Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hartshill, Polesworth and Hopwas

Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th March

When we were woken early by the Hartshill quarry we turned the central heating on then went straight back to sleep – not in the plan!  After a later than normal start we pulled in at the old BW Hartshill yard for water, in case the point at Atherstone was occupied.  Courses are now being run here.

1 new course at hartshill

At Atherstone we emptied a cassette, then went down the first five locks assisted by a volunteer.  They had just helped one boat down and are still only averaging five or six boats a day.  That seems to be about the number we are seeing too. I love the way some of the lock surrounds are cared for by the people in the lock cottages – this is at number five.  A bit of weeding is needed (though not as much as my garden) but a welcome splash of colour nevertheless.

2 lock 5 atherstone

And we liked their weathervane too.

3 lock 5 cottage

We moored below the road bridge for lunch and a trip into town.  After lunch every lock was against us, and the previous boat had failed to close the gates on four of the remaining six locks.  The gates may of course have have swung open as they sometimes do, but they stayed put when I closed them…..   Three of the paddles were also not quite closed, so we had quite a slow journey down.  We waited above the bottom lock for Lady in Red to come up. 

4 passing lady in red atherstone bottom lock

They were hot-footing it up to Springwood Haven to get their inverter sorted.  They had just bought the boat and were plagued with teething problems – used as a liveaboard, it had hardly ever left its mooring.  The fridge and freezer are 230v models so when the inverter failed it made life more than a little inconvenient!

The cloud came over as we approached Polesworth and it got very cold.  We were just debating which side of the village to stop when a loud clanking and banging from under the boat made the decision for us and we pulled in before bridge 51.  I left Dave head down in the weed hatch and took Meg off for a run. He found nothing at all there, and nothing untoward in the engine hole either.  As it was getting dark, and we had seen several bits and pieces of branch floating around, we hoped that the noise was just a chunk of wood that would work its way free by morning ….

6 miles 11 locks

It was raining when we got up so we didn’t rush off on Wednesday morning.  Around 10 o’clock the weather was clearing, so we had a look around and pulled out three chunks of log that had appeared between the bow and the bank.  I stacked them in the hedge to dry out for someone to harvest later, and Dave tentatively started the engine.  Fortunately those logs seem to have been the source of that alarming noise yesterday.  Apart from a bit of drizzle it stayed dry but was very grey. This decorated pit wheel at Pooley Hall Heritage Centre brightened the gloom somewhat.

1 pooley hall heritage centre

The road bridge nearby has been decorated with these images of Support Structures.

3 support structures 1  4 support structures 2

Fortunately out of reach of the taggers.

3 support structures 1

One day we will visit the centre but today was just a bit too cold and damp.  We didn’t fancy cleaning up the dog after she’d been running along the paths either.  These pictures are from the towpath side of the canal.

5 coal spoil pooley area   6 coal spoil pooley

We assume that the black colouration comes from dust and fragments of coal from the spoil heaps.  This would explain the ban on camp fires and barbecues!  The birch trunks looked lovely in the sun though.

7 birch trunks in the sun

We had a lot of luck at Glascote Locks, where we usually find ourselves in a queue.  The first hire boat we have spotted this year had come up a few minutes before we arrived, and the top lock had only dropped by a few inches, so we were soon on our way down.  There was already a boat coming up the bottom lock and one waiting below, so it couldn’t have been much quicker.  No time to reread the Leaky Lock poem!  I also got details of where to moor for Sainsbury’s further on.  We spotted a swan by her nest at Alvecote Marina.  I hope Lady D’s owners can get onto their boat when they return!

8 swan nest alvecote marina

The wind was getting stronger and was extremely cold.  Men have a distinct advantage in this weather.

9 a beard for the cold wind

Our lunch stop was just past the Tame aqueduct, where we were surprised to be sheltered from the icy blast.10 tame aqueduct

We paused at Fazeley junction to dispose of rubbish and the remains of a football we retrieved along with the logs this morning.  At Sutton Road Bridge we got detailed directions to Sainsbury’s from another moorer, and were away again by 3.  It was a bit of a battle trying to keep the boat straight in the wind but we were hoping that Hopwas would be sheltered by the hill and woods.  So it proved, and we moored in sunshine just north of Hopwas School Bridge.  We took Meg for a super walk in the woods, which had large patches of wood anemones nodding in the breeze.


In a few weeks’ time the slopes will be awash with bluebells.

13 this will all be bluebells

Hi Ron, we haven’t seen Tim ‘n Pru yet – we’ll catch up tonight after the football!  The Canal du Midi holiday is all rather hazy in the mists of time, so we’ll have to see if the pictures jog any memories!

8 and a half miles, 2 locks

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