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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

Loughborough and Lincoln

The last time we passed this way, we weren’t impressed with Loughborough at all so we weren’t that bothered about staying overnight. The trip from Kegworth had been a straightforward one and we arrived on the visitor moorings around eleven o’clock and found a space easily enough. We took the short walk into town and could see that a lot had changed in the last eight years, the market was on, the sun was shining and the whole place had a vibrant feel about it. We walked around and completely changed the opinion that we had held since 2010 and so decided to stay for a few days. A little bit of digging found that the local heritage railway, The GCR was having a special event over the weekend to mark fifty years since the official end of steam train running in this country. It looked like it would be worth hanging around for on the Saturday, just leaving us with Friday to amuse ourselves.

The title of this post isn’t a mistake, we went to Lincoln on the train on Friday. Very often when we are staying in a place where there is a railway station, we look to see where trains run to from it. It doesn’t always yield interesting results but when we found out that there is a direct service to Lincoln, we made the decision to go. The decision was made at half past eight on Friday morning while we were still in bed but by quarter to ten, we were standing on the platform of Loughborough station, a mile away, ready to board the train.

The trip lasted an hour and a half and stopped at half a dozen stations along the way but the train wasn’t busy and it was modern, quiet and clean so the time passed quickly. Of course we wanted to visit the Cathedral having already been to a number of others on this trip and since there is a castle nearby, it made sense to visit that too. In my mind, I associate the name ‘Lincolnshire’ with flat landscapes and big skies but I must admit that I have only been to places like Spalding and Boston. I had no idea that the castle and Cathedral stand at the top of a steep hill in Lincoln!

Appropriate name indeed!

Anyway, we climbed up the hill and then climbed up on the castle walls and then to the top of the tower – real gluttons for punishment! Lincoln Crown Court still sits in the building inside the castle walls but they don’t use the Victorian prison any more. The castle experience also includes the exhibition of one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, quite appropriate for us after our trip to Runnymede last year.

Outside the castle, that’s the tower we climbed up to.

The original part of the castle.

The Victorian Prison.

That Power Station is 25 miles away.

The Magna Carta lives in here.

The segregated church, the only original example left in the world.

Prisoners were locked into individual cubicles when praying.

Lincoln Crown Court inside the castle grounds.

Inside Lincoln Cathedral.

Columns & Ceiling.

By the time we had trudged back down the hill, an activity which was possibly harder than the climb up, we were glad to get back to the station. Our efforts were rewarded as we found ourselves in what should have been the first class section of the train but East Midland trains have declassified it to standard class. It still had the bigger reclining seats though, so we travelled in relative luxury back to Loughborough.

Later on Friday evening, when checking the GCR website, we saw that because of the recent hot dry spell and the risk of lineside fires, the number of steam trains on duty over the weekend was going to be severely restricted and heritage diesels would be substituted. There didn’t seem much point in going, after all if we want to travel on a smelly, noisy old diesel train we can just get a Northern train from Leeds to Sheffield but for a fraction of the price.

Saturday was another warm day and with the plan to visit the Great Central thrown out, we did a bit of grocery shopping and then reviewed our plans for the rest of the summer – more of which in the next post.