After leaving the boat in Fazeley Mill Marina for a few days while we looked after our granddaughter, Hollie, we continued along the Coventry Canal, where we passed a number of reclaimed slag heaps at Pooley Hall. A reminder of its mining industry which began operating around 1846. There is now a heritage centre on the site of the old colliery which provides an insight into the mining history.
We took our time, appreciating the beautiful, tranquil morning, before it changed to a busy, bustle of town life.
At Atherston Top Lock, we disposed of rubbish at the sanitary station before continuing on towards Nuneaton, Bedworth and Hawkesbury Junction.
We continued along the Coventry Canal into the heart of the city of Coventry.
Some beautifully manicured gardens that backed onto the canal gave an indication of pride, but all that didn't last.
Needless to say, I didn't much like the branch line into Coventry Basin. It's certainly not the most inspiring part of the canal. About a mile and a half in, and the canal was dirty, with rubbish everywhere. Broken wooden fences replaced the well-kept gardens, and dirty houses hid in shame behind piles of junk. Industry encroaches, but not in a sympathetic way. As the canal passed through the outskirts of Coventry, I began to wonder why we had journeyed this way.
As if to redeem itself, towards the basin and just before bridge 2, there is an elegant row of weavers houses known as the 'Cash Hundred Housing' (although there are only 37 of the original 49 left) In days gone by, living accommodation would have taken up the lower two floors and the upper floor with its large windows would have been where the looms were, driven by a steam engine.
Another 3/4 of a mile later, the canal terminates in a basin (with plenty of mooring) overlooked by tall buildings and old wooden warehouses.
Coventry is the home of motor manufacturing and the birthplace of such iconic makes as Daimler, Jaguar, Triumph, not to mention Massey Ferguson, so a trip to the Transport Museum is not to be missed.
During WWII Coventry's industries turned to the production of material for the war effort which made it a target for enemy bombing and on 14th November 1940, during a night air-raid, reported to be the most prolonged and devastating attack on any city in history, the city was all but destroyed. The devastation was so complete that Germany coined a new word 'Coventrated' meaning the destruction of a city from the air.
Lady Godiva is remembered for her naked ride through the town in order to persuade her husband to lower the crippling taxes imposed on the poor citizens of Coventry. This wonderful story and all its derivatives has spanned the centuries but in truth is unlikely to have happened since Coventry was little more than a hamlet at the time. However, the popular legend remains and still keeps people talking.
Whether or not you are interested in Lady Godiva, Coventry's manufacturing past, the total devastation during World War II or the cathedral of Reconciliation, Coventry is now a burgeoning University City and well worth a visit. But beware; our experience of dining-out was not good. Poor service and a long wait appear to be quite an acceptable order of the day.
We left Coventry behind on Monday 30th September and I could hardly wait to reach Hawkesbury Junction so I immersed myself in housekeeping chores. It was a relief to leave the Coventry canal and breath the fresh air of the Ashby Canal. Quite a contrast.
But before we reached the Ashby, we passed this boatyard.
Boatyard or Junkyard? ....You be the judge!!!
Originally, the Ashby Canal was intended as a route-through from the Coventry Canal near Bedworth to the River Trent at Burton Upon Trent, however this plan was repeatedly shelved. In 1792 the owners of the new coalfields near Ashby de la Zouch and the Leicestershire Limeworks decided that a southbound outlet was required; but it wasn't until 1804 when a new coal mine sunk at Moira, producing an excellent quality of coal that was widely demanded in London and Southern England, that the canal flourished.
The navigable part of the restored Ashby Canal is 22 miles long with no locks; but this shallow canal (maximum 3'6" draught) makes for very slow progress. We managed an average speed of 2 miles per hour; but we were not in any hurry. Just a word of caution; there were places where the canal was so shallow that we lost steerage and ploughed into the bank. Scars, broken brickwork and transferred paint on some of the bridges indicated that we were not alone in this.
A long wooded cutting drew us on towards the typically farming village of Burton Hastings and my spirits soared as we gently made our way through this beautiful countryside.
Although the weather was becoming ever more autumnal and the temperatures were dropping to the mid-teens, it couldn't detract from our pleasure...
... and I enjoyed walking along this remote and rural canal and gathering blackberries while Ian was never far away.
We stopped at bridge 23 where a farm shop, set a little way back from the canal, sold fresh produce, eggs, bread & milk and meat. We bought some excellent sausages as well as a delicious pork pie!
Passing Stoke Golding, the canal meandered around Dadlington and eased its way towards Sutton Cheney Wharf where there is a sanitary station and are full service facilities.
One point to note with regard to the Ashby Canal, services that accommodate waste disposal are few and far between while water points are plentiful.
The Battle of Bosworth was fought on August 22nd 1485 and it was on this battlefield that King Richard III (the last Plantagenate King) lost his life and his crown, and brought an end to the War of the Roses. Henry Tudor, the victor became the next king of England and this gave rise to the powerful Tudor Dynasty that spawned Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, and Elizabeth I.
At the top of Ambion Hill, near the Battlefield Heritage Centre, this stunning walk-through sundial features the thrones of Richard III, Henry Tudor and the treacherous Lord Stanley, the three principal players to this dramatic turn in history.
I hardly need to say that we had a fantastic day!
Then, with autumn leaves falling, we made our way to Snarestone and the end of the Ashby Canal Navigation.
Snarestone sits on a ridge at right angles to the canal which in turn passes under the village through a crooked 250yds tunnel, the only tunnel on the canal.
Emerging from the tunnel, we passed a further two stone-arched bridges before the canal terminated.
There are 48hr moorings at the canal terminus (and a sanitary station) so moored for the night.
A few hours later, as the sun was sinking in the sky, we were treated to a wonderful photo opportunity. The liquid-golden sun shone through the bridge and over the fields, bathing them in a magnificent glow. I was enchanted, and simply couldn't capture the beauty of it all on film.
We stayed the full 48 hours in Snarestone to make the most of it. We took a bus (the bus stop is outside the Globe pub) into Ashby de la Zouch on Saturday and enjoyed a lovely pub lunch at The Globe on Sunday.
All too soon, it was time to leave Snarestone and return down this idyllic, rural canal towards Trinity Marina where we were to leave the boat for a few days, stopping at the market town of Market Bosworth on the way back. We met friends Jackie and John for dinner at the Red Lion, one of the two oldest buildings in the town which dates back to 14th Century.
We left Trinity Marina and the lovely Ashby Canal on Tuesday 15th October for the last leg of our 2013 adventure as we headed down the Oxford Canal towards our winter moorings at Barby Marina.
Author's note ***
Ian laughed at the numerous mentions of 'Sanitary Stations....'
When boaters get together there are three topics that are always discussed...
1) How waste is disposed of - and where;
2) How waste is stored on your boat;
3) What sort of heating do you have;
So it should not be a surprise that I frequently mention such an important topic!