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Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Ashby Canal, Coventry and then back to home

The Ashby Canal runs approximately North from its junction with the Coventry Canal and passes through lovely countryside and has no locks along its length.

On Thursday 4th October our friends arrived for a cruising/dining experience and after coffee we headed from Hinckley ( 52deg 32' 01.90 N, 01deg 24' 00.99 W) to Stoke Golding where we stopped for lunch. It was a glorious day and was made even better by David spotting a water vole whilst we were having lunch. Carol and I have not seen one of these in the wild for at least 10 years as mink have overtaken their nests and waters. This sighting could indicate that the mink are disappearing, possibly as a result of the re-population of more areas by otters now the water quality has improved.

After lunch we cruised to Sutton Wharf and then slowly back to Hinckley for our friends to go home after a day they said they greatly enjoyed.

Friday morning, early, we moved our mooring slightly and then left Lily for the weekend to go and see our youngest grandchildren for the weekend. Tuesday 9th was wet so we stayed put and I attended to a leaking fuel filter. This filter had been leak free for over 18 months when suddenly it started leaking about a baked bean tin full a day, with all the horrible smell it gives. The refitting, that had been tedious previously in trying to keep the gaskets in place, was not so this time, aided by a good smear of Vaseline.

Wed 10th we set off along the Ashby, overcast but warm, and serviced Lily at Sutton Wharf, Carol enjoying a good coffee. After noon the sun came out pretty well but without any great conviction, and after a short cruise we stopped at Shenton. This is an estate village, only the main house not being owned by the family that has owned the estate for centuries. It seems the hall was going to cost too much to repair shortly after the war, so they sold it, and it is now owned by an American authoress who visits occasionally, but who is lavishing money on its preservation.

The village is very simple and lovely, the landlords being very well spoken of by the tenants we spoke to, and because of this management, a great amount of the old charm still exists, with not a satellite dish to be seen and hardly a TV aerial in sight. Two of the farms offered home grown meat and eggs, and at one end of the village is a lovely cafe. It doesn't really do it justice to call it a cafe, but it is not quite a restaurant, and they really cook some lovely cakes and I'd guess their meals are equally good. The chocolaty biscuity cake I had was superb, and Carol commented very favouraly on the scone she had............but why didn't she eat any of the scones she made for our guests the other day?? I'm positive they were far better. Associated with this cafe is an antiques shop with an interesting variation as they also had several shipping containers that people lease by the shelf or the container for their goods to be sold. Shenton is well worth a visit.

So back to the boat and we cruised on to Shackerstone. The canal is twisty but has lovely scenery and is understandably popular. We had visitors in the evening in the form of Joe, who was my first boss (other than Carol of course) after the better part of 20 years running my own show. He is a most inspiring character with a prodigious brain and great knowedge of many things from the nuclear power stations, through old Rolls Royce cars, and on to things that local authorities want doing, with the odd lecture on Law at Loughborough University thrown in plus being a church warden. I view it as a great bit of good fortune that I got to know Joe. We promised Joe & Migsy a cruise later.

Now, we'd been dilly dallying around since August 13th, but we needed to be back at our base on October 19th. We wanted to spend time in Coventry, so we decided we did not have time to cruise right to the terminus of the canal this trip, so on Thursday 11th in an early moring fog, we turned and returned down the canal. We filled with diesel at Stoke Golding and during this we talked with the proprietor of Ashby Boat Co, who told us he had been surprised in having about his best year ever with his hire boats, especially given the terrible weather dring much of the Summer. We stopped at Hinckley again that night as we had to get to our car to let Carol chair an Inland Waterways Association meeting in Oadby that night.

Friday 20th, David and Lesley helped us double shuffle our car back to Debdale, bribed by the promise of Carol's very scrummy Lemon Drizzle Cake. We then did a short cruise to a very pretty spot for the night. Saturday was a pleasant day and we turned into the Coventry, used the facilities as we reached Hawksbury, before cruising into the canal basin at Coventry ( 52deg 24' 48.11 N, 01deg 32' 01.94 W). The cruise included the collection of rubbish on both the main propeller and on the bow thruster. Sadness for Carol, v poor TV reception. These lovely plants adorn the bridge over the entrance to the basin.

Sunday 22nd we went to the morning service at Coventry Cathedral. This was most moving, with a very good sermon and some lovely A capella singing by a visiting Dutch choir. After this, a coffee and a snack lunch, we then spent much of the afternoon in the Coventry Motor Museum. All I can say about this is that if you are only a bit interested in cars, go there, it as been much improved of late and virtually every car, motorbike and bicycle on display was built in Coventry. It was a lovely clear afternoon so when we returned to the boat we poddled along a couple of miles and moored near to the new Ricoh Stadium where Coventry City play.


I need to get a prescription dispensed but the last 3 chemists I have tried do not stock the statin I am prescribed, the same applied at the large Tesco near our mooring. It was a damp morning as we set off but improved as we cruised the six hours it took us to get to Rugby, where we moored in this pretty spot near the golf course. I was fascinated by the equipment two farmers were using in fields nearby but unfortunately I was not able to ask for more details as they were in sound proofed and air conditioned cabs.



It rained overnight but was bright during the day till we arrived at Braunstone where we had planned to moor as we needed to see a man about getting some new fenders. Braunstone is a bit like the M25 of the canals with five canals coming together within a very short space. We wandered up into the village for provisions, and as we ambled back it started to rain, and this rain got heavier as it went on, and carried on all night, we were very fortunate stopping when we did!

BUT Wednesday 17th dawned lovely and bright. I walked from our mooring to the start of the Braunstone Locks, but was very excited to notice Lily Pad moored up on the towpath. It was our first boat, we hadn't seen her for 6 years and were very pleased to see she looked well cared for. We shared the locks with a couple who were off to change their boat, sharing locks makes life much simpler. After the locks it was a few minutes cruising before we entered the tunnel, which is a very twisty affair. We crossed two boats going through it, and emerged into the sunlight to slowly cruise to somewhere to stop for lunch. Whilst cruising we had a very unusual occurrence as we passed close by a kingfisher that stayed put on its perch, usually they fly off just before the boat reaches them. Sadly the camera was below decks!

After lunch I made a bit of a horlicks turning towards Leicester at Norton Junction. The canal then rises up the 7 Watford locks to the Leicester Summit level. These are very picturesque locks, but they are only yards from the M1 Motorway Watford Gap service area, so it is very noisy. We found a delightul mooring that night and enjoyed the bright evening sun, though it became cold overnight. The next morning it was wonderfully misty giving an almost eery feeling to the canal. This day was a lovely day and as we had little cruising to do over the next two days, we cruised at tickover. Shortly after we cast off we entered Crick Tunnel, and crossed with just one boat. The day carried on as a lazy cruise and we were excited by the number of kingfishers that fled as we approached. I had the camera ready this time, but they never alighted anywhere near us! The scenery was lovely too and then to our great excitement we looked up to a roar in the sky to see the restored Vulcan Bomber fly over on its installation flight. An historic moment. We found another pretty spot to moor that night.
So Friday 19th October dawned beautiful and bright, no breeze, and warm sun. Wonderful colours on the trees and hedgerows. More kingfishers and buzzards too. Tickover cruising again saw us enter Foxton Top Lock at around mid day. We both had a large Bennetts ice cream from the top lock cafe, this is neary as good as the stuff Carol makes. We had a near upset coming down the locks as the "experienced" boater following us started to put water into the lock as Lily was half way through the opened lock gates.
I have yet to tot up the miles cruised or hours taken and locks passed, suffice to say it will not be great, but as far as we are concerned it has been wonderful. The amazing thing is that effectively from August 13th to October 19th we were in each others company almost 100% of the time. Now we are home, Carol is out to Bridge Drives & I have been out to other things, so the confined space is not so intense. I have got on her nerves a bit, especially with a cough I collected. We rounded it off by aving our youngest daughter, plus husband & children aged 2 & 5 staying with us on Tuesday and Wednesday night. It was cozy, but we all enjoyed it so I expect it will be repeated.
So, now we stay put, probably until the beginning of March, but we are off for short cruises with my cousin from Australia one day and another cousin from Canada on another.

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