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Another weekend in Atherstone

The main problem with owning a narrowboat and still having to go to work, is of course that most of the time you are limited to weekend trips. We knew this before we bought Phoenix III and recognised the fact that it may prove limiting. In actual fact it’s not bad at all but that’s because this part of the canal system is virtually lock free if you ignore the small stop lock at Hawksbury. A weekend trip could take you to Rugby, Coventry, Atherstone or Snarestone at the top of the Ashby canal without any great effort and without being held up in a flight of locks.

Friday afternoon saw us leaving Hinckley just after three o’clock, the wind was gusting a bit and exiting the marina wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been but we made it in the end. Our destination was Atherstone but unlike on previous trips, we had the advantage of having more daylight hours to cruise in. At this time of year, there is a lot to see on the canal, all of the trees, bushes and plants are green and growing furiously as they take advantage of the ever increasing hours of sunshine, the warm temperatures and the heavy showers that are present in April, May and June. There are many familes of ducks and swans, all boasting broods of between four and eight offspring. They all love bread of course so we do our bit to feed the hungry mouths.

By seven thirty, we are ready to tie up. We are near to Springwood Haven, near Nuneaton, home of Valley Cruises. This hire company, like the Ashby Boat Co. and Rose Narrowboats keep their boats in immaculate condition unlike some that we have seen. It is going to be around nine o’clock before dinner is ready so we play some music, sing a bit and have a dance in the boat. DANCE? WHY? You might ask, well why not?!

One of us, no names, no pack drill, fell asleep before ten o’clock so it was an early night for both of us. This was alright except that we both awoke around half past four the following morning, when we had the so called pleasure of listening to the dawn chorus. Eventually one of us, again no names mentioned, dropped off and slept like a log, a log that was being cut up with a chainsaw by the sound of things.

Eventually it was the proper time to get up and after breakfast, we completed the trip to Atherstone in about an hour and a half. Travelling between ten and two on a Saturday is the best time because all of the hire boats have made their last mad dash back to base and the new hirers have yet to take the helm. By the time we reach our destination, the sun is shining and temperature is rapidly rising. After securing our mooring near bridge forty, we dump our rubbish and walk down the towpath beside the locks. We chat to a couple who are ascending the locks and discover that although they live at Hillmorton near Rugby and have a business restoring vintage diesel engines at Braunston, their boat is moored in Hinckley Wharf, not too far from where we live and Phoenix III is berthed. After doing a bit of shopping on the main street of Atherstone, we popped into the Red Lion Hotelwhere we shared a bottle of wine as we read the papers in the conservatory ~ very nice! After an hour or so (who knows? who’s counting anyway?) we returned to the boat for dinner, a delicious menu including lamb shank for the main course followed by bread and butter pudding purchased from Nineteengales farm shop. After dinner, we felt duty bound to do a pub review and decided to walk to the “Bridge & Barge “ nearby. It was closed so we ended up back in the Red Lion again, this time for a coffee and a glass of cider. Back to the boat where we fed the ducks, watched the sun go down and then turn in for the night.

Sunday morning proved to be overcast and not as warm as the previous day so we decided that we would change our usual pattern and set off immediately. We turned around at Atherstone top lock and were on our way for half past eight. We cruised for about an hour and stopped near The Anchor pub, just after British Waterway’s yard at Hartshill. Unfortunately, a succession of passing boats, some of which were travelling too fast, caused our rear mooring pin to become dislodged and as I came out of the shower, Sue realised what was happening and we had to quickly secure the boat again. After breakfast, Sue claimed that she was still traumatised by the event and as a result felt the need to have a glass of port, despite the fact that it was only eleven thirty! (Note the word claimed!).

After a short walk back to the road where we checked out the location of the pub, we returned to the boat, untied and set off again. Other than the fact that there are more moving boats to pass and fewer moored ones than in winter, the two hour trip back to Marston Junction is without incident. Sue disappears into the galley to prepare Sunday lunch; roast beef, roast spuds, veg and yorkshire pudding. If our timing is right, we should be sitting down to this feast around three o’clock somewhere near the Lime Kilns and only half an hour from home.

In the event, it is about ten past three when we moor just before the A5 bridge near the Lime Kilns, normally when we pass through this section, Sue’s nose starts to itch presumably there is something growing in one of the adjacent fields that she is allergic to. Anyway, this time she is unaffected, maybe because her nostrils, like mine are filled with the smell of the aforementioned Sunday roast dinner.

Despite the fact that we have done this trip a couple of times before, it has been different this time. Longer days have allowed us to stop in different places and the changing of the seasons has allowed us to observe nature at work.

After dinner, we rest a while before making the final leg of the journey back to the marina. There is hardly any wind so berthing the boat, stern first is no problem. A quick clear up and then we head for home, refreshed and tired after our weekend trip to Atherstone. Our next trip will be in two weeks time when we go out for a fortnight on a holiday for two weeks -destination Oxford.