The Mystery of the Ghost Line

P1020861After watering up this morning, we left Sutton Wharf in bright sunshine and I needed to take my sweater off and put my hat on to shield my eyes from the sun, but within a short while the wind picked up and it was sweater on again. Just before we reached bridge 23 it started to rain, why couldn’t it have waited until we were moored up to visit the farm shop?

P1020862At Spinney Bank Farm Shop (did I mention before that they do lovely meat and veg?) we noticed a disused railway bridge in the corner of the farmyard, could this be part of ‘The Ghost Line’? [Yes it is, I asked. Apparently all the track is in private ownership but the bridges are still the rail network’s responsibility.]

Apparently when The Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway was granted it’s Act of Parliament it was required to include a branch line to Hinckley, this line was built to satisfy the Act’s requirement but was allegedly never used, it seems that some shenanigans was going on here. What changes?

 

According to Hinckley Past & Present:

14th January 1875 Local Hinckley and Stoke Golding residents petitioned for the Hinckley branch line to be opened, but their [sic] it was not to be. Under the terms of the Railway Act at that time, it had been necessary to build the Hinckley branch line and connect it up to the L & N.W.R line, but the legal opinion was that it was not necessary to open the line to traffic.

However… There is a ghost story published in The Hinckley Times in 2016 about a deaf old lady who was killed by a train on this very line (You know, the one that never had a train run on it) whilst looking for her dog, you’ll have to read it to make up your own mind, but remember the tracks were laid and taken back up again so I guess they used a train for that!

Oh well, the rain seems to be in for the day so we’ll just stay here until the morning.

 
Oh the joy of being retired boaters with no schedule to keep to. 🙂

Rain & Shine

Wednesday 17th May

P1020847

Ruth’s art work on doors

The forecast wet weather arrived today so we opted to stay put at Bosworth Wharf, our friends Barry & Ruth (nb Celandine) made no such decision and made the three hour trip through the rain from The Limekilns pub to see us.

P1020845

Ruth & Barry (fed & warmed!)

 

 

 

We felt quite honoured so I caught the bus into town and bought provisions at the Co-op and the market while Joy cooked a warming Lamb Tagine for lunch. We enjoyed seeing them and hearing about their latest boating adventures before they turned around to head back towards home.

Thursday 18th May

P1020857What a difference a day makes! Today was gloriously sunny and we decided to pootle down to Sutton Wharf and stop at the Aqueduct Farm Shop near Shenton Aqueduct for some sausages. The moorings have a reconstituted wood/plastic edging, but no rings and when we arrived at the farm shop at 11 o’clock it was closed, despite its sign declaring it was open from 10am – 5pm.

When we arrived at Sutton Wharf we did a load of washing and dried it in the sunshine and I did a bit more touching up of the paintwork on the gas locker and handrails. The moorings here are also made of the same ‘plastic wood’ which as I found, even in the dry, is incredibly slippery in hard soled shoes, when I slipped and launched a pot of dirty white spirits into the air which fortunately landed in a bed of nettles and not me!

Friday 19th May

Another damp and dismal morning so we are still here on the 48 hour moorings.

Back to Bosworth

Sunday 14th May

P1020786Up and boating by 9:30am on a Sunday? Unheard of! We made steady progress down to Shackerstone where the sound of a whistle told us that steam trains were running this weekend. There are some attractive offside moorings here too presumably owned by the adjacent farm. and there is a mound with an old tree growing in it which turns out to be the remains of Shackerstone Castle of the motte and bailey construction.

Wikipedia informs us

P1020788During World War II the remains of the motte and bailey castle in the village had an air raid shelter dug into it. It is believed that this still has a rocking chair within it.

Shackerstone is probably best known nowadays as the home of the Battlefield Line Railway, a preserved steam and diesel museum, that runs trains to Bosworth Battlefield. The railway came to Shackerstone in 1873 and continued providing passenger services until 1931 after which only freight ran on the rails of the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway. The line was finally closed by British Rail in 1970 at which point the railway society arrived[6] and has restored the station and reopened the line to Shenton Station, the terminus for Bosworth Battlefield.

P1020803After Shackerstone the canal goes through Gospall Wood and emerges at Gospall Wharf before passing an attractive canal-side house and the remains of a railway bridge which once carried the Ashby & Nuneaton Railway over the canal.

Another few hundred yards brought us to the mouth of the 250 yard Snarestone Tunnel, which has a kink in it which means you can’t see if it’s clear until the last minute (one way traffic).

Soon we arrived at the last full length winding hole where we turned with not a little difficulty as the wind pushed us into the side and I had to pull us round with a rope. The canal past here is being restored by the Ashby Canal Association who have rebuilt the next bridge and made a 50 foot winding hole at what is now the current terminus. See here for their plans for the future.

We easily found a mooring as there was only one other boat who soon left and left us on our own, but not for long and soon the moorings were full, however it seemed that most people just used it as a lunch stop as soon we just had one other boat for company and passed a very peaceful night without a road or railway in earshot.

Monday 15th May

P1020829

Older but not necessarily wiser. 😉

We had arranged to meet up with four ‘old’ friends who we have known for the best part of forty years from back in Gloucestershire although one couple now only live 12 minutes away from Snarestone. The volunteers on site were very accommodating in letting them use their private car park, as one of our friends has mobility problems, and we patronised their shop to help swell their funds a little. The gang had lunch with us on board and we spent the afternoon catching up with each-other’s news before saying our goodbyes.

Tuesday 16th May

Today we just retraced our journey back to Bosworth, and managed to film an interesting private mooring just before the tunnel.

We took an enforced lunch stop opposite Shackerstone Castle to avoid a rain shower and arrived back at Bosworth Wharf ten past three just in time to avoid another deluge.

Map snarestone to Bosworth

Just to give an idea of how close we are to home, as the crow flies!

Battling on to Bosworth

No battle really, but it makes a good title.

Thursday 11th May

P1020761Our stop here was planned so that we could easily reach the bus stop at the end of Nutts Lane, so this morning we took the bus into Nuneaton to do a bit of shopping. We did the rounds of the charity shops and I scored a Marks & Sparks Panama Hat for the summer and Joy another handbag. TKMax provided her with a purse, a few groceries were procured and after brunch at Jenny’s Café at the bus station we caught the 48 back to Hinckley.

On our return we moved on about half a mile through the next bridge and moored opposite Trinity Marina as Chris wanted to buy some screws at Screwfix which was nearby, but they didn’t have the required type in stock nor available for ‘click & collect’.

Friday 12th May

A local firm, GoFix came to the rescue however with not only stainless steel bolts but an M8 tap too,another 10 minute bus ride took me to their door.
A bit more painting before lunch and then we moved on.

We passed the Triumph motorbike factory, and then encountered some bank repairs going on, a workboat with a small digger on board was driving in wooden stakes with a hydraulic hammer which was making a terrific din. They did stop as we went past but check out Catty’s ears to see what she thought about the noise level.

 

P1020772The oil seed rape is in profusion in the fields, while I think it looks lovely some hay-fever sufferers may disagree. Our 31/2 hour journey took us past Spinney Bank Farm Shop at Bridge 23 where we bought some eggs, veg and a piece of lamb, and we stopped here for a cuppa while a rain shower passed over.

 

We arrived at Sutton Wharf just before 5pm where we bagged the 24 hour mooring right next to the water-point.  The café had just closed and the adjacent car park was empty so Catty was allowed out to explore but much to her disgust it started to pour with rain within half an hour which had her racing back in. Dinner had been cooking on the way, Joy had prepared a small rack of lamb with roast potatoes and fresh leeks and carrots. It was delicious!

Map to Sutton Wharf

 

Saturday 13th May

This morning’s journey took us past Bosworth Battlefield Moorings which are now no longer on the offside of the canal, perhaps they made that decision as the battlefield is now thought not to be quite so near :-/ , however the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is still nearby so to get there now involves going down to the road and under the aqueduct.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • I saw what I think was a Catalina Flying Boat, perhaps someone can confirm from this dodgy photo?  The last one I saw was in Australia.
  • I was taken too by the brickwork on the ends of these otherwise utilitarian farm buildings.
  • And finally there was a glimpse of the Battlefield Railway line before we arrived at Bosworth Wharf.

After lunch we caught the bus up into the town (which was much smaller than we anticipated) and returned on the next bus after tea/hot chocolate and cake at Café Torte.

Slowly Slowly

Monday 8th May

P1020723We left our spot outside The Anchor and our bunny rabbit neighbour and made the short 20 minute trip to Springwood Haven to buy some gas & empty the poo tank. That done we moored up opposite their wharf and I made a start on treating some rust spots on the front end of the boat, I also decided to clean up and paint the gas bottle spanner which was also in a disgraceful state and Joy caught me spray painting the trees, or so she thought! P1020727a

Just before we arrived at Springwood we passed nb Campanula headed the opposite way, later Penny tapped on the boat and we had a catch up over a cuppa, we were then invited back to Campanula in the evening.  Amongst many other topics we discussed pubs and The Limekilns was recommended and particularly their Blueberry Lamb, so this re-enforced our plan to visit.

 

Tuesday 9th May

P1020738So it was a longer trip today as we set off for the Ashby Canal spotting some baby ducks, coots and moorhens. It was a cloudy day but on the rare occasions the sun broke through it was quite warm. We had an enforced lunch stop by Nuneaton Allotments as we had collected a large ‘Iceland’ carrier bag on the propeller which promptly dropped off when we stopped.

Map to LimekilnsThe turn under the bridge onto the Ashby is quite tight as there is the remains of stop lock just past the bridge. Those with keen eyesight will notice that having been travelling south, on reaching Marston Junction we are now headed north-east.

The trip to Limekilns is very rural and we arrived at the pub about 4:30 pm and were able to moor against their garden where their ducks & chickens were wandering about.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_20170509_214121302_crThe meal at Lime Kilns was every bit as good as we had been told, their menu is more varied than many, and not expensive, most main-courses being £8.25 and there are daily offers as well. We found that on Tuesdays there is a regular Acoustic Evening where local musicians get together informally for a ‘sing-around’ session. We thoroughly enjoyed their performances as they mainly had a 60s & 70s vibe.

Wednesday 10th May

Well, we’ve covered an immense distance today, something like half a mile in 15 minutes, we just moved a little closer to Hinckley and I’ve put a coat of undercoat on the pointy bit and de-rusted and primed the other fairlead for the centre-line.

Oh, I hope you noticed that we are moored at Nutt’s Bridge. 🙂

… and They’re Off!

Facebook Img1Saturday 6th May

Yes, it’s finally happened, we’ve started our 2017 cruising, but first we had an appointment with some “Young People”, Chris’ great-nieces Courtney & Hatty had arranged to visit Twycross Zoo with us along with Courtney’s little boy Noah and Hatty’s big boy(friend) Dom.

It was a  grey day but we really enjoyed ourselves and we enticed the crew back to the boat where after plying them with tea and cake we pressganged them into boating up the first six Atherstone locks as far as The Kings Head. We were lucky enough to find their mooring free and so were able to reward them in the bar, before they travelled back to Northamptonshire where my big sister, Jan no doubt had a meal ready for them.

For our part we enjoyed a meal at the Kings Head and with their permission spent the night their mooring.

Sunday 7th May

IMG_20170507_111041885aWe were up and out by 10 am, but first things first, a trip to the Co-op for breakfast in their café, a very reasonable £3 ‘5 item’ breakfast for me and a Salmon & Egg Bagel for Joy. Just a top-up shop at Aldi and we were off. Five more locks, of which the first was in our favour, the next two weren’t then we met a boat at the last but one and a volunteer lock-keeper opened the top lock for us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I got into conversation with the locky and found we were both from Wiltshire, he had had a career on the railways, Swindon Works, we both attended Swindon College and he knew Marine Mountings (later known as R.A.Lister & Co.) where I did my apprenticeship including a spell in the Special Fittings department where the SR & ST range of engines were marinised, some destined to power canal boats. Who’d a thought it? 1

The sun came and we enjoyed it for out for the rest of the day as we made our way the few miles to Hartshill, where we moored outside The Anchor for a well deserved pint with our lunch.

In the afternoon I touched up a few rust spots on the roof then tortured passers-by by practicing my accordion while Joy started a new jigsaw.

 

1. There’s a pub in Lockeridge, Wiltshire called The Who’d A Thought It but that’s another story.

Spring Maintenance

Boat maintenance can spring upon you at any time, but I can always try to put it off… until it’s warmer, cooler, dryer or any other excuse I can think of! Sometimes, however, it can’t wait very long.

It was like this, we had just decided to take a little trip down to Alvecote and just as we set off there was a tinkling noise, just like somebody dropping a load of ball bearings. Well I should have expected something of the kind because the top tiller bearing had been creaking and groaning for a while which I temporarily alleviated by pouring a little oil into it.

s-l500Of course that’s exactly what it was, the bearing had finally collapsed, but nothing daunted we still continued our trip, albeit with not a little play and stiffness in the steering. On our return the next day I identified the bearing as a UCF208-24 obtainable on the ‘net for about £15 … but then there was delivery and waiting for it to arrive, so after a couple of phone calls to local companies with responses of “Nah mate, never kept them” but then I found URB Bearings Distribution (UK) Ltd in Hinckley who had a vague recollection of having some in stock. Did I need the whole thing or just the bearing? The bearing would do nicely as it simply sits in a spherical recess in the flange.

Off he went to check and indeed he did have the bearing in stock and better still I could have one for a fiver! So I hot-footed it to Hinckley to buy it and also learnt that nomenclature UCF208-24 meant the external diameter was 80mm and the inner diameter was 24/16 of an inch or more conventionally 1 1/2 inches, a bizarre metric/imperial cross breed.

Next came the fitting of the beast, the swan-neck was removed from its taper with the help of a sledge hammer and a wooden lever,  fortunately the securing bolts came undone easily and the outer bearing was easily tapped out, the centre was a different matter though, it was well rusted onto the shaft and I had to cut in in half with a thin disk in an angle grinder whilst supporting the rudder with a ratchet strap from the taff-rail.

The refitting was straightforward enough and now I’m pleased to report the steering is much easier.

fairlead_handrailLater the engine service was carried out without much drama, the heat-exchanger O rings were replaced too and the yucky bilges cleaned out with our wet-vac, so we’re almost good to go off on our travels, just a few rust patches to clean up, particularly where a fairlead had come adrift last season. Well quite a few more rust spots actually,  but I can always think of excuses to postpone doing them, just look what I said last May.

It will have to come off again soon because it was terribly rusty underneath.

A Winter Project

s-l1600To while away the winter months I have acquired a venerable old piano accordion which I plan to restore and who knows, learn to play it? 

To record my progress I have created another blog at https://pietro12bass.wordpress.com/

I will put a link in the sidebar.

The Homecoming

Wednesday 28th September

Ian & Ali

The Wrens & The Dustys (Maclarens really)

As predicted we celebrated Joy’s birthday at The Wharf Inn, the pub was really busy for a Wednesday evening and we had to wait for a table to become free. We were in good company though as we were pleased to be joined by Jock & Ali from Dusty the coalboat who had arrived a little earlier and were waiting for their diesel & coal delivery to arrive the next morning.

Thursday 29th September

Their delivery arrived bright and early so we were able to relieve them of some of it before we left to negotiate the twists & turns of the summit level of the Oxford Canal before descending the Napton Lockflight. There was a bit of a queue at the top and we slowly followed a hire-boat with a crew of Americans down, they had obviously been told the open the paddles a bit at a time but not remembered (or been told) that this didn’t really apply going down locks.

p1020488

Approaching the bottom of Napton Locks

At the entrance to the Engine Arm we met another hire-boat which had taken a wrong turn and come up seven locks only to have to go back down again! The volunteer lock-keeper was keeping an eye on them to ensure the didn’t miss the turning point and have to go all the way to Fenny Compton which is the next winding hole. We moored for the night on the ‘temporary’ 48 hour moorings just before the last lock.

 

 

Friday 30th September

rugby weedhatch

Down the hatch (Weedhatch)

On Friday we were away soon after 8 am as we wanted to get to Rugby before the rain that was forecast for Saturday arrived. All went well until we arrived at about 4 pm (a long day for us) and then the heavens opened just as we were looking for a spot to moor. There was a boat using the facilities opposite and then a hire-boat came along and moored on the water-point. It transpired that the hire-boater had got a mooring rope tangled around propeller so when the first boat moved off I moved across and untangled it for them. I got drenched to the skin, but I was pretty wet before and they were very grateful … still, we did get a mooring to sit out the rain on Saturday!

Saturday 1st October

In fact we went into Rugby town centre Saturday morning, courtesy of our bus passes, where we dodged the showers and bought some veggies in the market. There was a food fair on in the churchyard  where we bought some chilli jam sausage rolls for our lunch before returning to the boat to watch the rain.

Sunday 2nd October

P1020498

Click the picture for more photos of Laplander

Sunday brought the sun out again and we had a shorter day ending up at Hawkesbury Junction. On the way, as we were following the railway line we heard a chuff-chuffing approaching. Not a steam train but a steam boat! SNB Laplander was built as an Birmingham Canal Navigation ice breaker in about 1830, later fitted with Bolinder semi-diesel engine. Converted to steam by owner. (c1980-c1986) fired not by coal but burning a 50:50 mix of kerosene and waste oil.

 

Monday 3rd October

Monday’s target was Hartshill, so we could tackle Atherstone Locks the next day, we stopped there for lunch and let Catty out for a ramble but the stench from the nearby ‘animal by-products’ factory was so foul that we moved on as soon as she returned. We thought we would stop before the locks but there wasn’t a space to be had, so we thought we might moor outside the Kings Head and eat there but but someone else had bagged that spot. So we found a space just past the bridge with the A5 to one side and the West Coast Mainline on the other, we must have been tired because it didn’t disturb our sleep!

Tuesday 4th October

P1020510

The last lock for a while

So it was down the remaining six locks on Tuesday morning arriving back at our mooring in less than two hours and spent the afternoon catching up with local news from our neighbours, dealing with almost two months worth of mail and placing a grocery order with Morrisons for delivery tomorrow.

Since we’ve been away the MoT has run out on the car so have to get that done on Friday.

 

So that’s our cruising done for another year, better start planning for next year now!

Headed homewards

We spent a pleasant 10 days in Heyford, catching up with friends from the boatyard and from church and being invited out for meals on Paul & Rosemary’s boat, at Chris & Emily’s house and visiting The Barley Mow with Barry & Ruth.

We managed to get some kind of internet using our O2 SIM card but it was slow and expensive £10 for 1GB then £20 to top up with another 5GB, if only I had been offered the 5GB preloaded SIM in the shop I would have made it last!

IMG_20160915_133643405On Thursday we took the train down to Oxford and visited the market where we surprised John who was manning his jewellery stall, Hasket Fasesik. The market has a diverse range of food stalls too, so we had lunch there, me a Greek lamb kebab, cooked over charcoal and Joy a Lángos which is a Hungarian speciality, a deep fried flatbread topped with garlic, soured cream and cheese.

We moved down to the 48 hour moorings by the  water-point for our last two nights and on Sunday (18th) we filled with water before turning around to start our journey back to Atherstone. Whilst filling up we had a chat with Bones who was out dog walking with Boots.

Boaters, be warned this tap is extremely slow! The boat before us started filling at 7:30am and we didn’t finish until 11am (reported to C&RT)

We had thought about stopping at Aynho again, but the weather forecast for Monday was rainy so we decided to push on to Banbury and were very glad we did, because in did indeed pour down on Monday just when Jane & Gordon were bringing nb Euphoria back to Banbury after being surveyed.

img_2327We spent a couple of nights at Tramway moorings doing a few jobs, fitting a new fire grate and rear fire brick to our Morsø Squirrel stove. The grate was sourced from Warm-Nation.com who offer a ‘Best Price Promise’ & FREE delivery.

I also managed to fix the 24v Klaxon horn from Jane & Gordon’s new boat nb Moon & Sixpence, and repair June’s starter motor, which needed new solenoid contacts.

My good deeds for the day!

On Thursday morning we moved up to the town centre & Joy was able to go to her art class at The Artery, after lunch with Sandra & Norma at the GF Club which we were moored right outside of. In the evening we met June there too to return her starter and we won a £5 voucher in the meat raffle.

The next morning we left for Cropredy and were fortunate enough to find a free spot almost opposite the wharf & water-point. On Sunday night we went to The Brasenose Arms and took part in their quiz night; we didn’t come last although it was just the two of us in the team! And we won some lamb burgers in their meat raffle. (Clearly an Oxfordshire thing!)

Yesterday we moved on to Fenny Compton through drizzle much of the way (it wasn’t forecast to appear until the afternoon) We shall stay here a couple of days and no doubt celebrate Joy’s birthday at The Wharf Inn.

Just to finish, if you are in the Banbury area there are two opportunities to see a fantastic show at Tooley’s Boatyard on Friday Sept 30th (evening) and Saturday Oct 1st (afternoon).

Kate Saffin & Heather Wastie of the Alarum Theatre Company are performing a double bill.

Idle Women

A double bill to whisk you back to the days of WWII when a shortage of crews to keep the working boats going brought a new breed of boater to the canal – later nicknamed the Idle Women. Lose yourself in Isobel’s War (Kate Saffin) and Idle Women and Judies (Heather Wastie) and hear the stories of those young women who took on the challenge to manage a pair of boats and 55 tons of cargo.
Tickets are £11/£9 available in person at Tooley’s, by email production@theatreinthedock.org.uk or phone 01865 364095
SPECIAL GROUP OFFER: Round up a few friends and take advantage of our special group offer. Five or more (and you collect the money from them) and the ticket price is just £8. Let us know via email or phone.