About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. My Lucky Day

I left Alvecote shortly after the Trust boats, with the intention of cruising a little way to charge the batteries and then returning to The Barlow. However, the winding hole was a fair way down and what with picking blackberries on the way, I decided that I may as well stay on the towpath to moor.

Picking blackberries on the off side to the towpath is a dodgy business, as not only is it shallow, but the boat continues to move slightly as is not easy to stop in just the right place. The answer is to cut ripe bunches off with secateurs and strip the berries off later. Another batch of blackberry and apple was then cooked up and the apples were the ones off the tree on the Middlewich Arm, which I picked about a month ago!

Atherstone locks were next on the agenda the following morning and surprisingly everyone was in my favour; the reason being that all the boats going north were returning from the Shackestone Family Festival – I did not have to refill one lock on the way, so made it to the top in 2 hours.

At one lock, I moored up and went up to the lock to see the oncoming boat through; it was Sue Cawson on Theo. She never looked at me whilst going down and left without a word. As I passed her in my boat I said    “A thank you would be nice.” She apologised profusely and said she was concentrating on the route. After which, she came and helped me though the lock and was most chatty.
Not many of these left on the cut,
or anywhere else.

I knew that Maggie Young had been to the festival and contacted her to see if we could meet up somewhere.

After some various alternative arrangements, we met up in Atherstone and I accompanied her down the first five locks to The Kings Head, where she was going to buy me lunch. When we moored up at the pub, it was closed for refurbishment – oh dear! So we left her boat there and walked into town to find The Larder.

Now this really was something else! The inside of the cafe was like a small museum to the 1940’s, with memorabilia of the war, uniforms, insignia, Spong mincers, photographs and so many other things of interest. The photos on the internet link are worth a look, but they don’t really do justice to the place. I had a minced lamb pie and Maggie had Spam fritters, with beans on toast; both served on white enamelled plates. I can just remember eating Spam fritters as a child in the war, but I didn’t want to experience them again. We had a pint after that in the pub and then went our own separate ways. It was a very enjoyable experience to have someone to talk to and brightened up the day considerably. Cruised on to The Anchor, which I remember was the Everard’s pub we ended up in after the header tank blew a hole on Nuneaton last year. My pint of Tiger  was still as good as it was then.

I cruised on towards Marston Junction and was thinking about having a pump out, as the last one was before reaching Birmingham in May. I pulled in to Springwood Haven and asked how much was a pump out. £18 was the reply. “£18 says I! Well, I’m not that desperate!” “Well, we have to charge that much, because we have to have it taken away,” she replied. Star Cruisers in Nuneaton were further along and their price was £16, even if I did it myself, so I accepted that, but I had to pull alongside another boat with a shaft coupling problem, which also need a pump out. The proprietor then said that if we fight amongst ourselves, he would do both boats for £16 – a bargain! Of course the cheapest pump out on the system, as far as I know, is at Molesley Lock at Hampton Court on the Thames, which is £8.

At Marston Junction I turned onto the Ashby Canal, which has been on my ‘to do list’ for quite a while, as all the reports I have read say how lovely it is. For the first time in about 30 years, I saw two water voles swimming across the cut. They used to be seen frequently on the Grand Union Canal in days past, but sadly not evident now.
A horse that thinks it's a zebra?

I reached Stoke Golding, with the intention of paying another visit to the George and Dragon, where I had been before, but by car, for a tasting of the Church End Brewery beers. I was not disappointed. My mate Colin recommended an Indian restaurant at the back of one of the pubs in the village, which turned out to be The Three Horseshoes. Not much of a pub with only one beer pump on, but the restaurant was excellent and also very busy on a Wednesday night, which says a lot for any eating establishment.
A quiet day out.

Now that I had a reservation booked at the Coventry Cruising Club for the weekend, I had to book a rail ticket to get home and renew my prescription and everything else that has to be done in a few days. The internet connection was exasperatingly slow, so I did not get away from the mooring until midday.

I have to say that everything I have heard about the Ashby is true. There no locks on the 22 miles and it is so rural that I rarely saw people and never a village, except in the distance. Even Hinckley was hidden behind trees.

I cruised up to the terminus just above Snarestone the next day and the sun was out all day – it was superb. I passed Whitby and expected to see Blossom on Darley following behind; I was not disappointed. They seem to go everywhere together. I winded the boat at the end and returned a couple of miles to Shackestone, where the festival had been the weekend before. There were some festival boats still remaining on moorings here.  Had a pint in The Rising Sun, cooked a meal and retired to bed.
Cut end.

Very rural.

Charming stone bridges for some of the way.
A blast from the past at Hinckley.
When I arrived at Market Bosworth, I decided to have a look at the village centre and do a bit of shopping. It was ¾  of a mile and all uphill, so I had to have a pint in The Red Lion, but at £3.95 for a pint of Jennings Cock-a-Hoop was higher than Brighton prices! I did find a decent butcher though, so that made it worth my while. Another two hours and I was back in Stoke Golding but on different moorings this time on the offside of the cut, where there is a footpath to the village centre; even shorter than the previous walk up the hill to The George and Dragon.

It was now time to move down to Sutton’s Stop for an overnight mooring before going into Coventry Cruising Club for a few days, whilst I went home. It was an uneventful trip, although the turn at cut end into the Trent and Mersey was a total cock-up. For some unknown reason, the boat responded very poorly to the tiller, which is most unusual. Maybe there was weed around the blades, but she was very light at the stern end, because fuel was low and there were four bags of coal and 60 litres of fuel stored in the bow locker. I frequently thought there was weed around the blades on the Ashby and kept chucking back, but on checking the weed hatch, there was nothing to see.

I was early on the moorings at Sutton’s and an oil change and fuel filter change were overdue. As before, I try to take short cuts when bleeding the air out of the fuel system and it just doesn’t work, so it took longer than I expected. However, on re-reading the handbook, it is best done with the throttle wide open and two injector unions loosened, rather than one. This time the engine fired up on two cylinders, until I tightened up the other two. All was well once more. I intend opening up the first filter in the line to see how much muck is actually inside.

As usual on Saturday night, the Greyhound was rammed and I had a brief conversation with a couple of Asians at the bar. I was tempted to ask them if they had a business in the Foleshill Road, which is where all the Asian shops are in Coventry.
I cruised around the turn at Sutton’s and the stop lock had been left open for me, but the top paddle would not work, because the rack did not engage with the pinion. There was a convenient stick lying beside the paddle gear and I managed to wedge that behind the rack to engage it and managed to lift it to the top.
Just a short distance to go now until I came to the bridge over the arm, where the entrance needed a hairpin turn to get in. It would have been OK from the other direction though. I nosed the bow against the brick wall and swung the stern round until it was parallel with the arm and slowly motored in to be met by my contact Chris Deeming, who wanted to see my insurance certificate and charged me a £50 deposit for the gate key to get out in the morning. They are all so different, these boat clubs.
I think these Dickies boots are about 3yrs old,
 but have only been worn when boating,
so have had about 8 months wear.
I would have expected more.

1 comment:

James Bell said...

I think you mean Summit Tunnel, not Shrewley, before the Engine Branch