Friday 18th August; Atherstone locks to Hartshill
Should we get up for an early start up the Atherstone flight? At 6 the rain was belting down so we stayed in bed, but by 7 the sun was out. We were away by 8 and made a quick stop at Bradley Green to empty a cassette, as we didn’t want to risk the facilities block at the top lock being in use.
We were at the bottom lock at 8.30, having already passed the first boat down, and found a boat ready to come out. Whatever time did they get up? But it turned out that the first three boats had moored in the long pound between locks 9 and 10.
Our turn at the bottom lock.
At lock 9, the next couple of boats had come from the top with a 5.30 start, and to our surprise had had no rain – but the showers in the past few days have been very patchy so they must have missed the rain we woke to. As we ascended the locks we met a boat at each one. Occasionally we had to wait a few minutes as they had only just arrived, but there was a boat in front of us so the locks would have been in their favour. Even so we had a very easy passage. As we approached lock 5 we decided to finish the flight rather than stopping for shopping on the moorings there.
We knew there were volunteers at the top lock. As Dave approached lock three I nipped round the bend to see a volunteer at lock 2 making it ready for a boat descending the top lock. I made sure he realised we would be coming up so he didn’t close the gates on us. There was yet another boat waiting above the top lock as we approached, so that would mean a full house for us – passing boats at all 11 locks, both entering and leaving. The lockie was using an old-fashioned push mower with its lovely gentle sound on the very neat grass at the top lock.
I saw a photo on someone's blog recently of the little platform built for ‘moorhens and ducks’ in the side pound at the top lock. We’ve seen it before, but never with a nest on it. This year a moorhen has built a nest and was in occupation for their photo. Disobligingly, it was just getting off as I went across to close the bottom gate. It’s getting a bit late for breeding now I would think.
The facilities mooring was free so we stopped to take on water as boats kept arriving at the locks. Then as we left, boat traffic stopped and the lockies were hanging around chatting.
Luckily we were were able to moor easily on the visitor moorings and went up to the shops, going right along from one end of the high street (pet supplies, butcher, baker) to the Co-op at the far end, and back along the canal. We got back just as the rain started so stayed put for lunch. There was a long and very heavy shower, ending with rolling thunder.
We didn’t want to stay there for the night and got going again when we judged we’d have an hour or so of dry weather as we wanted to get to Hartshill. It looks as though there is going to be a considerable length of new piled mooring space at Atherstone. It certainly needs more above the locks but I don’t think these will be ready yetawhile.
We moored in a favourite spot at Hartshill, close to the gate to the footpath across the field down towards the railway. Off we went with Meg as soon as we were safely moored, taking a punnet with us in case of blackberries. There were very few until we had reached the track beyond Caldecote Manor where it turns back toward the railway. We ended up with plenty and I had to carry them rather carefully as we finished our walk, returning up the towpath.
We thought we’d go up to the pub and investigate the menu, as we’d had a lovely meal here a few years ago. We weren't very impressed with it. The only free table was right by the piano, not a problem in itself, but the scent from the large vase of lilies on the piano was getting a bit much as we finished our beer so we were glad to go back to the boat to eat. And here was the last of the lucky timings; we hadn’t been back long before the rain set in again, this time for several hours. It eased off at dusk and I took this photo out of the side hatch.
Good weather tomorrow?
6 miles 11 locks