When we looked at the weather on Thursday morning and saw that we were to expect rain and high winds on Friday and Saturday, we decided to make the best of the weather and head for home.
It was nine o’clock when we got underway, later than we would have been had we been planning to travel but still early enough to get some distance behind us. We weren’t alone, it seemed like fifty percent of the boats in Braunston had decided to leave the area at the same time so there was the usual chaos at bridges, water points and of course at the junction. The traffic soon settled down as we got out into the open countryside and although there were plenty of boats on the move, we encountered no problems and reached the locks at Hillmorton just two hours later. A sufficient number of boats and lock keepers meant that we cleared the three locks in forty minutes before pulling on to the water point. The great progress that we had made thus far was wiped out by the slow running water tap, taking almost an hour to fill Caxton’s tank. By the time we set off again, the sun was beating down and the temperature was soaring with just a light breeze blowing to keep things bearable. No mooring space at Rugby and nothing really suitable at Newbold although we did tie up temporarily before the tunnel for a shopping stop at the local Co-op. We were on our way again just after three and had decided to aim for somewhere between Ansty and Hawkesbury. Sue took the helm for a few hours to give me a break and we had a great afternoon. The miles and hours flew by as we listened to music in the afternoon sunshine. We passed through Ansty and sort of forgot that we should have been looking for a mooring spot, suddenly we were at Hawkesbury and had to stop for the shallow lock there. Safely and smoothly around the 180 degree turn in front of the Greyhound pub where the outdoor customers always take an interest in boats in the hope that there will be a mistake made. Their heads automatically turn towards the water but soon turn back again when they realise that there is no entertainment for them. Clouds were starting to build and the sun was getting lower in the sky by the time we turned at Marston junction on to the Ashby canal. Finally, we stopped and tied up just before bridge three, had something to eat and then flopped in our chairs for the evening. Our twenty six mile trip with its six locks had taken us ten hours, an average of three lock miles per hour – not bad going at all.
The rain came overnight, the heaviest being just before five o’clock but it had slowed to no more than a steady drizzle by the time we awoke on Friday morning. I got up and dressed at half past seven, Caxton’s engine burst into life fifteen minutes later and we were off. The cabin door opened a few minutes later and a coffee appeared, a short while later the door opened again and this time a bacon sandwich was thrust into my hand with the promise of another when I was ready. As expected, the trip back to Hinckley was quiet enough with only a handful of boats on the move, partly due to the time of day and partly down to the rain. We were back on our berth in the marina before ten o’clock and back home a short time later. Two hours of rain in two weeks is a pretty good result and we were glad that we made the long trip on Thursday because it has rained all day today.
Last night, after dinner, we walked along the towpath to the next bridge and then walked up the main street of Newbold on Avon before settling for the evening. By nine o’clock we were both yawning and by ten we had turned in for the night. We were up and on our way by seven this morning and as we left, it looked like everyone else was having a Sunday lie in. Our early start paid off and we met nothing as we ticked over through the usual pinch points at Brownsover and Clifton Cruisers. In fact we only met two oncoming boats before we reached Hillmorton although that would soon change. The locks were all in our favour and we left the last one at nine o’clock so we were well on our way to Braunston. It took just under two and a half hours to reach our destination and along the way we met around thirty boats, many of them in convoy including three at the bridge by Willoughby Wharf which caused us to have to pull over and wait. Our final encounter was under the first A45 road bridge, well where else would it be? No harm done as both boats were travelling slowly and we backed up to let the American crew ease through. Once around the corner and as expected, we pretty much had our pick of the moorings so we’ve tied up opposite the Boathouse pub although we’re not planning to pay it a visit.
Once again it’s been a beautiful day, albeit a little windier than yesterday so again we sat on the front deck for a while and watched the boats go by. It’s been so busy with boats coming and going, some stopping temporarily, many just passing through but by five o’clock it’s starting to quieten down. Mooring here is the boating equivalent of pitching up a caravan on the hard shoulder of the M1 so after lunch on board we decided to go for a walk in the afternoon sunshine. We walked along the towpath past the marina and up to the third lock where the Admiral Nelson stands before turning back along the roadway up to Braunston village. After a stop at the village shop for a few essentials, we walked downhill to the canal and re-boarded our floating home where we took up residence on the front deck again. It’s been no surprise that the pub has been busy all afternoon on this sunny August Sunday and although there has been a constant background noise drifting over on the wind, it has all added to the ambience.
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.