Friday, 18 July 2014

Tewksbury to Gloucester and Gloucester & Sharpness canal

With the necessity of medical appointments, we had left the boat in Tewksbury marina for a few days. It was a lovely break away from Winedown but after a very short time, I was longing for the freedom of the canals and river again. After returning the hire car on Thursday (26th) we prepared the boat for the next adventure –filled up with water, fuel etc. got laundry done and boat cleaned. It was shortly before 12:00 noon that we left Tewksbury marina and entered the Avon lock. This marked the end of our time on the River Avon, and to mark our passing, it started to drizzle just as we were ready to leave the lock. The lock gates opened, the lockie gave us a cheerful wave and we were on to the River Severn, the huge lock gates clanged ominously as they closed behind us.  By the time we got to Upper Lode lock, the rain was pelting down and I was starting to regret that we hadn't delayed our trip for another day.
Upper Lode Lock on River Severn

Upper Lode Lock was overwhelming. We felt so tiny and insecure as we held our bow and stern ropes and the lock emptied. The enormous lock gates opened (well this part of the River Severn was a shipping lane in days gone by so enormous locks were a requirement) and we ventured out onto the river. Almost at once, the rain stopped and the sun shone through, immediately melting away my anxiety. The rest of the trip from Tewksbury to Gloucester was a doddle, and we arrived at Gloucester Lock just 3 hours later. The lock keeper asked us to wait in the lock for a norrowboat behind to catch up and while we waited, an ominous black cloud covered the sun. Narrowboat ‘The Lucy Locket’ tied up alongside us, the lock gates slammed shut and the lock began to gently fill. With that the heavens opened and the rain lashed down. There was nothing we could do but to endure the downpour.The rain seemed to find its way down my neck and in a matter of minutes, I was soaked through; It was as if my wet-weather gear was made of fine silk. My saturated clothes clung to my body as if painted on, and I in turn hung on to the bow rope and determinedly gritted my teeth. The lock gates swung open and we found ourselves in the Dock basin and scrambled for a mooring. No sooner had we moored then the fickle sun shone down again. One good thing about having an air cooled engine is that the engine room was nice and warm and it didn't take long for our clothes to be dry again.

We spent two day in Gloucester Docks and that proved quite expensive. Some of the old warehouses have been converted into an outlet centre and that is always bad news for us. we can never resist a bargain - even if we don't really need the item. consequently, we spend far too much. on the brighter side... in order to put our new purchases away, we had to clear out a lot of older stuff, so the charity shops benefited.

While we were enjoying a cuppa in a lovely coffee shop, Ian's cousin John called. He had been following us on Facebook and realised that we were quite close to one another for a change - John spends a lot of his time in France - and so it was that we were able to meet up for Sunday Lunch.

Leaving Gloucester behind on Sunday morning, we went the eight easy miles down the Gloucester & Sharpness canal to Saul Junction and met John in the Bell Inn at Frampton-On-Severn. It must have been 10 years since the cousins had seen each other so you can imagine, they had a lot to talk about!

Monday 30th June we continued down the Gloucester & Sharpness canal to Sharpness. What a beautiful place to be!

Sharpness Docks began as a basin giving access from the River Severn Estuary to the Gloucester & Sharpness canal where shipping traffic could then proceed to Gloucester Docks. With increasingly larger ships, the size of the old docks had its drawbacks and a new floating dock was opened in 1874 just south of the old docks. Today, a marina operates on the edge of the old docks site.
14 day free mooring near Sharpness

We moored about 1/4 mile before the marina and the scenery was breathtaking.

The public mooring allows for up to 14 days free, however, there is not much to see and do in Sharpness so it is an ideal spot for a total escape and a springboard for beautiful walks.

The 'New' sharpness docks are working docks so access is limited, however we did manage to get a peek at some of the activity. The most bazaar picture was this burned out 'Gin Palace' complete with its very own helicopter.

Site of the old railway bridge north of Sharpness
The remoteness of Sharpness includes that lack of internet connectivity and I had promised Tanya (my daughter) that I would publicise (via a blog) her progress on the 4 Peaks Challenge (more about that later). Sadly we had to return to Saul Junction in order to fulfil my promise.

Saul Junction is where the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal meets the rural Stroudwater Canal, once an important junction. The Stroudwater Canal brought coal from the Midlands to the cloth mills in the Stroud Valley, while the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal was built for ocean-going ships. Saul Junction became the meeting place for ships & crew, boats & boaters and cargo from around the world. This once important junction is still a great place to visit. Besides the busy marina, there is a visitor centre and the all important facilities such as water and sanitation with a bonus shower and laundry facilities. I spent time reading a book on the front deck while my laundry was washing and drying.

Wooden Spoon Charity Challenge

The following day was Wednesday 2nd July and time was catching up on me. the 4 peaks Challenge was nearly upon us. This Wooden Spoon charity event is one of the most exhausting yet exhilarating physical (and mental) challenges in UK. Teams of Four (three climbers and a driver) pit their strength,and determination against four of the highest mountains in UK. In 48 short hours, they have to climb Ben Nevis in Scotland, Helvellyn in the English Peak District, Mt Snowdon in Wales and Carrantuohill in Ireland, a total of 14000ft They also have to drive the 1000 miles between each peak. Tanya, my daughter was taking part in this challenge.

The next day, Thursday 3rd July was the start of the 4 Peaks Challenge and I still needed to post the 'countdown' blog as an introduction. My problem was that Saul Junction didn't have very good internet connectivity so Ian and I spend a lovely few hours at the Bell Inn using their WiFi (what a shame) and watching the opening sets of Andy Murry's disastrous Wimbledon game. In the meantime Tanya and her team of trusty climbers and driver were making their way to Fort William.

(If you are interested in a 'blow by blow' of their progress, you can find it at It is posted in reverse order, so scroll to the bottom for the first post.)

While we were moored at Saul Junction, we had another long-overdue encounter. Peter Carr, an ex-work colleague whom we hadn't seen in perhaps 15 years popped up. He lives with his family about 20 minutes drive from Saul Junction so it was lovely to be able to reminisce about 'old times' over a glass of wine.

Gloucester Docks

I still needed to get a good continuous internet connection, so on Thursday morning we pulled up the mooring pins (or rather loosened the mooring ropes) and set off for Gloucester Docks where we spent firstly a nail-biting 48 hours, then a pleasant few days relaxing and exploring the Waterways museum and other places of interest around Gloucester.

We have had some great weather and at times like this, we tend to have our meal in the great outdoors - well on the front deck of the boat. and just to silence the sceptics... Yes I DID cook that meal.

Mind you, we had just finished when the heavens opened. Talk about 'Just In Time'.

We left Gloucester on Tuesday morning (8th July) and headed up the River Severn towards Stourport. One thing  I don't miss about Gloucester Docks  is the mess that the seagulls make!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

River Avon

Mooring in the basin at Stratford-Upon-Avon is limited to 48 hours. We spent the second day of our stay with a bit of domestic ‘stuff’ and then the delights of exploring. The laundry (Silly Suds)did a ‘drop-in’ service (drop your laundry in and they will wash and dry it for you) so we took our laundry, negotiated a price, which included ironing, arranged a time to pick it up again and left…job done! We were free to spend our time on more pleasurable pursuits.
Gower Memorial Statue
Winedown was moored in the shadow of the Gower memorial statue. By 1769 there was a growing appreciation of the works of Shakespeare and this was somewhat due to the Garricks Stratford jubilee festival, held in the same year. As a sign of appreciation, Lord Ronald Gower commissioned (and personally funded) the memorial statue and presented it to the town in 1888. The figures around the base of the Shakespearian characters of Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff and Prince Hal.

 We later found the oldest pub in Stratford-Upon-Avon, The Garrick Inn, originally owned by the same Garrick family dating back to 14th centuary.

While enjoying half a pint of cider, I noticed a sign over the bar that read as follows… ‘Here we are together, drinking Wine, Ale and Stout. May the roof above us never fall in and the friends below never fall out…’

Shakespeare's family home

And just to prove that we don't spend all out time in pubs... We explored the town of Stratford-Upon -Avon, relishing in the wonderful old architecture and history

The fool

Inscription at the base of 'The Fool'

Leaving Stratford-Upon-Avon  behind

On the morning of Wednesday 18th June, we bought a river licence (the Avon river is run by the Avon Navigation Trust and therefore a separate licence is required) and left the Stratford basin to enjoy once more the pleasures of boating on a river. We had been having gorgeous weather for the past few weeks and therefore the river levels were well within the normal navigation limits and the flow was even a little sluggish, so little cause for concern.

 Unlike the River Thames, the locks on the River Avon are not manned and are all manual so after clearing lock 56 which joins the basin to the river, we turned south, worked 3 locks over 5 miles and moored before WA Cadbury lock near Welford-on-Avon. It was very remote with no access to the town at all, but that didn’t bother us since we had frequented a number of pubs over the past few days. It was time for me to remember how the galley worked and where my oven was!

 We were in no hurry to get to Tewksbury (the end of the Avon Navigation) so on Thursday we stretched ourselves to work 3 locks over 3 miles before mooring in the delightful village of Bidford-On-Avon.

Moored near the recreational ground

The mooring is right next to the recreational ground and although the mooring itself is limited the park offered BBQ areas as well as a children’s play park, tennis courts and a cricket green. The mooring is only 24h mooring but we were a bit naughty and stretched it to 36 hours as it was so enjoyable.

 While we were moored at Bidford, a tugfronted narrowboat, Daedalus owned by Simon and Pat, moored behind us and when we set off the next morning they joined us so that we could share the locks.

View of Workman Bridge - Evesham

We happily worked the next 4 locks over 8 miles and shortly after lunch we moored at the Workman Gardens in Evesham.

For boaters not familiar with this part of the river, I have to warn that the Evesham lock is a bit tricky to navigate. Coming downstream as we were, it isn’t until you are at the lock that you can see if it's occupied, full or empty and the lock operation mooring is quite short (having said that, there were volunteers manning the lock to help boaters through). In addition, NB Daedalus, 67ft got stuck in the lock. We had to clear the lock to allow Daedalus to go diagonally across it before they could open the lock gate.

During our time together at the locks, we discovered that Pat and Simon had many similar experiences to us. They had bought their boat as a project boat and fitted her out themselves. Unlike us, they even got involved in the structure of the hull. I take my hat off to them as that was a ‘bridge too far’ for us. Ian and I spent a lovely afternoon in Abby park (across the river from Workman Gardens) exploring the remains of the abbey before we went into the town to replenish supplies. We found that there was a Morris Dancing Festival taking place at one end of the Abbey gardens and sound of their music carried on the light breeze.

On returning to the boat, we saw Simon about to go for a bicycle ride. He invited us to join them for drinks later that evening and so it was that we had another boozy evening with a lovely couple.

Sunday morning, we were woken at the crack of dawn by people shouting instructions to rowing boats in the water. We had moored opposite the Evesham Rowing club and a lovely sunny Sunday morning (albeit 6:00am) is prime time for the rowers.

Although Evesham offered 48h mooring (which are plentiful), we said goodbye to Simon and Pat on NB Daedalus and set off for Pershore just 11 miles and 3 locks down the Avon River. The long stretches between locks made for a lovely relaxing trip.

Sunday is usually prime time for the fishermen too, and while most of them will nod or wave a greeting, there are some who are none too pleased to be disturbed but these noisy narrowboaters. One fisherman studiously avoided our greeting and even put his hands over his ears to show his displeasure. Nowt as strange as folk! 

As the Avon River has a wide flood plain, villages are often set far back so there is little to disturb the natural order. The iridescent blue flash of the kingfisher can often be seen skimming the water. On more than one occasion we saw the trails of the grass snake as it attempted to cross the river. Sadly to say, we saw little sign of the water vole.

Reaching Pershore, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was ample mooring alongside the recreational ground above Pershore lock. We were spoiled for choice for a mooring spot.

 Ian had found a pub called the Pickled Plum and had phoned ahead to book a table for lunch. This was to be our wedding anniversary celebratory lunch. We found the Pickled Plum on the top edge of Pershore and it was well worth the walk.

I would happily have stayed an extra day at Pershore but we had Doctors’ appointments to keep and therefore had to get Winedown into the marina at Tewksbury. After replenishing supplies at the supermarket situated at the opposite end of the recreational ground, we set off for the last 14 miles of the Avon River, with just 3 locks to work.

Tewksbury marina gave us a lovely mooring spot alongside the river. Across the river from the marina, there were lovely parklands to overlook. Although we were in a marina, if we looked over the river we had an idyllic setting in the warm sunshine with a gentle wind and a wonderful vista. This is what boating is all about.

The following day, we hired a car from Enterprise – they have a wonderful service whereby they will pick-up and drop-off wherever you are – and leaving Winedown safely tucked up in Tewksbury marina, set off down the motorway towards Reading. 

After the tedium (but necessity) of doctors and dentist, we were able to enjoy our grandchildren for a few days and even had time to look up old friends, Mick (the marina manager at Frouds Bridge), his good lady, Sue and assistant, Bill. We enjoyed the summer sunshine with them at the Butt Inn near Aldermaston Wharf.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Umbrellas and Shakespeare

As we approached the Hatton Flight we saw two men on the lock wearing the distinctive blue shirt and red life-preserver of the Canal & River Trust volunteers. We had been told that there were often volunteers on the flight and it was indeed a welcome sight, particularly since we thought we would have to climb the flight without the help of another boat. But we were in luck. As the lock was filling the volunteer told us that he had asked the boat in front to wait at the next lock so that we could lock up together. He assured us that the crew of the boat were pleasant people and he was sure we would all get along. How right he was!

Fran & Roger and Di & Chris were the crew on narrowboat Umbrellas and we all seem to hit it off straight away. Very soon we were in a comfortable rhythm and the daunting 21 locks just melted away amid much laughter and chatter.

I commented on the unusual name of their boat and asked Fran how they settled on the name. Fran told me a lovely story which I will try to summarise.  Fran and Di had been friends for a very long time, a friendship that started with nursing together. As time went on and their respective families arrived, they often took family holidays together in France. On one such holiday, they were playing on a sandy beach when a strong wind blew all the beach umbrellas away. A shout of ‘Umbrellas’ rippled along the shoreline as the brightly coloured umbrellas cartwheeled along, with their owners scrambling after them. Thereafter, whenever they holidayed together, the four would toast and clink their wineglasses together, instead of saying chin-chin or cheers as others would, they said ‘Umbrellas!’ Fran said that when they bought the boat, there was only one fitting name…’Umbrellas’.

Narrowboat Umbrellas

Winedown and Umbrellas

At the top of the locks, we breasted up the boats and lunched together. It was then that we discovered that we were all going on to the Stratford-on-Avon canal so we continued on our way together.  

At Kingswood Junction where the Stratford canal meets the Grand Union, Umbrellas encountered a boat coming towards them and they slowed to wait for it to pass. We, in turn slowed behind them.  In the meantime another boat  was manoeuvring to make the same turn that we wanted to make. Phew, it was all happening at once. 

While waiting for the turn, Umbrellas ran aground on the soft clay at the edge of the canal. Once the way was clear, we slipped pass them, picked up their bow rope and tied it to our stern dolly. The momentum and our engine power easily pulled them clear. We were then able to make the turn and work the first 4 locks before mooring for the evening.

Barrel-roof cottage
The following day, Umbrellas bid us farewell and continued on their way. We were in no hurry and wanted to enjoy as much of the scenery as we could, so we set off some hours later, mooring at Wootton Wawen later that afternoon.  At lock 28 we passed a barrel-roof cottage that was quite extraordinary but typical of this part of the canal. The cottages, originally the lock keeper’s cottages have been largely extended but the strange barrel-roof is still quite evident.

Leaving Wootton Wawen behind on Friday 13th June, we looked forward to crossing the spectacular Edson Aqueduct but before we had gone little more than ½ mile, we saw the day hire boat in distress. They had run aground. Well, since we had practiced the manoeuvre just two days before, we simply repeated the process. We slipped pass them, picked up their bow rope and pulled them clear before continuing on our way. At the next lock, the day boat moored behind us and we discovered that they didn’t know how to work the lock. Once again, we helped them before continuing on our way. 

On the Edstone Aqueduct
The Edstone Aqueduct is as spectacular as it was reported.  The canal is carried across a water meadow, a rail bridge and a road bridge by this aqueduct. While we were several meters above the road, Ian received a cheery wave from a van driver on the road below. It was quite surreal.

We ended our boating day at bridge 59 which carried Featherbed Lane over the canal and into Wilmcote. It is here that the restored house of Mary Arden (William Shakespeare’s mother) attracts visitors.

Before we could settle down, a Canadian couple asked us to help them reverse their boat, passed several other boats, to the winding hole so that they could turn their boat. As all boaters know, there is little-to-no steering when reversing a narrowboat. Ian assisted at the helm while I took up the bargepole to use as a punt and between us we managed to reverse the boat is a relatively straight line.

Shortly after the Canadian couple were on their way, Sheridan and William, the couple on the day boat returned from the pub and found themselves in a similar predicament. They had passed the winding hole when they moored, giving no thought to how they would later return along the canal. They too asked us to help them. And so it was that Friday 13th turned out to be a day of rescue.

Ian with the crew of Umbrellas
The Canadian couple had told us that the train station was only a stone’s throw from the mooring and a convenient way to go into Stratford-Upon-Avon only a few miles away so on Saturday we left Winedown on the mooring and took the train to explore the birthplace of William Shakespeare. To our delight, we found Umbrellas moored in the Stratford basin and were invited to share a glass of wine with them. We later arranged to meet up with them the following evening to share a finger-buffet dinner alongside the canal.

Sadly, all good things come to an end and the following morning, we waved goodbye to Umbrellas and her crew as we all set off in different directions. I hasten to add… not before we had exchanged contact details. I believe It’s always such a privilege when strangers can lift the curtain on their lives and allow one a glimpse in passing. Here’s to you, Umbrellas, I hope we meet again!

Continuing on our way, we worked the final 16 locks on the canal and moored in Stratford basin, overlooked by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  We had previously booked tickets for dinner and a play at the theatre so in true fashion we dressed up and enjoyed the Shakespearian play Henry 4th in Shakespeare’s birth town at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Since 2014 is the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, it would be rude not to!

The basin at Stratford-Upon-Avon 

Over Winter 2013/2014 and a new Start

Barby Moorings on the Oxford canal wasn't quite what we expected but it afforded us security for the winter.

Barby Moorings
Ian and I planned to spend 8 weeks between January and March in Spain and we needed peace of mind while we were away. Barby Moorings provided just that. We went into the marina towards the end of October and we were given a lovely bank side mooring.

Before embarking on our Spanish holiday, Ian arranged for Windown to be put into ‘Winter Storage’ a no-frills mooring at almost half the price. This suited our needs as we were not intending to be around anyway and the financial saving was an added bonus.

We thought that Winedown could do with a new coat of paint. We had attempted to have her painted in 2013 but to no avail. While in Barby Moorings, we renewed our endeavours and after much deliberation, settled on boat painter, Ptolomy Lane of TJS Professional Boat Painting Ltd. His work was indeed professional and we were very pleased with the results. Ptolomy finished well within the timescale that he gave us and we were able to leave the marina early in May sporting our ‘New Coat’.

Lizzy & Simon with Ian

We left Barby Mooring on Friday 16th May and had only been out for an hour when we came across Simon and Lizzy Oakden on their widebeam  ‘Les Chenes Riverain’. We were invited to stop for tea but that turned into an evening drink and we didn’t get on our way again till next day. Oh well…That is boating. Our first social get-together on the Cut for 2014!

Simon and Lizzy turned eastwards towards Braunston while we left the North Oxford canal at Braunston Junction, continuing on the Grand Union canal towards Napton Junction. Our first locks for 2014 were the three Calcutt Locks followed closely by the Stockton Flight. A rude awakening to energetic boating!

At the bottom of the Stockton Flight we met Maddy Forth (from whom we bought Winedown as a project boat in 2006) and found ourselves moored alongside her boat Newdigate for 3 weeks! Maddy had asked for Ian’s help with her boat and in return, he was able to use her well stocked workshop to finish some repairs.

Steam-driven working boat, President

While we were moored alongside Newdigate we had the pleasure of seeing the last remaining (restored) steam-driven working boat ‘President’ and her butty ‘Kildare’ steaming along the canal. They were on their way to the boat show at Crick. On our travels, we have seen the pair on a few occasions but the never cease to move me. There is still something to say for the old technology!

The Butty, Kildare

I must just say that during the three week period that we were in Long Itchington  it was not all toil. We moved the boat to the Blue Lias pub for a break and later camped at the Crick Boat show with our friends Gary and Trevis and their boys Thomas and Stephan.

Thomas & Stephan on the buggy

We picked the best day to camp since it rained on the days before and after we went. The campsite was bogged down in mud and tractors were being used to pull cars (and even 4x4 vehicles) out of the mud. Our camping gear had to be taken to the camp side in a buggy because Gary couldn’t get his car in. Fortunately, our pitch was firm and as the day went on, the ground around the campsite started to dry out.

While moored at the Blue Lias we were joined by Simon and Lizzy on ‘Les Chenes Riverain’. A wonderful  surprise. Of course it didn't take long for the beer and wine to appear as we toasted old friends and new alike.

Before long, it was time to move on and start our boating season in earnest.  With several jobs completed, we felt that we had earned the right to start our ‘Summer Exploration’ and left Long Itchinton – home of the Warrickshire Fly Boat Company; and Maddy – on Sunday 8th June.

Passing through Leamington Spa, we moored at The Cape (lock 25) just on the outskirts of Warwick. Intending only to stay overnight and move on the next day, we realised how close we were to Warwick castle and changed our mind.  The original Warwick Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 Over the next 700 years this medieval castle was developed into the castle you see today. It was well worth the time spent. 

Warwick Castle
As might be expected, the ownership of the castle had passed through many hands. Over its history of nearly 1000 years, Warwick castle has been owned by 36 different individuals; has had four periods of crown property under seven different monarchs and has been the family seat of three separate creations of Earls of Warwick. It has been the family home of the Beaumont, Beauchamp, Neville, Plantagenet and Dudley before it was granted to the Greville family by James I in 1604. The castle remained the property of the Greville family until 1978 when it was bought by the Tussauds Group. 

Warwick castle was the first of our history lessons. On Wednesday 11th June we continued on our way, heading for the Stratford-on-Avon canal which joins the river Avon at Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare 450 years ago.

But first we had to climb the Hatton flight of 21 locks. It was at the bottom of the Hatton flight that we met narrowboat Umbrellas…

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Coventry Canal, (Birmingham & Fazeley) and the Ashby Canal

It was a little confusing after leaving Fradley Junction. We were on the Coventry Canal but some way down the canal it's name changed to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal then at Fazeley Junction, changed back to the Coventry Canal. I don't like confusion so I went in search of the reason.

At Fazeley Junction, the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal meets the Coventry Canal. Originally, the Coventry Canal was to continue beyond Fazeley Junction in a north-westerly direction towards the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley, but the Coventry Company ran out of funds at Fazeley. The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal extended along a similar line towards Whittington Brook while the Grand Trunk Canal Company (as it was at the time) built the link from Fradley. At a later stage, the Coventry Company bought the link from Fradley Junction to Whittington, but did not buy the link from Whittington to Fazeley. Between Whittington Bridge and Bridge 78 you can see the stone pictured here that marks the point where the two canals join. Still confused? Never mind, enjoy the canal anyway!

From Fradley, the canal passes through flat, open countryside before it skirts Whittington where some back gardens reach all the way down to the canal. It was along here that you can see some lovely, well-kept gardens.

Just beyond Whittington, is a wooded stretch that covers the side of Hopwas Hill and it was along here that we noticed the first signs of Autumn.

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.

The river Anker converges with the canal at Atherston bottom lock flight and we began the climb through the 11 locks that make up the Atherston flight, climbing through open countryside, allotments and housing before reaching Atherston Top Lock.

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.

Also know as Sutton's Stop (named after the Toll Clerk), Hawkesbury Junction is a busy canal centre and junction between the Coventry and Oxford Canals. The iconic, disused engine house was once used to pump water up into the canal from a well. The steam engine, install in 1821, was called Lady Godiva and stopped work nearly a hundred years later in 1913. Lady Godiva now rests in the Dartmouth Museum

We continued along the Coventry Canal into the heart of the city of Coventry.

The branch line started off well enough as you leave Hawsbury Junction, with charming sculptures on the first few bridges and a wide towpath. Attractive, well-kept green verges gave way to lovely views over the park.

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.

Among the ruins was of course the cathedral. By the end of the attack, all that remained was a shell full of rubble, the tower and the spire. Even in those  times of utter despair, some found the ability to forgive. From the ruins of the cathedral, nails were collected and fashioned into crosses. These crosses of nails have been presented as symbols of peace to Kings, Queens, Bishops and all manner of spiritual leaders around the world. As a result, Coventry has become known as the' Reconciliation Centre of the World'.

But on a more historical note, Coventry is reported to be the home of Lady Godiva - or to be more exact, Countess Godiva or rather Godgifu (pronounced Godgivu meaning God's gift) before the name and title was corrupted by history.

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.

Almost from the moment that the Ashby canal left the Coventry Canal at Marston Junction, the scenery changed dramatically. The industry and housing estates that marked the Coventry Canal disappeared, to be replaced by green fields, trees and farms. The typical stone-arched bridges were evident from the start.

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.

We passed bridge 35 and negotiated the sharp turns before mooring near Shenton Aqueduct. We wanted to spend time at the nearby Bosworth Battlefield and Visitor Centre. If you are interested in the history of our country, this is not to be missed. It is the site of national historical significance and is the location of one of the three most important battles fought on British soil.

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!