Tuesday 11 June 2013

Springwood Haven and home again

As I write this (on the 12th) I am sitting at home, watching the rain from the window.  What brilliant weather we had for most of this trip!  Now I really must get my smartphone’s tethering/Wi-Fi sorted out so I can keep the blog up to date when we’re aboard!

We were up early again – on weekdays the quarries seem to start work at 6, and although we’re a fair distance from Anchor Bridge, where the quarry is, we can still hear the machinery.  It was trying to rain, so we hastily rolled the cratch cover down before setting off in the drizzle.  We made our way down to Springwood Haven and were moored up by 10.  Dave set off for Nuneaton station along the towpath on the first leg of his journey to collect the car from Stockton Top.  He was at the station in 40 minutes but had to spend an hour at Coventry waiting for a connection.  The return journey by car was much less easy – the marina office’s direction said he needed to take an unmade track, so naturally he followed the satnav’s recommendation when it sent him down one in what seemed to be the right place …… it was a long way to reverse back, and then an equally bumpy ride down the correct one.  The marina is in a lovely situation but it is extremely difficult to find!

Thankfully we had an uneventful journey home, once we had negotiated the track back to the road, and are now looking forward to our next trip when we hope to follow the T&M to its Trent end and come down towards Fenny Compton via Leicester.

Monday 10 June 2013

To Atherstone – and back to Hartshill again

Posted 12th June
Before we set off, we thought we’d better check that there were still short-term moorings available at Fazeley Mill Marina where we had hoped to leave the boat when we go back home.  But no luck – two boats had just come in and taken them.  We couldn’t get an answer from Alvecote so we are having to go back down to Springwood Haven.  But we’ve got no bread, or food for the dog! so it’s off the Atherstone this morning for some shopping.
There must have been nearly a dozen boats coming in the opposite direction this morning, and of course we met them where other boats were moored, at bridges, etc, so we made slow progress.  We had time to admire the attractive old BW yard and buildings at Hartshill:
hartshill BW yard
A while later we passed Swamp Frogs, who were about to return to Springwood Haven for diesel and a pump-out.  Then a boater at a permanent mooring called out to warn us of the sunken cruiser just around the corner blocking half the canal.
sunken cruiser
As a ‘cruiser stern’ there was six feet of it underwater in the middle of the cut, and it rose and fell as we passed.  The stripy ‘BW aware’ tapes made it obvious that it had been reported, but you can see from the brown algae to the right of the door (the algae extended along both sides of the boat) that it has been underwater for some time.  On our return, the boater told us that C&RT now have ‘permission’ to remove it but are 'waiting for the money’ to come through.  Clearly it’s not on their priority list in spite of its close location to the yard at Hartshill and a contractor not far in the other direction.
At Atherstone we moored at the services for water, rubbish and the sanitary station.  In the water was a very large, very dead and extremely smelly pike so we were glad of the light breeze wafting the smell away.  We turned above the top lock and moored not far away to go up to town for supplies.  There was a lovely little bakery with a Gregg’s right next to it – but the bakery’s cakes were better than anything we have ever had from Gregg’s and their bread was good too.
After lunch we returned to Hartshill, passing nb Mona Lisa again – her eyes still followed us…..
mona lisa 1
And then we met Swamp Frogs - at a bridge naturally!
swamp frogs 1
swamp frogs 2
Robbie and Suzie on their way towards Atherstone.  Great to meet you both!
We moored just past Anchor Bridge again, a little further on as it was more crowded this time, and spent the rest of the afternoon doing some household chores and maintenance jobs.

Sunday 9 June 2013

A sunny day near Hartshill

posted 12th June

After a relaxed breakfast Dave cycled up to Hartshill village for the paper and we spent a pleasant morning relaxing in the sunshine, doing a few chores and reading the paper.  Paul and Elaine in Caxton waved as they passed us their way south as we were relaxing with a cup of coffee.  We had a nice Sunday lunch in the pub and managed to use their wifi to actually post to the blog – though as the signal dropped out I only managed one of the backlog!

After lunch we went for a walk taking the Quarryman’s Path from the towpath down towards and across the railway, then towards Caldecote Hall, which a walker told us was converted into apartments after the owner died some years ago (known for holding “weekend parties with people from London”, apparently).

caldecote hall

We crossed the pretty River Anker and were finally treated to a view of the fabled Mount Judd, a massive spoil heap from Judkin’s quarry which Nicholson’s and Pearson’s promised us yesterday.  We lost sight of it as we got back towards the canal.

mount judd

We rejoined the towpath opposite Springwood Haven marina which is in a most attractive setting. (It looks better from the boat).

springwood haven

We spotted the little stone milestone nearby, which Pearson’s enjoins us to treat with respect for the unknown stonemason who carved it back in the 18th century.

milestone at springwood haven

We also discovered the source of the garlic smell we noticed yesterday – the wild garlic was flowering in profusion just off the towpath and we picked a few leaves to use in cooking later.

ramsons 1

This is the pretty winding hole a few hundred yards before our mooring spot.

yellow flag near springwood haven

and back to the boat for a quiet evening in.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Burton Hastings to Anchor Bridge, Hartshill

posted 12th June

A late start this morning.  Dave did the second coat on the starboard gunwale – now the smartest thing on the boat!  We sat and enjoyed a coffee in the sun while we decided how far to go today, and finally set off around 11 am.  We enjoyed the last of the peace and quiet of the Ashby, passing through the defunct stop lock at the junction and turning north towards Atherstone. 

coming to marston junctionfarewell to the ashby

The ex stop lock and the last bridge           Farewell to the Ashby

The difference was marked; the Coventry is wider, less attractive and much busier!  We moored up in Nuneaton for our lunch stop then went up into town for some shopping.  There is a market on Saturdays and the place was very busy.  Most of the stalls seemed to be clothing, mobile phone accessories or similar, with just a few veg stalls, food trailers and a pet stall where we got some dog biscuits.  We stopped off in a local convenience store for some milk and put the rest of the shopping off for another day.

We left Nuneaton by 4 and on we went past hundreds of yards of allotments.  Nuneatonites must be the keenest gardeners on the network!  We were looking forward to seeing the quarry spoil heaps, which Pearson termed ‘towering protrusions’ and Nicholson ‘curiously exciting’.  However, what wasn’t obscured by new housing was almost completely hidden by trees, so we were out of luck.  However, as we approached Springwood Haven marina the view suddenly opened out and the countryside once more was rural and beautiful, though with a strong smell of wild garlic!  We cruised on towards Hartshill and Anchor Bridge, where we moored round the bend shortly before the pub moorings in a quiet and attractive spot.

chuffed at Hartshill

A spot of fishing before the pub

When we went up to eat later on, we noticed Caxton moored up (blogging as The Manly Ferry) and were pleased to meet Paul and Elaine in the pub.  They were with Robbie and Suzie from Swamp Frogs, which we saw moored on our way to Hillmorton so it was good to meet them too – they are moored closer to Atherstone so we may not catch up with them as we plan to stay put tomorrow.  Anyway, it was great to meet some fellow bloggers!

Friday 7 June 2013

Dadlington–near Burton Hastings

Posted 12th June

We had a gentle start to the day, in a good sunny spot, with the scent of drying hay wafting over the hedge on the towpath side, and entertainment in the form of a herd of cattle on the opposite bank.  This splendid bull was striding around the field making sure all the cows and calves knew who was boss.  Here he is walking (very fast, you wouldn’t want to have been his side of the canal) towards some calves at the canal edge.

big daddy on a mission

  They scarpered pretty quickly as he approached and he turned his attentions to another group.

big daddy throwing his weight around

Interestingly, when we stopped watching he stopped throwing his weight around.

We set off around 10, on our way to Trinity marina for some diesel, stopping at the farm shop again at bridge 23.  This is the first day we have felt able to take our jumpers off while cruising and we certainly needed the sun cream.  We saw the first yellow wagtail this year today, and a couple of buzzards, one being mobbed by crows. 

Here is the Triumph motorbike factory on the way into Hinckley.

triumph factory

At Trinity we got some diesel and were at last able to get rid of the recycling which has been stacking up.  We stopped at the edge of Hinckley for lunch and yet another failed attempt to get an internet signal!

We decided to find a quiet spot well before the junction with the Coventry and stopped before bridge 6 near Burton Hastings.  Dave got on with painting the gunwale on one side of the boat.  When Debby came back from her run she found a hornet in the boat!  It was twice the size of a queen wasp and with a much deeper and louder buzz – think of a wartime bomber rather than a spitfire!  She was keener to get it out than take a photograph. Luckily the opening parts of the windows are easily removable so it was fairly straightforward to release it.

Thursday 6 June 2013

End of navigation – Dadlington

Posted 12th June
The day dawned grey again and distinctly chilly.  Deb walked up to visit the man who looks after the fundraising to give him some of the multifarious knick-knacks which were on Chuffed when we bought her – let’s hope someone else can make use of them!  He said that restoration work should start again next month, and the large pit just past where the canal ends at present is to test out a new kind of lining material.
works at end of ashby
The old pumping station just to one side has been sold and converted into a private house;
end of nav with pumping station poss
but the beams were rescued and will be mounted for display by a volunteer.
beams from pumping station
We didn’t leave till after 10. which was unfortunate as two boats pulled out in front of us at Shackerstone and we made slow progress all morning.  It was cold enough for woolly hats and tea in insulated mugs to start with, but by lunchtime the sun had broken through and by the time we eventually moored for lunch the weather was glorious.  We moored just before the Shenton aqueduct, where the books tell you there are offside moorings; they have unfortunately now been closed permanently, though it looked perfectly ok near the aqueduct end.  When we walked down to go to the Visitor Centre we could see the old steps going up to the moorings, which looked ok too.  Perhaps it’s a cost thing.
We walked a good mile along the road before we got to the Visitor Centre, but the effort was well worth while.  The centre is on top of Ambion Hill, where Richard III is thought to have massed his army before the battle.  There is an exhibition with mostly replica weapons and artefacts, and lots of questions for kids which are of interest to adults too – for example, if the enemy is only 100 yards away and charging you are only going to be able to take out one or possibly two with arrows, cannon, halberds, pikes, before they are upon you …..  your only chance (and that is a small one) is a short sword.  There was replica armour to try on – padded waistcoats are heavy, but the chain mail is worse; they had one hung on a scale and it was nearly 20lb.  Unfortunately no photos - we were so fascinated we forgot to take any till we were outside.  We even had a go on a device which replicated firing a longbow (at kiddy height but we still had a go!) and told you how far you would have fired your arrow – Dave’s was the maximum, 220m (we think) and Deb’s the next one down, still over 200m – impressive, eh?  Must be all those locks!  Towards the end of the exhibition was a rolling film re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth, with an illuminated table-top display showing how the positions of the armies changed as the battle progressed, with a dramatic voice-over worthy of Dan and Peter Snow.  Neither of us could remember any detail from history lessons, and we thought the whole thing was presented brilliantly.
Outside is a signposted walk around the country park, starting near this sundial which was erected as a memorial to all those who died in the battle. Hooked over the point of the gnomon is a replica of Richard’s crown.
memorial sundial at Bosworth visitor centre
The path led us down to Shenton Station, which is the terminus of the Battlefield Line from Snarestone. Steam trains apparently run at the weekends.  When we realised how close we were to the canal we decided to take the short cut rather than climb all the way back up the hill and another mile by road!  It was already nearly 5 so the tea shop would have closed too.  If you ever want to visit the battlefield, we recommend mooring at bridge 35 and walking up through the country park via Shenton station, much more pleasant than trudging along the road.
We had hoped to moor at Sutton Wharf but the spot we wanted was taken, so we went on and found a quiet spot at bridge 32, which kept the sun till it set.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

To the end of the Ashby navigation

Posted 12th June
After the lovely weather of the last week, it was quite a shock to see the grey skies this morning, which persisted until late afternoon. 
We set off around 9 and made a brief stop at Sutton Wharf to take on water and empty a cassette.  We have noticed that all the hoses have disappeared from the sanitary stations; we saw a C&RT notice that blamed this on a change in the policies of the water companies.  Presumably this is the reason that the normal taps have been replaced with the push-type?  The reduced water flow of these makes it difficult to rinse the cassettes properly and we ended up filling a bucket from the drinking water tap.  If C&RT wanted to reduce water loss perhaps they should repair all the dripping water points first?  Still, watching a great tit feeding its young in an electricity supply box just by the sanitary station door was a good antidote to the frustration!
The towpath was busy with walkers on their way to the cafe at Sutton Wharf as we cruised on to pass the offside Battlefield Moorings mentioned in Nicholson's and Pearson's, only to see them looking unkempt and rather overgrown. (We later discovered that they have been permanently closed and you have to moor on the towpath side).  We stopped at Market Bosworth as we were running low on supplies, and there are no more shops between there and the end of the navigation.  It is a good 15 minute route march uphill to the town, which was fairly quiet and has a small range of shops.  A local school had made its own floral tribute to Richard III:
outside school in mkt bosworth 1outside school in mkt bosworth 2
front garden in mkt bosworth 1
This wooden sculpture of Richard was in a front garden.  You can see his White Boar badge and the plaque with his motto inscribed; Loyaute me lie. If your Old French is a bit rusty you may care to know that this means ‘Loyalty binds me’ (thanks to a quick google search!)  During the afternoon we saw a lone lapwing and the only heron we have seen since we started.  At Shackerstone there are a lot of moored boats, and as we crept by we had a clear view of a dust-up between two moorhens;
moorhen fight shackerstone
the two most involved we assumed to be males fighting over the female, which joined in the fracas from time to time.  The birds were grappling each other with their claws and leaning back into the water, flapping all the time.  They took absolutely no notice of us but appeared to have settled their differences by the time we lost sight of them.
We passed through the Snarestone tunnel, which gets lower towards the northern portal, and moored in sun, peace and quiet.  There is a small hut (closed by now) selling gifts and part of a portakabin with bric-a-brac, all on sale to raise money for restoration.  The other half of the portakabin is used by contractors when they are on site.
end of nav ashby
This is the end of navigation at present.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Hawkesbury Junction to Bridge 33, Ashby canal

Posted 12th June

Another brilliant sunny day, though the wind is cold again.  We set off around 8.30 along with several other boats who all had the same idea.  The canal was stunning with the early sunshine on the May blossom, but it was cold!  This is the first time we have been on this section of the Coventry canal and we saw some surprising things near a small boatyard; note the legs disappearing over the side of the boat!  There were also a policeman, an army officer in uniform and a couple of superheroes; and Deb swore she saw a large hairy pig – a real one – peering over a gate behind a shed.

odd things in gardens 1

Once we had made the very tight turn onto the Ashby, the character of the canal changed completely.  The trees sheltering the canal from the buildings of Bedworth vanished and the sun streamed in – as did the wind.  This is an almost entirely rural canal and very beautiful.  Just an occasional reminder of the modern world, beautiful too in an odd way;

line of marching pylons

  do pylons have babies

    Do pylons have babies?



We took on water at Watling Street and then cruised on to bridge 23 where we stopped for lunch and a visit to the widely advertised Spinney Bank farm shop, which had milk, bread and cakes from a local baker, and various veg, meats and bacon from their own farm and local suppliers.

At Stoke Golding, we noticed that the Ashby Boat Co seemed to have most of its boats lying unused – the lady at Kate Boats at Stockton Top had said their bookings were low too.  We continued in the sunshine and stopped just short of bridge 33, in a quiet and sunny spot.  Dave got the fishing rod out during the evening and caught a couple of carp to round off the day.

Monday 3 June 2013

Ansty to Coventry and back to Hawkesbury Junction

Posted 12th June
Another glorious sunny day and at last the wind has dropped.  The plan was to visit Coventry and maybe stay overnight, if it was suitable for our elderly dog.
We made our way up to Hawkesbury Junction, where we had a short wait to go through the stop lock.  The moorings were extremely congested and we were glad we had stopped at Ansty, although it had meant forgoing a visit to the Greyhound!  We made the turn in the ‘easy’ direction down to Coventry.  Here is the amazing sculpture on the Coney Lane bridge. (Sorry about your head, swan).
coney lane bridge hawkesbury jct 2
Last time we were this close to Coventry was about 17 years ago when we had a hire boat with the children.  The hire base was in the grotty back streets where there is still a small boatyard and we were advised not to moor overnight anywhere between the junction and Coventry.  What a difference now!  Most of the old factories and industry have gone, replaced by new housing or just razed to the ground and taken over by mother nature for a while.  There were plenty of moorhens about, though their nests had crisp packets woven in rather than green leaves.  This glorious clematis had been planted below a block of flats, along with ornamental ivies.  It looks as though the people in the flats hardly get any view of them at all, but nice for us.
clematis by coventry flats
There has been a big effort to keep the towpath in good condition, and there are examples of artwork of various kinds to be seen.  These fish were alongside a play park.
coventry canal art
And this is part of a large mural on a wall separating a derelict site from the towpath.
mural near coventry 2
There were also many carrier bags hung on the railings at the access points to the towpath, which seem to be for rubbish.  We assume it is a local initiative by residents, some of whom presumably come and take the full bags away!  It does seem to be keeping the area tidier though.
plastic bags in all the pointy railings
Shortly before the basin there is a row of weavers’ cottages knows as ‘Cash’s 100’ though less than 50 were built.  The families lived on the bottom 2 floors, and the top floor, with its large windows, was taken up with the looms.  Now they look just like posh flats.
Cashs 100 cottages coventry
We arrived in the basin and turned before mooring, fighting the wind which was funnelling through the bridge, and tied up opposite the restored warehouses which have these bijou residences included for the local population -
pigeons at coventry basin
We were unfortunately too late to attend the Monday lunchtime organ recital at the cathedral but still had an enjoyable visit.  We had not been before and had no idea what to expect.  We approached through the ruins of the old cathedral, which was largely destroyed in the Blitz. 
bombed old cathedral
There is a statue here by Epstein, Ecce Homo, (Jesus before Pontius Pilate) – the plinth was taller than Debby.
ecce homo jacob epstein coventry cathedral
We walked down to the plaza below, by the entrance to the uni, to get a view of the old and new cathedrals together, through the fountains.  Yes, Debby is standing in the middle of them!  We couldn’t stand far enough away for a good shot of the two cathedrals unfortunately.
fountains 2
At the top of the steps to the new cathedral is another Epstein, St Michael and the Devil, representing the triumph of good over evil.  st Michael vanquishing the devil
To the right you can see the outside of part of the Baptistery window which has to be seen (from the inside) to be believed.  It is the full height of the cathedral, and consists of many panes of the most vivid stained glass we have ever seen.  It was designed by John Piper.  When you walk to the altar and look back, you can see the rest of the windows – much narrower, full height again, but angled so they can only be seen once you have walked past them.  We took photos but they do not show anything like the full glory of the real thing.  Graham Sutherland’s famous tapestry is there behind the altar;
 sutherland tapestry then you turn round and see the windows and the wonderful West Screen.  This is effectively a wall of glass, full height again, with figures of saints and angels etched into it.  Dave took the photo below from outside; the part of the ruins you can see is actually a reflection. Clever, eh?  The etched figure is taller than life size and is just one of many.  The whole place is a work of genius and a visit is a very moving experience. The new cathedral was, and is, focused on the theme of reconciliation (see the photo of Paul with the statue ‘Reconciliation’ in the ruins on Caxton’s blog! http://nbthemanlyferry.blogspot.co.uk/, June 10th).
west window new cathedral plus reflection of old
Before we returned to the boat, we had time for a quick visit to the Herbert Art Gallery nearby. Among the interesting and varied exhibits were two ‘works’ by Gavin Turk, which were bought by Charles Saatchi.  They consisted of a car door and the boot of a hatchback, both signed by the artist.  A comment, apparently, on the ownership of objects.
We returned to the boat and were away by 5, as we wanted to get back to the junction for the night.  Tess can’t walk far now and Dave had to carry her over 200 yards to a little park when we first arrived, so staying overnight was not an option.  We ended up having to go several hundred yards past the junction before we found a suitable space to moor.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Hillmorton to Ansty

Posted 12th June

The canal was beautiful at 5am, with the mist rising as the sun crept above the horizon …… the dog needed to go out!  But we did go back to bed again.

We left shortly after 9, the weather rather cloudy and cool though the sun soon came out.  There are several artworks celebrating the history of rugby (football)  under the bridges in the area but sadly most have been vandalised with graffiti and spray-paint – perhaps rugby is seen as elitist by the local yobs.  It was distressing to see a black player’s face had been obscured with white paint.  This mural however looked brand-new at bridge 66 at Clifton on Dunsmore – it has shadows from the trees across it but you can see the trains quite clearly.

mural at clifton on dunsmore

We had hoped to stop in Brownsover to get a paper but the moorings were completely full, so on we went to Newbold-on-Avon.  Debby tried to take a picture of the blue and green lighting inside the tunnel but unfortunately the camera wasn’t playing.

The may blossom seems much heavier than usual – perhaps it is just the contrast with so little blossom in the cold spring - but if there are enough bees around there should be a good harvest of berries for the birds!  Some of the trees are so covered in flower they look as though they should be in a garden centre.  

hawthorn blossom n oxford

We brushed against a willow as we avoided an obstacle in the water, and released a cloud of fluffy seeds, which enveloped us and found its way into the boat through the open front doors, and all over the dog too.

We moored shortly after Brinklow Marina for an extended lunch break with the Sunday paper.  There was a group of cruisers who seemed to have been having a brunch cruise as they were clearing up their barbecues as we arrived!

We moved on some time after 2, passing under the M6.  Asda may save you money but we know where we’d rather be!

m6 bridge 3

During the afternoon we passed more stag party boats; yesterday it was pirates, today there was a fluffy chick looking a bit warm in the sunshine – no pictures unfortunately!  They all looked to be having well-lubricated fun.  Apparently one of the hire companies has special boats they use for stag parties – Formica throughout for easy cleaning.  Another happy group of cruisers were leaving their moorings as we approached Ansty; they cruised off, cheerily waving and weaving gently home ahead of us.

It seems to be the weather for alcoholic celebration - not to be outdone, we went off to the Rose and Castle in Ansty for a beer in the garden before a lovely meal inside as the evening cooled.  at  ansty from pub garden

nb Chuffed from the top of the slide in the pub garden (sadly not a very slippy slide).


Saturday 1 June 2013

To Hillmorton

Posted 9th June

Another glorious day, although the breeze was strong enough that we occasionally needed a second jumper.  We set off before 9, and tootled along, up Calcutt locks as the hire boats were coming in, then turned towards Braunston where we moored late morning.  We saw a lot of birdlife this morning;


this little moorhen with its stubby little wings was our neighbour at last night’s mooring, along with its parents (though it’s a shame Mum/Dad decided to turn it’s tail at the crucial moment).  We saw a Great Crested Grebe and tufted ducks on or near Napton Reservoir, and swifts, swallows and house martins on the way to Braunston.  There were also sedge warblers, reed buntings, skylarks and yellowhammers, and some new goslings and cygnets.

5 cygnets    2 families of goslings

We moored at Braunston Puddle Banks for some shopping and lunch, then cracked on towards Rugby.  There were good views of Braunston Church once we passed the junction.

braunston church 1

We passed Piston Broke enjoying the sunshine from the bank, and also saw Swamp Frogs which was featured on the cover of last month’s Canal Boat magazine.

At Hillmorton locks we were helped down by a friendly C&RT volunteer who said we were the 48th boat today – much quieter than yesterday when he saw 72 through.  The middle pair of locks had new gates; they had lines of poetry carved into them; ‘This door makes depth / captive for a while’ and there is more on the other side.  The lock keeper told us that when they held an open day so people could go down into the lock and see how the gates were fitted, the poet was standing there declaiming poetry.  It was freezing cold and nobody took any notice of him poor chap.  Very soon after the work was finished someone had corrected him by writing ‘gate’ above the word ‘door’.  This idea of carving poetry on new gates seems not to be universally popular; there has been grumbling in the magazines.  new gates at hillmorton

We took on water below the bottom lock and then decided to moor just a little further on to enjoy the rest of the evening’s sunshine with a little light polishing of the brasses -

dave gets on with the brasses

and some relaxing in the sunshine.

enjoying the sun at hillmorton water point