Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Three Days of Autumn Cruising.


While we were staying at Fradley Junction over the weekend we had an unexpected guest. A rather tired racing pigeon took refuge on the rear deck for about an hour on Saturday afternoon. That was, until one of our ‘expected’ guests – Jasper the Border Terrier - trotted to the back of boat and spotted it. At that point the pigeon decided it had enough energy to continue it’s journey!


Jasper, of course, belongs to friends John and Louise on nb “Ploddin Along” who we had arranged to meet on Saturday. The fun with these two lovely people started with coffee, and fantastic home made coffee cake, onboard “Ploddin Along”. This was followed by a glass of wine / beer as the afternoon wore on! In the evening Louise and John came aboard “Chance” for a reciprocal glass or two before we headed up to the ‘Mucky Duck’ for a meal together. The picture says it all really – great fun, lots of laughs and thanks so much both of you for the meet-up and for your lovely company. See you next year – wink, wink!


And this is cute little Jasper who we also had great fun with. Especially Doug who, given a four-legged friend for a few hours, is in his element! There were lots of sticks and balls being thrown resulting in a tired little doggy (and a tired little Doug!)


On Sunday morning, after James successfully risked the threat of rain showers and painted the sanded areas on the roof (that’s another winter preparation job done) we set forth, going forwards this time, through the lock we’d reversed through on Friday!, and turning immediately left onto the Coventry canal. We only had a bit of drizzle to contend with during the day – luckily the roof paint had dried before we left Fradley. Not long after we’d moored up for the night (in one of our favourite spots just before the military firing area at Hopwas!) we were hailed by the sound of American accents from a passing ‘Aqua’ hire boat! Some lovely people, all the way from “south of San Francisco”, told us they enjoy regularly reading our blog. Goodness! – what a chance that you should pass us! Thank you for saying hello and we hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday.


Monday was a very wet day with James steering the boat under the protection of an umbrella for four hours. Luckily the rain stopped as we got to the bottom of the Atherstone flight of 11 locks. At the ‘town’ bridge 44 they’d done a good job of prettifying the area with a good autumnal display of flowers.


We reached the top lock, 80 feet higher than we started, in just less than two hours. Not too bad really!


The weather improved in the afternoon and, at about 5’ish, we moored in one of our middle-of-nowhere locations (just before Hartshill) and enjoyed the afternoon sunshine.


Tuesday was very drear but at least it was dry. We were pleased to see that the very pretty maintenance yard at Hartshill was looking more ‘loved’ than the last time we passed.


There is a very stout and dignified original manager’s house at the far end of the yard but the most interesting building is the arched dock building constructed of blue brick and topped by an elegant clock tower.


If it was on the roadside this marvellous left-over from the past would have been felled for one reason or another but here, on the canal side near Boon’s Wharf, it survives intact.


After we travelled through Nuneaton and passed the start of the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction we arrived at Hawkesbury Junction – known historically as “Sutton Stop” by the old working boat crews.


Our need to get onto the Oxford Canal at this point required a very tight 180 deg turn through the beautiful cast iron bridge built in 1837. “Chance” handles very well and managed the turn with ease (and without bow thrusters!).


Doug had hopped off the boat before the tight turn and nipped across to prepare the stop lock (just a 6 inch rise – and not 6 inches deep as we’d described the last stop lock!) Occasionally a stop lock is required at junctions to cope with the change in water level between two canals.


For the second time on the day’s journey the canal came up with something you don’t get to see on the roads – this amazing view of a pylon taken from the boat as we passed by!


And another middle-of-nowhere mooring on Tuesday evening next to the Crewe to Rugby railway line …….


……. and also at the end of one of the Ansty golf course fairways. We hope we’re far enough away not to be hit by any stray golf balls!

The lovely autumn feel on the canal has been heightened by the marvellous sunny evenings we’ve had on all three days.  How very lucky!

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