Monday, 24 September 2018

22-30 September: Rugeley to Fradley Junction and along the Coventry Canal to Coventry

Saturday 22 September: Rugeley to Fradley Junction and on to Hopwas (16 miles, 5 locks)
The weather forecast predicted rain later, two boats woke us up after 7AM, so John set off not too late and had breakfast en route. This familiar route is, nevertheless, always enjoyable. The winding hole is no longer weedy and neglected. Rugeley soon gave way to tree-lined canal to the interesting stretch through Brereton and Armitage: First, the Ash Tree Boat Club; sharp bend; moorings where we saw our friends' old boat Lady Patricia; the narrows through which Liana walked ahead and stopped an oncoming boat; the embankment by the Plum Pudding pub; winding overgrown bends to Armitage where the still-thriving toilet manufacturers loom over the canal; more narrows before the pretty gardens of Handsacre. The next three miles take you through shady, damp, wooded countryside, quietly past Kings Bromley Marina, the untidy old dairy and new little basin, then on to Woodend Lock, now looking good and basking in sun. We soon reached Shade House Lock, where a couple of boats set off down as we approached. Thus we realised there is only about 100 feet of lock mooring here, not enough for a busy lock with long term moorings close by. John hovered until our turn came, and kind volunteers chatted happily as we descended to the junction.
We needed the services below Junction Lock, so John turned right and reversed into this lock, to the interest of the volunteers. Once through, we reversed to moor outside the services and tearoom, emptying loo holding tanks and clearing the rubbish. The Fender Boat we had passed earlier did the same, so John took the chance to buy a pair of those 4 feet long fenders you hang horizontally, to use around the stern, plus replacement fenders.
Our volunteer saw us up Junction Lock again, saying he was glad John had found forward gear! Through the swing bridge, onto the Coventry Canal, we passed moored boats around the aerodrome, reaching yet more new housing spreading from Fradley. Streethay Wharf looked very busy, while the newish Orchard Marina is large and full of boats. Our boat club is earning good money from our unused mooring, so messaged us for a date of return! Huddlesford now has two massive railway bridges overhead as you approach, plus a number of boats moored along the canal now. Once through Whittington, we soon arrived at Hopwas and moored outside the Tame Otter. John listened to wifi radio commentary of the Liverpool match at the Red Lion, before making Spag Bog for tea. He had to wait for Match of The Day at 10.30 to see the goals!

Sunday 23 September: Hopwas to Fazeley Junction to Coventry Canal bridge 50 (8 miles, 2 locks)
Light rain gave us excuse for a slow start for the day. We chilled until the rain stopped, watching hardier souls pass by, setting off at 10AM with the sun fighting to get through the overcast sky. The quiet, wet, green and tree-lined canal was lovely to pass slowly through, with only the occasional oncoming boat. In the distance, tower blocks betray Tamworth's presence. Ubiquitous new housing development creeps along the canalside here, too, as you approach Bonehill, Peel's Wharf and Fazeley Junction. John bumped Annie as she passed through the narrow bridge hole leading East towards Glascote Locks, making Liana squeak! Watch the offside ledge!
The two Glascote Locks have side ponds which look serviceable, if paddles and gear are refurbished. Steve Hudson's base at Glascote is now run by Norton canes Boat Services and Heart of England Hireboats, after his untimely death. His legacy is floating around the system, namely, his very individually designed narrowboats, which often had distinctive double curved bows, heritage engines and boatman's cabins. We nearly bought one, but the engine noise gave Liana a headache!
Past numerous back gardens in warm sunshine but cool air, we soon passed Alvecote Marina, which contained loads of colourful wooden working boats, including Australia, as it is home to the Narrowboat Heritage Foundation.
Both Alvecote Priory and Pooley Hall are largely hidden by trees, but you can moor to investigate Pooley Park. The once overgrown and mysterious Pooley Colliery loading basin is now full of modern narrowboats in the shadow of the M42.
Once again we passed by Polesworth and St Helena: We really should have a look at these one day, but today we were enjoying the sun. John chose our mooring close by bridge 50, as it faced the western afternoon sun. We stopped early to enjoy the sun and chill. John did some window sanding, ready for a coat of classic Danish wood oil, as an experiment.
Monday 24 September: through Atherstone Locks to bridge 34 near Hartshill (5 miles, 11 locks)
What a gorgeous, cold but sunny morning, just as the weather forecasters promised! After crumpets and toast, we set off through the lovely countryside of the Coventry Canal, until we reached the first of the eleven Atherstone Locks. These come as three pairs at half mile intervals, followed by a thick of five locks up to the old Victorian coal yard, now filled with cars, not coal, sadly. At least there were flowers in the old office. Several volunteers were enjoying the sun, and helped us, plus the pleasant couple following us on NB Sonflower. Once up, we moored and walked along the town's Long Street, where there were plenty of decent local shops, not just charity shops. We lunched at The Wheatsheaf. The food was good. Atherstone has plenty of decent, local shops, and is worth a walk around. We decided to moor in the countryside, so moved Annie 1 ½ miles south to a pleasant country mooring by bridge 34, far enough from the railway for us to have an undisturbed night, apart from the interested bullocks who came over to see us in the evening sunshine.

Tuesday 25 September: on to the Ashby Canal (13 miles, 0 locks)
A cold night – John had to put on a jumper, but the beautiful, blue sky morning rewarded us. The sun warmed John, but the air was cold. Up late, we passed by the picturesque CRT yard at Hartshill, with its arched dock and clock tower. The moorings by the Anchor Inn looked worth trying on a future occasion. It's surprisingly pretty between Atherstone and Nuneaton, passing by old wharves, quarries and spoil heaps, all hidden by the burgeoning greenery. Nuneaton seemed pleasant in the sunshine, but we wanted to reach the Ashby Canal. The Griff Arm was still invisible behind the vegetation on a corner, as we left the town behind. The junction bridge and disused stop lock make the turn on to the Ashby Canal tight. The bridges here are lovely honey-coloured stone. The land is fairly level, with harvested fields empty but for stubble. The towpath has been quite well tended, with many hedges trimmed recently and grass short. While not exciting, John finds the scenery quietly pretty and relaxing, but Liana finds the samey view and lack of locks boring. There were a surprising number of boats coming towards us, not just Ashby Boats hire boats. The weather was so lovely that we kept going, through Hinckley, to a quiet country mooring near bridge 21. John sanded the boat pole ready for a coat of wood oil.

Wednesday 26 September: Bosworth Battlefield Centre and the Battlefield Line (8 miles, 0 locks)
We didn't wake up until after 9AM! This is allowed when you're retired. The sun was blazing in a blue sky, so after porridge and toast we navigated the gentle bends to Stoke Golding, passing Ashby Boats hire base and boatyard, then the larger Ashby Canal Centre Marina, both useful places for fuel, gas and repairs. The canal twists and turns to Sutton Cheney Wharf, which has a popular cafe with moorings, water point and rubbish bins.
We heard great news that our daughter Joanna's medical book has received excellent reviews from someone teaching at Harvard Medical School! Three clever, talented and characterful girls, lucky us! Also, my god daughter, Claire, has become engaged to her beau, Dave ….. sweet.
We moored just past this, on the recycled, rather warped plastic visitor mooring pontoon, then walked the ¾ mile through the woods to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre, well-equipped for the ninety schoolkids and teachers we found there, plus other folk. Cafe, shop, walks with information boards, museum (£8) plus re-enactments of mediaeval soldiery (not today, sadly) make this a decent place to visit: All praise to Leicestershire County Council. We asked for info about the Battlefield Railway and received it at the Tourist Information Centre there: We had time to walk back to Annie and cruise up to bridge 35, moor and make the short walk to Shenton Staion to catch the 1435 train. This we did, Liana insisting I walk more briskly, as this is better for me – cardiovascular exercise, I guess ….. Diesel trains run on Wednesdays, steam at weekends, but I think the twenty minute, five mile journey each way (£9 return pp) and half hour stop at Shackerstone added interest to our day. I enjoyed looking at the rolling stock, mostly needing renovation, and talking to the volunteers chipping rust off coaches and manning the train and station. We had cake and coffee, plus a visit to the bric-a-brac coach shop there, too, before returning to Shenton.
The bridge 35 mooring had been silted up, rather, but we could get within 40cm of the good steel piling. More use will help. The countryside was lovely in the warm afternoon sun, so we cruised towards and past Bosworth Wharf, which was full of boats, to a quieter country mooring with steel piling, the first we could find, a mile beyond, near bridge 44. John gave the wooden boat pole another coat of Danish wood oil. Liana cooked a tasty smoked haddock fishcake with sweetcorn and beans.
John listened on Radio 5 Live to Liverpool FC v Chelsea. Sadly, we lost :(

Thursday 27 September: on to Snarestone, the end of navigation and back (12 miles, 0 locks)
Cool,cloudy, with the sun peeping through, first thing. After scrambled eggs on toast, John set off. With the sun behind us as we headed North or North West, mainly, Liana shivered in the shade of the cratch, and kept popping to the back to soak up some sun. There were few boats moving, but plenty moored, as we passed through Shackerstone, The railway station was hidden by trees. Shackerstone Tunnel (250m) was brick faced and slightly wobbly, but nice for a change. Two boats met us at bridge holes (of course), which seemed to be on sharp bends. Through shaded cuttings, we saw plenty of herons watching for fish. Reaching bridge 61, we passed a workboat fixing the rubber/round post piling in position – and a boat arrived too! Continuing, we met an informative gentleman from the Ashby Canal Society , who operated the swing bridge by their tent and shop, at the position of the old terminus. Now we could continue several hundred yards to the new terminus beyond bridge 62, with its 52' winding hole. Backing back, we moored for tea and a walk to the nearby site of the viaduct we had just been told would be built soon, as ownership and funds were available , being transferred to the society from Leicestershire County Council. We walked up the canal, filled with pit spoil, but partly dug out, to the viaduct site, and could just see stone footings and a few feet of stonework down by the River Sence, from the adjacent road bridge. John spotted a pile of “Wilkes Gobs”, double sized bricks made by this canal promoter in the 1700s, when bricks were taxed, to speed up building and reduce tax. The filled in canal continues the short distance to Illot Wharf, which once supplied coal from the Minorca opencast mine and other mines around Measham. From here, we were told, they intend to take the canal through Measham along the route of the old railway line, which the Ashby Cannal Association now own.

After lunch, John reversed Annie back to the swing bridge, passed through, winded Annie, used the services and visited the Ashby Canal Association tent and shop. He bought an Ashby Canal plaque and mug, plus a book. After our chat with the ACA members, we decided to head back in the sunshine six miles to the same country mooring before Bosworth, passing a few oncoming boats and plenty of moored boats. John sanded a side hatch wood panel outside,and brushed on Danish Oil to seal it, before tea and tv.

Friday 28 September: back along the Ashby Canal to Burton Hastings (13 miles, 0 locks)
Oops! Unwanted World Record for us – we didn't wake up until after 10AM!!! Missed a call from Jo in Australia. Looks like a sunny, blue sky day, too...... so, through bridge 44, past Bosworth Marina, Liana decided to shop in Hinckley, so we continued through the countryside, meeting oncoming boats and touching the bottom, and passing lots of moored boats. Under the railway bridge they told us is too weak for steam trains, we reached Sutton Cheney wharf and moored close to the bridge, to allow the duck feeders at the cafe to carry on. Coffee, fish & chips for Liana, IPA and bacon and sausage butties for John went down well as we watched the boats passing and winding. The food and drink were good, well worth a visit!
There are plenty of boats moored around Stoke Golding, plus a marina and a hire base, so we passed several hire boats, with cheery crews, just setting out.
The sun shone, occasionally obscured by clouds, and we enjoyed the lovely weather (shorts but jumper needed, though). Liana decided we could continue past bridge 16 visitor moorings at Hinckley, as we ate out, and could leave the shops for now. The farms have more pasture for horses and cattle, and less arable land around here: Must be the soil. We keep seeing the same boats, passing and repassing them,such as NB Rainbows End, NB Enchantress, NB Saiorse, etc …. we aren't the only folk on longish peregrinations!
From Hinckley, the pleasant scene has few places with good steel piling, apart from bends, so we kept moving until we found a spot between other boats near bridge 8 at Burton Hastings. Rust removal from the bow resulted in a good chat with our neighbour about boating on tidal Trent and Severn.
For planning trips on the River Trent, incidentally, our fellow Retford & Worksop Boat Club member John Lower's book “Narrowboat on The Trent” is very useful , available from the Chesterfield Canal Trust. Two other A4 chart books on Tidal Trent and Non-Tidal Trent are must haves, available from The Boating Association.
John also tried ketchup as a brass cleaner on the headlamp and stand, which really need it.
After a small tea, tv saw us watching Question of Sport (always fun), Gardeners World and amazing shots in Ryder Cup Golf. Sutton Stop and Coventry tomorrow – Liana is setting the alarm!!

Saturday 29 September: Hawkesbury Junction and Coventry

the ketchup seems to have worked, in a patchy way! Another coat needed.

country mooring as the mist clears near bridge 8, Ashby Canal
We had another lovely, sunny morning cruising to Sutton Stop/Hawkesbury Junction. Once through the narrow stop lock, we passed the characterful Charity Dock on our to lunch at the Greyhound.
defunct stop lock at Marston Junction as we leave the Ashby Canal

approaching Charity Dock, Bedworth

full of …… character
we ate at the Greyhound, Hawkesbury Junction, before setting off towards Coventry. We could hear the crowd roaring at the Ricoh Stadium, so it must have been an early kickoff. While Liana shopped in Tescos, John cleared rust and finished coating the bow with iron oxide primer paint, never an easy job.
The canal was much tidier, although bridgehole 4 had stuff clattering against the hull. Reaching Coventry Basin, much of the mooring space is now occupied by Valley Cruises hire boats, and you can't moor by the warehouse, so we moored and then noticed that that spot said No Mooring. As there was nowhere else, it was late in the day, and we felt we weren't in anybody's way, we decided to stay near James Brindley's statue until someone left and we could move.
It is a short walk into town over the high ring road bridge, and we watched the Liverpool-Chelsea Carabou Cup match at the Coventry Cross pub, which had three big bouncers on the door. We heard many NE voices, and found that Coventry City had drawn 1-1 with Sunderland. Happily, after falling behind, Liverpool scored in the 88th minute to draw, after having the best in a match where both sides played well. The evening passed pleasantly, reading and watching tv, ending with an excellent Match of the Day.

Sunday 30 September: at Coventry, visiting the Transport Museum (0 miles, 0 locks)
The temperature sensor read 2 degrees C outside, so we had jumpers, coats …. and John shorts (mistake!). Two boats left early, so we moved Annie to a bona fide mooring, before visiting the town again. Coventry has a pedestrianised city centre with plenty of shopping centres, having been rebuilt after the Blitz of November 1940. We made our pilgrimage to the Cathedral(s), and visited the Guild Hall, which was worth a look. The Transport Museum has been redeveloped to be more child- and adult-friendly, and both of us enjoyed the look around, which is extensive. After a walk around the city centre, we had lunch, finally, in a Wetherspoons, as Liana could not find anywhere she preferred. John's Sunday Brunch 14oz steak went down well! Later, Liana continued shopping, while John returned to the Coventry Cross pub to watch Cardiff play Burnley FC. The quality of football was very poor, compared to the Liverpool v Chelsea match yesterday, so he left at half time …..
John washed the back of the boat down while Liana cleaned off the old and then applied more ketchup to the headlamp. It does work, although patchily, depending on the thickness of the ketchup!

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