We’ve been back at our mooring for over a week now having hopped back down from Cropredy and moored in Banbury Castle Quays (town centre) for a couple of nights to get our post, some shopping and for Joy to return to her art class although she has been doing ‘distance learning’ by following their projects from photos her tutor has been sending her.
I’m not very good at recording distances and all that, but an estimate from CanalPlan AC tells me that over the last four months we have covered…
663 miles, 206 yards and 292 locks.
GPS Visualizer created this map of our meanderings.
Since returning we have retrieved our car from it’s temporary home and and got it through a MoT with help from my ex-colleagues at the college.
Having got the car back on the road, on Saturday we visited Finmere Car Boot Sale, where I was almost tempted to buy an Aladdin Lamp but a new glass chimney and mantle would have increased the cost at least seven-fold! From there we went on to visit my sister, Jan in Rushden to bore her with our holiday snaps!
On Sunday we went to Heyford Park Chapel where we received a warm welcome from our friends after being absent for so long and afterwards we de-camped to Heyford Wharf where we met lots more friends from my Oxfordshire Narrowboats days including Annie & Tim who are now back ‘down south’ running Kizzie’s Bistro where we enjoyed a light lunch with our friends Ruth & Barry who also happened to be there.
As we were enjoying our food the Good Ship Bones appeared beside us in the winding hole and we exchanged greetings before she headed back off in the opposite direction with promises to catch up properly soon.
Yesterday was Joy’s birthday so we spent the day in Gloucestershire meeting friends at the Berry Blue Café in Cam and finished the day with a meal at The Hawbridge Inn beside the Severn near Tirley with our son Jeremy.
As intimated in our last blog we have stayed in Fenny Compton for a few days, on Friday evening we were joined by Ruth and Barry from Heyford for an evening meal at The Wharf Inn and subjected them to a viewing on some of our 2000 plus photos over coffee back on the boat.
On Saturday afternoon our friend Allison joined us for the weekend and on Sunday we spent the day at Stoke Bruerne Village at War, we always enjoy this event and gives everyone an excuse to dress up in 40s style. We were fortunate to see and hear a Spitfire fly overhead and see the displays of historic boats and militaria.
Monday morning was chill out time and after lunch Allison drove us into Banbury and while the girls hit the charity shops I collected the post and got a passport photo done for my passport renewal.
We said our goodbyes to Allison after tea & cake at The Whistling Kettle and then caught the bus back to Fenny.
For anyone passing that way, beware of a hole beside the piling at the end of the waterpoint moorings, just right to break an ankle if you catch your foot in it.
I have emailed C&RT to advise them of the danger.
The rain caught us out at Varney’s Lock then it stopped for a while until we moored up at Cropredy when it poured down again.. ..
.. and now the sun is out!
Yesterday we spent the morning with culinary tasks, Joy made Scouse for tea and then we started converting our foraged damsons and apples into chutney, we were short of raisons and dark soft brown sugar so we made the short journey to the bottom of Napton Locks.
On the way we took pictures of the windmill (again!) the one zoomed in makes the new house look as if it’s right next to the windmill while the other one shows it’s not!
We moored above the first lock and walked up to the village shop for the necessary supplies. After lunch we left the chutney simmering while we continued up the locks to spend the night at Marston Doles. We enjoyed the Scouse and then put the chutney into jars before turning in.
This morning we did a load of washing before leaving and attempted another load at our brunch stop near the famous radio mast but the generator ran out of petrol! After lunch we continued on our circuitous way following the contours along the summit level and arrived in Fenny Compton about 2 pm and were fortunate to get the one available space which even more fortunately a 14 day mooring as we want to stay here for a few days.
In the short time we’ve been moored up we’ve already seen friends, Brian on nb Harnser passed by and Jim from nb Smoking Badger walked past on his way back from the village. More visitors are expected over the coming days, we must be back on home turf (or is that water). Catty is well pleased too as she has been out exploring familiar haunts.
Our only locks today were at Hilmorton and we were assisted at the first pair by a Volunteer Lockkeeper, then we were on our own but met boats coming down the flight at every lock.
It was on through the Barby Straight and 2½ hours later we were at Braunston, we watered up at the junction, then on through to Braunston Marina for a pump out, and moored just outside was Maffi’s boat, Milly M so we hijacked him for a pint at The Boathouse, it didn’t take much to persuade him!
We enjoyed catching up on each others news and generally putting the world to rights and were surprised to find it was 4 o’clock when we emerged.
On we went and at 6 pm we squeezed into a mooring spot near Napton Bridge 111 with inches to spare.
The volunteer lock keeper at Atherstone reminded us that Shackerstone Festival had been on this last weekend and this became clear as we met several of the participants and visitors as we left Hartshill this morning.
At Wood Bridge we met our first of the historic boats, Kangaroo towing the butty Australia on a short line, we were able to pull onto Springwood Haven’s wharf and keep out of the way.
We continued to meet boats until we reached Marston Junction where The Ashby starts to make it’s way to the current terminus at Shackerstone.
Our approach to Nuneaton was marked by an increase of rubbish in the canal even before we had reached any housing, it’s disappointing when a town seems to turn it’s back on the canal. The only item of interest being Boot Wharf with it’s moorings and boatyard.
We were soon out of town and passing the quirky Charity Dock with The Stig & A Fine Lady on a White Horse in residence.
It was then on to Hawkesbury Junction with the 180 degree turn under the bridge and into the basin to queue for the lock, a boat was having issue with opening the lock gate but it was soon resolved and historic boat, Panther went on through, then it was our turn.
We had considered stopping at Ansty or Newbold but there were no moorings available at either, so as the weather was still glorious we kept going until we reached Rugby’s Visitor Moorings at Brownshill.
The longest day we have done for a long time, 21.48 miles, 8h7m, 1 Lock and 76 Bridges, then shopping at Tesco after tea… Phew.
Saturday 5th September
Our visitors, Carol & Ted, arrived at The Gate Inn in time for Elevenses and we chatted (and chatted) reminiscing about our 1988 canal holiday together, the route of which we have re-discovered over the past few weeks. Soon it was lunchtime and we enjoyed another meal in the pub, I tried their Beef Rendang which I really enjoyed, whilst the others played safe with plaice and chips, which was equally good. All too soon we had to say goodbye but not before more tea and snacks had been forced upon them.
We don’t usually start our day’s journey at 5:30 pm but it was just a short hop down to Pooley Country Park to catch up with Ray & Penny (who painted the wrens on our back doors) naturally more tea and cake was consumed!
On the way we passed Narrowcraft at Alvecote where this tug was up on the hard-standing.
Sunday 6th September
We waved them off.. and they promptly got stuck on a mud bank coming off of their mooring! So a kind of push-me pull-you tow was in order, then we moored back up to continue our foraging before leaving.
Pausing only to pick some yummy ripe plums from the trees at lock 8 we arrived at the Top Lock at 2 pm just in time for the volunteer lockies to assist with the last lock (Perhaps they were taking a long lunch break?)
Penny had told us not to miss the Clock Tower Tea Rooms and Cookery School at Hartshill Yard so we moored up in a sunny spot nearby and visited it, sadly for us they had completely sold out of cake (!!!) so it was just a pot of proper leaf tea and a fruit juice. Penny has some of her art work on sale here so we purchased a couple of greeting cards.
We thought we could indulge ourselves tomorrow for breakfast instead only to find that they don’t open on Mondays! Oh well, back to the boat to look forward to Joy’s cauliflower cheese & a fruit crumble instead.
This morning’s start was delayed by a call from Karen, our daughter in Australia but we were still away by 9:00 in fine but cool, cloudy conditions, occasionally the sun appeared and made the water sparkle.
First impressions were that this section of canal needed some TLC with bankside erosion almost reaching the towpath in spots and sightlines through the first two bridges badly obstructed by overgrown foliage.
An hour later we were at Streethay Wharf, however, and an hour after that at Whittington Brook where the Coventry Canal (detached section) mysteriously changes into the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal with just a boundary stone to mark the change. I’m sure there was once a good reason for this but it seemed to coincide with an improvement in the condition of the bank.
We passed Tamhorn Bridge where we think Catty jumped ship on the way up, so we made sure she was not able to repeat the trick. Through Hopwas Woods which has signs warning that it is a Military Firing Range and the village of Hopwas which has a pub either side of the canal.
No stop here for us though, although we paused briefly at Fazeley Junction for cheese on toast as it was still a bit chilly.
Keeping left at the junction we were under way again and back on the Coventry Canal (main line). Joy stayed inside to prepare tonight’s dinner and before she had finished we were at Glascote Locks.
There was a queue and by the time it was our turn she was ready to bring the boat in. We helped a single-hander, who was following us, through as there was no hurry.
At the top of the locks was Anchor Bridge, but we found that The Anchor pub was there no more having been replaced by a new Co-op in the same style. See the story here in the Tamworth Herald.
In just another half hour we reached our goal, The Gate Inn at Ammington. “What! Moored outside a pub again.” you say? Actually we moored on the towpath opposite but within a few minutes the boat on the pub mooring left and we snaffled their place.
As we have visitors coming tomorrow this was ideal and as is the etiquette in these situations we patronised the establishment and were tempted by their 2 for 1 offer to stay for a meal. Joy enjoyed Plaice & Chips and it was Spinach & Mushroom Frittata for me, so Joy’s creation went into the freezer. The landlady also offered an electrical hook-up and water so we will be honour bound to have lunch there with our visitors tomorrow.
Wednesday 2nd September
We started our day with a visit to Penkridge Market to buy some provisions, veg, pies and blackpudding. Joy bought herself a new jigsaw puzzle at a stall where she was able to trade in one she had recently done, what a good idea!!
After walking back to the boat we made a quick getaway as rain was predicted for the afternoon. Our contingency plan was to moor up at Radford Bridge about 2 pm near the Radford Bank Inn near Stafford, in the event the rain never came to much which was just as well as there were no moorings available.
We decided to press on and the sun came out for us too as we passed through the beautiful Tixall Wide.
At Great Haywood Junction where we refilled the water tank and again there was no room at the visitor moorings so as it was still fine we cruised another hour to Wolseley Bridge where we slotted in nicely.
Thursday 3rd September
Since Great Heywood there seems to have been many more boats on the move, perhaps people returning from an extended Bank Holiday break or maybe they’ve noticed the weather is turning cooler too.
This morning was no exception with quite a few boats on the move before we were up, and just as we untied a boat appeared through the bridge, I pulled back in and he called out that he wouldn’t hold us up for long as he was stopping for fuel. That was a coincidence as that was our plan too, the fuel boat Dexta was about 10 minutes away on it’s mooring at Taft Wharf Farm and there was a queue, but it was worth it at their base price of 60p/litre.
Lunchtime found us in Rugeley where we saw nb Jubilee but the Halfies were not aboard, we stopped for a quick shop at Morrison’s and then we were underway again eating lunch at the tiller. Eventually we were past Rugeley Power Station and out into the countryside before reaching the Former Armitage Tunnel where Joy walked ahead to check the single width section was clear. Fortuitously she met someone walking the other way and they agreed that we should go through first.
We needed to turn right at the junction, before the last Fradley lock and the lock keeper had a simple method of letting his colleague know so he didn’t prepare the next lock unnecessarily; just hang a big sign on the handrail.
A kind boater opened the swing bridge for us and there on the other side was a mooring waiting for us. Ten miles today in 6 hours including the stops, so we treated ourselves to a burger and a pint at the Swan Inn (aka The Mucky Duck) right on the junction.
We were soon wriggling our way northward past Hatherton Junction where we spotted icebreaker Tycho with it’s huge ram on the bow. See here for more of Tycho’s story.
Then it was Calf Heath and a straight run of canal through the Schenectady Chemical Works, warning signs urge you not to moor up or stop for 200 meters [sic] even if you hear an alarm. Maybe it’s something to do with the tanks marked phosphorus!
I would say especially if you hear an alarm. Incidentally their signs are far more than 200 metres apart.
By 11 am we were at Gailey and 3rd in the queue for the lock but as the Black Prince hire boat ahead of us needed water they kindly let us go ahead of us, they may have regretted it later as they needed to turn most of the following five locks, mind you we did little better, as most boats seemed to be headed the same way as us.
We reached Penkridge, our destination for today, at quarter past one and settled onto the Visitor Moorings above the lock. After our evening meal we were surprised by a shower of rain which although short, delighted us with the sight of a double rainbow. Joy managed to photograph three, two in the sky and a reflection in the water too.
Tomorrow is one of Penkridge’s market days so we might have to pay that a visit before we leave.
Sunday 30th August
After our walk around Wheaton Aston Saturday night we thought we might attend the parish church this morning but checking on the internet we found there was only a shared service at the neighbouring village. I guess it’s because August had five Sundays which seem to play havoc with the ecclesiastical rotas, so instead we listened to a podcast sermon from our friend Trevor from Cityview Church in Vancouver!
So we continued to retrace our journey up the one lock at Wheaton Aston and then it was an easy 3 hour cruise to our next lock at Junction.
Joy was fancying a Sunday Roast and although the Bridge Inn at Brewood had looked promising it was only 11am as we passed and a bit early for lunch even by my standards. Passing through the Brewood Cutting we passed nb Esther on which we have spent many a happy hour when it belonged to our friends Barry & Sue.
We could have turned right and returned through Birmingham but we chose the longer, though arguably easier route through Great Haywood.
Anyway rain was forecasted for the afternoon so we opted to do as much boating in the dry as we could and in just over an hour we were in the Fox and Anchor at Coven [that seems to be pronounced Co-ven, like Co-op] in time for that roast dinner. I can’t say that the meal was anything special but the service was prompt and the staff were pleasant and helpful in directing us to the local Co-op for provisions.
After our shopping expedition the rain started in earnest so we battened down the hatches and watched TV.
Monday 31st August
As forecast it rained all night and showed no signs of abating this morning, well it is Bank Holiday Monday! In any case Joy woke up feeling really out of sorts so we lit the fire and spent the day snuggled up in front of it with more TV in the evening not even being tempted by the bar which was but a few steps away.