Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September; Springwood Haven marina to Alvecote
After a journey beset by torrential but short-lived showers, we arrived at the marina in sunshine and were able to unload and start our trip without waterproofs. We turned left on our way towards Birmingham and rather than moor at the familiar Anchor Bridge we opted to go closer to Atherstone. On the approach to the CRT yard at Hartshill is a tree which has clearly suffered in a fire; from the look of the fence beside it, the fire could have been caused by ashes or barbecue coals, dumped before they were cold.
As I took the second photo it started to rain rather heavily and we swiftly tied up and made a brew. But the shower soon passed so we finished our tea and cruised on to just past the Mancetter winding hole. I have wanted to stop here for years – purely to read this interpretation board.
It’s an appealing theory. I was unfortunately the wrong side of the hedge to see the landscape but it’s easy to imagine.
2 miles today.
Sunday morning dawned cloudy but dry and rather chilly. As we made ready to go, we heard unusual sounds from the farm behind the hedge – at 8.45 on a Sunday, a silver band was having a practice!
I hope they were warmer than we were. Autumn was definitely making a takeover bid this morning. Soon after we set off, Dave saw a zander grab a duck – its fin came up out of the water so he was sure it wasn’t a pike. The poor duck seemed to have its foot in the fish’s jaws and seemed not to realise what was happening. But I missed the whole thing as I was inside, refilling the dog’s water bowl.
We arrived at the top of Atherstone locks to find a boat waiting its turn, with several boats ahead of them. Not entirely unexpected though – it was nearly 9.30 after all. I crossed over to put some rubbish in the skip while we were waiting, and spotted a traffic cone, with clear signs of having spent some time in the canal, being put to good use as a bird table.
The volunteers were just starting to arrive as we began our descent. I went ahead to see if anyone was coming up – they weren’t – but helped a single-hander as far as lock 5, where we were intending to stop for a visit to the supermarket. Dave had been making slow but steady progress behind the other boats. Here he is approaching lock 4.
At this lock is a circular bywash thing. I am sure it has a proper name but I don’t know it. The water levels were a bit low here and all the way down too.
We grabbed the first mooring below lock 5 and nipped straight up to the Co-op. We refuelled on doughnuts as we waited for a boat to come by, before carrying on down the flight. Once we had passed the noisy road bridges it got a lot quieter, and the boat traffic thinned out a little too. At lock 10, the last but one, there is a wide area beside the lock and Meg could at last have a game of ball while we worked through.
Dave has trained her to run round between his legs before he throws the ball. She is very quick and loves doing her little trick.
At the bottom lock I had a good view of a mink as it sauntered down the far side before disappearing into the vegetation. We moored below the flight for a late lunch and waited for a shower to pass over before we got going again. Strangely, after all the queues this morning, only two boats passed us in the hour we were stopped. It had got cold again as we cruised towards Alvecote. Along the way we saw this male mannequin – an escape from Charity Dock?
We moored a little way short of Alvecote bridge, making sure we were away from trees, having been alerted to the acorn season over lunch! We didn’t fancy being startled awake by acorns clattering onto the roof overnight. After a cup of tea, and a wait for another light shower to finish, we walked back along the towpath towards the motorway bridge and picked up a footpath through the woods. The trees sheltered us from the showers as we made our way towards the Samuel Barlow pub.
Unfortunately we were a couple of hours too late for Sunday lunch, but made do with a pint of Doom Bar. We noticed the Cheese Boat moored outside and ended up buying a Black Bomber (Dave’s favourite cheese) when we left. Unfortunately the rain was starting again – heavy this time - and with only our waterproof jackets for protection we arrived back at the boat with soggy trousers. Never mind, walking trousers are made of quick-drying material!
7½ miles, 11 locks