It is just over two years since we made our first and only trip into Coventry.
This time we had left Hinckley on the Friday afternoon of what promised to be a warm summer weekend. We stopped for the night near Bedworth after exiting the Ashby and turning on to the Coventry canal towards Nuneaton. This was the first time we had moored here and it was a good place to stay overnight.
The following morning saw us making the short hop to Nuneaton where we tied up and walked into town for breakfast and some shopping. The whole ambience was relaxing as we walked through the streets in the morning sunshine. We returned to the boat by midday and decided to turn around and head for Hawkesbury, hoping that we might be lucky enough to secure a mooring near the junction. It almost came as no surprise to find that it was our lucky day and there was a spot less than 100 yards from the Greyhound pub – perfect!
We took a walk to the pub and had a couple of drinks as well as a bit of banter with a couple of boaters before sitting outside for a while. It was then that we decided to take another look at Coventry. We returned to the boat and settled down for the evening.
Sunday morning found us still looking forward to our trip into the city and we were underway by nine o’clock. Apart from picking up a track suit on the rudder, the trip was much better than the last time. The canal seems more rural now, greener and peaceful. The Courtaulds site has been cleared which also helps make the journey more pleasing on the eye. We tied up in the basin and walked down to the Coventry Transport Museum where, in addition to the normal attractions there was an Alvis car show on the museum concourse. We spent over an hour wandering around looking at the exhibits before making our way back to the canal basin.
After turning around we were on our way back, happy that we had made the trip and given this route another chance, promising to re-visit on another weekend trip. The journey back to Hinckley took us about five hours and we finally pulled into the marina at half past six. The weekend that had seen us change direction time and again on impulse had turned out to be a very rewarding experience.
The start of our big adventure!
Our early summer holiday began today, seventeen days to explore the Leicester Ring. In actual fact, we have previously covered a big chunk of this route on other trips. Fradley down to Marston on our 4 counties ring trip and Marston down to Norton when we took the Grand Union down to Leighton Buzzard.
We pulled out of the Trinity Marina at one o’clock on one of the warmest days that we have experienced since we bought the boat. The outlook for the coming week is good so we are looking forward to a good holiday. By the time we reached Marston junction at the end of the Ashby, we had seen almost all of the Ashby boat company fleet returning to base at Stoke Golding. We cruised through all of our familiar areas in the sunshine; The Charity Dock at Bedworth, Ansty and its golf course, Rose Narrowboats at Stretton, eventually mooring just after half past seven at All Oaks Wood. That was it, our first day done and we were well on our way.
Our rural retreat brought us the dawn chorus at 4am but it was 7am when we woke up properly. We got underway for eight and had breakfast “on the go” near Rugby, crumpets topped with home made soft cheese and bacon bits. The three locks at Hillmorton presented no problems for us and again we enjoyed another beautiful day in the sunshine. The weather had obviously brought everyone out and we passed dozens of boats before we stopped at Braunston. We made a quick pitstop before rounding the corner and mooring opposite the Boathouse pub.
Surprisingly, we had no intention of visiting said hostelry but they were already doing a roaring trade, capitalising on the good weather. We wandered round to Midland Chandlers to pick up a couple of bits and pieces and then spent the rest of the day sitting on the deck, enjoying the summer evening.
We awoke at six which was good because we wanted to ascend the Braunston locks as early as possible. As we approached the bottom lock we met with Bruce and Sheila aboard nb Sanity Again. The couple were waiting to pair up with someone to traverse the flight with and we were the first to arrive. This nice couple were taking their boat, a 70′ liveaboard, to the Crick Boat Show where the builders, Braidbar boats were showing it as their latest offering. The locks were with us for most of the way and we completed the ascent in just one hour. It seemed fitting to exit the top lock together before hovering just outside the top gates to pick up our lock-wheelers. We said goodbye to our new friends and wished them luck at the show before following them into Braunston tunnel.
We have travelled through Braunston tunnel twice before but on this occasion we were making a one way trip. We heard a ghostly noise part way through, probably a bird in the vent shaft but still a little unnerving anyway!
We exited the tunnel into bright sunshine, despite the shade from the tree lined cutting and completed the journey to Norton junction. Finally, we were turning into unknown territory, the Grand Union Leicester Section. We passed Bruce and Sheila as they were mooring up for the day near Watford and we passed Watford Gap services, surely the only service station on the canal network! Soon enough we reached the bottom of the Watford flight with its staircase locks, a new experience for both of us. Sue went off and found the lock-keeper and under her instruction we made our way to the top where we carried out our chores. Almost immediately we passed under the M1 motorway and made our way to Crick tunnel. This tunnel is shorter than Braunston but as we approached the northern portal, we suffered (or enjoyed) a “rainfall” of water for the last 200 metres. This water, when it hit the hot steel roof of the boat, instantly evaporated, creating clouds of steam.
As we exited our second tunnel of the day we were pleased to see that we were able to moor very close to Crick village.
As we tied up, we noticed a hire boat ahead which had come loose from its mooring and was blocking the canal, no concern of ours since we were tying up but once secure, we help a passing family to pull the boat in and re-pin it.
After a quick drink and a shower, we made our way into Crick itself, only ten minutes from the towpath and well worth the visit.
Beer researching took place in the Red Lion (Old Speckled Hen) and the Wheatsheaf (Bombardier). A stop at the Co-op and then it was back to the boat which now sat nicely in the shade. Holiday or no holiday, chores still have to be done and in a departure from previous trips where we took lots of clothes and created a massive pile of dirty laundry, this time we have a washing machine! Sue took charge and washed our towels, t-shirts and our smalls while I sat down and caught up with this journal.
After dinner, we ventured back up to the village where we encountered a South African group who were looking for somewhere to eat. Their intended destination, Edwards restaurant, was inexplicably closed and they had already checked out the Red Lion to discover that there was no evening service. We could offer them no good advice so we left them on the canal bridge and we headed into the village. We found the third pub, the Royal Oak and were disappointed with it. A horrible place with a manager to match, we left as soon as possible and made our way to the Red Lion, a pub which promises so much and delivers so little. All in all with its background noise from the motorway, Crick is very much a village which flatters to deceive.
Waking up in the shade, we were on our way for eight o’clock, pulling past Crick Marina and on our way towards Leicester. This section of canal reminded us of the rural Ashby as we motored on through the Northamptonshire countryside under another cloudless sky. There really isn’t a lot to see along here except the rolling green landscape and of course at this time of year everything is growing, reminding us of the description “Green and pleasant land”. Eventually we reached the junction where we turned right and made our way to Welford. We reached the terminus at half past twelve and turned the boat around before filling the water tank and emptying the toilet and bin at the BW station. After mooring up properly, we took a walk into the village where we visited the shop and discovered that the Elizabethan pub was closed. We returned to the wharf where we had a drink and contacted the Union Wharf at Market Harborough to arrange our stay on Tuesday night.
Half past two saw us back on the boat, firing up the engine and heading off in the direction of Foxton. After passing through North Kilworth wharf.
and Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, we eventually tied up next to bridge 60 above Foxton top lock, ready for the descent into Market Harborough on Tuesday. After dinner, we took a walk down through the partially restored inclined plane to the newly refurbished pub next to the bottom lock where we had a quick drink before returning to the boat.
We were up and about for seven o’clock and after a quick cup of tea we moved on to the top of the Foxton flight. The lock keeper gave us some instruction and at eight o’clock we entered the top lock. We were held up in the middle compound as five boats passed us on the way up. We finally emerged from the bottom lock just after ten and then made our way along the Harborough arm. The sky was cloudy but it was a welcome break from the scorching sunshine of the last few days. It was midday by the time we reached the basin terminus where we quickly tied up on the pontoon before paying our overnight mooring fees.
Plenty of time to catch up on the chores before doing a little shopping and then meeting up with daughter Amy and her boyfriend Jamie who live in the town.
We left Market Harborough around 10am and headed back towards Foxton. It was very quiet and we were soon passing through the junction and heading off in the direction of Leicester. In common with the summit, the route from Foxton to Kilby Bridge is pretty desolate but as lonely as it was it wasn’t a bad journey and we tied up near the bridge just five minutes before the rain started and came on for the evening.
We began our big trip through Leicester at twenty past eight after filling the water tank at Kilby Bridge. Our trip to Birstall would cover twelve miles and include fifteen locks. Reports and articles we had read suggested that the trip would be one to get over and forget so with the distance and the locks involved, we weren’t looking forward to it much. The passage into Leicester was a quiet one, hardly any boats and half filled locks which were well spaced out aided our passage as we skirted the edge of South Wigston and then Blaby. From Kilby to Aylestone the lock paddles all have anti-vandal locks but the journey was pleasant as we passed the back gardens of many houses. After Blaby the canal passes through park land and is joined by the river Soar. With very little rain in the last few weeks it was difficult to notice any significant current, the only difference was that the water ran clear and it was possible to see the plants growing below the surface. The parkland continued as we passed Aylestone, dropping slowly down the Soar valley.
The landscape eventually changed to one of old industrial ruin as we reached St Mary’s Mill lock.
Shortly after that we sat opposite the Walker stadium, home to Leicester City football club where Sue had her moment of glory in front of the “Shrine”.
We avoided the large weir in front of Freemen’s Lock before descending further on our journey into the city.
The next section is a straight mile of wide water crossed by many bridges and it’s fair to say that we were mightily impressed on this particular sunny summer’s day.
We stopped briefly for lunch on board, opposite castle gardens at the nearest point to the city centre.
As we left the city on our northward journey we saw more dilapidated factories and warehouses before passing the National Space Centre and then finding ourselves back in the countryside again.
We reached Birstall just after half past three, a total journey time of six and three quarter hours.
We showered before walking up into the village for a look around before returning to the boat with some groceries from the Co-op. We then rounded off the day with a fabulous evening meal at the White Horse pub, a two minute stroll away from the boat. Reflecting on the day, we came to the conclusion that Leicester gets a bad press, we enjoyed our trip and would recommend the route without hesitation
Another bright sunny day greeted us as we awoke on board Phoenix III in Birstall. From here on in, our busy locking days behind us, we looked forward to our cruise which would take us to Loughborough. Leaving our mooring at eight o’clock we were soon appreciating the width of the river Soar.
The time passed quickly on this fresh summery day. With temperatures in the mid teens, blue skies and white fluffy clouds accompanying us as we made our way down the dark clear water of the river, we were happy with our choice of holiday once again. A short stop at Barrow-upon-Soar for water and the like preceded the rest of our journey to Loughborough. The locks continued to be evenly spread out making this a very pleasant day indeed.
We reached Loughborough wharf just after one o’clock and were pleased to get the last of only five spaces there. After securing the boat we walked the short distance into the town centre and then on to the Great Central Railway.
Shocked by the prices of the platform tickets (£5) and disappointed by the town itself, we returned to the wharf to find that Phoenix III was the only boat left! Seeing that a few teenagers had begun to congregate, we decided to grab a few essentials from the nearby Sainsbury’s and leave the town.
We were soon on our way again and within half an hour, we were back out in the countryside. We passed by Normanton-upon-Soar with its beautiful church, nestled amongst some of the best waterside properties we have seen on our travels.
The wind seemed to be getting stronger as we passed by the emergency moorings above Zouch, so much so that the width of the river and the rough surface made us wonder if this is what it would be like taking the boat out to sea. Once on to the Zouch cut, we found one of the last mooring places and tied up for the night just above the lock.
We were due a day off and with the first rain forecast for more than a week, we decided that this was the best day to have it. We made arrangements with Sue’s daughter and her family to meet for lunch at the nearby Rose and Crown before sorting out a mooring for Monday night at Beeston.
After a quick shower we walked to the pub where Rebecca, Don, Daniel and Rachel joined us for lunch. This lovely, welcoming pub provided us with a tasty selection of food enjoyed by all. After lunch, we all walked back to the boat for an hour of conversation, fishing and games.
Our visitors left us about half past three and then it was just us again, we made some loose plans for the following days cruising before just kicking back and relaxing.
Sunday morning, another lazy day ahead, we dragged ourselves out of bed some time after eight after the obligatory cup of tea of course. The wind was blowing hard as we moved into Zouch lock, the same wind got us all out of shape as we passed out of the bottom gates but a bit of deft pole-work by Sue got us back on the straight and narrow in no time at all. Once on the move we had no problem as we twisted and turned our way along the Soar towards Kegworth deep lock. This lock was a bit of a challenge with big gates and difficult to open paddles but we made it through and on to the following shallow lock which was chained open for the summer. Just beyond here we tied up for the day, had a cooked breakfast and then went off to explore the village. There was a junior cricket match in progress as we passed by the village green but we did not stop to watch. It took us about ten minutes to reach the village centre where we visited the local Co-op and replenished our supplies.
On our journeys, we carry both Nicholsons and Pearsons guides to the waterways. The former has the better maps while the latter usually has more detailed local information. Both publications have information on pubs but on this occasion they differed from each other and from reality. Nicholson lists three pubs in the village, The Anchor, The Cap & Stocking and The Red Lion whereas Pearson only mentions the first two. We saw The Anchor and eventually Sue worked out the location of The Cap & Stocking. We didn’t find the Red Lion but we did see The Old Flying Horse, all very mysterious! In the end, we only visited the Cap & Stocking which was a delightful experience, a step back in time almost with Bass bitter served from the jug.
Well worth a visit whether travelling by water or by road.
After a couple of drinks and a scan of the papers we returned to the boat for the afternoon.
After two lazy days we were up for a bit of a cruise so we got up at half past seven, threw on our clothes and were underway by eight o’clock. We had no real plan although we had made a provisional booking for an overnight stay at Beeston Marina. We only had one lock to negotiate before we passed the Ratcliffe on Soar power station then it was through another chained-open floodlock and we left the Soar and joined the river Trent. Almost as soon as we were on it, we were off it again as we entered the Cranfleet cut. We joined another narrowboat for our passage through the next lock which allowed us on to the river again. Our journey so far has taken us from our native narrow canals onto the broad Grand Union and then on to the even broader river Soar. The Trent by comparison is massive, the Phoenix was like a dog let loose, engine revving freely, clean river water washing high along her sides, she loved the freedom as we shot down to Beeston. We were waved into the lock by other boaters and soon passed into the canal which would take us into Nottingham. We passed by the Boots estate at Beeston before mooring at Castle Meadow where we visited the large Sainsbury’s and replenished our supplies. Surprisingly, we were stopped for an hour before we carried on into the City where we turned around and made our way back out. In fairness to Nottingham, the whole canal experience is excellent, there is nothing for the traveller to fear or be concerned about, unlike many other towns and cities.
Our trip back out of the City saw us getting involved with a fleet of cruisers which included one broken down vessel being towed by another. We took on water at Beeston lock where we encountered a boat full of drugged up filthy hippies. As soon as we could, we made our way back up through the lock and on to the river again, the trip back to the Cranfleet cut only taking an hour. It was here that we caught up with the cruiser fleet again who helped us through the fierce running lock, two narrowboats and a small cruiser whose crew were petrified as the three craft moved back and forth in the chamber. As the time was approaching six o’clock we decided to tie up for the night in the cut, just short of Trent lock. We were helped in by a fellow boater who took our ropes and as we secured our mooring told us that he was setting off early to hopefully reach the tidal Trent by the following night so that he could return to Wakefield by next weekend. We thanked him for his help, went inside and then sorted ourselves out with showers and our evening meal. Our big cruise over, we reflected on our adventure on the mighty river Trent and started thinking about the next leg of our journey.
We awoke to an overcast day and gradually got ourselves sorted out for about half past nine. Once we had untied we realised that we no longer had our boat hook and by the time we had reached Trent Lock junction we had come to the conclusion that someone must have lifted it late the previous night. We passed the cruisers that we had accompanied from Beeston the day before and noted that one of them had a similar pole on board but we passed on by knowing that they would not have taken ours.
We approached Sawley lock soon after and Sue walked up to the lock to see what was happening. There was another narrowboat waiting to go through and soon enough a woman appeared and told me that her husband had gone to the lock ages earlier. A few minutes later the bottom gates opened and two boats emerged. I followed the woman’s narrowboat into the lock and then we waited while her husband took charge of the controls of this automated lock. After a few minutes of no activity, Sue stepped up to the control panel and set the paddles in motion. “Lock Guy” as he became known tried to cover up his lack of understanding but his wife soon put him in his place by reminding him that he had made the same mistake at a previous motorised lock. The full story was that he had left his boat to operate the lock and despite assurances to the two crews in the lock, had been unable to figure it out until Sue had arrived and shown him what to do, to which he triumphantly announced to the boaters below, “We’ve sorted it now!” . Sue’s secret? She read the instructions on the control panel!
Lock Guy was stopping at Sawley marina so we waved goodbye to him and his wife and moved on up to the Trent & Mersey canal by passing back under the M1 motorway ( we first passed under it in the opposite direction nine days earlier at Watford Gap). As we approached the first lock we passed an oncoming boater who informed us that the lock was ready for us. We thought this a little strange because we could see two boats ahead of us so we assumed that he had not noticed both of them. The two boats moved into the lock and then one of the lock wheelers started waving us in, maybe the two were short boats after all? We pulled over while Sue went to check it out, only to discover that the boaters were having a brainstorm, it would be impossible to fit all three boats in the lock, today was proving to be a day for silly mistakes.
We had travelled through light drizzle so when we saw that we could moor at Shardlow right outside two pubs,
we decided to stop for the day and go on a pub crawl. We had lunch in the Malt Shovel and it was excellent. We were probably the youngest customers in the pub but it was still a good place to be. We walked to the Navigation and it was here that I gradually remembered the events of the day before, particularly the episode in the lock with the cruiser. I had handed our boat hook to the lady on the cruiser and I didn’t get it back, it had been the pole that we had seen on the cruiser earlier in the day. All of a sudden I was with Lock Guy and the boaters who thought that we could all fit in one lock in the final of “no-brain of Britain”!
We visited the local museum but found it closed so we returned to the boat and decided to move on. The drizzle had long stopped so we enjoyed our cruise up to Swarkestone where we tied up on some excellent moorings above the lock. We were able to take on water and dump our bin bag before settling in for the night.
We were looking forward to the first lock of the day so we left our overnight mooring and made our way to Stenson where we would find the last wide lock of our journey. The previous day’s locks were deep and the gates had been heavy so we would be glad to return to some shallower narrow locks. At Stenson we encountered a late entrant in the “no-brain of Britain contest” a bloke who leaped off his cruiser, opened the wrong paddles and then asked if all the locks were like this one. Our last broad lock and obviously his first! We were joined in this lock by another narrowboat which got jammed on its way in because one of the bottom gates would not open fully and he had left his fenders down. A bit of manoeuvring and we were sorted before heading off to our next stop, Willington. After stopping for our services we moved on and tied up on the village moorings. We had lunch in the garden of the Green Dragon enjoying the sunshine.
After lunch we continued our journey, passing through Burton on Trent. Sunshine, narrow locks and pleasant canal-side scenery made for a lovely afternoon as we cruised along the Trent and Mersey. We found a good mooring at Branston and although we were close to the Bridge Inn, we stayed on the boat where we enjoyed the sunset and fed the birds. Three families of Canada Geese swam around us before they engaged in a short fight which was over in less than a minute. Peace resumed and we then retired for the evening.
Another sunny day was waiting for us when we awoke on the second Thursday of our holiday. We made our way along the canal as it ran parallel to the A38 and I was reminded of Watford Gap services as we passed a Little Chef which sat between the road and the water.
We travelled on the final section of the river Trent before we arrived at Alrewas. After securing the boat, we walked to the village where we visited the George & Dragon, the butcher and the local Co-op. Alrewas seemed like one of those perfect villages that many people dream of living in.
The national war memorial is nearby but we were advised not to walk there because we would have to cross the busy A38.
We spent the late afternoon and evening hanging out around the boat. Lock Guy appeared and spoke to us, he was actually alright despite his earlier behaviour but he was soon “called in” for his dinner. We ate our own evening meal, fillet steak from the butcher shop, sitting on camp chairs on the towpath and then had a long conversation with the couple on the boat next to us. All too soon and another day was behind us.
Another sunny day! We left Alrewas early hoping to get a head start on everyone else but the journey to Fradley junction was still slow going, particularly when it came to the last junction before the turn.
The last time that we turned on to the Coventry canal at Fradley junction was almost two years ago at the end of our rained -out Four Counties ring trip. On that occasion we were just desperate to get home but this time the turn was made with the sadness of knowing that our holiday was almost at an end.
The lock free trip to Fazeley on a sunny day was a pleasure and with the exception of a stop at Streethay Wharf for diesel we just carried on cruising to the two locks at Glascote. The top lock was a little awkward but we were soon on our way and we eventually moored opposite the Samuel Barlow pub at Alvecote. We ate on the boat but didn’t visit the pub, instead we enjoyed the evening sunshine while we contemplated the last couple of days of our cruise.
We had positioned ourselves at Alvecote so that we could plan our return to Hinckley in conjunction with the weather forecast. On this Saturday morning it looked like we would be able to divide the final leg of the journey over two days.
We untied and set off, all too soon we reached the bottom lock of the Atherstone flight. There was a lot of traffic in both directions but we plodded on and moored at lunchtime between locks six and five. We walked up to the town where we noted that it was carnival day. Most of the girls and young women wore a single flower in their hair and there was an overall happy atmosphere in the town.
We had lunch in the Red Lion almost as a matter of ritual really before we did some shopping and returned to the boat. We then proceeded to ascend the remaining five locks and had a bit of a catch-up with the crew from one of our marina neighbours who were descending the flight.
We left Atherstone and made our way towards Hartshill. Our plan was to stop somewhere before Nuneaton and in the event we were able to tie up outside the Anchor Inn. We showered before heading to the pub for what would be our final meal of the holiday – and it was pretty poor! There is no point in going into detail, it was a disappointment and we won’t go there again. We returned to Phoenix III and turned in for the night.
We have made the trip from Atherstone to Hinckley so many times on a Sunday that we didn’t really expect much from the final few hours of our trip. Sure enough, the trip was an uneventful four hour excursion through Nuneaton, round Marston Junction and on to the Ashby. Just after eleven o’clock we were tied up and found ourselves filling the car boot with our belongings.
Later, as we reflected on our trip, we were in no doubt that this cruise had been our best yet.
We were unsure as to whether we would be able to venture out today but in the event, we headed out around four o’clock. It was quite windy but we made it out on the Ashby and turned in a northerly direction.
We had an uneventful trip up to bridge 35 where we tied up under the conker trees and spent a peaceful night aboard Phoenix III
Saturday 15th May
The sun rose and we could hear the boat expanding in the heat before we got out of bed on Saturday morning. We travelled the hour’s trip to Market Bosworth and then walked up to the town. A quick walk around preceded an hour with the papers in the garden of the Red Lion. We then returned to the boat before setting off for the Battlefield Moorings. After tying up, we walked to Shenton where we had a pot of tea before returning to the boat where we had a sandwich before we set off again.
We eventually settled on the south side of bridge 22 and with only 45 minutes to travel back to the marina we were ready to make our last return before our next holiday.
After spending the first part of the week in Scotland and this morning in London I was glad to see the opportunity of getting out on the boat. Sue as usual had made preparations and we were out of the marina just before four o’clock, not before we had engaged in a bit of banter with one of our floating neighbours who managed to scrounge a home made biscuit from us. The sun shone and the wind was light as we made our way up the Ashby canal. We were approaching the end of the linear moorings when we encountered an Ashby hire boat that managed to collide with the end boat, home of the Ashby Pirates. Our friend Lee was enjoying the sunshine with the owners at the time of the incident but he still found time to give us a bit of friendly abuse as we passed by.
We tied up before we reached Sutton Cheney and ate our evening meal out on the front deck.
Friday 9th April
Pressure of work meant that our departure was later than we had hoped for but we left the marina around half past four for our weekend excursion up the Ashby canal. An area of high pressure had settled on the UK so the next few days promised sunshine and temperatures in the mid teens. Despite the late start we still had plenty of daylight hours left and after a couple of hours cruising we tied up just past Sutton Cheney, near Ambion Wood.
Saturday 10th April
The sun was shining as we left our mooring and headed on towards Market Bosworth, hoping for a space on the visitor moorings there. We weren’t disappointed and after securing the boat we headed up the hill towards town for the umpteenth time since we bought the boat, two and a half years ago. We bought the papers and sat on the patio of the Red Lion and had a couple of drinks. We bought some bits and pieces to make lunch with from the Co-op and returned to the boat by half past two.
We were soon underway, enjoying the spring sunshine as we continued our cruise in a north-westerly direction. The last time we visited the terminus, the canal had been shortened to allow contractors to carry out the beginning of the restoration works which will eventually re-join the two parts of the cut.
We turned around in the new winding hole before making our way back through the Snarestone tunnel. We made our way back to Shackerstone where we moored for the night. Visiting the pub in the village, The Rising Sun, we had our evening meal before returning to the canal, of course we had to make our usual visit to the churchyard first.
Sunday 11th April
Our journey home started about half past nine, light cloud hid the sun and a livelier wind from the north kept the temperature lower than the previous day. We made a pit stop at Sutton Cheney for some sweets and crisps before stopping at Stoke Golding for sandwiches and a glass of wine.
Half an hour later and we were on our way again back to the marina. We met nb Lunny at the bridge which carries the A47 over the canal and despite the fact that this is a bridge where two boats can pass, Lunny wanted the canal to itself. We reversed and allowed the boater through, he apologised and claimed that he was a novice although by the state of his eyes, he was no novice when it came to being drunk. This turned out to be the only unusual event of the weekend and all too soon we were manoeuvring our way through the marina, reaching our berth just before three o’clock. It took no time at all to clear our stuff from the boat and that was it, our weekend cruise was over. By a strange coincidence, we made the same trip on the same weekend last year, something that we didn’t realise until today.
Thursday 1st April
We have been reading weather forecast after weather forecast, trying to decide whether or not we can venture out on to the canal for the Easter weekend. Unfortunately, it seems that the BBC have become as discredited as the Met Office when it comes to forecasting the weather. Presumably someone in that organisation has decided to work to extremes on the basis that by forecasting heavy rain and high winds , no-one will complain when the weather turns out to be better than forecast.
We took the decision to provision the boat and wait until Good Friday before taking our chances with the elements and cruising towards the Marston Junction and the Coventry canal.
Friday 2nd April
We rolled out of bed at seven o’clock and made our final preparations for our trip. We had decided to be philosophical about the weather and just accept whatever nature threw at us. By nine o’clock we were pulling out of the marina heading in a south-westerly direction on the Ashby canal. It was a bit windy and we endured the odd shower but our trip to Marston Junction was a pleasant one. Turning right on to the Coventry canal around eleven o’clock we were congratulating ourselves on making the decision to spend the weekend aboard ‘Phoenix III’.
An hour later and we reached Nuneaton where we moored beyond the bridge near the Cock & Bear pub.
Nuneaton gets very little coverage in Nicholson and Pearson guides. It’s a shame really because although it is true to say that it is not a town that is making the best of it’s canal presence, it really is worth stopping there. A ten minute walk brings the canal traveller into the town centre with its shops, pubs, banks and market. We made that walk, not for the first time and had a drink in the Jailhouse which is just behind the Ropewalk shopping centre. A walk around brought us to the George Elliot Hotel, named after the town’s greatest “son” (look it up if you don’t know about George!). We walked back to the boat after another drink and then settled down for the night on our mooring, safe and quiet and near the flats that stand on the land which was previously the old football ground belonging to Nuneaton Borough. It would be good to think that the residents of these relatively new dwellings are occasionally disturbed by the odd ghostly call of a supporter shouting “Up the borough” or maybe even have the unnerving experience of seeing the ghost of a former player scoring a goal at the town end of Manor Park. We listened to some music, ate our dinner and watched a bit of telly before retiring for the evening.
Saturday 3rd April
We both slept soundly before waking at seven o’clock. The sky was blue and we laughed again at how we were having a good time despite the pessimism of the BBC weathermen. By nine o’clock we had dressed and eaten breakfast before setting off for Atherstone. The trip took us two hours and along the way we took it in turn to shower and change in to clean clothing, taking advantage of the hot water generated by the engine running.
We pulled into Atherstone just after eleven o’clock and tied up before walking into town. A wander around the shops preceded a spot of lunch in the Red Lion where we watched Chelsea beat Manchester Utd, life just doesn’t get much better than this!!!
We returned to the boat and after turning her around, taking on water and getting rid of our rubbish at Atherstone top lock, we made our way back in the direction of Nuneaton, tying up for the night just outside the BW yard at Hartshill. The rain started shortly after but with our mooring secure and a roaring fire, we were happy enough.
Easter Sunday, 4th April
The day dawned, getting light around seven o’clock and we slowly came around to face Easter Sunday. The great thing about this trip has been that there has been no pressure on our time. We had some crumpets for breakfast before untying and leaving Hartshill just before ten o’clock. We enjoyed a lovely cruise to Nuneaton and moored back at the Cock & Bear bridge an hour and a half later. We toddled off into town to discover that all of the shops were closed. Luckily enough the pubs weren’t closed so we had lunch in the local Weatherspoon’s, a building which apparently used to belong to a funeral director called Smith. This escapade is worthy of a separate article so I won’t inflict this story on you, dear reader, at this moment in time.
On returning to the Phoenix, we once again thanked our lucky stars that we have the ability to spend our leisure time out on the canal system. We untied and set off back towards Marston Junction with no real plan in mind. The great thing about this, the “Let’s stick two fingers up to the BBC weathermen” tour has been that it really is a very relaxing break for both of us. At the junction with the Ashby canal we pushed on past and made our way to Hawkesbury Junction. Turning around at the junction with the Oxford canal we headed back and moored up on the visitor moorings. After dinner we took a walk to the Greyhound, purely for the exercise although it seemed a little rude not to have a drink at this ancient watering hole so we imbibed and spent a few minutes there.
We returned to our floating cottage at seven o’clock and settled down for the night.
Easter Monday, 5th April
Seven o’clock in the morning and it wasn’t time to wake up so we both went back to sleep and had another hour.
Eight o’clock in the morning seemed a much more sensible time to get up and have a cup of tea so we did. By ten o’clock we had managed to get dressed and motivate ourselves to the stage that we were setting off and heading back home. Sadly, the wind was quite strong and we had to battle our way around Marston Junction back on to the Ashby canal an hour after leaving our berth at Hawkesbury. Just after midday we reached the Limekilns on the A5 where we tied up and went for lunch. What a laugh we had! Our meals were superb but the entertainment was excellent thanks to the clientele which consisted of some of the boating fraternity. One boater, a bearded scruffy type who reminded us of the Owen Newitt character in the Vicar of Dibley played by Roger Lloyd Pack , bragged about how his boat was “like an oven inside”, Gary the landlord asked him if that was because the inside was covered in grease and had a knob on it!
Mooring at the Limekilns is a bit like being just on the other side of the wardrobe in Narnia. We decided to stay on the boat overnight but took the opportunity to go home and have a shower and get a change of clothes first. So there we were, afloat on the Ashby canal (favourite canal), outside the LImekilns (favourite pub), next to the A5 (George’s favourite road). Tomorrow we will have to get back into the marina, tie up and then return home before going to work.
Wednesday 7th April
Well we didn’t make it back to the marina yesterday but after work today, we took a stroll round to the Limekilns where we collected the boat and made the final leg of the journey. Half an hour later and we were in and tied up. We carried out our usual chores before walking back home.
At last! The winter weather has retreated and we can make our first trip of the year. Not only is it our first outing this year, it is almost four months since we were last out and that was when we were bringing the boat back from having its bottom blacked.
On Friday we loaded the boat with the bits and pieces that we thought that we would need for the trip, switched the heating on to warm everything through and then went home, leaving the start of the voyage until Saturday.
Grey skies and a bit of early morning drizzle greeted us as we left the house but with better weather forecast, we were full of optimism that we would have a good trip. We picked up a canister of gas on our way out of the marina and by half past nine we were heading towards Stoke Golding. Of course we have made this journey many times before so it is only when something unusual happens that we make a note of it. On this occasion nothing remarkable happened and at one o’clock we tied up at Market Bosworth. We lit the fire and then took a walk up to the town, calling in at the award winning chip shop for some award winning chips to stave off hunger and prevent fainting through lack of nourishment. After we had made short work of the chips and disposed of the containers we had a little wander round, did a bit of shopping and then retired to the bar of The Red Lion for a drink and a read of the papers.
We returned to the boat around four o’clock and then just relaxed in front of the fire. We mainly burn coal and wooden pallet blocks on our boatman stove but at the moment we have some peat imported from Ireland. When this is on the fire we leave the stove open and let the sweet smell of burning turf waft around the cabin. It’s difficult to explain the attraction, a bit like boating itself, you don’t really get it until you try it. Turf has been burned as a source of heat for thousands of years so perhaps the smell is actually evoking deep genetic memories? Anyway we watched a bit of rubbish on the telly, inhaled smoke from muck dug from an Irish bog and then went to bed.
Sunday morning was bright and clear, there was a hard frost and the canal was frozen over. We had a few cups of tea and coffee before we set off through the fragile patches of ice and we were underway around half past eleven. As cold as it was, the blue skies and bright sunshine made the journey home an enjoyable one. We passed the coal boat, saw a couple of our aquaintances, Mick onboard Tally Ho! and Steve on The Serendipity before we arrived back at the marina. The usual end of voyage chores were carried out in about ten minutes and that was it, our maiden voyage for 2010 was over. The boat still works despite being laid up for months and we still have the boating bug; excellent!
Well another week has passed and still we have been unable to venture out. Our last time was when we brought the boat back from Stoke Golding after having her out of the water to have her bottom blacked. Persistently low temperatures have given rise to a layer of ice so thick on the canal and in the marina that there is absolutely no movement when walking around inside. Temperatures are forecast to rise this week so maybe another couple of weeks will release us from our icy shackles.
Friday 28th August
It’s time to go out for another week. We’ve decided to wait until Saturday morning before we head off on our second summer tour. It’s a bank holiday weekend and the weather forecast looks reasonable for the whole week. Unfortunately, the weather today has been wet and very windy so we have taken the opportunity to have a lazy start to the trip. Most of our gear is on board and tomorrow we will take the rest of our stuff, check the engine over, diesel up and get on our way. Our ultimate aim is Warwick so our route will take us along the Ashby, on to the Coventry before turning at Sutton Stop on to the North Oxford. Turning right at Braunston, we will make our way to Wigram’s turn where we will get on to the Grand Union, heading for Leamington and Warwick. We’ll turn round for the journey back at the bottom of the Hatton flight, saving that for another day! Of course with so many twists and turns along the way, we could end up anywhere.
Saturday 29th August
The day dawned, bright and sunny. A bit breezy but pleasant nonetheless. Of course we were still in the house so we thought it best that we got out of bed and made a move. Despite the fact that we had taken a car load of our stuff to the boat the evening before, we had another car load to go. Along the way, we bought a radio to listen to while we travelled and after fuelling the boat we eventually set off at 11.00am. Despite the wind and the large number of boats around, we reached Marston Junction not long after one o’clock. Turning left on to the Coventry canal, we made our way past the charity dock which seemed to have recruited a few more mannequins complete with stylish clothing. We had decided to moor at or around Hawkesbury junction if we could and sure enough we tied up about a quarter of a mile from the turn. After we secured the boat we took a walk to the Greyhound and had a couple of drinks, shopped at the Towpath Trading boat which was moored at the lock and then returned to the boat. Sue cooked up a steak pie and our home grown potatoes which we ate before rounding the meal off with cherry pie and cream. Some swans appeared and as Sue fed them bread and oats she noticed that the adult had a beak injury which was bleeding. She made a call to the RSPCA and hopefully they will bring some relief to the older bird.( I mean the swan of course, not Sue!)
Sunday 30th August
The sun rises at about six o’clock at the moment and this morning it was very bright. We left our mooring just before half past nine, made our way to the turn and negotiated the lock. Three boys and their father watched us and explained that they had just come for a look before going off to Worcester to hire a boat for four days. We saw quite a lot of boats on our journey south but the hire boat in front was the one that dominated the landscape. Usual stuff, no idea how to steer, missing every bridge hole, kids running up and down the roof and so on. We stopped at Newbold on Avon and visited the Co-op but they had nothing that we wanted so we carried on to Rugby and stopped for water and a quick trip to Tesco. Leaving Rugby, we saw the hire boat tied up, at least we wouldn’t have to suffer them again! We completed the rest of our chores as we ascended the three locks at Hillmorton and then carried on for another hour before mooring near bridge 79. The time was six twenty, so despite this being a trip without ambition, we had travelled for almost nine hours, no wonder we were tired and by half past nine, we were yawning so much we had to go to bed. The weather had worked in our favour, the early morning sunshine had given way to cloud and the occasional drizzle but we got tied up just before the rain started in earnest.
Monday 31st August
Bank holiday Monday and the sun is shining! After yet another lazy start we made our way first to Braunston and then to Wigram’s turn. A wide beam boat pulled of the marina, got caught in the wind and managed to block the whole junction. Well, we eventually got round the corner and made our way to the locks. The boat behind us was a private boat owned by a couple from Chesterfield who kept their boat at Ventnor farm. We had an easy trip down though the three locks with these experienced boaters before waving goodbye to them as they turned into their marina. We decided to moor near bridge 21 and make our plans for rest of the trip. After showering and eating we took a walk to the Boat Inn for a drink and a visit to the dessert menu. We then walked the mile to the Blue Lias for another drink before returning to the boat. We have decided to stay here another day before turning around on Wednesday and heading back.
Tuesday 1st September
Suzy and George go to Long Itchington, have a pub lunch and a few drinks.
Rosie and Jim stay on the boat and play cards.
Wednesday 2nd September
Our day of rest yesterday meant that not only would be travelling today but we had our chores to complete too. We got up early so that we could turn around in the entrance to the boatyard without getting in anybody’s way. By eight o’clock we had turned and were passing the place that we had moored for the last two days. We soon reached the first of the three Calcutt locks and since we were on our own, began the lonely ascent. These wide locks are well maintained and we were soon at the top, taking on fresh water. Sue then started preparing our evening meal, a Spanish style Chicken dish. After jointing the chicken, she combined the meat with chorizo and vegetables, leaving the whole concoction to cook slowly in the slow cooker all day. We made our way to Braunston in a variety of weather conditions ranging from full sunshine to showers. Even the heaviest showers didn’t last long and we were soon completing our chores for the day near Braunston turn. We were in the mood for cruising so we set off again, this time towards Rugby. We reached Hillmorton at half past one and despite the fact that we had not seen many boats all morning, there were three waiting to descend the locks, two hire boats and a privately owned working boat. It didn’t take long to descend the locks thanks to a number of boats making their way to the higher level. We passed the two hire boats after the bottom lock and then we carried on. We enjoyed more sunshine as we skirted around the edge of Rugby. The sky was darkening with rain clouds when we found a space on the visitor moorings just before bridge 58. We managed a quick trip to Tesco and back, set up the satellite dish before the rain started. By the time we had showered and sat down to our Spanish chicken, the rain was pouring down but obviously we didn’t care!
Thursday 3rd September
Heavy rain fell during the early hours but by the time we got up it was windy but dry. We were unsure Whether to travel or stay put and walk into Rugby. In the end we decided to get on our way. By nine o’clock we were on the move. We had a near miss at the entrance to the Rugby marina when a working boat emerged ,ignored our warning and narrowly missed us. After that our journey was g quite uneventful and by one o’clock we were approaching Hawkesbury junction. On rounding the turn, Sue saw the swan with the damaged beak. Thankfully still alive and well. We passed tie boat -‘Mr Mercury’ before making our way to Marston junction the sun was shining as we traveled along the Ashby canal towards Hinckley. Moored next to Nutts Lane and only a few hundred yards from home may seem like madness to some but this stop allowed us to visit home and the local shop. Tomorrow we will head off towards Market Bosworth .
Friday 4th September
The sun shone again this morning and so we headed towards Market Bosworth, hoping for a place on the town moorings. Stopping at the marina for a few minutes to dump our rubbish and empty the toilet, we were underway by half past nine. Sue took the tiller for most of the journey which lasted its usual three and a half hours. Most of the Ashby boats seemed to be in the Stoke Golding wharf, leaving a narrow route through and under the bridge. We had the impression before we had started that the canal would be busy with people heading towards Shackerstone for the weekend festival. As it turned out, the earlier activity on the water was unrepresentative of the rest of the water traffic. As a result we didn’t see that many boats on our trip. What we did see was evidence of dredging, something that has been long overdue. When we reached the stretch near Bosworth Battlefield we saw the dredgers at work.
When we arrived at Market Bosworth, we were pleasantly surprised to find only one boat on the mooring, allowing us to tie up easily and get ready for the walk up the hill to town.
Saturday 5th September
Today was the last full day of our holiday so we decided to stay put in Market Bosworth. After a lazy start we were locking up the boat when we saw our marina neighbour, Lee on board ‘Mamta’ heading for Shackerstone. We wandered up the hill for the second day running having decided to have lunch in the Red Lion. The meals were good, we had a couple of drinks and read the papers as we whiled away the early hours of the afternoon. Returning to the boat we ran the generator for a couple of hours to charge the batteries and heat the water. We completed our ‘lazy’ day by watching television before turning in for the night.
Sunday 6th September
We turned the boat around and began the final leg of our journey. Our lunch was already prepared and we planned to stop on the way back to eat it. Sue began to pack our stuff up, ready for our return to the marina. By half past eleven we had reached the Stoke Golding visitor moorings so we pulled in and ate our midday meal. Just after we started off again we saw the Red Arrows who were displaying at Shackerstone. We pulled up again and watched what we could of the display.
As we waited, we were passed again by Lee and his mate who told us that they had managed to get a mooring at Shackerstone. We followed them back to Hinckley in convoy and by the time we got there we had a couple more boats behind us. By two o’clock the boat was empty and the car was full, we were ready to reume our land based life.
Well, we’ve had a good time and maybe to the casual reader of these articles it may seem like we have hours of nothing much happening interrupted by exciting things like filling the water and emptying the toilet. Very often the only other living creatures that we see have four legs or wings or make quacking sounds. That’s it really, you either get it or you don’t. We do and after two years of boat ownership, we still enjoy our trips out on the canal.
Friday 10th July
Another summer weekend with no particular plan in mind so off we went, this time heading north on the Ashby. The beauty of this time of year is the length of the days and after passing through the already full moorings at Market Bosworth we tied up twenty minutes later near the winding hole, half way to Congerstone.
Saturday 11th July
A cloudy start didn’t deter us, even though we had no idea what we were going to do for the day. We decided to turn around and try our luck at Market Bosworth, we were unsuccessful so we carried on. We toyed with the Battlefield but decided it was too early, we could have stopped at the Limekilns but chose to carry on. By the time we had reached Burton Hastings we had decided to make for Hawksbury junction, a destination that is very popular and we knew that we might not make a mooring. We were lucky and as we pulled up, so did three other boats, effectively filling the available space in minutes. A walk to the greyhound and we had a surprise re-union with our old friend, The Cheeseboat. Three cheeses, a couple of drinks and twenty quid later and we were heading back for the Phoenix. The predicted rain didn’t start until after half past seven and then it was on for the night.
Sunday 12th July
Blue skies greeted us on Sunday morning as we sorted ourselves out and got on our way. We made the short trip to the junction, already quite busy despite the early hour, turned around and headed off to Nuneaton. We had enjoyed our previous visit to the town the week before and thought that we’d give it another go. The trip from Hawksbury is only a couple of hours so we were moored just after eleven o’clock. We had stopped on the southern side of town, near the boatyard so our route to the centre was different to the previous week, this time through streets of terraced houses. A wander around, a coffee at Costa before browsing in Waterstones and then a dash through Sainsburys and Riversley park before returning to the boat. The weather was bright and breezy as we weaved our way back to Hinckley and once again we were surprised at how much we had managed to do in what seemed like a short space of time.