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Turn for home

I mentioned in my last post that we were reviewing our plans for the rest of our trip. Our initial thoughts had been to continue south from Loughborough, through Leicester and eventually Braunston where we would join the Oxford canal and then head back to the Ashby canal. When we thought about the thirty five broad locks between Loughborough and Foxton, the limited moorings available in Leicester and the prospect of travelling over the long, lonely summit to Crick, we were hardly filled with enthusiasm. The alternative was to simply turn around, re-trace our steps to Fradley and turn left on to the Coventry. This shorter route would get us home in the middle of August but it would leave us free to do other things before the autumn set in. It was an easy decision to make so on Sunday 5th August, we got up early and turned the boat around and started on the descent towards the river Trent. It was hot and sunny again but we reached Sawley marina just after one o’clock and managed to find a space to tie up for the rest of the day.

We had another early start on Monday 6th and enjoyed a fresh breeze as we passed under the M1 again and then found ourselves on the Trent & Mersey canal. Pressing on through Shardlow, we were joined by a three generation family on nb Heron and that made the remaining broad locks very easy. They stopped for lunch while we carried on until we were almost at Willington w,here we managed to find a shady spot and escape from the sun’s heat.

On Tuesday 7th, we moved early again with an overnight mooring at Barton Turns marina in mind. The narrow locks seemed like nothing compared to the broad locks and our progress felt swift as we reached the marina entrance. I had just started to turn in when a boat leaving the marina came into view. I stopped and fortunately they were not turning our way, however as we both manoeuvred our craft, another narrowboat appeared from the opposite direction to us and proceeded to steer around the back of Caxton. The three boats formed a triangular pattern in the marina entrance for a few moments and then we were all on our way again. We had a good afternoon in the marina and then had pizza in the Waterfront restaurant, taking advantage of their two-for-one offer.

Wednesday, surprise surprise, we were up early again and motoring on to Fradley junction. It was a straightforward trip and soon we had done the locks and turned on to the Coventry canal. It was still fairly early when we moored at Whittington so we walked up to the village and caught the bus into Lichfield where we spent the afternoon.

Thursday 9th saw us moving on to Tamworth, a place that we haven’t visited before so we took the opportunity and walked into town. It was alright, too. We saw the castle but didn’t visit it, instead choosing to read of the town’s history on the numerous information boards dotted around. We did a lot of walking and got back to our mooring in the late afternoon.

Rain had been forecast for Friday 10th but we didn’t see any of it until we reached Grendon where we filled with water, we then pushed over to the other side of the canal and moored up for the day.

Our mission on Saturday 11th was to go half way up the Atherstone flight and stay there for the weekend and that was exactly what we did. We met enough boats coming down to make the ascent relatively easy and we had no problem finding a space below lock 5. It’s only a five minute walk to town from there so we enjoyed a few hours in the sunshine on Long Street, the main thoroughfare in the town. For old time’s sake, we also had a couple of hours in the library room of the Red Lion Hotel reading the papers.

Having travelled every day for seven days and with rain forecast to fall throughout Sunday, we were expecting to stay put until Monday the 13th. There was little rain throughout the morning on Sunday and the sky brightened up around one o’clock so we decided to get the remaining five locks done and out of the way, leaving us with a straight run home the following day. The ascent of the locks was easy, lock five was empty as a boat had just passed us. As we rose in the lock another was working down lock four. The same happened at lock three with the added bonus of a volunteer lock keeper on duty. In fact, the top three locks had lock keepers, so much so that our passage through took just under three quarters of an hour. The following ten minutes were not so straightforward for us. As we approached bridge 39, an ABC hire boat appeared. This shouldn’t have been a problem as we were a long way from the bridge ourselves. Unfortunately, the steerer was going a little bit faster than his skill level should have allowed him to, he messed his line of approach up and then panicked, steered the wrong way and ended up across the canal on a collision course with a moored boat. We had stopped and reversed out of the way, not wishing to become part of the entertainment. A woman appeared on the deck of the ABC boat, took the tiller and got everything under control again so we started approaching the bridge again, just in time to see the bow flashes of another narrowboat appear. No drama this time but we did have to stop again. Forty five minutes to get through five locks, ten minutes to get under a bridge! Just to complete the whole Atherstone experience, a teenager threw a stone at us and hit the boat as we passed under bridge 38.

We tied up near Hartshill for the day, leaving ourselves with just twelve lock free miles to cover on Monday morning.

There’s not a lot to say about the final leg of our journey really, an early morning start under a dull sky and the feeling of a bit of rain in the air. Through Nuneaton with only the odd dog walker for company and then back on to the Ashby canal at Marston junction. We weren’t really sure if we would encounter low water levels after the long hot summer – the Ashby can be shallow at the best of times. As it turned out, we had no problems at all. We had heard that water has being getting pumped into the Coventry canal from the quarries at Hartshill (it flows in near the Anchor Inn to be precise) to maintain the level and since the Ashby is on the same pound, it seems to have benefitted too. By the middle of the morning, we reached Hinckley and the Trinity marina where after sorting out a berth and completing the relevant paperwork, we tied Caxton up and walked home.

That might be us for this year now, maybe the odd short cruise here and there but we have no plans for any long trips.

Last year I summarised the statistics for our trip so I thought that I might as well repeat the exercise here.

Number of weeks spent on board – 17

Miles travelled – 314 (504km)

Locks – 221

Tunnels – 4

Counties visited – 8

Blog posts – 45

Alrewas and Lichfield

We had been deliberating over our route for a few days but eventually a decision had to be made and thankfully we made it before we set off, rather than waiting until we reached Fradley junction. It was an easy enough trip to Fradley and we had the benefit of having a volunteer lockie at the last lock before the junction. He asked us which way we were heading and adjusted a sign that is on the bottom gates so that the keeper at junction lock knows which way the oncoming boats are travelling. We were going straight on so by the time we reached the next lock, it was ready for us. Below the lock, we made use of the services before setting off again with the hope of finding a mooring at Alrewas.

It didn’t seem to take too long to reach our destination, despite the fact that we had worked through seven locks to get there and we tied before the road bridge above Bagnall lock on the edge of Alrewas village. Showered and changed, we walked into Alrewas and had lunch at The Bank coffee house.

Sun setting over our Alrewas mooring.

On Wednesday we caught the bus and went to the Cathedral City of Lichfield and what a beautiful place it turned out to be!

Lichfield street scene

Inside Lichfield Cathedral.

Lichfield Cathedral.

This building dates back to 1510.

On our travels we often muse about places that we might like to live in. Lichfield has just shot into the number one slot of that particular top ten chart! We had a fabulous lunch at McKenzie’s restaurant and then returned to the bus station to catch the bus back to Alrewas.

Another sunny day awaited us when we awoke on Thursday and once ready, we walked up through the village to the National Memorial Arboretum. The only fly in the ointment is the crossing of Ryknild Street, now the A38 which is a busy dual carriageway. With a bit of patience, we made it across the road, there and back. The Arboretum is a fine place with many different memorials to a great number of individuals, regiments and conflicts that have taken place over the years.

This is the memorial to the famous Christmas Day football match in 2014. The result of which isn’t recorded but I suspect there’s a fair chance that if it had gone to penalties, Germany would have won.

Friday morning was yet another blue skied event so we got up, untied and dropped down through Bagnall lock and then took on water just above Alrewas lock. We then dropped down on to the river section of the canal, although by comparison to the other rivers that we have travelled on it would have been difficult to know that we were actually on a river at all. After Wychnor lock, we hit the long straight that runs parallel to the A38 (Ryknild Street) and after the little kink at the end of the street, tied up outside Barton Turn marina. This was just a stopping point so that we could check out whether we could moor inside for a few nights.