We normally use the bbc website for weather forecasting and until recently this has proved to be very useful for planning our weekends. This week, there seems to be a new tactic for the bbc, one which is no help at all, rendering the service absolutely useless. Perhaps they don’t realise that just saying that the next five days will be sunny, rainy and cloudy and then changing it on the day to match the actual day’s weather isn’t really a forecast at all. The forecast was for rain, cloud and sun from Thursday to Tuesday but with the sun shining we left Hinckley on Friday afternoon at half past two. The light breeze was welcome in the thirty degree heat as we headed towards the top end of the Ashby. We have only made it right to the top on one occasion but that trip was blighted by engine trouble. We cruised until seven o’clock when we tied up near the village of Shackerstone. We walked to the churchyard where Sue placed some wild flowers that she had picked on the grave of the children who perished in the frozen water in March 1965. We had a quick drink at the Rising Sun before returning to the boat for something to eat. We ate outside in the warmth of a balmy summer evening, listening to music and waiting for the sun to set.
The air in the boat cooled quite quickly after sunset and we had a comfortable night before waking up to a continued lack of predicted rain. We set off just before ten o’clock and reached the end of the canal just beyond Snarestone at half past eleven. There is some information about the canal and a small shop whose proceeds go to the Ashby Canal Association at this, the point where the restoration project will begin later this year. We were tempted to moor here for the rest of the day but decided against it because there would be no escape from the strong sun and heat. We cruised back, half heartedly looking for a shady mooring and before we knew it, we were at Stoke Golding where we tied up for dinner. The humidity was higher on Saturday than it was the night before, so with only three miles between us and home, we decided to head back there for the night. The water level in the canal is a few inches lower than in previous weeks, perhaps due to evaporation and lack of rain, this exposes holes in the muddy bank and soon we see that the holes are home to rats. We reached Hinckley just before eight o’clock and despite the fact that the day had been mostly breeze free, the wind across the marina played with us as we reversed the boat into its berth. The trip had been a night shorter than we had originally thought but it was just as good fun and along the way we had seen a few new types of wild life; a swimming snake, a few swimming rats, big brown dragonflies and small metallic blue ones. Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny again so we decided to go to the real top of the Ashby canal at Moira, this time by car. At the moment this is the only way to get to the original terminus but hopefully the restoration project will enable us to cruise the full length in a few years. Despite the usual forecast, we decided to get the roof down on the StreetKa so that at least we were out cruising in the fresh air. The Moira museum is at the old furnace and is quite a pleasant place now. At the height of its industrial peak, it was probably a completely different scene so in some respects, the visitor doesn’t really get a true picture of how it used to be. We walked from the furnace to the canal terminus half a mile away, inspecting the only lock on the Ashby canal. We saw a fisherman land a fish, a three pound bream, he claimed. A solitary Sea Otter narrowboat occupied the basin, another scene that will change when the canal is restored and accessible to all. Next to the basin is Conkers, an educational day out for all the family on the edge of the national forest. We walked back along the towpath to the museum before getting back into the car for the drive back to Hinckley. We tried, where possible, to follow the route of the canal, driving through Measham, Snarestone, Shackerstone and Congerstone. We criss-crossed the canal several times before reaching Market Bosworth where we stopped to visit the farmers market. After this short stop we were soon on our way to Stoke Golding for the second time in twenty four hours. By the time we had returned home we had been to market, walked for an hour and stopped at a café, total time: four hours. The same trip by boat would have been ten hours longer!
So, there we are, the Ashby canal fully travelled by car and by boat, no sign of the predicted rain on what has been one of the best weekends of the year so far and a glimpse of both the future and the past with our trip to Moira.
We had originally planned to go on a trip up the Ashby this weekend but with the forecast being poor for Saturday, we decided that a trip to Atherstone would be better because the canal runs close to the town centre. The Ashby canal is very rural and although there are some villages nearby, Market Bosworth is probably the best one for visiting on a rainy afternoon, however there is “heart-attack “ hill to climb. Atherstone by contrast has more shops and pubs (for research) and is easier to get to on foot. We left Hinckley just after four and moored near the Anchor Inn, four hours later. The journey was largely unremarkable except for an incident in Nuneaton when two teenagers decided that it would be fun to spit on the boat from the safety of a road bridge. Imagine their surprise when the boat stopped, reversed and got close enough for Sue to jump on to the bank and then chase after them. The wasters ran and hid in some bushes, their bravery evaporating as she was bearing down on them, can’t say that I blame them, even I was scared! Ha ha! The language was choice but effective, they didn’t reappear and we carried on with our journey. Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for this, our first “attack “. We actually have a pump action, high pressure water gun on board but hadn’t thought to load it, we’ll be ready next time.
We popped into the Anchor for a quick drink after dinner, it looked quite good but we were both tired so there will have to be further research done at a later date. The run to Atherstone is only about ninety minutes from the Anchor, so we showered and dressed before setting off at nine o’clock, the rain is forecast to put in an appearance after lunch so we know that we have plenty of time on our side. For the first time ever, there are no mooring places available, worse than that, the turning point above the top lock is unusable because there are two boats side by side at the water point. We have little choice but to descend the locks and either turn or moor somewhere on the other side of town. we have never been further than this so we are not sure how many of the locks we will have to go through, then the rain started just to make things even worse. There are no moorings until after lock five which is where we tied up and after checking that we could turn at Baddesley basin below lock six, we had breakfast. We had a little further to walk than we would have, had we been able to moor at the top of the flight but the sun was back out so it didn’t really matter. We wandered around the shops, past the farmer’s market which consisted of three stalls and no customers and then into the Red Lion for a drink and a read of the papers. The sun was still shining as we walked back to the boat, along Watling street and under the railway bridge. We had just got the chairs out on the back deck when the sky darkened and the monsoon came. Back inside then, where Sue spent the rest of the afternoon demonstrating how good she is at knitting and me demonstrating how bad I am with watercolours. The rain didn’t last too long but we didn’t venture out again. We ate, we drank, we chilled out.
Sunday had been forecast to be the best of the weekend, the wind dropping and the sun coming out. Well it started alright as we slipped our mooring at seven o’clock, down through lock six, turned and went straight back up again. Our ascent was straightforward since every chamber was empty and we didn’t encounter any oncoming traffic until we reached the second lock from the top. Half past eight and we we were on the way, optimistically wearing a short sleeved shirt, shorts and sandles, we were soon wrapping up as the wind picked up and the rain came on. I think that we’ve done enough now to combat global warming, it’s now too cold. I suggest that diesel engines are banned, petrol engines must be at least 3 litres and aerosols should be filled with that stuff that depletes the ozone (except for those aerosols in government who are already filled with hot air anyway!)
Water gun at the ready we made our way through Nuneaton but there were no bandits today, the little darlings probably all tucked up in bed with white cider induced hangovers. We breakfasted between Nuneaton and Bedworth before turning back on to the Ashby at Marston junction. It is clear that the wind is probably too strong to get back into the marina so we hatch some alternative plans. Plan “A “ fails because there are no moorings near the Limekilns on the A5, Plan “B “ fails because the canal is too shallow between the Limekilns and our house, Plans “C “ and “D “ fail for the same reason that plan “A “ failed, i.e. lack of mooring space near the house and outside the marina. Plan “E “, which was to travel up to bridge 22, turn round and moor near the Triumph factory didn’t stand a chance because Captain Jack Sparrow decided that he would attempt to take the boat back into the marina. A decision clearly based on too much confidence in his own ability and a complete lack of respect for mother nature! Getting in to the marina wasn’t a problem but with the Phoenix now at ninety degrees to the wind, the boat turned completely in the opposite direction. Fortunately, we were able to get the boat into the wet dock, not ideal but safe in the marina until the wind drops overnight.
After a week of wet and windy weather, Sunday lived up to expectations and the sun came out. Fiona, David, Hannah and Rachael were visiting for the weekend after a holiday in Stratford, so it seemed a good opportunity to take them out on the boat for the day. We made easy passage out of the marina and once on the canal, Fiona took the helm. A veteran of numerous boating holidays, she soon got back into the swing of things as we headed up the Ashby. By the time we reached the first turning point at bridge 22, we realised that the children would be alright with the extended cruise to Sutton Cheney. We stopped for lunch near Stoke Golding and after refuelling on Pizza and Chicken nuggets, we carried on to the next turning point. On the way back, Sue and I sat at the front, something that we have never done before because we have never been out with anyone who could steer the boat for us. We played I-spy with the girls, although we didn’t realise that in Rachael’s version of the game, most things begin with “b “ and the answer could be a sound rather than an object. We all had a good time and on checking that Fiona and David were alright for drinks, I discovered that in fact there was a masterclass in steering going on at the back. All too soon and the Triumph factory appeared on the horizon, signalling the end of the trip and half an hour later we were back in the marina, tied up on berth D4. All in all, a good day out.
Day 1, Friday 13th June 2008
Despite the wind, we left the marina quite easily after topping up the diesel and buying a bottle of gas. Underway by half past one we passed quite a few boats coming in the opposite direction. We swept around Marston junction and then watched with some amusement as a short boat made a hash of entering the Ashby. An hour later and we were round Hawksbury junction without any problem. The crew of the boat in front asked Sue if we were going through and then offers to leave the gate open, the wrong one of course! We looked for moorings after the lock but without success, more considerate positioning by one boater would have created a space. We moored at Ansty just before six o’clock across the line between long term and visitor moorings. This shouldn’t present any problem because we will be gone first thing in the morning. With dinner in the oven we walked over to the Rose and Castle for a pint and a coffee before returning to the boat. In addition to attending to kitchen matters, Sue washed and polished a section of the paintwork and it really shone so she now has a job for the rest of the holiday!!! Dinner was a delicious plateful of lamb shank, peas and roast veg hmmm!
Day 2, Saturday 14th June
After a good night’s sleep, we awoke at seven thirty, the sun was shining and the sky was blue so we got dressed and set off for eight o’clock. We decided to travel for two hours before showering and having breakfast. We picked something up on the prop at Stretton Stop but we were able to carry on until we moored on the edge of All Oaks wood at ten o’clock. The prop had been fouled with a jumper, wire, weeds and a plastic bag. With pond gloves, the removal of the rubbish is clean and safe. After showering we ate a hearty breakfast which meant that we faced the next leg of the journey fully refreshed.
We left the wood at eleven thirty and had a pleasant journey around the outskirts of Rugby. We arrived at Hillmorton locks just before two o’clock and since there was little traffic, we ascended the three locks in half an hour. A stop at the top gave us a chance to empty the rubbish and visit the shop to buy some postcards. It was almost three thirty when we got back to the boat and before we set off again, we helped an elderly couple to tie their boat up.
Our outline plan was to get to Braunston and moor there for the night. As we approached the village, we encountered a narrowboat stranded in the shallows. We attached a rope, pulled her back and then offered some advice on steering. Within a few minutes the beached sailors were afloat again and on their way. By the time we reached the junction we realised that we probably wouldn’t be walking into Braunston that evening. Our plan for Sunday had been a relatively short cruise from Braunston to Napton but now that we had passed through Braunston we decided to press on and gain a day. We moored near bridge 102 just before six o’clock, the same spot that we stopped on the bank holiday weekend. Since we were now half way through our Sunday itinerary, we should finish up the next day in the place we expected to be on Monday evening.
Day 3, Sunday 15th June
The weather was bright and sunny and after the daily checks were complete, we set off at eight o’clock. We took on water, disposed of the rubbish and emptied the toilet before starting the ascent of the Napton flight of locks. We tied up after the first lock and had breakfast. There are another eight locks in the flight and by the time we cleared the top one at Marston Doles it is almost half past one. Sue was by now an expert on the locks and met many people as we ascended the flight. We reach Fenny Compton at four o’clock and tie up. After posting our postcards, we visited the Wharf Inn and sample some cloudy cider which was very good. We visited the Cheese Boat and after some sampling, bought a few different truckles. Back to the boat for dinner and then a relaxing evening as we contemplated the next day’s journey to Cropredy.
Day 4, Monday 16th June
We were underway by quarter to eight on another bright and sunny morning. As we approached Fenny Compton marina, we were hit by an oncoming boater who didn’t want to put his boat into the overhanging branches. The impact of the collision sent us careering into one of the moored boats which luckily seemed to be unoccupied. It took us about an hour before we reached the first of five locks. The traffic through the locks was just enough help rather than hinder our progress. We stopped for breakfast after the fifth lock at about half past ten. An hour later and we were off again and it was another twenty minutes before we reached the next lock and again there was enough oncoming traffic to make our passage through the locks pleasant and relaxing in the June sunshine. Another boater told Sue that there was plenty of mooring near our destination, Cropredy. Sure enough, when we reached the village at one o’clock we secured our mooring just above the lock in the middle of the village. We freshened up and had a glass of wine before going to explore the village.
Cropredy is a beautiful little village with houses built from local orange-brown stone topped out thatch or slate roofs. There is a lovely church in the village, a post office and a couple of pubs. One of the pubs, The Brasenose Arms was closed at lunchtime but The Red Lion was open but only until two thirty. After returning to the boat to sample the cheeses that we bought yesterday, Sue cleaned the port side of PhoenixIII. A little later and we let a little boy called Max on to inspect the boat while his mother walked along the towpath.
Day 5, Tuesday 17th June
We wanted to get to Banbury early enough to moor near the town centre, so with the sun out and the air already warm we set off at half past seven, leaving Cropredy behind. This pleasant little journey only took us two and a half hours. Just to be on the safe side, we moored up near a park on the outskirts of town. We got showered and changed before walking the fairly short distance along the towpath to Castle Quay, a shopping centre by the lock and swing bridge. We explored the town centre which is very nice and we even find the Fine Lady on her white horse. Although only a few days have passed, it seemed strange to be back in a traffic infested town. We had lunch at the local Pizza Express before we returned to our boat-world. Although there are plenty of good moorings actually in the town centre, we decided to press on. It was only two o’clock and it seemed a shame to waste the day. After taking on water, we set off and all too soon we were back in the countryside. We were keeping close contact with the railway, the M40 and eventually the river Cherwell which crosses the canal near Aynho. The crossing is near a lock which proved to be the toughest to operate, so far anyway! We had it in mind to tie up near Aynho wharf but in the event, there were no vacant moorings. We carried on back into the wilderness before finding a relatively nettle free area to moor for the night.
Day 6, Wednesday 18th June
The weather had changed and the morning was windy, cloudy and rainy. Our original intention was to stop at Lower Heyford before continuing on to Gibraltar. After starting out at eight o’clock in the miserable weather we reached Lower Heyford and found a good mooring just after bridge 205. After checking out the local railway station which is adjacent to the canal, we decided to stop here and continue our journey to Oxford by train the next day. As it turned out, this was a good move since we later learned that moorings are so scarce in Oxford that we would have ended up mooring on the city outskirts anyway. We spent the afternoon on the boat reading the papers and writing postcards bought from the canalside shop.
Day 7, Thursday 19th June
Today, we went to Oxford on the train. The railway station at Lower Heyford is adjacent to the canal, so a five minute walk took us from boat to platform where we caught the 9.52. Our journey of fifteen minutes was spent looking to see if we could see the canal running alongside the track. After arriving at Oxford we walked out of the station and caught the open top tour bus that would take us around the city. We listened to the guide tell us about the different colleges before alighting in Broad street. We intended to have lunch at Jamie Oliver’s new Italian restaurant and after finding it, saw that it opened at midday. We had a wander around, bought some postcards and then went to a pub along the road to write the cards, have a drink and wait for noon. At five to twelve we walked the hundred yards or so down to Jamie’s Italian and discovered that there was a long queue to get into the place and there were already a lot of people inside, so much for opening at midday! We went back across the road and ate lunch at Ask and had a lovely meal there instead. After lunch, we visited the indoor market where we bought some beef and vegetables, all good fresh produce. Getting back on the tour bus we completed the city tour and made our way back to the station, realizing that we had a bit of time to kill, we stopped for a drink at an Irish theme pub and sat on a veranda overlooking the canal. In the evening, we walked up the hill into the village, posted our postcards and had a drink in the local pub, the Bell Inn. Day 8, Friday 20th June
We awoke at six o’clock and realized that the fridge was struggling for power. On Wednesday we had a fairly short cruise and on Thursday we only ran the engine for an hour in the morning to charge the batteries, obviously not long enough. We got ready and set off by quarter to seven but we had to travel a while before we turned around. It was twenty past seven before we were back where we started and refilled the water tank. Twenty minutes later and we were moving again, destination Banbury. This day would be a bit of a tough one because we want to get to Banbury early enough to moor in the town centre and we needed to carry out some basic resource management. We had already completed one task by re-watering but we needed to top up the diesel and empty the toilet too. By the time we would get to Banbury we should have charged up the batteries and heated up the water so everything would be ship-shape and Bristol fashion. After the first lock we have to remove a boot from the prop, no big deal but a stop nonetheless.
At the water point we had seen a duck trying to eat a fish that it had caught. A couple of other ducks were hanging around, presumably waiting for leftovers or better still, a dropped catch. At Heyford common lock we saw a steam train, a Great Western express locomotive pulling three chocolate and cream coloured coaches. Soon after, we passed two unattended fishing rods propped on the bank. A few yards away there was a tent with two men in it. A second glance revealed that they had no shirts on, perhaps they were re-enacting a scene from the film, Brokeback Mountain? Today really had been a day for unusual sights.
We stopped at Aynho wharf for diesel and to empty the toilet. We had not really stopped for anything to eat but kept going on mugs of tea and a box of cookies that we had bought in Oxford railway station. After Aynho wharf we negotiated the weir lock again where the gates are difficult to open due to the water flow from the river Cherwell. After that, the run up to Banbury was straightforward and without incident, although by the time we tied up at three o’clock, we were both in need of a rest and a shower.
Suitably refreshed, we walked into town and did a bit of shopping before picking up a couple of truckles from the cheese boat. After a delicious meal made from the shin of beef bought yesterday at Oxford’s indoor market, we took a weary walk to the oldest building in Banbury, which just happens to be a pub! Ye Olde Reindeer Arms dates from 1570 and is a lovely old place to enjoy a pint of real ale in. By seven o’clock we were back on PhoenixIII and relaxing, listening to music, thinking about what we will do the following day.
Day 9, Saturday 21st June
We had a lazy lie in until about nine o’clock before getting up and having a bacon sandwich for breakfast. As forecast, there had been heavy rain overnight which had eased off to a steady drizzle in the morning. We decided to have a coffee in the Banbury museum before exploring the exhibits. There was an art exhibition as well as a comprehensive history of the development of the town. The canal has not been forgotten and there is a special section dedicated to it. From there we passed through the tourist information office and into Tooley’s historic boatyard. This is still a working boatyard and it is apparently one of the oldest in the country. We walked up through the market place looking for somewhere to buy some Banbury cake. We had no idea what a Banbury cake is but it seems a shame to come here and not sample some. Morris’s shop next to the market looked favourite and to our delight we saw a sign that says “Banbury Cake” above a door next to the shop front. On entering the shop we asked if they sell the cake and the shopkeeper says “No”. He read our puzzled expressions and explained that the sign is actually for a newspaper called “Banbury Cake”, whose offices are above the shop. When we asked him where we can buy the cake, he told us to go to the museum and thinking that he was being funny, we questioned his advice. He laughed and told us that the only place to buy Banbury Cake really is at the museum. On the way back to the boat we bought some in the tourist information shop, he really wasn’t being sarcastic after all! The rain had stopped and the sky was brightening when we left Banbury just before one o’clock. We took until just before half past three when we tied up above the lock at Cropredy. The weather had stopped improving and the rain started again just after five o’clock so stopping here was a good move. Roast spuds in the oven with some beef and veg provided us with some sustenance, not that either of us are in any danger of malnutrition!
Day 10, Sunday 22nd June
The weather was exactly as predicted, torrential rain through the night woke us a few times and in the morning the wind was very strong. We had decided the night before, that if the wind was as strong as it had been forecast, we would stay in Cropredy until Monday. We saw a fair number of boats passing in each direction but unlike us they were probably forced into covering a certain distance each day. By contrast, we had all the time in the world so we cleaned the inside of the boat, had a late breakfast and then wandered off to the shop. We helped a few boats to moor up around us by pulling in their ropes and took some photos for the record.
Day 11, Monday 23rd June
We got up at six thirty and after a cup of tea and the usual morning checks, we set off about an hour later. The locks to the summit started almost immediately and before we realised it, we had ascended through all eight within two hours. We headed towards Fenny Compton fuelled by some bacon sandwiches, tea and coffee. Sue took her post on the bow as we negotiated the narrow waters around Fenny Compton and as a result we cleared the area without incident. We calculated that it will take a couple of hours before we reach Marston Doles at the top of the Napton flight of locks. Sue went off to take a shower, making use of the newly generated hot water and a few minutes later I spotted a lamb which had fallen into the canal. I managed to steer the boat into a position where I could grab the distressed lamb and keep its head above water. I realised that I couldn’t lift it out of the water so I tried to steer it round to the bank and safety. This tactic didn’t work so I grabbed a bargepole and fixed it between the bank and the boat, underneath the lamb’s front legs. At this point, realising that something was amiss, Sue emerged from the boat wearing a towel. Straight away she realised what was happening and quickly got herself dressed. With Sue in control of the boat, I was able to get on to the bank where I could grab the lamb by its fleece and drag it out so that it could run off and seek comfort from its mother. With the excitement over we carried on to Marston Doles, where we took on water. The water point is just above the top lock which meant that we had to descend at least one or two locks before we could tie up for the evening. In the event, Sue got the bit between her teeth and we ended up mooring just above the bottom lock. This was ideal because we were able to empty both toilet cassettes and get rid of our bin bags. At the Folly pub we bumped into a Scots couple, Rob and Liz, who we met at the top of the flight. This was an ideal opportunity to exchange some Anglo-Scottish nationalist banter before we headed back to the boat to eat our evening meal of ham, egg and chips. It had been a very long day and with sixteen locks and a rescue under our belts we were falling asleep by nine o’clock. Bedtime was nine thirty.
Day 12, Tuesday 24th June
After a good night’s sleep, Snoozy Suzy became Cruisy Suzy and got out of bed at twenty past six. It was a bright, sunny day and we were on the move and through the bottom lock at Napton by quarter past seven. No more locks until Hillmorton so the windlass got dumped unceremoniously in the cabin. The trip to Braunston was a pleasant one and we reached the junction just before ten o’clock. Cruisy Suzy got a bout of ”No-moor-a-phobia” but Captain Bligh was still riding his luck as far as getting moored up where he wanted and sure enough, just around the turn, there is a prime position just opposite Midland Chandlers.
After we secured the ropes, we took a walk up to the village and bought a few bits in the local Londis and then were entertained by the banter in the famous Braunston Butcher’s shop. After stowing the provisions back on the boat, we headed off to the Millhouse canalside pub for lunch. We met up again with Rob and Liz who seemed to be changing crew members every day on their way up to Macclesfield. We eventually left after we have eaten our delicious lunch and walked up the towpath to check out the Admiral Nelson which is situated next to the locks. We only just managed to get a drink before it closed at half past two. Our walk into the village allowed us to post our postcards but the two pubs in the village were closed so no more “research” was conducted that day. We returned to the boat via the chandlers shop and bought a new tiller pin in the shape of a thistle. There was to be a gathering of historic boats at the weekend and we were almost tempted to stay since we were on a fourteen day mooring. We had already seen a number tied up near the marina and there had been a few passing that evening, including a pair of working boats which at the weekend would be horse drawn to the tunnel and then legged through by a group of enthusiasts.
Day 13, Wednesday 25th June
We got up a little later today, checked all the usual stuff as well as getting rid of the rubbish, emptied the toilet and took on fresh water before setting off at quarter to ten. We were on the voyage home but were so far ahead of where we had originally planned to be that we were hoping to visit Coventry and maybe more before we finally brought the Phoenix home. Two hours cruising brought us to Hillmorton where we stopped for a short while before descending through the three locks. In the bottom lock I managed to catch the front fender on the gates of the bottom lock, creating another repair job for later. The wind by then was pretty strong, so strong that we almost lost our tomato plant from the roof. After stopping to rescue it we pushed on despite being blown all over the canal. A brief stop at Newbold on Avon for supplies at the Co-op and then we were on the way again. By the time we passed through Stretton stop, we knew that we were only an hour away from Ansty so we decided to travel until we found a suitable mooring between Ansty and Hawksbury. In the event we found a place that is only twenty minutes away from the junction of the Oxford and Coventry canals. A steak accompanied by a salad made from the plants that had been growing in a tub on the roof of the boat provided dinner.
Day 14, Thursday 26th June
With the threat of high winds and heavy winds forecast for the afternoon, we were up and on the move for quarter past seven. Twenty minutes travelling brought us to Sutton stop lock and although it was chilly, it is difficult to believe that the weather would change so much, later on in the day. For the first time in our relatively short boating life, we turned left at the junction and headed towards Coventry. After we passed Exhall basin and then under the M6 we started to see pieces of sculpture placed along the towpath. A concrete settee on a concrete raft made us chuckle and we were quite impressed by the good clean condition of the route so far. Unfortunately the scene changed soon after we pass the Ricoh Arena and we were faced with a predictable inner city landscape; racist graffiti, vandalism and a generally gloomy atmosphere, despite the bright sunshine. The basin itself is a different picture, probably because there is no towpath access to it. The sleeping drunk lying a few yards outside the basin said it all really. We turned around immediately and left without stopping. Our progress was hindered by rubbish wrapping itself around the prop and as soon as we reached the Ricoh arena again we stopped to remove the plastic bags and a dress that had become entangled. We were glad that we had taken the time to make this trip but despite the work done at the canal terminus, we won’t be back. In a round trip of nearly twelve miles we saw less than half a dozen boats on the move, less than half a dozen in the canal basin, two moored near Tesco Arena and three permanent moorings with shutters over their windows for protection. Maybe there can be hope for the canal trip into Coventry but it will take a lot of investment and development like the area around Electric Wharf before the city can entice more boaters to travel to the end of this particular cul-de-sac. After taking on water at Hawksbury, we overtook a Rose narrowboat whose captain was probably only then in his third hour of experience, and it showed. Another hour and we were back on the Ashby. Sue sent a text to Rob and Liz to find out how they were doing, the reply came back that they are just beyond Atherstone and they have met a couple who know us. We moored up near Nutts Lane and made a short visit to the house at three o’clock. By quarter past four we had been to the shop and were casting off again. The forecast high winds were really blowing, but still no rain. We found a mooring near Stoke Golding, secured the ropes and then the rain began, good timing or maybe just good luck? After taking a shower and getting ready to sit down for the evening it is noticeable just how blowy it really was but with four mooring pins, the boat is as steady as a rock.
Day 15, Friday 27th June
It seems to make no sense to describe these, the last few days of our holiday, as a winding down period. To do so would suggest that the previous days had been hard work, which they hadn’t. Now that we were back on our home canal it’s fair to say that we were just taking it easy, visiting places just because they are there and not because they are en-route to somewhere else. We didn’t set off until half past eight, planning to stop for breakfast at Market Bosworth. It was eleven o’clock when we tied up and had a hearty cooked breakfast. We walked up to the town and did a bit of shopping including the difficult task of buying a postcard depicting the local area. Eventually we tracked one down, lying behind the counter of the local Newsagents, admittedly after I had been in and declared it to be postcard free. The card was written over a drink at the Black Horse and posted on the way back to the boat. We set off again at half past one, this time heading for Shackerstone, a destination we reached by three o’clock soon after the rain started. The weather looked like it had closed in for the day but we still managed a walk up to the station on the preserved Battlefield line. After dinner we carried out some more ”research” by visiting the local pub, the Rising Sun. It is a traditional village pub selling a variety of ales and after a couple of games of pool, we left to take a walk around the local churchyard opposite. One of the gravestones has a tragic inscription remembering how in March 1965 an eight year old girl lost her life as she tried, unsuccessfully, to save her ten year old brother after he had fallen through the ice. Afterwards, we discuss this tragic event as we reflect on another day on board the PhoenixIII.
Day 16, Saturday 28th June
Another late-ish start saw us setting off at half past nine, first of all to the turning point just past bridge 53 and then back towards Congerstone, our next planned stop. The Phoenix really was heading home and we got moored just past bridge 47 an hour later. After breakfast and a shower, we made the short walk to Horse and Jockey and arrived just after midday. The pub had recently acquired new management and really looked good. There is a restaurant, a comfortable lounge, a bar with a pool table and an outside area too. After reading the papers over a drink, we left, declaring the Horse and Jockey to be one of the best that we have visited in the last two weeks. We were back on the boat by one o’clock and set off straight away reaching Market Bosworth an hour later. The sun was shining as we walked up “heart-attack” hill for the second time in twenty four hours and it seemed as if the road had been extended since the day before. We bought the Saturday papers before visiting Ye Olde Red Lion for some more research. We were not disappointed in our choice of hostelry and neither would a real ale enthusiast either. We were back on the boat for four o’clock and it was time to sit down with the realisation that the next day would be our last day.
Day 17, Sunday 29th June
We were in no hurry to get going since we were only three hours away from Hinckley. We travelled from Market Bosworth to Stoke Golding in two hours, arriving at eleven o’clock. There were quite a few boats out and about and we watched with some interest as one of the Ashby day boats got completely out of shape as they approached an oncoming Rose narrowboat with the result that the Ashby day boat ended up at right angles to the canal. After breakfast we worked out our options on how we should make the final leg of the journey. It was quite windy again and this might make our entry into the marina difficult if not impossible. We decided to assess the wind when we got to Hinckley and if it was too strong, we would pass by and moor outside until the morning. Shortly after we set off we saw our friend Sam and her boyfriend on board their boat Mamta which has the adjacent berth to us in the marina. With them out of the way and the fact that they had managed to get out, no doubt because they had the extra room created by our absence, we were confident that we would get back into our berth in the trinity marina. We were right and by quarter past one, we had tied the Phoenix III up for the last time on this particular trip. After walking home, we returned a couple of hours later to clear our stuff off the boat so that we could start preparing for the next time.
The main problem with owning a narrowboat and still having to go to work, is of course that most of the time you are limited to weekend trips. We knew this before we bought Phoenix III and recognised the fact that it may prove limiting. In actual fact it’s not bad at all but that’s because this part of the canal system is virtually lock free if you ignore the small stop lock at Hawksbury. A weekend trip could take you to Rugby, Coventry, Atherstone or Snarestone at the top of the Ashby canal without any great effort and without being held up in a flight of locks.
Friday afternoon saw us leaving Hinckley just after three o’clock, the wind was gusting a bit and exiting the marina wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been but we made it in the end. Our destination was Atherstone but unlike on previous trips, we had the advantage of having more daylight hours to cruise in. At this time of year, there is a lot to see on the canal, all of the trees, bushes and plants are green and growing furiously as they take advantage of the ever increasing hours of sunshine, the warm temperatures and the heavy showers that are present in April, May and June. There are many familes of ducks and swans, all boasting broods of between four and eight offspring. They all love bread of course so we do our bit to feed the hungry mouths.
By seven thirty, we are ready to tie up. We are near to Springwood Haven, near Nuneaton, home of Valley Cruises. This hire company, like the Ashby Boat Co. and Rose Narrowboats keep their boats in immaculate condition unlike some that we have seen. It is going to be around nine o’clock before dinner is ready so we play some music, sing a bit and have a dance in the boat. DANCE? WHY? You might ask, well why not?!
One of us, no names, no pack drill, fell asleep before ten o’clock so it was an early night for both of us. This was alright except that we both awoke around half past four the following morning, when we had the so called pleasure of listening to the dawn chorus. Eventually one of us, again no names mentioned, dropped off and slept like a log, a log that was being cut up with a chainsaw by the sound of things.
Eventually it was the proper time to get up and after breakfast, we completed the trip to Atherstone in about an hour and a half. Travelling between ten and two on a Saturday is the best time because all of the hire boats have made their last mad dash back to base and the new hirers have yet to take the helm. By the time we reach our destination, the sun is shining and temperature is rapidly rising. After securing our mooring near bridge forty, we dump our rubbish and walk down the towpath beside the locks. We chat to a couple who are ascending the locks and discover that although they live at Hillmorton near Rugby and have a business restoring vintage diesel engines at Braunston, their boat is moored in Hinckley Wharf, not too far from where we live and Phoenix III is berthed. After doing a bit of shopping on the main street of Atherstone, we popped into the Red Lion Hotelwhere we shared a bottle of wine as we read the papers in the conservatory ~ very nice! After an hour or so (who knows? who’s counting anyway?) we returned to the boat for dinner, a delicious menu including lamb shank for the main course followed by bread and butter pudding purchased from Nineteengales farm shop. After dinner, we felt duty bound to do a pub review and decided to walk to the “Bridge & Barge “ nearby. It was closed so we ended up back in the Red Lion again, this time for a coffee and a glass of cider. Back to the boat where we fed the ducks, watched the sun go down and then turn in for the night.
Sunday morning proved to be overcast and not as warm as the previous day so we decided that we would change our usual pattern and set off immediately. We turned around at Atherstone top lock and were on our way for half past eight. We cruised for about an hour and stopped near The Anchor pub, just after British Waterway’s yard at Hartshill. Unfortunately, a succession of passing boats, some of which were travelling too fast, caused our rear mooring pin to become dislodged and as I came out of the shower, Sue realised what was happening and we had to quickly secure the boat again. After breakfast, Sue claimed that she was still traumatised by the event and as a result felt the need to have a glass of port, despite the fact that it was only eleven thirty! (Note the word claimed!).
After a short walk back to the road where we checked out the location of the pub, we returned to the boat, untied and set off again. Other than the fact that there are more moving boats to pass and fewer moored ones than in winter, the two hour trip back to Marston Junction is without incident. Sue disappears into the galley to prepare Sunday lunch; roast beef, roast spuds, veg and yorkshire pudding. If our timing is right, we should be sitting down to this feast around three o’clock somewhere near the Lime Kilns and only half an hour from home.
In the event, it is about ten past three when we moor just before the A5 bridge near the Lime Kilns, normally when we pass through this section, Sue’s nose starts to itch presumably there is something growing in one of the adjacent fields that she is allergic to. Anyway, this time she is unaffected, maybe because her nostrils, like mine are filled with the smell of the aforementioned Sunday roast dinner.
Despite the fact that we have done this trip a couple of times before, it has been different this time. Longer days have allowed us to stop in different places and the changing of the seasons has allowed us to observe nature at work.
After dinner, we rest a while before making the final leg of the journey back to the marina. There is hardly any wind so berthing the boat, stern first is no problem. A quick clear up and then we head for home, refreshed and tired after our weekend trip to Atherstone. Our next trip will be in two weeks time when we go out for a fortnight on a holiday for two weeks -destination Oxford.
After last week’s grueller, we decided to get back out on Friday afternoon with a relaxing cruise. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the low twenties when we left Hinckley and turned towards the top of the Ashby. We tied up two hours later by bridge thirty five and had dinner, a couple of pizzas! Saturday morning brought more sunshine and after breakfast we chugged on to Market Bosworth, just an hour away. After tying up we walked up the hill into the village, did some shopping and then we found our way to the patio at the back of the Black Horse. After a couple of drinks, we headed back to the canal, calling at The William IV pub on the way, purely in the interest of consumer reasearch. Happily both hostelries have passed the test and are worthy of future visits. After we get back to the boat, we start to wash her down, getting rid of the dust and bird muck that has accumulated over the last few weeks. We soon get talking to Dave and Margaret who own a boat which is moored a short distance away. Their boat is styled on the old working boats of the Grand Union and is superbly finished. Dave demonstrates a polish that he uses by rubbing it on our boat, what a finish! We will be taking his advice and wise words when we get our boat repainted. Eventually we turn in for the night after watching a bit of Saturday evening television. Easy start on Sunday, shower, breakfast, set off for the next winding hole, pass Dave polishing his engine. Turn around, through Market Bosworth and down to Stoke Golding. It is important that we review the Stoke Golding pubs so we tie up just after bridge 28 and walk into the village. First stop the White Swan, clean, friendly, good selection of beers, lovely garden. On to the Three Horseshoes, no beer garden so not reviewed this time. Next door into The George & Dragon (too many obvious jokes to mention). Beer garden is part of the car park so just ok, good choice of beers, looks clean but a big jar of dog biscuits on the bar, presumably other snacks are available! So it looks like the White Swan wins but we call in on the way back just to make sure .
Back to the boat and a bowl of pasta for lunch eaten on the benches next to the canal. It is now getting on for three o’clock so we untie and head back for the marina. The weather has been glorious and I have a new name for Susan on account of the colour that she is now turning – “Pikey Sue “. All too soon and we are back, it is a bit windy in the marina but nothing serious, we tie up, clear the rubbish out and walk home. The weekend has been just as we planned it, easy going, plenty of sunshine and fresh air and we are back home refreshed and relaxed. Perfect!
Friday The forecast is good for the Bank Holiday weekend, so we are off! Leaving Hinckley just after two o’clock, we head for Marston Junction, destination Ansty. As we pass The Limekilns pub, we see Jim sitting at one of the garden tables near his boat. He asks us where we are going and we tell him that we are hoping to reach Napton, he tells us that he is heading in the opposite direction, up the Ashby to Shackerstone. We pass “Little England” but there is still no sign of the owner. The journey to Marston Junction is pleasantly uneventful in the afternoon sunshine. As we approach Hawksbury we are aware of a cruiser behind us which is getting closer by the minute, we are on tickover as we pass moored boats on both sides so it will have to wait. Round the corner and through the stop lock and then it starts to rain but we press on anyway, Ansty is only an hour away. The rain only lasted for twenty minutes or so but we have to change plans when we see that there are no mooring places free at Ansty. We carry on for another hour and a half before finding suitable moorings near bridge 26 which is about a mile away from Stretton stop. The time is now just after seven thirty so we have some dinner and a drink and then watch the sunset from the rear deck before retiring for the evening.
Saturday The sun is shining already as we have breakfast before setting off at half past eight. Through Stretton stop and past Rose narrowboats twenty minutes later, we pass Ian Birks on board nb “Nobby” before we reach Newbold on Avon. A few minutes later and we are beyond the furthest point that we have previously cruised to. The canal runs around the outskirts of Rugby before reaching the locks at Hillmorton. We take on water before negotiating the locks and Sue starts chatting to the crew of the boat in front, ten Australian girls who have hired for the weekend. They say that it has taken three hours to get here from Rugby and as they pull away towards the locks, it is easy to see why! At the first lock, Sue meets Ben who offers to assist us up the flight. Teenager Ben explains that he has been fascinated by the canal and the locks for years. He helps people through the locks and by being rewarded financially has raised hundreds of pounds for charity. We are grateful for his help and tell him that we will see him the next day on our way back. The weather is still good, bright, some cloud cover and warm. The canal soon opens up into the long straight stretch at Barby, a few bends then straight-ish for a while before approach Braunston. We have been to Braunston a few times by road and walked along past the marina, however today we will be turning before then on to the Grand Union (Oxford section). We reckon it should take about two hours to reach Napton Junction so we expect to be there before six. We pass a lot of moored boats near Braunston and then it is out in the open again. The sky is darkening and pretty soon it starts to rain heavily, we are still about an hour from Napton but with the length of time we have already been travelling today and the fact that there was no compelling reason to get to Napton, we decide to tie up for the night just beyond bridge 102. The rain only lasts for an hour so after dinner we sit out on deck again, thank goodness we have a boat with a cruiser stern.
Sunday After a solid night’s sleep we have breakfast and set off for the turning point at bridge 107. It is windy today, as forecast but the turning point is very exposed and as soon as we turn into the winding hole, the wind just takes us sideways. After a couple of minutes being heavy handed on the throttle, the boat comes around and we are off again. The trip back is fairly uneventful, we are encountering more traffic today but nothing serious. A few light-hearted moments when we encounter an oncoming boat under a bridge on a bend when Sue tells the helmsman that his friends sitting at the front of the boat had said that the encounter had been his fault because he was inexperienced! He took it in good part and agreed that it was because he had only been doing it for thirty five years! Ben helped Sue through the locks again which was much appreciated and we then head back for our next stop which we have decided is going to be Newbold again. We have been here before of course during the winter months and we are looking forward to mooring early enough to take a walk to the shops and sample the local pubs. After collecting some groceries from the Co-op we head towards the first of the local hostelries, take one look in and turn around. Next on the now shortened tour is the Barley Mow. It looks a bit more promising so we buy a couple of drinks which are very expensive and sit outside on the terrace. Soon we are joined by a group of youths having a playful fight which is rapidly getting out of control. Another customer then says hello but he is a weird character so we finish our drinks and return to the boat. The boat behind us is owned and occupied by Amy and her dog Dylan. Dylan is a collie who was rescued and just wants to play. Amy it would seem has rescued herself from her own entrapment and just wants a peaceful life. We spend half an hour chatting and throwing sticks for Dylan while having a glass of wine before we have our evening meal. As for Newbold on Avon, we are disappointed and will not be hurrying back.
Monday The last day of our journey dawns bright and clear and we head for home, it will be full day’s cruise from here but the sun is out and the forecast is for the same all day. By the time we get to Hawksbury we are tiring, a combination of the long hours we have been cruising and the exposure to the sun is making us give consideration to the idea of stopping now and finish our journey in the morning. In the event, we push on. As we get into the last half an hour of our trip, we catch up with another, smaller boat travelling quite slow. This isn’t a problem since we are passing a lot of moored boats, with two boats behind us we now have a convoy. Entering the stretch between the Limekilns and Nutts lane, the boat in front speeds up a little but is not doing much more than we are doing on tickover. With such a short distance to go to the marina there is no point in attempting to pass it. The boat owner behind has different ideas and signals that he wishes to pass and as he draws up alongside he mutters something about sitting behind the slowcoach in front. A few seconds later and he starts to drop back, presumably he grounded himself in the shallows. Anyway the convoy continued with the boat in front also turning into the marina before us. We are both shattered and agree that we will need to be more realistic with the hours that we cruise in future.
We had decided not to go out on the boat this weekend because the forecast had been for cold days and freezing nights. Sue had the makings of a stinking cold brewing up so the prospect of a chilly weekend on the canal wasn’t so appealing. Saturday brought unbroken sunshine and after a lazy start to the day we went to find a farm shop at Stoke Golding, a village just a few miles away from Hinckley. After buying some meat from the shop, Sue suddenly declared herself fit and suggested that we go straight home, pick up a few bits and bobs and aim to get out on the cut by two o’clock. In the event we were heading north on the Ashby by ten to two, enjoying the fresh air and warm sunshine. There are still very few people out on their boats at this time of year but we soon saw Jim, one of our mates from the marina, heading in the opposite direction. An hour later and we passed a boat selling coal and diesel to boats which are permanently moored near to Stoke Golding. The boat, an old working boat was piloted by a dreadlocked hippy bloke. I did consider trying to barter with him, offering a bar of soap for a bag of coal but decided against it because although I would know what to do with the coal, the middle-aged soap-dodger would not have known what to do with his side of the bargain!
One of the good things about narrowboats is that each one is different, no mass produced stuff here, I’m pleased to say! As a result, every boat passed gets checked out in the few moments that it takes to pass. Some boats are unremarkable it’s true, however there’s always something to look at; the colours, the style, the signwriting and so on. As we approached Sutton Cheney Wharf, two hours from Hinckley we spotted a beautifully painted boat, deep red with cream contrast. As we passed, we noted the name, “Nobby “, I suddenly realised that this was the name of the boat belonging to one of the regular contributors to Canal Boat Magazine, the latest copy of which, we had on board. A quick check later revealed that the boat belonged to Ian and Allison Birks who travel the canal system on a permanent basis.
The third and final hour of our journey to Market Bosworth saw the temperature drop quite dramatically as the sun started to set. We took on water before finally mooring near the turning point just outside the village. We had been running the central heating for the whole of the trip so it did not take too long to heat the cabin fully once the fire had been lit. The rump steak that we had bought at the farm shop earlier was as tender as fillet steak and with some home made chips, a fried free range egg and some mushy peas, believe me, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The heating had been set to fire up if the cabin temperature dropped below 12 degrees, the outside temperature was probably about minus six so the heating was on for most of the night. We got up about eight o’clock, revived the fire and had a cup of tea before showering. We could see that the canal was frozen over but we were as warm as toast and with the sun now shining we set off and walked the three quarters of a mile uphill to Market Bosworth. Apparently boaters have christened this hill, “Heart Attack Hill “. The sunshine and the brisk walk meant that the cold temperature went unnoticed. Market Bosworth is a lovely little place and somewhere that we have visited and eaten in before. Today, however saw us visiting the paper shop and the local co-op before walking back downhill to the boat. After a leisurely breakfast we turned around and headed back for Hinckley. The boat that had moored in front of us the night before had already used the winding hole and had, with some difficulty, broken up the thick ice on the surface of the water. It was almost midday when we got properly underway but with the sun not setting until about 5.30, we knew we had plenty of time to make the three and a quarter hour journey.
Despite the fact that we had set off about fifteen minutes after our overnight neighbour, we caught him up about half an hour later, he was making heavy weather of the ice but we figured that it was better to slow down and let him do all of the hard work, rather than pass him and take on the role of ice-breaker. The ambient temperature was about five degrees but because we were facing the sun, the day was very pleasant indeed. We saw many people walking, particularly between Bosworth battlefield and Sutton Cheney. At one point, when we had caught up with Captain Icebreaker and I was watching some ducks skating on the thick ice, I wondered why I couldn’t attract Sue’s attention. When I turned around I saw that she was closely watching a couple walking their dog along the towpath. “It’s him “, she said, “The bloke from the magazine “, she continued. The slow progress of Icebreaker meant that we were travelling slower than the pedestrians but the man and his dog certainly resembled the cartoon image printed in the magazine and they were heading in the right direction. We spotted Nb Nobby as we left Sutton Cheney wharf and could see Ian’s dog and then the man himself as we got nearer. Everyone says hello to everyone else on the canal, and that is a good thing, a return to values now seemingly lost in this country. The owner of “Nobby “ was polishing something as we passed by and probably only expected to exchange pleasantries with some passing boaters. Perhaps he was surprised when Sue first of all complimented him on his latest magazine article, telling him that it been the reading material of that morning. On asking whether his picture looked anything like him, she then told him that he was much better looking than that and as his grin broadened, she told him how fabulous his boat looked. And then we were gone, motoring on down towards Hinckley.
Taking your own boat down the canal when there are people out walking the towpath is great fun. Everyone says hello or waves to you, they smile and there is a general feeling of happiness. Perhaps they have a little daydream about owning their own boat, perhaps not but do they know that the boating fraternity call them “Gongoozlers “? As we pass under a bridge near Stoke Golding it is our turn to be told that we have a nice boat by some teenagers and that makes us feel good too.
A little further on and Sue spotted a terrapin that has perished in the freezing water. We had been told that there were terrapins in the canal, presumably pets abandoned by bored owners. Most of the year they probably can survive but they are not native to these shores and it is a great shame that they are left to fend for themselves in this inhospitable environment.
Half past three sees us back at the marina and we decide to diesel the old girl up so that the next departure will be a quick one. The freezing weather has meant that the water has been turned off to the pontoons, so the residents are having to replenish their supplies by travelling to the edge of the marina – result? A traffic jam in the marina!
There is little wind today so the navigation back into our berth is easy, as usual Jim is out to take the front rope and bring us in. How does he know that we are there? dunno! After we clear the boat out, we sort out a small bag of peat and present it to Jim to burn in his fire. I’m sure that he will appreciate it, burning peat produces such a wonderful aroma.
And that’s it, another weekend on the water, done at short notice. The fuel cost for both this trip and last week’s jaunt to Atherstone was only £20, not bad considering that the diesel is used for heating as well.
The forecast is showing good clear weather for Saturday and light rain for Sunday. We decide that we will go to the end of the Ashby canal today and back tomorrow, stopping overnight in either Snarestone at the top of the canal or Shackerstone on the way back. We go to the marina for 8am and while I check the water and oil, switch on the immersion heater and set the fire, Sue cooks us up a delicious cooked breakfast. At 9am we chug out of the marina and head in a north easterly direction towards the top of the Ashby. We have gone partially in this direction twice before, but never all the way. The canal passes between a Tesco distribution centre and the Triumph motorcycle factory before it is bounded on both sides by open countryside. After bridge 21 there are a number of boats in a private mooring, the first turning point is just after bridge 22, only 45 minutes from the marina. The next time we see boats is soon after when we encounter the home of the Ashby boat company with its hire fleet, resplendent in its red and cream livery. On to Sutton Cheney wharf with the Bosworth battlefield on the right hand side of the canal. The tea is flowing well until we reach Market Bosworth, when at midday it seems fitting with the sun firmly over the yard-arm to have a glass of wine. Do narrowboats have yard-arms? Of course not but it seems like a good excuse. All too soon we reach Shackerstone where the canal crosses a river and brushes close to the preserved Battlefield Line Railway. We reckon that it will be about another hour before we reach the end of the canal at Snarestone. We pass some more private moorings just outside Shackerstone including one with a sign on the bank proclaiming that it belongs to PhoenixIII. Was this a previous mooring for our boat? Or is there another PhoenixIII out there somewhere?
Shortly afterwards, the engine stops for no apparent reason, the first time since we bought the boat. Although this is a concern, it cranks over and starts again after a few minutes. We carry on without trouble until we reach the 250 yard tunnel at Snarestone. We have no trouble in the tunnel but the engine proves troublesome when we turn round at the end of the canal, not exactly welcome since the wind has strengthened and the tight turn is made more difficult by the positioning of some privately moored boats. We tie up briefly to check the boat before venturing back into the tunnel. Everything seems in order so we pass through the tunnel under the village of Snarestone before mooring up close to The Globe, the village pub. Needless to say it seems rude not to visit the aforementioned hostelry and we are not disappointed. The pub is in new hands, we get a friendly welcome and enjoy a couple of drinks in front of the open fire in the lounge, good luck to the new owners!
Just after four o’clock, before darkness falls, we return to the boat, light the fire and have dinner. We have moored near the tunnel mouth and as a result cannot get television reception so we settle down to watch some dvd’s from our collection before turning in for the night.
We’re awake about 7.30 and get washed and dressed before breakfast, another “full english “. I make a mental note to check out what a “full english “ actually entails and decide to compare the “full english “ with the “full scottish “ and the “full irish “.
We set off just after 9am all goes well, we pass a group of miserable fishermen and just as we clear their little group, the engine dies. We get it started again but it dies after another 25 minutes. This pattern continues until we reach Market Bosworth at which point we tie up, have a cup of tea and decide what to do. The options are to either try and limp back to Hinckley or get a taxi back from Market Bosworth and get someone out to look at the problem. After another cup of tea we decide to press on and try and get the old girl back home. The engine conked out pretty much every twenty minutes or so all the way back, the added complication of the strong wind meant that it was a difficult trip with the boat being grounded on more than one occasion. Eventually we made it back to the trinity marina, the strong wind made it difficult to get back on the berth but we did it in the end.
There is no doubt that we have to sort out the engine problem that we have, it’s probably the fuel but we will get the engine serviced and take out RCR cover, the canal equivalent of the AA.
We had hoped to be able to take the Phoenix out for Christmas, however an unexpected heavy cold threatened the trip. Saturday morning and feeling slightly better, we decided to venture out. Most of the provisions were already on the boat so by 10am we were ready to go. Two days earlier we had drained the water tank, only to discover that due to a frost we were unable to replenish the supply on the berth. As a result we had to fill the tank at the same time as we filled the diesel tank and so it was nearer to eleven when we finally got underway.
At this time of year, unsurprisingly, the canal is very quiet and we made the journey to Marston Junction in the usual two hours. Another hour brought us to Hawksbury Junction which was negotiated with ease. We decided that we would tie up at Ansty, which we did at around 3pm. Within minutes of mooring, the heavens opened and that was us in for the rest of the day.
Sunday morning and it feels quite cold, a glance out of the window reveals that the canal is frozen over. The ducks are skating around and as we throw them some bread, the results are quite funny. Fortified with a cooked breakfast, we decide to press on, break some ice around the bow and then set off. The sound of the ice breaking is terrific, not what you might expect at all. Rather than a smashing sound, the ice parts in front of the boat, but the sound is a shrill one from where the ice meets the banks of the canal. This continues for a couple of hours until we meet another boat breaking ice in the opposite direction. Although the boat has handled almost as well as under normal conditions, once we hit water where the ice has already been broken, the passage is much easier. There is a freezing fog which the sun is unable to burn off and as a result, cruising is not the most pleasant of experiences. We come to the decision that we will not travel further than Newbold on Avon. We know that there are moorings near the village, so we manage to get tied up just after one o’clock. Originally we had hoped to go further on this trip but to do so now would take the fun away, we will turn around in the morning and head back.
Today is completely different, warmer and clear, if a little cloudy. We turn around at the next winding hole and then re-fill the water tank, it’s amazing how much we have used in just two days. The provisional plan is to return to Ansty, however the canal is so quiet and the weather kind enough that we press on and eventually moor near bridge three on the Ashby. The journey has been pretty uneventful except when we saw the Welsh cheese boat, in hindsight we should have stopped and bought some but it was getting dark and I’m sure that we will encounter them again in the future.
The shock of yesterday’s events is still with us but by midday we are back at the marina to clear the boat out. Everything is different, the sun is shining and there are a lot of people milling about. When we unlock the boat, it looks like the Marie Celeste must have done to the people who found it abandoned with dinner plates left on the table still with the remnants of yesterday’s meal. Thirty minutes later and the boat is clear, clean and tidy. We bump into the unofficial lifeguard and present him with a nice bottle of 12 year old single malt. A little embarrassed and releuctant to accept, we feel that he realises how grateful we are for his help.