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Ashby Canal

October 5th 2017

Today is a bit of a special day for us as it marks ten years since we got the keys to our first boat, Phoenix III. It is also five months to the day since I retired on May 5th.

A couple of lazy days were spent at Market Bosworth, we only managed one walk up to town but we did manage to catch up with Chris Hubbard, the manager at Bosworth marina. On Wednesday we decided to move on a bit further, this time getting as far as Shackerstone, where we tied on the deserted visitor moorings.

Shackerstone mooring

Caxton through the trees.

Following the usual pattern, we showered and had lunch before venturing out to the preserved station, home of the Battlefield line heritage railway.

Shackerstone Station

Wednesday’s services carried out by the railcar on the right.

Tea for two.

Memorabilia all around.

Victorian Tearoom

There is a Victorian tea room on the platform so of course we had to pop in and have a cuppa before we returned to the boat and battened down the hatches, ready for the forecast wind and rain to arrive. The rain arrived at around seven o’clock and the wind speed built up steadily after that. By the time we were ready for bed, the noise of the wind blowing through the surrounding trees was terrific, so much so that Sue was unable to get to sleep until after two (I was out like a light within ten minutes though!).

There were more high winds forecast for Thursday but when I went outside just after eight o’clock to check that everything was intact and where it should be, it didn’t seem too bad at all. Just over an hour later, we set off again and made the trip along the last part of the Ashby canal to Snarestone. It was a quiet journey and we met only two boats travelling in the opposite direction along the way. The phantom leaf ball intervened a few times in some of the wooded areas around Gopsall but it didn’t hold us up at all. Snarestone tunnel seems quite tame after Blisworth and Braunston, despite the fact that it has a bend in it and a low roof caused by mining subsidence.

On reaching the end, we again found the visitor moorings deserted so we headed for the service block at the end and did the necessary. By now the wind was really picking up again but for once it was a good thing because after reversing from the services, I brought Caxton to a halt and just let the wind blow the bow into the winding hole. Having let the wind do most of the work, it was simple enough to complete the manoeuvre and tie up at the bridge end of the moorings.

After lunch, Sue walked back to the canal shop and paid for membership of the Ashby Canal Association. We’ll go and inspect the restoration development on Friday when the strong north westerly wind has dropped.

A long and sunny day

When we looked at the weather on Thursday morning and saw that we were to expect rain and high winds on Friday and Saturday, we decided to make the best of the weather and head for home.

Nasty looking weather forecast

Nasty looking weather forecast

It was nine o’clock when we got underway, later than we would have been had we been planning to travel but still early enough to get some distance behind us. We weren’t alone, it seemed like fifty percent of the boats in Braunston had decided to leave the area at the same time so there was the usual chaos at bridges, water points and of course at the junction. The traffic soon settled down as we got out into the open countryside and although there were plenty of boats on the move, we encountered no problems and reached the locks at Hillmorton just two hours later. A sufficient number of boats and lock keepers meant that we cleared the three locks in forty minutes before pulling on to the water point. The great progress that we had made thus far was wiped out by the slow running water tap, taking almost an hour to fill Caxton’s tank. By the time we set off again, the sun was beating down and the temperature was soaring with just a light breeze blowing to keep things bearable. No mooring space at Rugby and nothing really suitable at Newbold although we did tie up temporarily before the tunnel for a shopping stop at the local Co-op. We were on our way again just after three and had decided to aim for somewhere between Ansty and Hawkesbury. Sue took the helm for a few hours to give me a break and we had a great afternoon. The miles and hours flew by as we listened to music in the afternoon sunshine. We passed through Ansty and sort of forgot that we should have been looking for a mooring spot, suddenly we were at Hawkesbury and had to stop for the shallow lock there. Safely and smoothly around the 180 degree turn in front of the Greyhound pub where the outdoor customers always take an interest in boats in the hope that there will be a mistake made. Their heads automatically turn towards the water but soon turn back again when they realise that there is no entertainment for them. Clouds were starting to build and the sun was getting lower in the sky by the time we turned at Marston junction on to the Ashby canal. Finally, we stopped and tied up just before bridge three, had something to eat and then flopped in our chairs for the evening. Our twenty six mile trip with its six locks had taken us ten hours, an average of three lock miles per hour – not bad going at all.

The rain came overnight, the heaviest being just before five o’clock but it had slowed to no more than a steady drizzle by the time we awoke on Friday morning. I got up and dressed at half past seven, Caxton’s engine burst into life fifteen minutes later and we were off. The cabin door opened a few minutes later and a coffee appeared, a short while later the door opened again and this time a bacon sandwich was thrust into my hand with the promise of another when I was ready. As expected, the trip back to Hinckley was quiet enough with only a handful of boats on the move, partly due to the time of day and partly down to the rain. We were back on our berth in the marina before ten o’clock and back home a short time later. Two hours of rain in two weeks is a pretty good result and we were glad that we made the long trip on Thursday because it has rained all day today.

Change of plan.

Our plan for this trip had always been to get into Braunston for Tuesday 13th May and then I would go back to work the following day. In getting to the top of Atherstone locks last night, the run back would be simple enough, Hawkesbury today, Newbold on Sunday, Braunston on Monday.
It was bright and dry when we got out of bed although it soon became apparent that there was a strong wind blowing. We untied and set off just after nine o’clock, heading towards Nuneaton. Sue posed the question as to whether we had time to “nip up” the Ashby to Hinckley and collect a couple of chairs from home that would fit in the cratch. There would be time but I had other ideas, I suggested that we could stay on the Ashby for a few days and as long as we were near home on tuesday, I could use Sue’s car to go to work with mine being parked up at Braunston. On Friday we would recommence our journey south to Braunston. Sue agreed with the suggestion and rewarded me with a breakfast sandwich of bacon and black pudding!
It’s two years since we were last on this stretch of water and we were surprised to see just how much housing development has taken place on the outskirts of Nuneaton. The trip through Nuneaton was fairly quiet with not many boats on the move at all. The rain behaved itself with the odd shower now and again but the wind wasn’t so benevolent, particularly in the exposed areas. The turn at Marston junction on to the Ashby was a bit of a challenge but we made it. The second challenge came at bridge 5, an awkward one at the best of times but today we met a convoy of three boats and had to try and hang about in the wind as they each came under the bridge. Half way to Hinckley we found our old friend Jim moored near the corner at Burton Hastings where we faced our third and final challenge of the day. As we went into the corner the wind kept pushing us towards the line of long term moored boats, the end one, Carpe Diem owned by Stuart and Treena coming closest to getting clunked. In the end, I wrestled Caxton around the corner to safety and we continued on to the Lime Kilns where we have moored for the rest of the day.
It didn’t takes us long to walk home and pick up the chairs and a few other bits and pieces before returning to the boat where Sue quickly rustled up a chicken curry.