We awoke this morning and changed our travel plans, electing to revert to plan A and go aimlessly south. Caxton’s engine burst into life just before eight o’clock and we made our way to the winding hole beyond Springwood Haven where we turned tail and headed back toward Nuneaton. The entire day has been a typically beautiful summer’s day with light winds, blue skies and white fluffy clouds overhead. Just under two hours later and we were passing the entrance to the Ashby canal at Marston junction. A few minutes later and we had the Charity dock in our sights. We had just cleared the corner when we spotted a Valley Cruises boat coming towards us, no problem since both boats were going straight and there was plenty of room to pass. With approximately three boat lengths between us, Sue said, “Here’s a panicker”. I thought the remark to be a bit harsh since the hire boat was behaving perfectly. Thirty seconds later and the steerer was turning towards us and the angle was getting sharper as she pushed the tiller in the wrong direction – panic really had set in. Fortunately, we were only in tickover but despite full revs in reverse and managing to get Caxton moving backwards, the oncoming boat still hit us. With the two boats moving in the same direction, the impact was minimal but still noisy and the only damage done was to the pride of the young lady steering.
After all that excitement, we carried on to Hawkesbury junction where we turned on to the North Oxford, no stop off at The Greyhound today. It’s probably a year since we last travelled this way so it was an enjoyable trip as we covered familiar waters, noting changes to the landscape as we went. There was a light but steady stream of boats coming in the opposite direction but although we knew that were boats in front and behind, they were out of sight for most of the time so didn’t trouble us. The perfect boating conditions continued through Ansty and on to Stretton stop, along the way we got a blast on the horn from a freight train and a friendly wave from the driver as he headed north on his journey. Eventually we reached Newbold tunnel, sadly it is no longer illuminated as it once was – maybe it is too costly to maintain. Once through the tunnel and under the bridge by the Barley Mow, we were pleased to discover that there was plenty of space on the Visitor moorings. We’ve tied on rings, the spacing isn’t ideal but it’s good enough. So from three o’clock we have been sitting in the shade of the front deck just watching the boats go past.
We didn’t travel very far today, retracing part of our trip yesterday as far as Marston junction and then on to Nuneaton where we have moored until Thursday so that we can sit out tomorrow’s storm. Today’s weather gave no hint of what is on its way and we enjoyed an excellent cruise under blue skies and sunshine. We only encountered one boat but that provided plenty of entertainment when it was driven at full speed into the bank on a right angled bend. The crew seemed unhurt with perhaps the only damage being done to the steerer’s pride. Once we had passed him it was easy to see what had happened, he had been blinded by the low sun and its reflection on the water’s surface and hadn’t seen that there was a bend!
We tied on the visitor moorings and after a shower, walked into town where we had lunch here at Saints Bar. Afterwards, we ambled back to the towpath where we have settled in for the evening on board Caxton.
After spending our fourth night in Trinity marina on board Caxton, it was time to get out on the cut. First of all though we had to say goodbye to our visitors, Sue’s son Brett, his wife Kerry and their two children. They had arrived on Sunday and stayed in our apartment overnight. They were just finishing breakfast when we got to the apartment so we chatted with them for an hour before they set off and we walked back to the marina.
We were ready to start our trip just after midday and despite the strong wind, we managed to exit the marina and point Caxton in the direction of Marston Junction. The mild weather is continuing but the wind makes it chilly after a while. Luckily for me, Sue has bought me some new thermals and knitted a sort of polo neck capelet that can be worn under a coat which keeps my neck warm and draught free. Fully insulated, I was able to steer Caxton along the six miles of the Ashby canal that leads to the junction with the Coventry canal. We passed a handful of boats along the way including Mister Pip, skippered by one of our acquaintances, Phil. Two hours later and we reached the junction so Sue went to the front to look put for any traffic on the Coventry canal. We were in the narrow section approaching the bridge when the bow of a narrowboat came into view from the direction of Nuneaton, it was the unmistakable “Miner Bill ” with Ralph at the tiller. Ralph indicated to Sue that he was turning on to the Ashby and she signalled back that we intended to turn left. This turn can be interesting at the best of times with Caxton being 68 feet long but with a bit of wind and a misbehaving bow thruster it looked like a perfect nightmare was about to unfold. In the end it wasn’t too bad and we all ended up where we wanted to be. Nicki appeared, camera in hand and took these photos.
We pressed on and made our way to Hawkesbury. Along the way, Sue stoked the fire up with some peat but unfortunately this coincided with us entering the cutting that is the Bedworth straight. We were suddenly protected from the gusting wind that had been clearing the smoke from the chimney and now it was just drifting in the almost still air. After a few minutes of being smoked like a kipper, Sue returned to the fire and removed as much of the smouldering peat from the fire as she could. The smoke subsided pretty quickly after that and then a few minutes later we were out in the open again. The smoke still hung in the cutting behind us but we were breathing fresh air again!
We reached Hawkesbury just before half past three, winded under the bridge then found a mooring for the evening. Neither of us fancied the walk back to the Greyhound so we settled down and had a bowl of home made soup that Sue had made as we had travelled along.
It was cold and dull when we poked our heads out of Caxton on Easter Saturday. Across the way, the old dog that we had become acquainted with in the Greyhound the evening before had barked at every passing boat but was quite happy to watch us untie before we started our trip into Coventry.
We were away for nine o’clock on the two hour journey into Coventry’s canal basin. The route continues to be improved but we saw only a handful of people on the towpath and met no oncoming boats as we made our way into the City centre. Nevertheless, we arrived in the basin two hours later, turned around and reversed onto a mooring where we tied up for the day. After we had showered and changed, we had some soup and then headed off through the City in search of the local Hobbycraft store which we found half an hour later.
After Sue had raided the “Fat Quarter” shelf, we wandered back into town and visited “The Flying Standard “, one of the local Wetherspoons pubs. We called in Sainsburys on our way back to the basin and then we sat on the back deck in the late afternoon sunshine. We engaged in conversation with a group of Asian ladies who expressed an interest in our boat and Sue then showed two of them around the interior of Caxton. No sooner had they disappeared inside than I was approached by an Indian couple who asked if they could have a look inside our boat. Needless to say, we obliged and Susie the tour guide continued with her work! Soon enough we were left on our own and we retreated indoors for the evening and had ourselves a roast beef dinner before settling down.
As expected, it was damp and drizzly when we awoke on the morning of Good Friday but we had no intention of hanging around for the day so we got up and were underway by nine o’clock. We passed a few boats heading towards Snarestone for the Easter weekend event as we made our way to Hinckley. Sue nipped home for some cough medicine for me while I bought some diesel and coal at Trinity marina. We had a brief chat with old friend Jim who has had a winter mooring there before setting off again. We were photographed by the crew of a tug heading north who told us that the pic was one for the first owners, we presume that she meant Lesley and Joe so maybe our mugshots will appear on another blog somewhere. The drizzle persisted for a while but it wasn’t like travelling in the rain and eventually we reached Marston Junction at the end of the Ashby where we turned hard left.
Sue rustled us up some soup to keep us going until we reached our stopping place for the day, the seven day moorings on the approach to Hawkesbury junction. Along the way we had our photo taken again and later appeared on this guy’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/CanalSideArt?ref=ts&fref=ts
No sooner had we gone through all of the normal mooring procedures than the heavens opened, we had been lucky again with our timings but would there be a window of opportunity to nip to the Greyhound for a pint?
Of course there was, we toddled off down there during a dry spell and not only did we have a drink but we had haddock & chips too! Suitably appropriate fare for Good Friday.
By now you will have read from Sue’s posts that I am in a bit of a sorry state. Yes, I should have done what I was told and got to the dentist sharper than I did. I didn’t though and as a result had one of the roughest night’s non-sleep that I can remember.
Back to yeserday though, we left our mooring at the Hawkesbury engine house and after filling the water tank, made our way to Marston junction where we made the wide sweep necessary to gain access to the Ashby canal. This is only the second time that we have been along here in Caxton but it is a trip that we made many times on Phoenix III. After three hours travelling, we pulled up outside the Lime Kilns on the A5. After making my dental appointment, we walked home and then drove into Hinckley to do some shopping.
On returning to Caxton, we just hung around until it was time for bed. Sue prescribed some codeine tablets that she had for the pain that I had. I notice on her post that she says I was a bit spaced out. Far from it, the effect was horrible, how anyone gets addicted to them is beyond me and I’ll never take them again.
Anyway after the rough night, we went home again to kill time until the dental appointment and when we returned to Caxton, we set off again for the short hop to Stoke Golding where we have moored outside Nigel’s Ashby canal centre marina. As we tied up, another boat was doing the same just a little way in front of us, I suspect that it is nb Muleless by the look of the bow and ordinarily I would have gone to say hello as I read their blog but with having a badly swollen face and a bit of a miserable outlook today, I’m not in a sociable mood. Maybe tomorrow, if the swelling has subsided, we’ll see.
A number of working boats passed us by in the evening as they made their way to Shackerstone for the festival this weekend. Just before ten, we heard the unmistakable sound of a Bolinder engine, we could see his headlight but when it passed by it was too dark to identify the boat.
We had no complaints about our night in Coventry basin, it was very quiet indeed. We left our mooring at nine o’clock and made our way back to Hawkesbury junction in the glorious sunshine.
It was a lovely trip which ended when we found a mooring opposite the old engine house, a spot that we have been lucky enough to have occupied on a few previous occasions. It was just before midday and Sue offered to buy lunch at the Greyhound so it was difficult to refuse. We spent the next couple of hours eating, drinking and basking in the September sunshine at the waterside watching the boats go by. Eventually we had to call it a day and retire to the front deck of Caxton where we resumed our sitting in the sun and watching the boats going by.
We pronounced our Coventry trip a success and vowed to go again soon.
We were up reasonably early this morning and set off at eight o’clock. It had been raining but it was dry again when we left our mooring at Ansty. We pootled on along the North Oxford and with the exception of a solitary boat on the move near the M69, we were alone. Alone that was until we reached the last bend before the straight run to the stop lock at Hawkesbury junction. Who should we meet but Richard and Sharon on board Barnowl No. 12, Oakapple. Well it was a bit awkward being on that bend but with nothing else about we were both able to slow to a crawl and have an early morning conversation before going our separate ways. We read each others blogs so we knew where we both had been the day before, it was lovely to see you both again, no doubt our paths will cross again in the future. The steady beat of Oakapple’s engine faded into the distance as we made our way to the lock which happened to be in our favour. Nb Indulgence rounded the bend as we drained the shallow lock which meant that Sue was able to walk round to the service point and wait for Caxton and me.
Half an hour later with the rubbish dumped, the cassettes emptied and the water tank brim-full, we began our trip into Coventry. It started to rain, not heavy, just a steady drizzle and with it being reasonably warm with no wind it wasn’t unpleasant (note to Fiona – “Dry Rain”). Susan took up residence inside at my insistence, no point in us both getting wet I said but the rain didn’t stop until we reached the basin at Coventry.
The only craft that we saw on the water as we made our way into the city was a canoeist!
So what was the trip like, you may ask. Well I think that it was pretty good, the canal wends its way into the city in a convoluted sort of way but it’s strange because it’s lined by trees and parkland. You don’t see much in the way of industry, even the old Courtaulds site which was cleared a few years ago is gradually being taken over by weeds and wild plants. The towpath is of good quality, populated by the odd jogger, a few cyclists and one or two pedestrians. There is graffiti in places but nothing offensive, there are odd bits of flotsam and jetsam in the cut but nothing that is troublesome. If there is one criticism, it would be that there appears to be a complete lack of litter bins along the way, something that the City Council should be ashamed of. It’s noticable, not because there is lot’s of litter strewn everywhere but rather that some good citizens have hung carrier bags to gates along the towpath providing makeshift bins. Now I know that the answer is for everyone to take their litter home but in the absence of bins, it’s a solution of sorts.
As we approached the basin, we saw three kids on the towpath, only aged around ten or eleven but they were hurriedly collecting stones! We did what we normally do and engaged their interest, they dropped the stones and talked to us all of the way into the basin itself. The two boys and a girl were actually alright and maybe we were wrong to fear the worst, we chatted to them as we tied up and answered all of their questions. The three were desperate to see inside Caxton, Sue warned them that they shouldn’t ever get in a stranger’s car or boat. They reassured her that they knew the dangers of being kidnapped by paedos! Sue showed them through the boat while I chatted to the owner of the boat moored behind us. They were suitably impressed and then ran off to annoy another boater who had just arrived in the basin.
The Valley Cruises hire fleet is based in Coventry basin now and they occupy the left hand arm as you enter, despite appearances there is enough room to turn and reverse into the other arm which is what we did.
We walked into the city centre shortly after we arrived in the basin, we’re quite familiar with the place since we only live about 15 miles away so there were no surprises. We had lunch at a pub called The Establishment which used to be the old County Hall and Courthouse, it is reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in Coventry.
We wandered back through the old and new Cathedrals and took some pictures just in case you are one of the people who think that Coventry is just a bombed out city that was rebuilt using concrete in the fifties and sixties. There is a bit of that of course, but there is still a lot of history here too.
Coventry is also home to an excellent transport museum, it’s not far from the basin and the entry is free. We didn’t visit it today but we have been there many times before.
We didn’t take pictures on the way in because of the rain but hopefully we’ll get some tomorrow on our way back, in the meantime here are some pics from around Coventry City Centre.
We decided to bring the boat back to where we live at Hinckley last weekend and then we took her back this weekend in the company of our friends, Cliff and Liz. The adventure began on Saturday morning when we travelled by car to Braunston and headed off on to the North Oxford canal. The weather was glorious and we loved our cruise to Rugby where we stopped briefly to top up the water and make a short shopping trip to Tesco. We carried on and eventually moored between Ansty and Hawkesbury, benefitting from a clear satellite tv picture and a strong broadband signal.
Sunday brought another glorious day so we made our way to Hinckley and moored opposite the Limekilns on the A5. After tying the boat up we walked home and watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon – Hurray! We later returned to the boat and moved it on to the visitor moorings at Nutts Lane where we stayed for the evening. The following morning we walked back to the house and after a shower I went to work, later in the day Sue visited the Trinity marina and arranged a mooring for us for the rest of the week.
On Monday evening we made a trip up to bridge 22 before turning around and returning to the marina. Along the way we saw Treena from Carpe Diem waiting for her husband Stu to return to their online mooring outside the marina. Getting into our temporary berth was easy enough and after we had sorted ourselves out we just walked home.
The following Friday afternoon saw us leave the marina and start our journey to the boat’s home Braunston. We passed our old mate Jim near bridge 13 and then we saw Mamta Boy Lee near Bulkington a short while later. We were surprised to find that there were many spaces on the approach to Hawkesbury Junction and we availed ourselves of one of them before walking to the Greyhound where we had dinner. We decided to move on after dinner and following a short stop for water when we rounded the bend we made our way back to the place that we had moored the previous Saturday.
Saturday morning was yet another sunny one and we were on our way just after eight o’clock. We had a very enjoyable cruise in the summer sunshine and stopped again at Tesco Rugby where we stocked up for our meeting with Cliff, Liz and Lucy later in the day. After a short break we were on our way again and reached Hillmorton just before two o’clock. Cliff arrived on ‘Stonewall Jackson’ at half past five and we then all ate yet another of Sue’s delicious meals
Sunday morning was a bit of a lazy start for all of us and it was 9am before we ventured up the locks. With Liz crocked due to arthritis and Lucy generally disinterested, Sue worked both boats up through the Hillmorton flight in just under an hour. The run back to Braunston was a bit of a slog because we had a number of boats ahead but eventually we reached the marina just after midday. We walked back to the Boathouse pub where we met up with Cliff, Liz and Lucy who had walked from their mooring at bridge 89 and enjoyed a drink together. We left an hour later and returned to the boat before clearing our gear and driving home. Cliff and Liz are planning to go to Peterborough so we look forward to catching up with them at a later date.
So that was it, our trip from the boat home to our real home and back was over and we had enjoyed our time out on the cut along the way.