Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Stoke Golding Experience; good and not so good

Tuesday 24th May; Sutton Wharf to Hawkesbury Junction

It was a shame to be leaving this lovely mooring, but needs must and it’s a beautiful day for cruising. 

1 lovely mooring at sutton wharf

Meg and I started with a run up through the woods to drop off some plastic bottles and beer cans in the recycling bin at the Battlefield Visitor Centre.  A lovely fresh morning and cool in the woods but we got warm very quickly. Apart from one dog walker on the disused railway track there was nobody else about as we followed our route from yesterday and the birds were singing fit to bust.

We shuffled along to the facilities block for the necessaries and pottered on down to the offside moorings at Stoke Golding.  Shops are far and few on the Ashby and we had run out of bread.  I was directed to the little shop via the jitty alongside the churchyard – a local word for an alleyway between houses or in this case the churchyard wall.  I got the paper and some bread and milk – there is not a lot there – and on the way back down to the boat I went into the allotments behind the Baptist church where a chap was working, and asked him if anyone had any rhubarb I could buy.  He gave me as much as I wanted and refused to take anything for it!  That’s the good.  And the bad?

We continued through Hinckley and out into the country again for a lunch stop, when we discovered the bread was mouldy.  Too far away now to go back and complain.  The most annoying thing was, that if I had read Nicholson’s before going up to the village I might have found the George and Dragon, which (at least the last time Nicholson’s was revised) sold bread, local cheeses and pork pies.  Ah well.  We cut off the outsides of the loaf and used the middle.  I should have made some soda bread but was too lazy.

On we went down to Marston Junction.  There was a lot of fair-weather cloud by now and it was cold when the sun went in but not too bad – at least it was dry!  One of the mobile home park residents must be a happy soul now …..  in case you hadn’t heard, Leicester City are the unexpected Football League champions.  Way back at the start of the season some faithful fans had put a bet on them to win at 5000 to 1.  I bet they’re happy too!

2 someones happy league champs 2016

The milestones along the Ashby now have new figures for the distance to the end of the canal – at the moment the head of navigation is still 22 miles from Marston junction.  There is a notice advising you to take 8 off the second figure for your travel calculations.  The restoration team must be very optimistic!  Work is definitely starting again in the autumn.

3 first last milestone

I steered round my first junction a mile after this.  Apparently this is not the easiest junction turning south – I suppose that is some comfort!  You can’t see far in either direction as you emerge onto the Coventry, and a boat was moored up too, and I ended up with a boat waiting in both directions and one wanting to leave the Ashby too.  Still, I didn’t get stuck and didn’t hit anything!

As we passed Charity Dock I snapped some of the features I missed when we came up.

               4 charity dock  5 charity doc

We cracked on down to Hawkesbury Junction where we pulled in at the beginning of the 48-hour moorings, then went straight down to the Greyhound to book a table for tonight, relaxing with a beer before going back to give Meg her tea.  A nice view of the bridge, even if it’s not quite level.  And I hadn’t even had half a pint.

7 view of hawkesbury jct

We had a lovely meal in the pub.  If we hadn’t booked we would have had to eat outside and it was too cold for that.

13 and a half miles

Friday 27 May 2016

A new bit of cut

Monday 23rd May; to the (new) end of the Ashby and back to Sutton Wharf

After a quiet night it dawned bright and sunny, although when we set off it was into a nagging cold wind especially when the sun went in.  So the shorts had to stay in the cupboard.  We couldn’t see much difference in the sections of canal out of or within the SSSI, though we did notice that all the fields had about 15 yards of uncultivated field edge all round.  As long as this escapes the sprays it will provide a home for all kinds of insects, which will lead to birds and other creatures moving into eat them.   One lovely moment was a short but super view of a beautiful hare, sitting bolt upright quite close to the canal.  I hadn’t realised how much bigger they are than rabbits.  We were too busy looking to even pick the camera up and the moment didn’t last long enough anyway.

We bimbled along through fields and woods till we came to Snarestone tunnel.  It is crooked and the roof is uneven but it was dry and you could see – just - right through.  The photo shows the bend quite well.

1 snarestone tunnel

Once through the tunnel we were soon at the terminus – or at least the winding hole (turning point where the canal is wider) where the navigation ended last time we were here.  We winded and moored up before going to explore the new section which has been in water for about a year I think.  Several hundred yards has been re-opened and if we had wanted to we could have swung the little footbridge and brought the boat up.

2 new towpath to terminus

The towpath has been created on the left of the cut although the original one as shown in Nicholson’s was on the right.  The end is just the other side of the bridge.

3 where the next bit will go

One day this will be in water …..

5 one day this will be in water

There was a wider section at the end but I think Chuffed would have been too long to turn and would have had to reverse back.  We aren’t purists when it comes to covering every inch of navigable waterway – we were quite happy to walk it!  On the way back we spotted a Green-veined White butterfly.

2a green-veined white by towpath

Dave had the wrong lens for a proper close-up unfortunately but it’s better than my camera would have managed.  The old engine house, which had a beam engine in days gone by, has been converted to a private dwelling.

6 old engine house

The beams were salvaged and have now been mounted to show them in a working alignment.

7 old beams

We had run out of bread so decided to have a pub lunch as the Globe at Snarestone wasn’t far away.  So we started back, passing this interesting landing stage on the way to Snarestone tunnel.

8 pineapple mooring posts

The mooring posts were topped with little pineapples or maybe artichokes, hard to tell and the photo is a bit over-exposed in the bright sunshine. 9 pineapple

A few yards away was a narrow and very decorative mooring.  I’m not sure whether you could get a narrow-boat in there though.

10 mooring for the Manors boat  11 mooring again

Nicholson’s shows a Manor in this area so this probably belonged to that.  Looks a little under-used now though doesn’t it?

We had a pleasant enough lunch in the dog-friendly Globe, nothing special though.  The chips came in a little basket (smaller than a bowl, boo) which was lined with a bit of ‘newspaper’.  Just a bit of printed greaseproof paper though ….

11a chip paper in shnarestone

When we got going again I took the tiller and even managed to take some photos while steering.  There is a particularly lovely stretch through some woodland on the way to Shackerstone.  At this point the sun was still showing its face on and off.

12 lovely wooded bit  13 wooded bit nr shackerstone

If the bike hadn’t got another puncture I would have cycled up to Market Bosworth for some shopping.  It’s a long uphill walk and we have been there before so we opted to carry on down to Sutton Wharf, where we moored on the offside pontoon.  It’s just as well we didn’t go up to the town – there was a sudden quite heavy shower and we would have been caught out without waterproofs!  But by the time we moored the sun was out again.  We got our spot at the start of the pontoon just by the way onto the footpath which leads up through Ambion Woods to the Bosworth Battlefield Visitor Centre.  Meg said it was time we looked after her needs for a change so we went straight out for a lovely walk up through the woods to the park around the Visitor Centre, which you can go into without paying.  We have been into the Visitor Centre before and we thought it was excellent. 

There is a large sundial in the park which has some key facts about the course of the Battle of Bosworth at the relevant time points around the dial.

15 Bosworth sundial

Behind the gnomon (the bit that sticks up and casts the shadow) is a sort of seat.  There are three of these around the perimeter – one each for Richard III (who met his end in the battle), the victorious Henry Tudor and the Earl Stanley who was supposedly on Richard’s side.  Richard held Stanley’s son hostage to make sure he kept to his oath.  On each seat was the crest of the man.  When we went into the visitor centre you could make yourself a bookmark impressed with a facsimile of Richard’s seal, which was a boar. I think it was meant for children but I’m still using the two I made!

16 richard boar crest

Flying above the sundial were the banners of Richard and Henry Tudor. Henry’s was twisted but you could see Richard’s boar although it was difficult to photograph as it waved about in the wind.  You can see the boar if you adjust your screen and squint a bit!

17 boar banner

We took the footpath down to Shenton Station, where a steam train is run on the Battlefield Line up to Shackerstone, but unfortunately not today.  Then we followed the now disused railway line and came across an interpretation point overlooking the probable site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last battle of the Wars of the Roses.  It had been thought the battle was fought on Ambion Hill, but the discovery of cannonballs across this field changed this view.

18 probably the real battlefield

Dadlington Windmill was apparently in this calm and peaceful field and the battle would have raged around it.  Hard to imagine now.  The poor souls who were injured would have been lucky to have recovered I think.  The body of poor old Richard was slung naked over the back of a horse and carried in triumph to Leicester where his bones were discovered a few years ago.  We were fortunate enough to see the excavation site and visit the exhibition when we visited Leicester a few years ago.  Good stuff, this history.

We followed the course of the railway as far as the canal, where it disappears into the undergrowth, and took the towpath back to Sutton Wharf.  It was still warm enough to sit out at the stern for a while.

15 miles, Snarestone tunnel (twice).

Wednesday 25 May 2016

A long day on the Ashby

Sunday 22nd May; Burton Hastings to Congerstone

It was a long day because, having calculated our route to get us to Crick for the show, I had failed to allow for the fact that we had left home some days later than the original plan!  So after a boaters’ meeting and some agonising we hope we have a workable plan which will involve some longer than usual cruising days and probably need the car to get to the show.

Anyway, the rain stopped during the night and it was a lovely sunny morning, and I put my shorts on.  The Ashby is very pretty, and the bridges are most attractive.

1 attractive bridges on ashby

We soon went through the Land of the Pylons mentioned by nb Valerie (sorry folks, we spotted the baby  pylons a few years ago!)

2 pylons  3 pylons

There are two lines of pylons crossing here and the stumpy ones carry one set under the other.  But they do look rather comical I think.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the sunshine this morning – I think this ranks a close second to boating.

4 enjoying the sunshine

We stopped briefly in Hinckley for a few things in the shop on Coventry Road and went on past Trinity Marina where more people were enjoying the lovely morning – some chaps with three radio-controlled boats.  Two quite big and serious ones, a warship of some kind, and we couldn’t tell what the second one was but it had a lot of superstructure.  The third looked like a child’s toy.  When they saw me trying to take photos the third boat set off in hot pursuit.  Look very carefully at the first picture and you will realise what is happening …..

5 rude baby remote control boat

6 just a little potty

The ‘seating arrangements’ are quite clear in the second picture.  Written on the ‘deck’ was Just a little potty and in case you didn’t notice, it is fitted with a water-jet!  We thought it was in very poor taste laughed like a drain even though the camera got a bit wet!

We stopped briefly at Spinneybank farm shop where I got a small pork joint for tea tonight, then stopped at Sutton Wharf services for the necessaries.  We thought we would stop at the next bridge and go for a walk in the Bosworth battlefield country park but couldn’t find anywhere to moor – either overgrown, shallow or impossible to get a stake in.  So we had a late lunch somewhat further along and no walk. 

We carried on but after a while we just wanted to moor up.  When there are no locks you get a bit tired of just going along, however pretty the surroundings.  The further reaches of the Ashby are an SSSI and we found a glorious spot a few hundred yards past this notice, near Congerstone.

14 SSSI notice

I seem to remember there was a lot of fuss about this when a gathering was planned at the terminus as to start with boats were not going to be allowed any wild moorings so only a few boats could have attended.  And how can you not discharge grey water?  Someone clearly was annoyed by it.

We thoroughly enjoyed our little Sunday roast (with excellent crackling!) at this lovely peaceful mooring.  Dave even got a TV signal for some football match an England friendly.

8 lovely mooring bridge 45-46

13 miles

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Return to the Ashby

Saturday 21st May  All Oaks Wood to Burton Hastings, Ashby Canal

We had a bit of a late start today, not leaving until 10.  It rained quite a bit overnight and was quite windy, so we bumped on the rock edge occasionally.  But once we got going we discovered that the one rural spot we could have used if we’d gone on was fully occupied, and the towpath at the Ansty moorings was very wet and muddy, so in spite of the bumps we had the best mooring available.  It stayed dry for most of the morning, with just a few short spells of light rain, though it was very breezy.  As we approached the Pylons of Hawkesbury Junction we spotted a couple of interesting ones for NB Valerie's collection!

                    2 half a pylon at hawkesbury junction  3 and one with baskets

We moored for lunch before the junction, at the start of the grassy area where there are often horses tethered.  But today they were nowhere to be seen, so we could let Meg out for a while and Dave played ball with her before we left.

4 game of ball

We dropped the few inches down the stop lock and Dave turned onto the Coventry Canal smoothly and with no trouble in spite of the breeze.

5 onto the coventry

I walked across from the lock and he picked me up in the narrows at the Engine House.

6 hawkesbury engine house

We waved and exchanged wishes for a pleasant journey with NB Dreamweaver, who you can see moored on the right just beyond the bridge.  We have passed and been passed by them several times in the last couple of days.  They are on their way to Boston via the Trent and so we won’t see them again at least for a few months! 

In spite of the chilly wind the scent of the hawthorn blossom is still filling the air.

7 hawthorn blossom

The gorilla in this Bedworth garden has moved – I am sure he was on the patio last time we passed.  I think he looks good here by the bamboo.

8 gorilla in the garden

Perhaps they should enrol him in Canal Watch.  We met a boater along this stretch who warned us about light-fingered locals – he lost a chair and another boat had a generator pinched -  so although there seem to be several new lengths of Armco piling we won’t be making an overnight stop in this area.  I got my camera poised for Charity Dock. An air hostess has replaced the child and Father Christmas on the climbing frame, and this elegant lady looks as though she’s been partying!

           9 charity dock  10 charity dock

The policewoman on the horse is looking rather coy with her baseball cap but the Stig is his usual inscrutable self.

   11 charity dock12 charity dock

While walking the dog near home last week I met another dog walker who used to live on a boat moored here.  She worked as an artist with schools I think, but they had to sell the boat and move down to Devon to look after elderly parents.  I can’t remember their boat’s name unfortunately.

We were soon at Marston Junction and turning onto the Ashby canal.  We haven’t been here for a few years.

13 Marston junction

There was one boat in front of us but they soon moored up and we continued almost as far as Burton Hastings.  Dave immediately got the TV aerial up for the cup final – phew the signal was good enough! We were visited by a father swan and his three recently hatched cygnets.  They obligingly came to the side hatch for a photo-shoot.

14 bold cygnets with dad

The mother was nowhere to be seen – maybe she is still sitting on eggs?  The rain set in around 5 and it was very windy.  Only a few hire boats on the move now.  I felt very sorry for them.

15 poor souls

1 little stop lock today, and nearly 14 miles.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Up the Motte

Friday 20th May  Barby to All Oaks Wood

It was bright but quite cool as we set off around 9.30.  The motorway at Barby was noisy but only really visible at the bridge – the burgeoning hedgerows do a pretty good concealment job I think.  Just a field away but you wouldn’t know there was a motorway there (apart from the noise of course and the tops of the lorries). 

2 M45 behind burgeoning nature

We held back a little as we neared the linear moorings at Barby to wait for motor Aldgate and butty to come past.

3 motor Aldgate towing unnamed

This is the third time in a row we have met a towing pair here – once it was a new lock gate for Hillmorton.  Only one of each pair of locks at Hillmorton was operating today.  The middle one’s wall had started bowing in and was being repaired.

4 middle hillmorton under repair  4a niddle hillmorton

The top lock will be done next - I had noticed that the brick surround was coming away from the grass by the towpath.  Lucky they are paired locks!  The bottom lock on the towpath side is also closed, but that is to control the numbers of boats going up – if two went up the bottom pair of locks a queue could easily build up below the next lock, where only one can go up at a time.

The newly positioned water point at Brownsover was vacant, so we stopped to fill and empty as appropriate.  The tap has a good pressure and we only needed a top-up so the water tank was filled by the time I had emptied the cassette. It was a bit early for lunch so we went on to Newbold before continuing to All Oaks Wood.  On the way we saw a swan family with seven cygnets

6 seven cygnets

and our first moorhen chicks too.  The lovely moorings were busy as they often are but we managed to moor on pins at the northern end, though we couldn’t get right in to the side.  We took Meg and went to see the Motte and Bailey at Brinklow, taking the road from bridge 34 and picking up the footpath that leads to the village.  We approached the motte from the ‘back’, and climbed a narrow path which will be swamped by vegetation before long. 

8 dave ascending brinklow motte

At the top it was obvious we had approached from the wrong direction. The ‘village’ side is all mown (or rabbit-nibbled – there were plenty about) as is the the bailey, the flat area on the other side of the moat at the bottom of the slope.

9 is that the bailey below

The sides of the motte are steep and it must have been quite a good defensive position.  There would have been a wooden or stone keep on the top and other buildings within the bailey below, which was also surrounded by earth banks and ditches.  It was constructed in the 11th century, soon after the Norman Conquest.

10 dave descending motte

We walked down to the village and came back via the lane that leads to the car park in the woods.  It was so warm we sat at the stern with a beer for an hour till it got chilly.   Later, two stag party boats roared by far too fast and as we weren’t moored on the piling we were bumped against the rocky bottom.  Most annoying. It rained later on but the revellers probably wouldn’t have noticed.

3 locks, 11 miles