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Easter Holiday

Good friday, April 6th

We finally decided after much to-ing and fro-ing to head south on the Grand Union despite the lock restrictions which are in place because of the water shortages which we are currently suffering from. We left our pontoon in Braunston marina shortly after half past twelve and headed for the diesel pump, we were pipped to the post by another boat so we waited temporarily very close to our original mooring in the marina. As soon as the refuelling point was free we moved PhoenixIII into position and filled the tank with 96 litres of diesel at £1.28 a litre which seems rather expensive for a 60:40 split. With a full tank and a new bag of coal we left the marina, turned right and made our way to the first lock of the Braunston flight. Conscious of our water conservation obligations we waited in the lock to be joined by the next boat to come along, Capercailie. The crew were delivering the boat to a new owner at Stowe Hill and we had a pleasant enough ascent with them to the mouth of Braunston tunnel. We followed another boat into the tunnel and with Capercailie behind us we traversed the gloomy hole through the hill until we emerged on the Daventry side of the navigation passing just one boat en-route. We knew that we would be unable to descend through the Buckby flight but we took a chance and we were able to moor just a hundred yards from the top lock. After eating our main meal of the day we took a walk down to the top lock and paid a visit to the New Inn, not a bad little place but like so many independent pubs a bit tatty and obviously in need of investment. After a drink we returned to the boat so with the fire generating a gentle but constant heat, we settled down for the evening.

We changed our mind two or three times as we tried to work out what we wanted to do before we decided to turn around and avoid the restrictions of the Grand Union. Boats were already gathering at the top of Buckby locks when we untied and reversed the 300 yards or so back to Norton junction. We turned around and were soon heading back to the Braunston tunnel which we reached about an hour after setting off. Although we still had no definite plan when we had turned around, by the time we reached the tunnel we had decided to head for the Ashby canal.

Emerging into the sunlight at the other end we joined the short queue for the locks. By the time it was our turn to descend we had been joined by Frank and Denise on board nb Betty Eccles. It’s always a pleasure to be accompanied by experienced boaters and this trip was no exception. We swapped locks with pair after pair of ascending boats until we reached Braunston bottom lock an hour later. We waved goodbye to our lockmates and pulled over at the boatyard where we caught up with Justin Green and discussed our concerns with recent problems we have had when starting the engine. Justin checked the glow plugs before draining water from the fuel filter, it looks like there is contamination, probably from a damaged O-ring on the filler cap so when we have finished our cruise we will get Justin to polish the fuel, a new service that he provides for boats.

We left Justin’s yard and chugged on to the Boathouse pub where we were fortunate enough to grab the last mooring space. After tying up we went inside and ordered lunch and as usual we were not disappointed by the service, the food or the drinks. An hour later and it was time to move on so we untied and carried on to the service point near Braunston turn where Sue dumped the rubbish and emptied the toilet and I wandered over to Midland Chandlers looking for a new O-ring for the fuel filler – no guessing who had the best deal here then!

And so we carried on, making our way along the North Oxford in the direction of Rugby. We noted the progress made at the new marina on the Barby straight and eventually reached Hillmorton locks. There were a couple of boats in front of us and because BW/CRT have decided to close half of the paired locks, it was a relatively slow descent despite the fact that there were boats coming up at the same rate as there were going down. The afternoon was slipping by as we left Hillmorton and made our way through Rugby and Newbold on Avon, we eventually stopped for the night near Bridge 48, about half a mile north of the Newbold tunnel.

After settling down, Sue phoned Cliff who painted Phoenix III last year to tell him that we would be on the Ashby later in the week. It turns out that he is expecting to be at the Greyhound at Hawkesbury tomorrow afternoon and that is about the time that we will be there. We are all looking forward to this re-union so it is unlikely that there will be a blog posting tomorrow – thick heads all round I suspect!

Easter Sunday dawned with a dose of miserable weather again but we got up and got dressed anyway, knowing that waiting for better things would be a pointless exercise. We were soon on our way from our overnight mooring at Falls Bridge, heading once again in a northerly direction on the Oxford canal. It was a cold and wet wind that accompanied us on our journey but we had no hold ups or incidents as we passed through Stretton stop and then Ansty. We reached Sutton stop just before midday and moored almost at the end of the visitor moorings on the Oxford side. When Cliff arrived a couple of hours later, there was still just enough room to squeeze his boat, Stonewall Jackson in between us and the mooring for the lock.

Once we had secured both boats we joined Cliff and Liz for a coffee and looked at the photographs that they had taken on their trip to America last year. With that out of the way, we made our way to the pub for a drink and to start the re-union properly. We had eaten lunch on board but the Stonewall Jackson crew were planning to eat in the Greyhound so we all thought that we could have a couple of drinks, return to our boats before they could come back to the pub and eat where we would join them later. They booked a table for 6.30 but since we were all still there at 6pm we decided that we might as well all stay and eat. After six hours of talking, eating and drinking we called it a day and wandered back along the towpath to our respective vessels, happy and tired. Sue and I retired to bed before 9.30 but I had a rotten night’s sleep, the combination of two big meals and a belly full of Guinness made for an uncomfortable night but that was still outweighed by the lovely afternoon that we had enjoyed.

It seemed like a long night but eventually it got light and Monday had begun. We set off in the wind and rain, hoping for a mooring somewhere in the Hinckley area. It was a pretty straightforward trip through the stop lock on to the Coventry canal and then back on to the Ashby. We noted some changes to the scenery at the Charity Dock at Bedworth but other than picking up a couple of plastic bags on the prop which we stopped to remove, it was just like so many trips we have made along this stretch. We passed Jim Redhead who was moored near bridge 13 before we passed under the A5 and tied up opposite the Limekilns pub. Sue phoned Cliff to tell him where we were but he needed to pass through to get diesel and a pump out at Trinity marina. At midday we walked over to the pub and had lunch, each having a gammon steak with pineapple, egg, peas and chips. An excellent choice and all for £8 each.

After lunch we walked to the Trinity marina to look at the chandlery there before walking back along the towpath to where PhoenixIII was sitting at the Limekilns. We passed Cliff as he headed towards Stoke Golding and home and reminded him that we would see them later in the week. A few minutes later and we were back on board our boat, the gentle heat from the fire welcoming us home and encouraging us to sit down and relax for the rest of the day.

We were greeted by blue skies and bright sunshine when Sue jumped out of bed at six thirty on Tuesday morning. Half an hour later and she was off, untied and heading north again on the Ashby as I got washed and dressed inside the cabin. We swapped over a little while later, there is nothing finer than early morning boating in the sunshine although the temperature was still quite low. We have travelled this way many times but for the first time ever I spotted a weather vane with a pig on top of it and made a mental note to photograph it on the way back.


We plodded on to Market Bosworth stopping only to use the services at Sutton Cheney. It was interesting to see that all the information about Bosworth battlefield has been removed and half of the offside mooring is no more, all because it turns out that the battle site is actually a few miles away near Stoke Golding. The visitor moorings were pretty much deserted when we arrived at ten thirty so we winded and tied up on the forwardmost mooring position. We took our traditional walk up the hill to the town where we bought the papers and headed for the Red Lion where we spent a couple of hours relaxing. The bar soon filled up with a noisy group of grey haired pensioners, a local walking group we later discovered. We left the Red Lion and returned to the canal after picking up a few items from the local Co-op. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside until it became too chilly to do so We then closed up the doors and watch some television prior to turning in for the night.

Another bright sunny start but we lazed in bed until nine o’clock undecided in what to do. Eventually we decided to set off and run to the lower half of the Ashby where we would moor for the night. It all changed when I had a text message from one our friends, Nigel asking some questions about a caravan that he had just bought. We sort of arranged to meet up with him somewhere in the Hinckley area but when we approached Stoke Golding village moorings and saw that they were empty, we decided to pull in and end our journey. Apart from being a fairly convenient place to meet Nigel we would also be able to see if Cliff fancied meeting up for a drink later in the day. Nigel turned up half an hour later and we spent a pleasant afternoon showing him over the boat and just generally catching up on events.

Sue rang Cliff after we had eaten lunch and then spent the afternoon relaxing on board waiting prior to our walk up to the Dog and Hedgehog at Dadlington.

We awoke around seven o’clock to a blue sky with a light mist hanging over the canal at Stoke Golding. We untied at eight and made our way back in the direction of Hinckley where we stopped for a few minutes to buy some milk at the marina shop. We only paused briefly to drop off a bit of lunch for our friend Jim as he finished off a painting where he moored near bridge 13.

We cruised on down the Ashby, the weather was kind to us but Sue spent most of the time inside baking bread and doing the washing. As we neared Bulkington, Sue appeared with a giant home made ciabatta filled with sausage and egg for me – much appreciated although it beat me in the end and I couldn’t quite manage it all.

When we reached Sutton Stop we encountered a bit of a jam as we joined a queue of boats waiting to pass through the lock. We were treated to a moment or two of entertainment as an Ashby boat failed miserably in his attempt to leave the turn and head north on the Coventry canal. A share boat captain found it necessary to advise us on how and where to position our boat for the lock. I’m always happy to take advice but not from someone who can’t actually control his own vessel.

The rain started just as we left Hawkesbury but it only lasted for half an hour or so and therefore we carried on parallel with the M6 for a while, under the M69 and on through Ansty behind the Rose and Castle. We caught up with Share-boat man at Stretton Stop and watched in amazement as he took ten minutes to find his way through the swing bridge there. We passed him just before All Oaks wood where he had pulled in and moored up for the night – thank goodness!



The sun was shining brightly as we passed through Rugby and concluded our journey ending with the finding of a perfect mooring just below Hillmorton locks. We ate our evening meal out on the deck before feeding the swans and watching the sun go down before returning inside and settling down for the night.


I had a rotten night’s sleep, I awoke to some strange sounds around half past midnight and took about half an hour to realise that there was a gang of men working on the nearby railway line. The noise wasn’t loud but it interrupted my sleep for the next four hours. At six o’clock the sun shone and the sky was blue but by half past seven it was dark again. A mixture of cloud and fog obscured the sun, reduced visibility to around fifty yards and generally made the outside cold, damp and miserable. By half past nine we felt that the fog had lifted sufficiently to untie and make a start to the boating day.

There were only a few boats around as we climbed through the Hillmorton locks noting that the previously closed locks had been unchained and were available for use. Once we had cleared the locks, Sue started the preparation of lunch and made some bread mix before taking a shower. I followed suit with my shower while Sue took over at the tiller, an arrangement which meant that we had made best use of the hot water being generated by the engine. There was a steady stream of traffic around, mainly hire boats, mainly well behaved except one from Rose Narrowboats crewed by children seemingly. Their antics as they passed under a bridge and lost control earned them a sharp rebuke from Susan.

As we passed Willoughby wharf the sun came out and all of a sudden the clouds disappeared, plunging us into a beautiful summer’s day. We stopped and ate lunch opposite the Boathouse pub where we eaten the previous Saturday before we walked up to Braunston village where we did some shopping. The weather had changed so dramatically in such a short space of time that it was easy to forget the cold dank conditions that we had experienced just afew hours earlier.

Returning to the boat we moved on and replenished the water tank as well at the same time carrying out our regular services before turning around in the entrance to the marina. We then basked in the afternoon sunshine as we travelled at tickover speed back to Braunston turn and then made a left turn in the direction of Napton. And that was it really, we just took our time and eventually picked our mooring spot just beyond bridge 100. We spent the rest of the afternoon just sitting out on the grass with a drink just enjoying the April sunshine after I had carried out a couple of minor maintenance jobs.

Another bright but chilly day greeted us on this Saturday morning. We had decided to return to Braunston so that we could get home and have a full day there on Sunday. Despite the fact that we knew that we had to continue travelling away from Braunston first, we knew the journey was still a relatively short one. We were in no hurry to leave our mooring but finally made a move just after ten o’clock, heading for bridge 107 where we would be able to turn around. As usual this section of the canal had a steady stream of traffic in both directions but we had no trouble in making our necessary manouvre. We passed a couple of day hire boats along the way but our only ‘interesting’ moment came when an oncoming private boat appeared to lose control and run into the bank. After hanging back to allow them time to recover their position we discovered that the family dog had decided to take its first swim in the canal without warning. By the time we passed by, the canine was back on board none the worse for its experience but the humans seemed to be still in shock after the event.

We arrived back at the marina just after midday and with our neighbouring boats missing from their berths, it was easy to reverse on to the pontoon despite the fairly strong wind.

So that was it, our holiday was over. We hadn’t been anywhere new but we’d had a good time just pinging around from place to place, visiting old haunts and seeing some old faces.