On the 28th April 2017, we pulled Caxton out of the marina in Hinckley and began preparations for our first big cruise. Unbelievably, we have now reached that anniversary and we are ready to start again!
It was the middle of March when we returned from our winter break on Fuerteventura and it was a pleasant surprise to return to long-ish days and mild weather. We busied ourselves with visits to family, doctors and dentists although not necessarily in that order. We also managed to fit in a five day break to Scotland, travelling by train to Glasgow for three nights before finishing off in Edinburgh for a couple of nights and then travelling back. The flexibility that retirement brings enabled us to travel 1st class on cheap advance tickets. The journey to Glasgow was delayed by an hour so those fares were fully refunded, in effect a free ride with free food and drink.
In the days prior to our trip north of the border, we had moved a lot of stuff on board Caxton in preparation for our departure so when we got home on Tuesday 24th April, we had only a few more bits to shift from bricks to boat. We were fully prepared by midday on the Wednesday so we decided to eat at the nearby Brewers Fayre and spend our first night on board since last October.
Thursday dawned and without further ado, we untied and quietly slipped out from the safety of the marina and headed north on the Ashby canal. This might seem like a strange start to a six month cruise, heading into a cul-de-sac but we wanted a few days to make sure that everything worked and that we hadn’t forgotten anything. If we had overlooked anything, we would be able to collect what we had forgotten as we passed home on the return trip.
The day was dry, if a little cool and we pushed on to reach Market Bosworth in the early afternoon, tying on our favourite mooring between the road bridge and the marina entrance. We sat out the heavy rain that arrived on the Friday and nursed the colds that we had somehow managed to pick up on our travels north of the border.
The following day was cold but dry so we turned around and made our way back to Stoke Golding. After mooring on Duck Bend, I left Sue in the cozy interior of Caxton while I went on a mission to the George & Dragon pub. At first glance, the G&D is just another village pub selling and real ale and serving home made food. I’m not a real ale fanatic but the Churchend Brewery beers served there are very good. We’ve not eaten a meal in the pub so I can’t really pass comment on the menu but there are always plenty of customers and judging by some of the conversations that I have overheard, they are travelling to Stoke Golding from further afield than the village itself. And the purpose of my mission? Well, the George & Dragon sells something that is almost irresistible to me – sausage rolls, home made I presume. The humble sausage roll comes in all sorts of guises of course, ranging from the tasteless, factory produced rubbish in the chiller cabinet of supermarkets and petrol stations. These pathetic items feature pale, dry pastry surrounding a grey sliver of pork paste with a mysterious air gap between the two components. Cutting one in half and looking at the cross section, you might be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at one of Tutankhamun’s digits (or worse!). The middle ground is firmly held by the High Street baker, Greggs. The pork is pink, fills the golden pastry and is reasonably priced. Local bakers dominate the upper end of the sausage roll league, if one existed and the standard varies from shop to shop. The sausage roll which is to be found in the George and Dragon, Stoke Golding is the king of sausage rolls – quite fitting when you consider that it was here in 1485 that Henry VII was crowned King of England, marking the end of the Plantagenet dynasty and the beginning of the Tudor era. If Waitrose sold a sausage roll like this, they would probably feel compelled to describe it as a “Sausage Wellington”. It’s six months since I last passed this way and had one of these sausage rolls so I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with the delicacy. Of course, there’s always the danger that the experience that exists in the memory is better than the reality, inevitably leading to disappointment. There was no disappointment last Saturday, the beast of a sausage roll was bigger and tastier than I remembered from last year so after washing it down with a couple of pints of Churchend’s “Fallen Angel”, I toddled back down to the canal and settled in for the rest of the day.
It was dry and cold again on Sunday so we made the short trip back to Hinckley and tied on the visitor moorings for a couple of days. This enabled us to do a bit more shopping and pick up a handful of things from home.
We did another short hop on Tuesday to the Limekilns moorings, just a mile away, where we filled the almost empty water tank and spent another couple of days. Finally, after enduring the unseasonably cold and wet weather which seemed to make our colds more miserable than they probably were, we were ready for the off and on Thursday morning, with the sun shining, we untied and made our way toward Marston Junction and the Coventry canal. It was good to be on the deeper water of the lower section of the Ashby and almost luxurious to travel on the Coventry canal being deeper, wider and straighter than the aforementioned waterway. The Ashby from Stoke Golding to Market Bosworth seemed a lot shallower in places than it did last year which was surprising given the amount of rain we have had, I dread to think how it might be in the summer after a dry spell.
Anyway, we turned left at Marston junction and travelled on to Hawkesbury where we made use of the elsan, turned around and tied on the seven day moorings. We are going to have a few days here and have lunch in the Greyhound on Saturday, my birthday, a reprise of last year’s birthday/retirement celebration. The weather is changing for the better, our colds are almost gone and we are moored in one of our favourite places – the summer cruise begins here – at last!
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll realise that we’re just winding down now and making the most of the mild weather by dawdling up and down the Ashby Canal.
On Friday, we walked to the Globe at Snarestone and had lunch there which was excellent as usual. After lunch we walked back to the boat and then carried on along the restored section of canal to what is now the new terminus. On returning to the service area, we saw that nb Sonia Louise was moored up behind Caxton so we said hello and invited our friends, Martin and Caroline for a drink.
We had a good catch up over a couple of glasses of wine on board Caxton before retiring for the evening. On Saturday morning I helped Martin make some adjustments to the Mastervolt system on Sonia Louise before Sue joined us for coffee. Having stayed for the maximum 48 hours on the visitor moorings, we left and made our way to Snarestone tunnel where I was propositioned by Sue who suggested that if we tied up south of the tunnel, she would buy lunch at the Globe. Never one to pass up the chance of a visit to a pub or indeed a free lunch, I pulled Caxton in at the earliest opportunity and so we found ourselves back in the Globe having lunch. We were soon joined by Martin and Caroline who expressed some surprise at our lack of progress but as soon as we had eaten, we were on our way again.
We moored at Shackerstone for the evening and I paid a short visit to the Rising Sun for a couple of pints.
Sunday morning dawned and we were off again, this time bound for Market Bosworth where we tied on the visitor moorings. Martin and Caroline passed us a while later as they returned to their mooring in Bosworth marina and a short while after we saw Treena and Stuart on nb Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem was moored next to us in Hinckley when we bought Phoenix III and our paths have crossed many times over the years.
Our next port of call was the marina cafe where we had a cream tea before walking up to town. The 1804 cafe is a superb addition to the marina facilities and they are lucky that they have their own pastry chef who lives on a boat there. She happens to be the partner of my old friend, Daz who we know from Trinity and who also moors in Bosworth now.
We caught up with Treena & Stuart before we went to Market Bosworth and had a bloody good laugh with them, they really are a smashing couple.
On Monday we walked into town and re- aquatinted ourselves with the Dixie Arms where we had lunch and then did a bit of shopping in the local fruit shop and Co-op.
We were up relatively early on Tuesday and went into the marina where we filled up with diesel and bought a couple of bags of coal before setting off again.
Our next stop was Sutton Cheney wharf where we serviced the boat and then carried on to duck bend between Dadlington and Stoke Golding. On arrival, we bumped into yet another of our old friends, Jim Redhead on nb Billie. Jim is an artist who specialises in oil paints and we haven’t seen him since we left in early May so it was good to catch up with him after all of these months.
While I was chewing the fat with Jim, Sue was booking a table at the Dog & Hedgehog at Dadlington. It’s a ten minute walk from the canal to the D&H and as we reached the pub we met our friend Liz who is, or rather was, the postmistress at Stoke Golding. Sadly, the post office was robbed last monday and Liz was assaulted in the process. We were pleased to see that she was none the worse for the ordeal, however she has resigned her post and the P.O. remains closed.
Dinner was excellent as usual and our hosts were as charming as usual, so much so that Sue declared that she would buy lunch the following day. Therefore, on Wednesday, we walked back up the hill and had lunch at the Dog & Hedgehog.
Other than that, we have watched boats struggle in the high winds as well as suffering two boats as they collided with us as they either lost control of their steering or failed to judge the mooring space available.
A couple of lazy days were spent at Market Bosworth, we only managed one walk up to town but we did manage to catch up with Chris Hubbard, the manager at Bosworth marina. On Wednesday we decided to move on a bit further, this time getting as far as Shackerstone, where we tied on the deserted visitor moorings.
Following the usual pattern, we showered and had lunch before venturing out to the preserved station, home of the Battlefield line heritage railway.
There is a Victorian tea room on the platform so of course we had to pop in and have a cuppa before we returned to the boat and battened down the hatches, ready for the forecast wind and rain to arrive. The rain arrived at around seven o’clock and the wind speed built up steadily after that. By the time we were ready for bed, the noise of the wind blowing through the surrounding trees was terrific, so much so that Sue was unable to get to sleep until after two (I was out like a light within ten minutes though!).
There were more high winds forecast for Thursday but when I went outside just after eight o’clock to check that everything was intact and where it should be, it didn’t seem too bad at all. Just over an hour later, we set off again and made the trip along the last part of the Ashby canal to Snarestone. It was a quiet journey and we met only two boats travelling in the opposite direction along the way. The phantom leaf ball intervened a few times in some of the wooded areas around Gopsall but it didn’t hold us up at all. Snarestone tunnel seems quite tame after Blisworth and Braunston, despite the fact that it has a bend in it and a low roof caused by mining subsidence.
On reaching the end, we again found the visitor moorings deserted so we headed for the service block at the end and did the necessary. By now the wind was really picking up again but for once it was a good thing because after reversing from the services, I brought Caxton to a halt and just let the wind blow the bow into the winding hole. Having let the wind do most of the work, it was simple enough to complete the manoeuvre and tie up at the bridge end of the moorings.
After lunch, Sue walked back to the canal shop and paid for membership of the Ashby Canal Association. We’ll go and inspect the restoration development on Friday when the strong north westerly wind has dropped.
Our mooring at bridge 23 near Stoke Golding was quiet as usual and we remained there on Saturday. A few boats passed by in both directions during the day but it wasn’t busy by any means. At lunch time, I made the ten minute walk up to the village on a very important mission, I wanted to visit The George and Dragon for one of their sausage rolls, washed down with a pint of beer. The locally brewed pint of “Goat’s Milk” was alright but real ale isn’t really my thing. The sausage roll however, lived up to my expectations. Sue’s painful hip has been playing up again and she had remained on the boat so after my short lunch, I walked back down the towpath and joined her on board. The afternoon was spent reading in our peaceful surroundings. Silence, only broken by the braying donkeys, mooing cows, the geese, the ducks and the combine harvester. The farmyard noises being punctuated periodically by the cars sounding their horns as they approached the narrow bridge over the canal.
There wasn’t really a plan for our time on the Ashby, we had just wanted to travel to the end and back, stopping at the various villages along the way. We’ve visited them all before but never all on the same trip. The weather was always going to be a determining factor in our travel plans and more specifically help us to decide when it was time to return home and move back on to the land. For those who don’t know, the distance from Snarestone at the end of the navigation to Hinckley is only sixteen miles or around five and a half hours travelling so if the weather really turned nasty, we could be back home in a day!
A few days ago we were enjoying warm sunshine but today, the first of October, it seems that the season has changed as if by the flick of a switch! The signs were all there of course, shortened days, slightly cooler temperatures and if we had bothered to notice, the yellowing of the leaves on the trees. Overnight rain and winds that are stronger than of late have brought those yellow leaves down to the ground and into the water – and all over the roof of the boat!
The sun came up at seven o’clock, not that it was visible behind the thick blanket of grey cloud that filled the sky. At nine o’clock, we untied and moved off in the direction of Sutton Cheney. A few minutes later and the wharf where the Ashby boat company is based came into view, as did one of their day hire boats which was just setting off. Just as I was wishing that we had left a few minutes earlier, the staff member on the bank saw me and waved me through, instructing the hirers to reverse and give way – what a star you are, sir!
The next hour was spent pleasantly meandering around the contours of the land, despite the dullness, the temperature was mild enough so on balance it was a good cruise. At Sutton Cheney we pulled in and used the services there and after checking the visitor moorings, we moved on as there was no space available. While we were servicing the boat, the Ashby day boat had passed us so it was a bit of a surprise, as we approached Shenton, to see them tying up. As we got nearer I could see that the crew had the weed hatch open and were peering into it with puzzled expressions on their faces. The weed hatch was closed by the time we drew level and they were preparing to set off again, they were clearly mystified but I knew what their problem was.
For the uninitiated (boaters can skip this paragraph), the weed hatch gives access to the propeller and the only time that you need to go in there is when something is fouling the prop. It could be anything from reeds and weeds to plastic bags, clothing, a traffic cone or a discarded tyre. Having lost steering and power, I always dread lifting the weed hatch, always hoping for something simple and easy to remove. At this time of year, there are a lot of leaves in the water and the propeller churns them into a ball which swirls around and creates the same effect that something wrapped around it. By the time the boat is pulled over and the weed hatch opened, the ball of leaves will have dispersed and the boater is left staring, mystified at a clear prop. The phantom problem will return of course but eventually the steerer will realise that by just knocking the engine out of gear for a few seconds will disperse the leaves so no visit down the weed hatch is necessary.
It was still early so we plodded on, with only two or three phantom leave balls to hinder us and eventually reached Market Bosworth where we found that the single space between the road bridge and the marina was free so we pulled in and tied up as we have done many times before. It’s a quiet spot here because the towpath was diverted when the marina was built and therefore nobody ever walks past.
There were so many leaves lying on the roof that I decided to brush them off before they started to rot and stick. This gave me a front row seat for some entertainment a couple of minutes later when the day boat arrived, not that they did anything wrong, they seemed experienced enough. A private boat was passing the marina entrance as the day boat reached the road bridge but the lady driving kept going. As she drew level with Caxton, she called out to her husband who quickly joined her on the back deck. The day boat had stopped by this time and there seemed to be an impasse for a minute or two, neither boat seemed to be willing to reverse and somehow managed to shuffle around each other, helped no doubt by the fact that they were both pretty short in length.
With the excitement over and the roof cleared, we retreated inside and had lunch. Later, I took a wander over to the station to see which steam engine was on duty and here it is.
Of course there is no such thing as “Typical Easter Weather” because Easter Sunday can be as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th. When you consider that British weather is changeable anyway, with March and April being two of the more volatile months (the others being the other ten!), it’s hardly surprising that the Easter weekend weather is hard to predict.
There appears to be a move to fix the date of Easter because, in essence, it makes commercial sense to have it in late April. For centuries now, Easter has been defined as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox. This might seem unnecessarily complicated in this day and age but it comes as a result of mankind trying to figure out and mark the passing of time with cultures and religions disputing and compromising their beliefs. However, no matter what our beliefs are, we have always liked to mark mid winter, midsummer and both the equinoxes. We like the phases of the moon and the fact that we get thirteen full ones every year.
I quite like the idea that we have a special weekend whose date changes every year. I like the thought that it has roots in ancient Roman, Hebrew and Egyptian calendars and I am amused by the thought that we would benefit by fixing the date in late April. I am amused because I believe that it would make little difference commercially, adding nothing to GDP or whatever other spurious measures the bean counters dream up next. There are are only four facts to consider:
1. In Britain the weather is likely to be shit at any time.
2. Weekend weather is more likely to be shit than weekday weather.
3. Bank holiday weekends are more succeptible to shit weather than any other weekends.
4. Despite the weather, British people still go out to enjoy themselves on bank holidays!
Anyway, I’m writing this after travelling from Market Bosworth to Stoke Golding this morning where we moored up just as the rain came on. We’ve watched boat after boat crewed by people wrapped up against the elements but determined not to let the weather spoil their “enjoyment”. It’s now raining heavily and the wind is so fierce that there are actually small waves breaking on the surface of the Ashby canal.
Happy Easter everyone!
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.
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.
It was misty and chilly when we set off from the Lime Kilns this morning. Visibility wasn’t great either as we navigated our way around the outskirts of Hinckley but as and when we met other boats, it was always on nice straight stretches. When we reached the Barge moorings near bridge 21, we had to stop to let a boat sort itself out after getting grounded and then wrapping something around its prop. The sun was doing a good job of burning the mist off and by the time we passed Dadlington, the skies were blue and the temperature was rising. The Ashby canal is shallow in many places between Sutton Cheney and Market Bosworth and we foundered a couple of times as we passed the steady stream of boats heading south. We didn’t lose any time and we were soon pulling into the marina where we reversed Caxton on to its home pontoon. After lunch it was simply a case of carrying out the usual chores before loading a couple of bags into the car and heading for home. The first bank holiday monday of the year has been a cracker, lets hope it’s a sign of things to come.
With the Easter weekend finally upon us, we took up residence on Caxton on Wednesday evening in preparation for our weekend break. While I worked on Thursday, Sue worked her magic cleaning Caxton thoroughly so that when I returned, our her boat gleamed in the early April sunshine. All of my regular chores had been done for me so all that was left was to untie and escape!
We edged out on to the Ashby just after four o’clock and headed in a southerly direction on what was to prove to be a pleasant sunny afternoon. It was lovely to be back out on the water again, in the fresh air and watching the wildlife in action. We saw a couple of water voles, a moorhen on its nest and a swan starting to build a nest before we pulled up at “duck bend” near Stoke Golding. Once tied up, we sat down to dinner, home made lasagne for me and home made spinach and ricotta cannelloni for Sue, she does love her “meat free Maundys”!
The day began with the sun coming out, which was a great start. If you’ve read Sue’s post you will already know that it didn’t end so well. We wandered up to town around midday and already crowds were gathering in the streets. We walked around the Farmers market before making our way to the old forge where a blacksmith was giving a demonstration. The church bells were ringing out as we passed by and made our way to the parish field and then the country park where there were a number of stalls selling craft items both modern and medieval. Our walk eventually took us to the new cemetery from where we could see Ambion hill in the distance. Distant cannon fire signalled the start of King Richard’s final journey but since there was another two hours before the cortège was due in the town, we decided to visit the Dixie Arms for some lunch.
On arrival, we were greeted by the landlady who eagerly showed us the cellar bar that they have there. This is a great pub with a fabulous restaurant run by a hard working couple who deserve to do well. Their hog roast and real ales were certainly pulling in the punters when we visited and of course we sampled both food and drink there. We spent an hour in the company of some visitors from as far afield as Bolton and Pembrokeshire and with Sue already having engaged with some Canadians earlier in the day, it felt good to be part of something that had grabbed the interest of people far and wide. When we left the pub, we were impressed by the sheer number of people who were now packing the streets.
We made our way to Shenton lane where we took up position and waited for the funeral procession to pass by. At 3pm an air ambulance passed overhead, 530 years too late of course!
Eventually the hearse containing Richard’s coffin arrived, escorted by Police motorcycles and with a police helicopter hovering above. We followed it into the marketplace where a short service was held before the cortège continued on its way to Leicester.
With the show over, the crowds began to disperse and we too headed back down the hill towards the marina.
Below are just a few photos taken around Market Bosworth.