Archive for April, 2019

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Easter Cruise Part Five

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2019 by netmanianick

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We debated whether to have a day off at the Battlefield Moorings, but in the end decided to push on to Snarestone, where we could meet Ben and Kate to go for dinner in the excellent pub on top of the tunnel.

Today was Easter Monday, and allegedly the last day of the exceptionally fine weather, so we concluded that we should make the most of it and pulled pins shortly after 9.00 am.

The top end of the Ashby is really pretty, and peaceful and we wound our way past Market Bosworth and up to Shackerstone which looks wonderful from the canal.

After the village is a fabulous wooded section before we finally arrived at the portal to the Snarestone Tunnel.

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The tunnel has a kink in it which means that you really can’t see if anything is coming through from the other direction until you are almost in it. Today nothing was in our way so we made the short dark passage in no time. At the other end it is just a short distance to the water point and Ashby Canal Trust shop where they sell a wide range of interesting bric a brac in aid of the restoration funds. While I dealt with the boat servicing Anne disappeared into the shop, and judging by the amount of stuff she brought back I reckon she must have paid for at least another couple of yards of canal!

There were plenty of boats on the move today, so we didn’t linger and were soon on our way back through the tunnel to moor just beyond. I wandered up to the pub to book a table for the evening only to discover that they stopped serving meals at 4pm as it was a bank holiday. Our meal with Ben and Kate was re-arranged for the following evening and we settled down to a home cooked meal for two aboard.

The following morning we set off early with the plan to moor at the Farm Shop by Bridge 23. In the early morning the canal was peaceful and we didn’t see another boat moving for at least a couple of hours. Then suddenly it was mayhem with boats coming at us from every direction!

We stopped again at Sutton Wharf to fill with water and dispose of rubbish, and then continued on to Stoke Golding where I took the opportunity to top up the diesel tank, and pump out the loo tank.

One bridge later and we tied up just beyond bridge 23. We took a stroll to the farm shop to discover it was closed.

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I had to take a break from cruising to go to work, so that evening we out for the long promised meal with Ben and Kate, and then we dropped Anne back off to the boat, while Ben ran me home.

Anne tells me that she had a wonderful couple of days relaxing on board, although the farm shop didn’t open the next day, and the weather took a definite turn for the worse.

When I returned we reviewed our options. Storm Hannah is scheduled to pass through on Saturday, which means that if we were to return to the Marina by Sunday night, we would have to set off immediately and at least get near to the bottom of the Ashby for the night. We made it to Bridge 3 where we were sufficiently distant from the railway line to get a peaceful night.

I set the alarm for the next morning as we had a marathon day ahead. It was bright but breezy when we left bridge 3, and stayed that way as we cruised back through Nuneaton. I say “we”, Anne was actually still in bed until we were well on our way to Hartshill. When she did appear, it was with a welcome coffee, soon to be followed by bacon sandwiches, so no complaints from me! After breakfast I asked Anne to take a spell on the tiller so that I could go for a comfort break. Within seconds of my getting inside a fierce hailstorm struck, and I had to hurry back outside as Anne didn’t have a coat.

A short while later I saw lighting in the field next to us, followed by a loud rumble of thunder. It wasn’t actually raining over the canal, but I could clearly see the bad weather alongside. Then a helicopter passed low and fast overhead, and seemed to be heading straight for the centre of the storm. I hope they landed before they got there!

We arrived at Atherstone and began the descent of the 11 locks, mooring after the first five for a quick top up shop at the Co-op, and then continued down through the remaining six. At the bottom we stopped at Grendon for the services, and whilst I would normally have wanted to stop by now, we needed to continue. It was early evening by the time we descended the two locks at Glascote. Anne had been watching the volunteer lock keeper at Atherstone earlier in the day, and seen how he managed to open both of the bottom gates without having to walk around the lock. Once the lock had emptied, he closed the paddle on the offside gate, and then partially opened it so that there was only a foot or two gap between the gates. He then crossed to the middle of the gates, and used a foot to push the offside gate open. He then finished crossing the lock to push open the other gate in the normal way. Anne decided to give this a go, and it worked, saving quite a time in getting through the lock. Each day we learn some new technique!

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Through Glascote, and then we crossed the river on the aqueduct, and made our way to Fazeley Junction. We continued for a short distance up towards Fradley, finally stopping after 11 hours by Sutton Road Bridge. We are now within a day’s cruise of the marina, and can afford to wait out Storm Hannah tomorrow.

 

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Easter Cruise Part 4

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2019 by netmanianick

Yet another beautiful morning greeted us, and as we were just an hour from the water point, I had a shower which set me up well for the day.

We set off at 8.30 through the quiet countryside, and fed a large number of ducks and moorhens along the way. At the A5 bridge we pulled in for water, and I took the opportunity to give the roof and sides a quick spray with the hose, to dislodge a layer of dust or sand that had settled overnight when we were at Hartshill.

While waiting for the tank to fill, I prepared Anne’s new twin tub washing machine for its first go. If it works it will be handy for dealing with laundry on the go, and as it is small it uses little power, and only a small amount of water.

While I steered Anne processed the laundry. Firstly she would fill the washer section with water and soap, add the clothes and then switch on to let things agitate for a while. The water is then drained and fresh put in for the rinse cycle. After that, the clothes are taken out and placed in the second receptacle which spin dries. The laundry comes out almost completely dry, and just needed a few minutes on the whirl washing line which we set up when we moored up. The only real drawback to the system is that the machine can only take small loads, so in fact Anne was working away for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile I was steering, and having quite a difficult day. Firstly it was hot, which didn’t help, secondly the canal was very busy, and thirdly we seemed to struggle to make progress through the water, which I put down to the canal being shallow. We kept being caught up by other boats, so I would pull over to let them past. One time the front end became stuck fast in the mud, and I had to ask Anne to take a break from playing with the washing machine to wield the pole so we could get going again.

It felt like a long hard slog. Anne finished the laundry just as we approached the services at Sutton Wharf, so we were able to replenish the water tank, and get rid of our rubbish. Upon leaving Anne untied the front rope and pushed out, noticing as she did so that we had a very large branch wedged under the front of the boat, and sticking out for about four feet on one side. Somehow she managed to free it, and the boat shot forwards. Normal cruising had been resumed!

About 45 minutes later we pulled in to the Battlefield Moorings, where we had stayed for a couple of days last summer. It was pleasantly cool in the shade and we were able to spend the afternoon watching all the passing boats (there were many) and watching the laundry dry.

Such a wonderful spot!

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2019 Easter Cruise Part Three

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2019 by netmanianick

Through the slurry that is Nuneaton

Keeping to my word I was up early (ish) and we were under way by 8.15 this morning. The area around Hartshill is delightful, especially so in the morning sunshine.

Sadly though, the beauty was not to last, as we began to approach the outskirts of Nuneaton. This town is on the canal route that forms the Leicester Ring, which includes such delights as Fradley Junction, the River Soar, Foxton and Watford Staircase Locks, Braunston Tunnel, Hawkesbury Junction and so on. It is a popular cruising route during the season, and many holiday makers hire boats to complete all or part of this circular route.

I bet none of them stop in Nuneaton though!

The litter begins right at the edge of town and gets progressively worse as you approach the centre. On the offside bank are industrial areas and evidence of all manner of tipping into the canal from over the hedge. This not only includes numerous plastic bottles but all kinds of detritus including lorry tyres.

As you come into the town centre, there are stretches of piling with optimistically placed mooring rings, but the canal is awash with beer cans, traffic cones, fridges, supermarket trollies and goodness knows what else. Any available wall space is covered in graffiti and the whole area feels incredibly hostile. The mess continues for about an hour, although the canal didn’t get any cleaner, at one point it was like cruising through a carpet of hedge trimmings. It is clear that contractors have been clearing the off side vegetation, but whether they were responsible for dumping all the rubbish in the canal is not proven! If they did do this, then at the very least they should be made to return to clear it up, or lose their contract.

Of course, it is very easy to moan about things, it is quite another to do something about it. I guess it depends on how much you care. In my case an hour later I was turning onto the beautiful Ashby Canal, where we shall linger for a while, and no doubt spend money in the local shops along our way.

We didn’t stop to shop in Nuneaton for obvious reasons. Maybe the local council and traders might begin to care a little when they realise how much money they are missing from their local economy.

The Ashby is a blessed relief from Nuneaton, as it immediately becomes rural and beautiful. We enjoyed a pleasant pootle up to bridge 6 near Burton Hastings, where we have set up camp for the night.

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2019 Easter Cruise part 2

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2019 by netmanianick

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Day 3: Grendon to Hartshill

Part of the plan for today came together – I was awake at 6.00 am, and under way at 8.00 am. Anne put in an appearance after two bridges, as I was pulling in to the service block at Grendon to fill with water and dispose of rubbish.

It really is a glorious morning, with the sun that threatened for the last couple of days finally putting in an appearance.

By the time the tank was full Anne had dressed, and was almost awake enough to tackle the Atherstone 11 locks. The first two were in our favour and we were soon carefully making our way along the pound to the next one. The water level here was well down, so Anne did a heroic leap to the shore to prepare the third lock so that I wouldn’t have to leave the relatively deeper centre of the canal. Three and four were quickly behind us, and we caught up a single hander at lock 5. I noticed his technique of stepping off the boat with a rope as he entered the lock, and I thought I would give it a try. When it was our turn, Anne had opened both bottom gates, which involved a long walk around the lock to open the second one. Because I was able to get off the boat, it saved repeating that walk as we could close a gate each. I had been quite concerned about trying this, as I thought it might be difficult to slow the boat down in the lock just using the rope, but as it happened the whole thing was a non-event, and I was able to control City of Durham easily. Emboldened by this, I sent Anne on to prepare the next lock while I opened up the top gate, closed the paddles and drove the boat out. Stopping in the jaws of the lock I stepped off with the stern rope, and draped it around the ground the paddle while I shut the gate. A quick step back on to the boat, and I could then drive straight in to the next lock which Anne had prepared in perfect time.

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After the sixth lock we pulled on to the visitor moorings for a welcome cup of coffee, and then set off for the Co-op to fill with supplies for the long weekend. With a full trolley we made our way back to the boat, and then sat down to have a chicken salad baguette for lunch. By now I could quite happily have gone for a nap, but the plan said we wanted to be on the Ashby Canal today, so instead we untied and began the climb up the remaining five locks. It turned out to be quite an easy passage, as the volunteer lock keepers were on duty at the last two locks, so we were soon winding through the outskirts of Atherstone and into the countryside. All the while the day became hotter and hotter, and my eyes felt heavier and heavier.

At Hartshill we decided to throw in the towel, and tied up for the rest of the day. We went to have a sleep, but it was so hot in the cabin, that in the end I went for a shower instead.

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The boat cooled nicely as the sun went down, and I vowed to make another early start in the morning, to make up some lost time.

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2019 Easter Cruise Part 1

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2019 by netmanianick

Day 1: Great Haywood to Kings Bromley Marina

We plan to re-visit the Ashby Canal as Anne enjoyed it so much last summer, although the heat meant that we had to stop cruising by lunchtime each day, so the whole thing became a little rushed. Anne has plenty of time free over the next couple of weeks, although it will mean a bit of juggling for me, as I need to be at work on some of the days for a number of meetings. It will take three long days to get from the Marina to the Ashby, but then we can loiter for the best part of the trip, and then do a sprint back home at the end.

So the plan for day 1 was to get up very early and get some miles under our belts. That plan never even saw the light of day, as we both overslept! In fact, by the time we had loaded up and left Great Haywood it was gone midday. We also needed to stop at the supermarket in Rugeley, so that cost us more time, so we ended up mooring on the piling just before Kings Bromley Marina.

Day 2: Kings Bromley to Grendon

The weather was forecast to get better and better as the week progressed, but today the sun never quite managed to make an appearance, and failed to completely burn off the mist. I was up first, and had been cruising for about 20 minutes before Anne woke up, and then she had to hurry to dress and drink coffee as we approached Wood End Lock. Luck was with us, as a boat was just coming up in the lock, so we were able to time our arrival so that we could drive straight in. After the long straight to Shadehouse Lock, we enjoyed the same luck with another boat and drove straight into that one as well. They say that luck comes in threes and it certainly did for us today, as their was a volunteer lock keeper on duty at Middle Lock, and he had the gate open ready for us. We made it through Fradley in double quick time, and were even assisted at the swing bridge as we turned onto the Coventry Canal.

From here we passed through Fradley, Streethay and Huddlesford, and had breakfast on the go. Whittington was busy, with preparations under way for Eric and Doreen’s all day coffee morning this weekend in aid of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust.

There were few boats but plenty of dog walkers as we made our way through Hopwas Woods, and before too long we were at Fazeley Junction taking the left hand arm towards Coventry.

Passage through the Glascote locks took a while as the locks are slow to fill, but there is an amusing poem posted on the railing of the disused side pond, to help you while away the time. The suburbs of Tamworth seem to drag on for miles, and we ticked off each of the many bridges in turn. Lunch was also taken on the move, and eventually we passed Alvecote Marina and a busy Samuel Barlow Pub. Around the next bend the remains of the old Alvecote Priory can be seen through the trees.

The next stretch to the M42 motorway used to be colliery spoils, but nature has reclaimed it all and made it into a very pretty stretch. Beyond the motorway we snaked around Polesworth finally mooring up for the night below the Atherstone flight of locks.

Another early start is planned for the morning, and IF all goes to plan we should be on the Ashby tomorrow, and then we can take it much easier.

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Foggy on the way to Fradley

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2019 by netmanianick

Saturday 30th March 2019

With a glorious Saturday in the forecast we decided to head in the ‘other’ direction towards Fradley for the weekend. So on Friday night we loaded up and left the marina for the short trip through Haywood Lock, mooring up by Shugborough Hall.

The next morning was misty, and it never managed to burn off all day. There was a chilly wind as we untied and set off for Tesco’s at Rugeley. Despite the gloom there were many signs of spring, baby lambs in the field and the first brood of ducklings that we have seen this year. We counted 12 of them.

As we passed the Taft, I noticed that Maid of Oak no linger displays the for sale notice. I wonder if it has been sold or whether it has been taken off the market. At the Pig Farm, the diesel boat Dexta is sitting on the bank, presumably for some maintenance, and maybe a coat or two of paint.

We reached bridge 66 and pulled in behind Nb Seyella, where I managed to grab a quick catch-up with Geoff. We last met a couple of years ago in this exact same spot, when we were on our way to the BCN Challenge. I have read Seyella’s blog from the very beginning, and their story kept me inspired in the years between boats. They continuously cruise all over the canal system, and have added so many places to our wish list for when I eventually retire. If you haven’t seen their blog, I recommend that you take a look – the link is in the blog-roll at the top of the page.

With no sign of the weather improving we decided to turn around and head back up to Teapot Turn. I am sure this move was inspired by the fact that I had delivered two 15Kg bags of floating duck food to the boat last week, and Anne was anxious to feed the geese.

The wind was quite strong as we passed through Great Haywood, and it required additional power to stop ourselves from being blown into the moored boats. Somewhat cold we were glad to find the moorings empty and so settled in for the remainder of the weekend.