2017 The Thames Trip
Our first long trip after retirement. Almost six months cruising the Oxford canal, the river Thames and the Grand Union.
All Oaks wood provided us with a lovely overnight mooring but it was a bit dull and chilly when we got out of bed this morning. We want to be in Braunston sometime on Wednesday so although we have about six hours travelling to do, we have three days to do it in. With no real plans we decided that we may as well move on a bit today and see where ended up. It was almost half past nine by the time we were underway but in contrast to yesterday’s cruising dress code of T-shirt with occasional use of a fleece, today required golf jumper, fleece, hat and gloves. There was plenty of space at Newbold on Avon but the rings were just spaced slightly wrong for us and the ground was a bit soft for pins so we moved on. The Brownsover park moorings were full so we decided to carry on through to Hillmorton. There were hardly any boats on the move, it’s still early in the season I suppose, and this helped us negotiate our passage through Clifton wharf. Quite frankly, they are taking the p*ss by double mooring their boats from the arm right down to the bridge which is already on a blind bend. We didn’t meet anything this time but it would have been a different story over the weekend.
There was plenty of room to moor when we reached the bottom of the Hillmorton flight but we decided to get the locks done and find a space at the top, which we did quite easily. Tomorrow’s forecast is for thick cloud so we think that we’ll stay here and catch a bus into Rugby for the day. With that in mind, I walked into the village to check out the bus stops and times although I did find myself checking out a pint in the Stag & Pheasant too.
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 have entered the final phase before we begin the great escape, next week. I spent last weekend carrying out a few jobs on Caxton. An oil and filter change, fitting a new gas regulator and painting the inside of the gas locker after removing a bit of rust from it first. Sue, meanwhile has been moving stocks and equipment on board before stowing everything away.
On Friday afternoon we paid our final fees to the marina and pulled Caxton out on to the cut. We then cruised the quarter mile or so from Trinity marina to the towpath mooring closest to where we live. We still have a few bits and pieces to carry to the boat but essentially we are now living on board and we will continue to do so until we return from our travels sometime in October.
We had a peaceful night and slept well before we returned home for our morning showers. We’ll continue to shower at home until Thursday and that will conserve our water supply until we set off. The plan is to potter around and continue with our final preparations until Friday morning when we will at last be able to get going. Friday is my fifty-fifth birthday and is the day that I will finish work and retire. At that point we will join the ranks of the liveaboard early retirees and we are both very excited at that prospect.