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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

Sawley & Long Eaton

The worst of the weather had passed by Monday morning so we were up and out and glad to be moving again although we didn’t plan on moving very far. There was a long slow crawl for a mile through Shardlow wharf and past all of the moored boats beyond before we reached our one and only lock of the day. Derwent Mouth lock marks the end of the Trent and Mersey canal and just below it there is the confluence of the river Trent and the Derwent. Suddenly, it was as if we were crossing a lake, the water was so wide.

Looking back at the Trent, Derwent and Trent & Mersey junction.

We passed under a pipe bridge that I used to see when travelling north on the M1 and then we passed under the motorway itself.

The view of the pipe bridge from the M1. (Courtesy of Google maps)

M1, Monday morning at a standstill – there’s a surprise!

We then passed the only other boat on the move before arriving at the moorings opposite Sawley marina.

The only two things on the move in this picture are ourselves and the other narrowboat.

Luckily enough, other boats were just starting to leave so we had our pick of the moorings. We found ourselves a straight stretch where the ring spacing was kind to us and tied up for the day.

It was only nine o’clock and since we had planned to catch the bus into Long Eaton to do a big supermarket shop, we took advantage of the Sawley marina café across the way. Breakfast didn’t disappoint, it was superb and ended up being our only meal of the day! Anyway, despite being full of breakfast we stuck to the task, walked to the bus stop and caught the Skylink bus into Long Eaton. The zigzag duo ticket allows two people to travel on the buses all day for £11. Twelve minutes later and we were getting off the bus again with Tesco, Asda and Aldi lined up in front of us to choose from.

After an hour, we had bought as much as we dared to carry back to the boat but it wasn’t too much of a hardship, the bus stop is opposite the supermarkets and at the other end, just a five minute walk from the towpath. After unpacking the groceries, we caught the bus again using our zigzag duo and returned to Long Eaton so that we could have a look around. It was alright too, all of the usual suspects were present when it came to the high street shops and we had a good wander around, picking up some bits that the supermarkets don’t stock. The bus route follows the Erewash canal for a little way into town and although we took a mild interest in it, we decided not to explore it by boat.

After we returned to our mooring later in the day, the chores couldn’t be avoided any longer so it was a case of dumping rubbish, emptying cassettes and filling the water tank – there is no glamourous side to narrowboating!

(On reading this, Sue remarked that there is a glamourous side – relaxing on the front deck with a glass of wine in the sunshine. I agree in principle but then she hasn’t just emptied five toilet cassettes into an elsan!).

Our original plan for Tuesday had been to have a lazy start but we were awoken early by some heavy rain showers. We weren’t travelling so it wasn’t a problem, we just lost a few hours sleep, that’s all. With no real plans for the day, we eventually decided to walk to Trent lock where the Erewash canal meets the rivers Trent and Soar. The rain had long gone by the time we started our walk but there were some good sized puddles along the way, confirmation that a lot of rain had fallen in a short period of time. When we arrived at the lock, we took a good look around the area before making our way to the Trent Lock pub where we had a leisurely lunch.

By the time we returned to the boat, we couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere else so we just stayed on board and turned our thoughts to the next part of our journey.