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Exploring all of the Ashby

We normally use the bbc website for weather forecasting and until recently this has proved to be very useful for planning our weekends. This week, there seems to be a new tactic for the bbc, one which is no help at all, rendering the service absolutely useless. Perhaps they don’t realise that just saying that the next five days will be sunny, rainy and cloudy and then changing it on the day to match the actual day’s weather isn’t really a forecast at all. The forecast was for rain, cloud and sun from Thursday to Tuesday but with the sun shining we left Hinckley on Friday afternoon at half past two. The light breeze was welcome in the thirty degree heat as we headed towards the top end of the Ashby. We have only made it right to the top on one occasion but that trip was blighted by engine trouble. We cruised until seven o’clock when we tied up near the village of Shackerstone. We walked to the churchyard where Sue placed some wild flowers that she had picked on the grave of the children who perished in the frozen water in March 1965. We had a quick drink at the Rising Sun before returning to the boat for something to eat. We ate outside in the warmth of a balmy summer evening, listening to music and waiting for the sun to set.

The air in the boat cooled quite quickly after sunset and we had a comfortable night before waking up to a continued lack of predicted rain. We set off just before ten o’clock and reached the end of the canal just beyond Snarestone at half past eleven. There is some information about the canal and a small shop whose proceeds go to the Ashby Canal Association at this, the point where the restoration project will begin later this year. We were tempted to moor here for the rest of the day but decided against it because there would be no escape from the strong sun and heat. We cruised back, half heartedly looking for a shady mooring and before we knew it, we were at Stoke Golding where we tied up for dinner. The humidity was higher on Saturday than it was the night before, so with only three miles between us and home, we decided to head back there for the night. The water level in the canal is a few inches lower than in previous weeks, perhaps due to evaporation and lack of rain, this exposes holes in the muddy bank and soon we see that the holes are home to rats. We reached Hinckley just before eight o’clock and despite the fact that the day had been mostly breeze free, the wind across the marina played with us as we reversed the boat into its berth. The trip had been a night shorter than we had originally thought but it was just as good fun and along the way we had seen a few new types of wild life; a swimming snake, a few swimming rats, big brown dragonflies and small metallic blue ones. Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny again so we decided to go to the real top of the Ashby canal at Moira, this time by car. At the moment this is the only way to get to the original terminus but hopefully the restoration project will enable us to cruise the full length in a few years. Despite the usual forecast, we decided to get the roof down on the StreetKa so that at least we were out cruising in the fresh air. The Moira museum is at the old furnace and is quite a pleasant place now. At the height of its industrial peak, it was probably a completely different scene so in some respects, the visitor doesn’t really get a true picture of how it used to be. We walked from the furnace to the canal terminus half a mile away, inspecting the only lock on the Ashby canal. We saw a fisherman land a fish, a three pound bream, he claimed. A solitary Sea Otter narrowboat occupied the basin, another scene that will change when the canal is restored and accessible to all. Next to the basin is Conkers, an educational day out for all the family on the edge of the national forest. We walked back along the towpath to the museum before getting back into the car for the drive back to Hinckley. We tried, where possible, to follow the route of the canal, driving through Measham, Snarestone, Shackerstone and Congerstone. We criss-crossed the canal several times before reaching Market Bosworth where we stopped to visit the farmers market. After this short stop we were soon on our way to Stoke Golding for the second time in twenty four hours. By the time we had returned home we had been to market, walked for an hour and stopped at a café, total time: four hours. The same trip by boat would have been ten hours longer!

So, there we are, the Ashby canal fully travelled by car and by boat, no sign of the predicted rain on what has been one of the best weekends of the year so far and a glimpse of both the future and the past with our trip to Moira.