Our second big trip taking us through Rugby, Leamington, Warwick, Stratford, Evesham, Tewkesbury and Worcester.
The Lucky Fisherman
The weather has continued to bless us with its presence this year. We left our mooring between Bascote and Long Itchington on Saturday morning and made our way to the staircase lock at Bascote where we caught up with nb Tickety who were waiting for a locking partner and that turned out to be us. Our passage down through the staircase and the following two locks was straightforward enough and because we intended to find a mooring soon after, Sue walked from the bottom lock along the towpath. Nb Tickety left the lock first and pulled beyond the lock landing to collect her husband. She avoided the lock landing so that she would not disturb the fisherman who were using it for their pastime! As she waited for her husband to reach their boat, she was rebuked by a fisherman for taking too long. She very politely pointed out that he and his friends shouldn’t really be on the lock landing as it made life difficult for boaters. The fisherman then shouted at her, threw his arms in the air and told her that they, the fishermen, rented the canal and that she was in the wrong. I saw and heard most of the exchange as I exited the lock and the woman didn’t deserve that outburst, she really had spoken quietly, politely and had not done any more than state facts. Why was the fisherman lucky? He was lucky because by now, Sue was about 200 yards along the towpath and completely oblivious to the goings on. Had she been on that lock landing, boy would that fisherman have known all about it!!!
Our mooring for the night was just above the next lock near the Welsh Road Bridge. The afternoon was hot and since there isn’t really anything in the area, we just sat on the front deck and chilled out.
It’s all go at Radford Semele
On Sunday morning we got up and carried on with our slow journey down towards Warwick. After dropping down through the three locks to Fosse wharf, we pulled over and did the services. As we untied, nb Narnia passed us and we joined them in the next lock, working down that and the following two with them. Waving them goodbye at Radford bottom lock, we followed on until we reached Radford Semele where we pulled over and tied up on a nice open mooring. The starboard side of the boat was in the shade so we decided to wash and polish it before relaxing in the cratch for the afternoon. It was lovely, the peace only being broken by the odd cyclist or runner on the towpath and then without warning my elbow was grabbed by a hissing swan which continued to hiss at us until shoed away.
Despite the attack of the aggressive swan, our mooring was in such a nice spot that we decided to stay a few days and use it as a base for going into Leamington. Sorry, Royal Leamington Spa, to give it its full name. Sue had ordered some yarn from The Wool Warehouse so on Monday we walked the mile and a half and collected her latest treasure trove. However, Monday wasn’t as straightforward as we had expected. In the early hours, we had been awoken by the sound of a police helicopter hovering overhead for about half an hour and on Monday morning we saw police officers walking along the towpath. I spoke to a couple of them as I walked to the refuse bins at Radford bottom lock and they told me that they were looking for a 35 year old wearing purple trainers. One of them asked me if it was me, I said that I’d take the 35 year old bit but sadly my trainers were the wrong colour. The police helicopter was overhead again as we returned from the Wool Warehouse but we didn’t see any other police presence. In the early evening we decided to take a walk up to the village of Radford Semele and along the way, encountered a number of members of the Lowland Search & Rescue group. A bit of research later on revealed that the voluntary group assist the police in looking for vulnerable people who have been reported missing. We never did find out exactly who the police were searching for but it seemed pretty clear that it wasn’t a criminal investigation. The walk to Radford isn’t that great, from the road nearest the lock there is no footpath and it was pretty busy with traffic when we walked it. There are some rather large and expensive houses in the village, a pub that we didn’t visit and a restored church with large windows which can be seen from the canal.
The road back down to the canal does have a footpath but the main road has to be crossed to get access to the towpath and even that is a steep and perilous descent. Once back on board we were further entertained by a large fox which was leaping around the field on the other side of the cut.
On Tuesday we took a walk into Leamington where we had coffee followed by lunch, did a bit of shopping and then returned to the boat.
On to Warwick
It was a little overcast on Wednesday when we awoke but after we had set off, the sun broke through and another beautiful day provided the backdrop for the next leg of our journey. This section of the canal winds its way through the edge of Leamington and despite the multitude of mooring opportunities, we saw no boats tied up at all. We stopped for a couple of hours on the pub moorings near Myton road while we went shopping at Morrisons. There is a handy laundry station outside for those boaters without full size washing machines.
Once we had returned to the boat, we set off again and travelled the relatively short distance to the Coventry road moorings opposite Kate Boats in Warwick. I had ordered some bits from Ebay to be delivered to Argos in Sainsbury’s so we walked into town and out the other side, picking up my parcel on the way. Our circular route brought us back along the towpath past the two Cape locks and the Cape of Good Hope pub. It seemed silly to pass it by on such a beautifully sunny afternoon so we had a refreshment stop there before completing our walk and returning to Caxton.
Since leaving Rugby, we’ve just been making steady progress as we make our way towards Leamington and Warwick. We untied on Monday morning and pushed Caxton back across the cut to the water point where we refilled the tank, emptied the cassettes and dumped the rubbish. The whole process didn’t take long but it was a worthwhile exercise because it meant that we didn’t need to stop at Hillmorton with its slow running tap and waste facilities on the offside of the canal.
With our services done, we set off and were soon threading our way through the congestion caused by Clifton Cruisers at their hire base. Our passage through the Hillmorton flight was easy enough thanks to the duty volunteer lock keeper and a couple of boats working down. Once clear of the top lock, we made good progress in the sunshine and eventually picked a mooring near Onley. It was interesting to see the new marina but it is still unfinished. There are plenty of boats in there and the landscaping looks good but there are no buildings except for a handful of Portakabins – have they run out of money?
As before, we enjoyed a quiet night on this mooring and on Tuesday we pressed on into Braunston. This was primarily a shopping trip taking in both Chandlers, the local convenience store and of course ice creams from the shop at the bottom lock. It was still early in the afternoon when we returned to the boat so we untied and moved on to the marina entrance where we turned Caxton around and headed out of Braunston. We didn’t go too far after turning left at Braunston turn and found a nice mooring out in the countryside.
On Wednesday, we awoke to a dull, dank morning. There was a cool wind blowing so it was back to jeans and jumpers for the trip. Again we had a quiet voyage and saw very few boats on the move, mid week in mid May, I suppose.
We made the turn at Wigrams and headed for the three locks at Calcutt. We crossed with another boat in the middle lock but otherwise we were alone. At Birdingbury, we moored in a spot that we have used many times over the years and after showering in the newly made hot water, took a walk down to Long Itchington. Our walk took us along the towpath to the main road , from there we carried on into the village and then to the local Co-op.
On the way back, we decided to walk along the road to rejoin the towpath at the Blue Lias bridge. There are a lot of new houses long this road now and still many more being built. Luckily enough, the builders have installed a footpath along most of the route so it made for an easy walk back.
No surprises with our Birdingbury mooring but the sunshine had returned so we got going and descended the eight locks to the water point opposite the Blue Lias pub. After topping up the tank, we decided to push over and moor at the pub. We had no real plans but gave some consideration to eating in the Blue Lias. Unfortunately, we didn’t come to a decision until 13:57 and since the kitchen closes at 2pm and remains closed until 6pm, we decided to pass and eat on board. This left us with the problem that the moorings are for patrons only so some money had to change hands. In the end, I volunteered and had a few pints of bitter in the garden – well somebody had to do it!
Friday dawned with blue skies overhead so we got organised and set off for the first lock of the day. In the event, we only did one more lock after that, travelled for a bit and then tied up near Bascote road bridge. From here, there is a much more pleasant walk into Long Itchington and it was interesting to approach the village from a different angle to the usual one. A quick scoot around the Co-op and then back to our mooring for the afternoon, maybe tomorrow we’ll do a bit more in the way of travelling but who knows?
As I mentioned in the previous post, we wanted to spend a few days in Rugby so it was just a question where we would find a suitable mooring. Our first job was to top up the water tank so that we could maximise the time at our next stop. As I set up the hose pipe, I realised that a boat had already moved away from the opposite bank and after a bit of rough measurement and estimation, I reckoned that Caxton would fit in the gap. A few minutes later and we had hopped to the other side of the canal and on to the 14 day moorings there. This unexpected piece of good fortune was further sweetened by knowing that before we leave, we will be able to cross back over and use the facilities.
CaRT revamped these moorings last year and there are now rings all of the way along for probably a quarter of a mile or so. We made use of the nearby Tesco supermarket and also the cinema that is a further five minute walk away where we watched “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”.
Rugby town centre is a 25 minute walk from the canal at this point and there is a straight path there. Down past Tesco on the imaginatively named “Black Path”, past the retail park with the cinema, across the road at the crossing and along the path between the building sites. Over the railway bridge and follow the road past the park. It’s actually worth diverting through Caldecott Park as it is beautifully kept and there is a small Café there in what was once the Old Toolshed. We called in for coffee there a number of times in the few days that we have been in Rugby.
Other than lunch one day in Prezzo and a short visit to Bacco Lounge, sister branch to Hinckley’s Tarro Lounge, our time in Rugby has been a quiet and peaceful one.
We decided to move on Tuesday morning and get our 2018 trip underway properly. Our original plan had been to start by heading into Birmingham by way of the Coventry canal and then the Birmingham & Fazeley with just a short diversion to The Greyhound for my birthday lunch. Over the weekend we decided to give Birmingham a miss completely and head off in the opposite direction. This isn’t as dramatic as it might as first seem, Plan ‘A’ would have taken us from Birmingham to Stratford and on to the river Avon. Plan ‘B’ will bypass Birmingham and take us to Stratford on the Oxford, Grand Union and Stratford canals – assuming that plan ‘C’ isn’t hatched along the way.
Our day had to begin relatively early because our change of plan meant that Caxton was pointing in the wrong direction and so we had to reverse back to the junction. Needless to say, we weren’t early enough and as I reversed the boat slowly towards the narrow section, the bow of another narrowboat appeared under the cast iron bridge and turned towards us. Luckily the large gap at the water points gave plenty of width to the canal and allowed us to pass without incident. Once past the junction, we pulled in to use the facilities but with the water tap being a good contender for the slowest on the system, we left an hour later with just half a tankful. The tank was filled an hour later when we stopped temporarily at Ansty. We were soon underway again and enjoying the sunshine as we travelled through the Warwickshire countryside. It was a perfect boating day really, sunny with light winds and not too hot. We reached Newbold on Avon in the early afternoon, tied up and had some lunch.
After lunch, we decided to walk along the towpath to Tesco at Rugby. We didn’t need anything but it gave us a good reason to go for a walk. Part way along, we made a detour and followed the Great Central footpath which is of course a redundant railway route.
The path ends at the new Elliot’s field retail park, we stopped for coffee and browsed in a couple of shops before crossing the road and visiting Tesco. The return to our mooring only took us half an hour, straight along the towpath to Newbold where we settled in for the evening.
Blue skies greeted us on Wednesday morning, we wanted to move but delayed our start in the hope that we would improve our chances of finding a mooring at Brownsover’s Boughton Road park. The water point was empty when we arrived and luckily enough, the boat which was tied next to us was about to leave, so we pulled back and made use of our long hose pipe to top up our tank.
Only an hour had elapsed since we had left Newbold so with the afternoon ahead of us, we decided to explore the retail parks nearby. This included what could possibly be my last visit to a Maplin store. The retailer is in administration and everything is being sold off at a discount. There wasn’t a lot left on the shelves, awful really, to see this one-time Aladdin’s cave stripped almost bare. Fair play to the staff, they’re still sticking to their task even though it must be difficult to generate any sort of enthusiasm for the job. I bought a soldering iron and a couple of connectors before leaving, feeling a slight tinge of sadness at the demise of this once great retail emporium. Eventually we returned to our mooring and wondered what the following day would bring us. This side of the canal only allows a 24 hour stay so we knew that we had to move, the question being – how far would we be going? We wanted to spend a few more days in the area so we were keen to find somewhere close by, perhaps around the corner where we moored last September.
We spent five days spanning the early May bank holiday at Hawkesbury junction and enjoyed the glorious weather that went with it. After arriving on the Thursday, we made a couple of trips to the Arena retail park, took a bus into Coventry and of course had lunch in The Greyhound on Saturday afternoon.
Lunch was superb, as usual. The whole experience can’t be faulted but that’s really down to the fact that there are always plenty of attentive staff, no matter how busy the place is. On a sunny Bank Holiday like the one that we experienced, I’m sure that the staff would have really been under a lot of pressure but they know what they are doing at The Greyhound. We enjoyed our stay at the junction although we didn’t do anything there that we hadn’t done before and with the weather as it was, we had a few lazy afternoons sitting on the front deck.
Hawkesbury Junction is a popular stop for boaters but in reality, with the exception of The Greyhound, there isn’t really much there. There’s nothing wrong with going to the pub every day, if that’s your thing but for anyone who wants a bit more, here are a few helpful hints.
Blackhorse Convenience store is just a few minutes walk from the canal and seems to carry a wide range of everyday provisions. A sign outside advertises that there is a free to use ATM inside but we haven’t had a need to use it so I can’t confirm that the facility exists. Cross the Coventry canal using the ladder bridge and make your way into the housing estate. Walk along Heritage Drive and then turn left on to Sephton Drive at the end. Turn first right and then left at the mini roundabout. The shop is a little way along on the left hand side. There is a post box opposite the store. Out of interest, if you had turned right at the mini roundabout and gone the other way on Blackhorse road, there is another pub – The Boat Inn.
Situated near the Ricoh Arena, home to Coventry City FC and Wasps RFC, the retail park has a Tesco Extra and M&S along with other fashion retailers. There are restaurants and coffee shops on the site so it’s worth the walk if you fancy a bit of retail therapy. In between the retail park and the stadium is a railway station on the Coventry to Nuneaton line. The simplest way to get to Arena Park is to walk along the towpath until bridge 8 (New Inn Bridge). It is also possible to leave the towpath earlier at bridge 9 (Judds Lane Bridge), cross the canal and then turn left. It’s not the prettiest towpath route and depending on the weather is susceptible to muddy patches, it’s still worth doing at least once because there are information boards along the way. The best way that we have found is to walk past the Greyhound and on to the main road before turning left, away from the canal, along Grange Road. The road passes under the M6 and eventually becomes Oakmoor road, at this point and just beyond Hawkesbury Lodge, there is an entrance to Longford Park. The path through the park crosses the river Sowe and emerges on to Longford road. Turning left and walking a short distance brings the walker to New Inn Bridge over the canal and then it is simply a matter of taking the next right turn into the retail park. This route isn’t muddy and is almost half a mile shorter than the towpath which is why we prefer walking this way. A three mile round trip walk is well within our capabilities but it is worth knowing that if the weather turns nasty or there’s a lot of shopping to carry, that there is a Taxi rank at the bus interchange next to Tesco. I’ve no idea how much the fare back to The Greyhound is but at a mile and a half, I would expect it to be between £5 and £7.
Coventry City Centre
There are a number of ways to get into the City Centre, the canal towpath being one of them but it’s a long way and in places, not very nice. Trains run from the Arena but the City station is a bit of a walk from the centre so the best public transport option is the number 6 (or 6A) which runs every twenty minutes from Anderton Road. The City bus station is within sight of the Transport Museum and just a five minute walk from the main shopping areas. We paid £4 each for a day ticket so it represents reasonable value for the trip. It’s a ten minute walk from the Greyhound, turn left on to Grange Road, pass under the M6 and take the first left, the bus stop is on the right in the layby.
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!