by the blockage.

Our journey was very quiet in terms of moving boats which was a good thing because the Ashby is very shallow and on the couple of occasions when we met oncoming craft, Caxton struggled with the lack of water underneath once we had moved away from the centre of the channel.

We had a lovely cruise and pulled up at Market Bosworth three and a half hours after our departure. With Caxton secured, we had a light lunch before walking up to town to do a bit of shopping. We returned to our floating home and waited for our visitors Brett, Kerry, Liam and Chloe to arrive. They managed to find us by three o’clock and we then spent a couple of hours catching up and generally having a good laugh with them. 

All too soon it was time for them to leave, by which time the sun was starting to head for the horizon and the temperature was beginning to drop so we said our goodbyes and closed Caxton up for the evening.

First trip of 2016

The weather has turned so we’ve escaped the clutches of the marina and headed north on the Ashby canal. We walked to the boat (how convenient is that?) this morning with enough bits and pieces to see us through the weekend and after tending to the fire which has been lit since Wednesday, I started the engine and then we went to visit Joe and Lesley on nb Yarwood. We said our goodbyes before reversing out on to the Ashby canal. We stopped for a few minutes and had a chat with Jim on nb Billie before getting underway under an emerging spring sun.

We had no real plans but by the time we had reached Stoke Golding, I had a trip to Market Bosworth in mind. It was a bright but cool day punctuated by warm spells when the sun poked its head through the clouds.

We passed one or two boats before we reached Market Bosworth where we turned and moored below bridge 42. After a leisurely walk up the hill to town, we treated ourselves to lunch in the Red Lion.

When we returned to Caxton, we stoked the fire up and then settled down for the evening listening to music and waiting for the sun to disappear over the horizon.

We’re back on board at the beginning of a new cruising season and it feels like we’re home again.

Happy New Year

We don’t normally stay up to welcome in the new year and last night was no exception. We were however, woken at midnight when the revellers at the Limekilns pub counted down to the start of 2016 which was accompanied by the customary fireworks. Eventually the fireworks stopped but the pub party was still in full swing as we dropped off to sleep once more.

There was a period of calm weather forecast for this morning, low wind speeds between two weather systems. We were up early to take advantage of the short window of opportunity that would allow us to get Caxton easily back into the marina and safely tied up. The eastern sky started to get light around 7.45 so we untied the frost hardened ropes and started on the final leg of our trip. The forecast had been spot-on and our mission was completed just under thirty minutes later. By 10.15, we had done the chores and cleared all of our bits and pieces into the car. Our week’s break on board was over and of course so was our final trip of 2015. A little bit different to last year’s Christmas cruise.

We don’t really know what 2016 will bring us but we hope that we’ll get a lot of time out and about on the cut.

It’s Miner Bill!

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.

Christmas Again!

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we spent our first Christmas on board Caxton. We were moored at Market Bosworth at the time and after living aboard on Christmas eve and day, we started cruising on Boxing day . The following day saw us mooring at the Lime Kilns but then overnight, the canal froze over and there we remained until New Year’s Eve.

This year is completely different. For a start, Caxton lives in the marina across the road from where we live. The weather has been more autumnal than wintery and the mild temperatures are set to continue, so it looks like a Christmas cruise is a real possibility. We’ve been keeping Caxton warm and dry by regularly lighting the fire so this week it hasn’t been difficult to prepare for our time aboard. We are expecting visitors on Sunday and we had hoped to have a short “out and back” cruise between now and then but a fierce wind has put paid to that idea. Undeterred, we still moved our remaining bits and pieces on board this afternoon and after a short walk to the Wharf Inn, we returned to Caxton and settled in for the evening .

Our plan now is to sit tight until Sunday morning when we will move the boat out of the marina and then moor out on the towpath overnight. On Monday we’ll be able to start our Christmas cruise properly so watch this space!

October weekend

It has been seven weeks since we were last out on the cut and Oh! how we’ve missed it. My little girl Amy (OK she’s 24 years old but she’s still my little girl) told me that she misses the blogs so this one is especially for her!

We did have a bit of a boating fix last weekend when we visited Joe and Lesley on Yarwood when they were moored at Aynho. We had a fabulous afternoon with them, enjoying lunch in the Great Western Arms followed by coffee so good that we have indulged ourselves by buying a Dolce Gusto machine so that we can recreate Joe’s magnificent cafe con leche.

So with the country sitting under an area of high pressure for the time being, we decided to escape for the weekend. I finished work at lunchtime on Friday and met Sue in Hinckley where we had a drink outside the Hansom Cab before going home to prepare for the trip. While Sue gathered some bits and pieces, I went to the marina and released Caxton from the clutches of its mooring. A few minutes later and I was picking Sue up from the towpath near our apartment, one of the benefits of living next to the canal.

Marina, Home, Lime Kilns

Marina, Home, Lime Kilns

With the full crew now on board, Caxton slipped through the water as far as the visitor moorings opposite the Lime Kilns pub on the A5. After securing our mooring we sat out on the front deck and savoured the late afternoon sun, a bit of a rarity for October. On the spur of the moment we decided to have dinner at the pub and then embarked on one of our shortest ever cruises, yes we untied and pushed Caxton all of twenty feet across the cut to the pub garden thus saving the walk there and back. Lazy or decedent- you decide!

Lime KilnsLime Kilns

No complaints about the food, drink or service, everything was excellent and we only had a two minute walk to get back to the boat.

Saturday dawned and we set sail just after nine with the intention of turning left at Marston Junction and going to Hawkesbury for the weekend. By the time we reached the Coventry canal we had changed our minds and headed north. An hour later and we were tying up in Nuneaton, a town often maligned by boaters but we think unjustly so. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the home of George Elliot before returning to Caxton and moving on to Boot Wharf where we blocked the canal as we shoved 180 litres of diesel into the tank. Fortunately we only inconvenienced one boat for a couple of minutes before we set off again and made our way to Springwood Haven where we moored for the night. After dinner we settled in for the evening and I was asleep before nine o’clock. Like the evening before I slept for eleven hours – proof positive that I sleep better on the water than anywhere else.

The fire was still lit when we got up on Sunday morning so the inside of the boat was still warm and toasty. It wasn’t too cold outside either so we untied and set off, turning in the winding hole just beyond the marina. We had a pleasant cruise back to Hinckley in the autumn sunshine passing a few boats along the way, including Phil on nb Mister Pip and Stuart & Treena on nb Carpe Diem.

The wind had picked up by the time we got back but it did not hinder our entry to the marina. We had enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to end the trip with lunch at the Marina pub; Sunday roast for the crew, Chicken and Ham pie for me. Suitably refuelled we walked home and reflected on our wonderfully relaxing weekend.

September 2017
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