Saturday, 13 May 2017

Glascote Basin and Exmoor

So, it has been a while since our last post, and we have moved on a bit from Dadlington. After departing the Ashby Canal, we turned right at Marston Junction, and over the next four days, we travelled to Achernar's home port at Glascote Basin. We broke the journey with stops at Hartshill, where we visited the largest garden centre I have ever been to, and half way between Atherstone and Polesworth, having descended the eleven lock flight. Glascote Basin was very busy on our arrival, but we managed to shoehorn ourselves onto a berth. Over the next couple of days, we packed up our things, as we prepared the boat for its impending paint job. The boat colours will be remaining the same with only a few subtle changes, and we will be having a couple of smaller jobs completed whilst there. All in all, we will be living off the boat for twelve weeks. We have therefore rented a cottage on the edge of Exmoor for the duration, which allows for the exploration of an area of the country, distinctly lacking in canals.
Whimbleball Lake
The Dam
A Long Way Down
Walking on Exmoor
On top of the moor
The above are just a few snaps of our local area, and the walks that we will enjoy. We have also introduced the furry crew member to the seaside, and he loves the beach. So this is us until mid July, when hopefully all the works will be completed, and we can once again move back on board. Otherwise, we will be sleeping in the beer tent, during the Hudson Owners gathering in July. I will run through all the jobs we had done, and how the end results are, once complete, but just one mention of some excellent customer service. In a previous post we wrote about changing our propeller to an Axiom. When we ordered the new prop, I gave the size needed to Axiom, using the paperwork supplied with the boat. Unfortunately the paperwork was wrong, and instead of getting a prop sized the same, we ended up with the next size down. During a phone call with Axiom, they suggested I try the new one, but if unhappy they would swop it. Well I can report that with the Axiom fitted, many of the benefits claimed are evident. We now stop quicker, but more importantly maintain a straight line. Reversing is easier, and the stern of the boat does not dig in as much when underway. I have also noticed a significant reduction in tiller vibration and wash. The only downside is, that with the smaller prop, the engine revs are higher now to achieve the same cruising speed. True to their word though, despite it being my error in the initial ordering, and the fact that their prop has had a couple of months of use, Axiom have supplied a new one, now correctly sized. This will be fitted during the course of all the other work. So, anyone thinking of an Axiom for their boat, I can certainly recommend them and their customer service is excellent.  

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Dadlington

On Wednesday 12/04 we travelled four miles, and took a mooring position between the villages of Dadlington, and Stoke Golding. I had issued the crew with a brief liberty pass, in order to pop home for a couple of days. Today we walked into Dadlington, to visit the Dog and Hedgehog P.H. for our Sunday lunch. The menu was very extensive and the quality of food superb. We will definitely visit here again. Tomorrow we should make Burton Hastings, after which our brief period on the Ashby Canal will be over. 
  • Totals 4 Miles
  • Running total 93 Miles 19 Locks 5 Tunnels 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Shenton

Yesterday we travelled five miles to the outskirts of Shenton. Prior to arriving at our destination, we had a brief stop at Bosworth Marina for diesel, and a pump out. As predicted the wind was howling across the Marina, which as relatively new, still does not have any trees or shrubs to act as a wind break. The wind was also blowing, in a direction that did not assist, with our attempts to dock on the services pontoon. On arrival at Shenton we secured the boat, and then walked into the village about a mile away.
Village of Shenton
The village is part of the estate, clustered around the 17th century Shenton Hall, and associated church. The reason for our visit was, that it is also home to the Whitemoors antiques centre. There is a small tea room there, so we had lunch. Back at the boat we settled down for a relaxing afternoon.
 
Mooring at Shenton
Today we walked a couple of miles along the towpath, passing Ambion Wood and the supposed site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, arriving at Sutton Cheyney Wharf. We will stop here for water when we move off tomorrow, but today we had lunch in the cafe. Tomorrow we head for Dadlington and Stoke Golding.
  • Totals 5 Miles
  • Running total 89 Miles 19 Locks 5 Tunnels 
 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Shackerstone Update

So this morning after breakfast, we headed off to Shackerstone railway station. As you would expect, it has an old world feel to it, complete with a proper ticket office staffed by a station master, no such luxury with modern stations. We purchased our tickets, 2 adults and a dog, and in exchange for our money, we received the old style card tickets that could be clipped by the guard. The furry one was a little put out, as his ticket was for either a dog or a bicycle, and for carriage in the luggage wagon.
Ticket Office
Once on the platform the carriages were already waiting, and at the far end, the engine, hissing and puffing away. First order of the day, was topping up the water tank.
Water tank filling
The furry one, still not happy about his relegation to the status of luggage, so we relented, and allowed him to travel in first class with us. He had to settle for the floor, as the plush seating was out of bounds.
Oscar in first class
Prior to our departure there was an opportunity to visit the footplate. The engineer and fireman were both busy making final preparations. As an interesting fact, the engine today would consume three quarters of a ton of coal, during its eight trips up and down the line. I also thought that the training to be an engineer would be fairly long, but was informed that the process can be completed in twelve months, with the right aptitude.
Footplate
Hitched and ready to go
The journey to Shenton takes about 35 minutes, with a stop at Market Bosworth on route. On arrival at Shenton we walked up to the site of the Bosworth battlefield information centre, and enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the warm sun. Returning to Shackerstone station, we visited the museum, where one of the staff shared their boiled egg lunch with Oscar.
   
Railway artefacts of a bygone age
Tomorrow we head off for services at Market Bosworth Marina, and then onto Shenton for a couple of days. Needing to enter a Marina will almost certainly guarantee some windy conditions.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Shackerstone

Last night as I put the bungs into the potholes, I saw the evening sky foretold the fine weekend weather ahead. Red sky at night, shepherds delight, as the saying goes.
Sunset at Snarestone
This morning not a cloud in the sky. After breakfast and disposing some rubbish, we got underway. It was 10 am, and the cruise to Shackerstone would take little over an hour. First it was through the crooked tunnel, before emerging back into the warm, glorious sunshine.
Inside the tunnel
As the weather was so nice, I reduced the engine revs below our normal cruising speed, in order to extend our relatively short journey time. This also allowed the opportunity to take some photographs of the Leicestershire countryside.
Views across Leicestershire
All to soon we arrived at Shackerstone. The mooring spot we had identified on the way up was vacant, so we slotted into position. The time 1130, the sun was now high, in the still cloudless sky. This will ensure that the batteries receive a good charge from the solar panel today.
   
Mooring at Shackerstone
After securing the boat, we went off in search of the battlefield line steam railway. It was easy to find, by simply following the sound of the engine whistling, and the huge puffs of smoke, bellowing above the trees from the smoke stack. This was to reintroduce Oscar, to the noise and smells of a hissing steam train. The first blast on the whistle woke him up, but after that he was fine. More about the trains in tomorrow's exciting instalment.
  • Totals 3 Miles 1 Tunnel
  • Running total 84 Miles 19 Locks 5 Tunnels 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Snarestone

Yesterday our journey took us through 'the stones', Congerstone, Shackerstone and finally the terminus of the Ashby Canal, Snarestone. This final stretch of the canal is the most rural and peaceful, so the best has been saved till last. We set off in cloudy conditions, but it was not long before the sun made a appearance. Passing through Shackerstone, we noted the best mooring spots, as our intention is to return here on Saturday, and take a trip on the steam railway. About an hour after passing Shackerstone, the tunnel at Snarestone appeared in the distance. This tunnel is very crooked, and therefore is subject to one way working only.
Crooked tunnel at Snarestone
Once through the tunnel, we travelled the final few hundred yards of canal to the winding hole. Beyond this is a swing bridge, and a section of newly restored canal. This is only a few hundred yards long, and the winding hole at the end is restricted to boats up to 53 feet, 7 feet to short for us. This restoration is the first part of an attempt by the Ashby Canal Association, to restore the canal to its original terminus in Moira. They have about five miles of canal to restore, taking it through the village of Measham. After securing the boat it was lunchtime so a visit to the Globe P.H. was the order of the day. Today after breakfast, we set off on a walk towards Measham, following the route of the original canal bed part of the way. The newly restored section, includes a bridge which although built to look like an original structure, has in fact had to meet modern day standards of construction, and can therefore withstand far more weight than the old bridges could.
 
New bridge over restored canal
 When the Ashby Canal was originally built, one of the main products transported was coal. As we followed the footpaths over the fields towards Measham, evidence of the former coal works could be seen. At one point, we must have been directly over the former seams, as indicated by an information marker.
            
   
Coal seams and depth below ground
Our magical mystery tour, also took us through a stretch of woodland where we had to play hunt the footpath, however we eventually found our way through, with the help of the iPhone gps feature, and arrived in Measham. The village is known for its Measham Ware or Barge Ware, usually earthenware teapots with a dark brown glaze, traditionally associated with canals and narrow boats.
Where is the footpath
Following refreshments in a local pub, our return journey was slightly shorter in time and distance, as we now knew where we were going. The furry one however found a new fun game to engage in, called chase the bunnies. Back at the boat, the afternoon was spent servicing our hurricane diesel heater. We normally use this just to provide hot water in the mornings, and rely on the solid fuel stove for heat. Now the warmer weather has arrived, it is too warm for the stove, so we will now use the hurricane to take the chill off if need be.
Mooring at Snarestone
We will stay here until tomorrow, after which we will have used our allotted 48 hours here. This is however a picturesque canal, and so I expect we will return in the not too distant future.
  • Totals 6 Miles 1 Tunnel
  • Running total 81 Miles 19 Locks 4 Tunnels 
 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Market Bosworth

I knew that in previous posts I should not have mentioned anything about not having a problem, with the depth of the Ashby Canal, because today we found the shallow bits. Indeed in certain places, straying so much as one or two feet off the centre line of the canal, would cause the boat to tilt at an alarming angle. We were aiming for the village of Shenton, a mere three miles away. On route we passed Sutton Cheyney Wharf, prior to which, we encountered another interesting speed limit sign. Quite how you measure 1.2 MPH I am not sure.
Speed limit sign
Next we were to pass Ambion Wood, and the supposed site of the Battle of Bosworth where Richard III lost the battle, and his crown to Henry Tudor. Unfortunately for the tourist industry, it appears that what was long believed to be the battle site, is in fact wrong, and that the actual site, has now been located, some two and a half miles to the south. Shenton is home to the Whitemoors antiques centre, and the initial station on the battlefield line, a short steam railway running as far as Shackerstone. The official mooring area looked a bit dank, and outside of that area it was too shallow for us, so we pushed on. A couple of miles further, and we arrived at Market Bosworth. Just passed the new Marina we found a spot, and after a bit of jiggerypokery we got ourselves tied up.
   
Mooring at Market Bosworth
After lunch, the crew took a walk up the long hill, into the town centre whilst myself and the furry one, did some chores, aka relaxing after a hard days work. Having missed the delights of Shenton, we will probably visit it by steam train, once we reach the top end of the canal. 
  • Totals 6 Miles
  • Running total 75 Miles 19 Locks 3 Tunnels 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Stoke Golding

Our overnight stay at Burton Hastings was pleasant enough with only one other boat for company, Calypso Rose from Braunston. Although inside the boat was quiet, outside you could still hear the distant drone of the motorway off towards Coventry. This morning was a little cooler, and the sky overcast. During our cruise today rain threatened, but never actually made an appearance. Continuing our journey in a general north easterly direction, we passed beneath the busy A5 before entering Hinckley. Continuing on, soon we were passing the village of Higham on the Hill. I then saw a sign dreaded by motorists up and down the country, surely the canals are safe from blessed speed traps.
CRT speed cameras ahead
I had visions of rounding the bend ahead, and being zapped by a Canal and River Trust official with a speed gun. Still no such drama, probably just a wheeze by some boaters who had a mooring on the other side of the bridge. As we passed bridge 23, we saw signs for a farm shop close to the canal. This was only a mile from where we planned to moor for the night, so we decided to carry on, and walk back later in the afternoon. On arrival at Stoke Golding and just passed the small Marina, we picked our spot. Not long after Calypso Rose passed by. I expect we will be playing leap frog with them for the next week.
Mooring at Stoke Golding
  After lunch we walked back to the farm shop at bridge 23. Only 50 yards from the canal, Spinneybank farm shop is well stocked, with meats, vegetables, cakes and pies. On our walk back to the boat we were slightly more laden. Tomorrow we head off towards the famous battle site at Market Bosworth.
  • Totals 6 Miles
  • Running total 69 Miles 19 Locks 3 Tunnels 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Burton Hastings

So this morning after breakfast we pulled our pins and set off the short distance to the water point prior to the stop lock. We have now found a water point that seems slower that the one at Hillmorton. An hour and a half later the water tank was finally full. Then it was into the lock for the dramatic descent of about one foot, the difference between the two canals.
You can see from the water mark on the lock wall how much difference there is between the levels. Out of the lock it is a sharp right turn onto the Coventry Canal heading towards Atherstone.
Coventry and Oxford Canals
Either side of the bridge above, you can see both canals running parallel for a short while. The Coventry to the left, and the Oxford to the right. We now had a couple of miles to cruise before reaching Marston Junction, and the Ashby Canal. Before that though we passed Charity Dock, a boatyard, scrapyard and mooring all rolled into one. A feature at this location are the many manikins, which have been dressed up in all kinds of costumes. There was even a Stig from Top Gear. My favourite though has to be the woman placed in the pillory, I believe an old fashioned punishment for nagging in the Elizabethan era, ah the good old days.
Charity Dock
Marston Junction was only a short hop from here. As we passed beneath the bridge just prior to the junction, it was apparent what a tight, blind turn this was. One long blast on the klaxon, and we made the right turn onto the Ashby Canal. This is now new water for us, and the boat.
Marston Junction, Ashby Canal
Soon after making the turn onto the Ashby Canal it felt different. We had left behind the busy industrial areas, and were now heading into the rural countryside of Leicestershire. Our first stopping point, was to be just south of Burton Hastings, a small village on the outskirts of Hinckley.
   
Four legs checking I have secured the boat at our mooring
The Ashby Canal is one of the canals reported to be very shallow. As yet we have had no problem, however there are still 20 miles to go to the current terminus at Snarestone, so plenty of time yet to run aground.
  • Totals 5 Miles 1 Lock
  • Running total 63 Miles 19 Locks 3 Tunnels 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Hawkesbury Junction

On Friday 31st march we travelled the final eight miles of the Oxford Canal to Hawkesbury Junction. We secured our usual position and were surprised at how few boats were here. Saturday involved a walk along the Coventry Canal towards the City in search of a shop. It is only five miles from here into the city centre, but judging by the amount of rubbish floating in the canal, you would not want to do it by boat.
In the photo above can be seen the stop lock prior to the junction. This is because the two canals, the Oxford and the Coventry differ in height by a few inches. Beyond the lock is the bridge leading on the Coventry Canal, left for the city and right towards Nuneaton. Today, Sunday we had a roast dinner at the Greyhound Inn. On return to the boat we saw a neighbouring boat drifting across the canal. His mooring pins which were quite short had been pulled out, presumably by a passing boat. We retrieved said boat and secure to the bank before settling down for the afternoon. Tomorrow we will move to the water point just prior to the stop lock and fill up before heading off for the Ashby Canal.
  • Totals 8 Miles
  • Running total 58 Miles 18 Locks 3 Tunnels 
 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

All Oak Wood

Yesterday we departed our spot at Willoughby, aiming for All Oak Wood near the village of Brinklow. Setting off we formed part of a convoy of boats, all heading towards Hillmorton. The first point of interest we passed, is the location of the new Dunchurch Pools Marina at Onley. Situated in pleasant rural countryside, but unfortunately adjacent to the local prison. Still work seems to be progressing, and it looks absolutely huge.  
 
 
Next to navigate, was the Barby straight and Barby moorings. This straight section of canal is about a mile long, and passes beneath the M45. Barby moorings are another Marina, but it has the character of a very bleak boat park. Rounding a bend at the end of the straight, and we were on the approach to the Hillmorton flight of three locks. These locks are in pairs, and are reported to be the busiest on the entire network. We were also at the nearest point to our home berth at Yelvertoft, only a fifteen minute drive away. It has taken us four days to get here. We descended the flight, and moored by the water point to refill the tank. The taps here are ridiculously slow, even worse if more than one is being used at a time. Still this allowed for a suitable lunch stop to be had. After lunch we set off on the next leg of our journey, through Rugby. A long section of towpath here was closed to the public, where they appear to be strengthening the bank, below which lays the retail park. Then on through Newbold tunnel, before the final few miles to All Oak Wood. Suspecting that the mooring area might be busy, due to the time of day and the amount of boat traffic we had seen, we opted to try and moor on the south side of the Wood. We had tried here before and found it very shallow, but this time we found a mooring deep enough to get into the side. We had to use the pins for mooring on this side, but now we have found this spot we will opt to use it in our future travels, when we are passing this point.    
 
Today we went for a short walk through the woods, to the further mooring area the other side. It was indeed busy, but there were a few moorings available, however we prefer our new spot. During the walk we saw our first batch of ducklings for this year. They looked to be very new.    
 
 
 
We plan to move off tomorrow and are aiming for Sutton Stop. This is the end of the Oxford Canal at its junction with the Coventry Canal. We plan on spending the weekend there before heading off for the Ashby Canal, which will be new water for us.
  • Totals 13 Miles 3 Locks 1 Tunnel
  • Running total 50 Miles 18 Locks 3 Tunnels 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Willoughby

Today would be a long day by our standards. It was again misty, with a bit off a chill in the air, but this would be favourable for the crew, who had two lock flights consisting of, the seven narrow locks at Watford, and the six wide locks at Braunston to work. On arrival at the top of the Watford staircase we met the on duty lock keeper. He had seen us coming, and was already preparing the lock for us. He wasn't the most talkative soul, in fact I think he only said two words during our transit of the flight. He did however make up for his lack of chatiness, by working us down the entire flight. This is a first at this flight, and as such our descent only took about 30 minutes. We then headed towards Norton Junction and the Grand Union Canal mainline. Turning right at the junction, we headed towards Braunston and the tunnel. As we were approaching the tunnel entrance, two boats pulled away in front of us. You could almost see them rushing to untie their ropes as we approached. The reason is, the flight of locks ahead, would now all be set against us, rather than them. Our transit through the tunnel was uneventful, with only a single boat opposing, and then we arrived at the top of Braunston locks. So now, not only did we have two boats ahead of us, but it was also apparent they were both single handed. This was going to be painfully slow. It was however nearly lunchtime, and the Admiral Nelson PH is located by lock three. Decision made, we tied up and walked off down the flight for lunch.
After lunch we returned to the boat, and as luck would have it three boats we making their way up the flight. This meant three locks were ready for us as we approached them. Once through the bottom lock we chugged along on tickover, passing numerous moored boats, and as we approached The Boathouse PH we saw the crew of nb Castallan. We slowed for the briefest of chats, then it was onwards passing Braunston Turn and the Oxford Canal heading off towards Napton. Just a mile outside Braunston, adjacent to the village of Willoughby, is a lovely rural spot and this is where we stopped.
The views above are from the side hatch, however as I write this the sky has turned black, and the sound of rolling thunder can be heard in the distance. We are not sure yet whether to stay put here for a day, or push on to Brinklow and All Oak Wood tomorrow.
  • Totals 8 Miles 13 Locks 1 Tunnel
  • Running total 37 Miles 15 Locks 2 Tunnels