Thursday, 10 May 2012


Car collection day. The forecast was for a much warmer day with the occasional shower. It was certainly very much warmer, even muggy, but there were dark clouds all around from the outset. The rain, however, never amounted to much and kept away until the afternoon.

We had a short cruise first, through Alrewas and across the River Trent to Barton-under-Needwood from where Mike would set off to collect the car whilst Christine stayed behind to clean and pack ready for the return trip home. (It is this way around, in case anyone suggests sexism at work, is because Mike has a Railcard that save 30% on fares which he bought for a trip to London for the diocese!)

Why do some people have to choose such cringe-worthy names?

As Mike was taking a photo of Alrewas Lock, a couple of ladies out exercising their dogs enquired whether I wanted them out of the way. One suggested she could pose - so Mike gave her the opportunity! Fortunately the river level had returned to the green zone - a couple of weeks ago the canal was closed because the river level was too high. Even so, there was plenty of water flowing over the weirs.

River Trent Weir
Bridge 45, just below the River Trent weir, needs some care - it looks even narrower from the other side (this photo was taken just after we had passed underneath)

Bridge 45
Late morning and we reached Bridge 39 where we moored. The map promised a short walk into the village where there is a twice hourly bus service into Burton-on-Trent. Mike spent a long time last night booking advance tickets for a train from Burton to Milton Keynes via Birmingham New Street. It was some relief that the automatic ticket machine at Burton Station accepted both the card and the booking reference numbers before printing out the tickets!

Moored for the day
It was a short walk from the mooring into Barton-under-Needwood village and the bus arrived on time, happy to accept Mike's bus pass yet again! (Good system this, hope no-one is daft enough to abolish it, at least in our lifetimes)

It was almost as much of a walk from the shopping centre in Burton where the bus terminates out to the station which is on the edge of the town, The canal is event further out, right on the edge. The strong odour of brewing still pervades the town, even if the main company making beer is now owned by Coors.

The train journeys were uneventful - it was amusing to see Buckby locks and the M1 which run parallel with the railway line just south of Watford Gap.

On schedule the train deposited Mike at Milton Keynes and another bus ride took him to the Hospital, the stop closest to the marina where the car had been left.

The road journey back was equally straightforward with almost no delays - sat nav was comforting, especially when switching motorways and avoiding the Toll road. Along the way, the same Buckby flight could be seen but with the railway line behind it this time. Strange to think that we have done all three forms of transport within a few days!

The bank where we had moored was very soft and each passing boat loosened the mooring pins (actually, a spare with no loop which we had put in to help keep the stern rope in place disappeared and Christine had had to re-moor several times during the day) So, we moved a few hundred metres further on, slightly away from the busy and very noisy A38, where Christine had discovered that there was piling - much stronger for mooring!

Tomorrow we only have to pull in to the marina and arrange our mooring for the next few weeks whilst we drive back home and pay attention to other duties, staring with Diocesan Synod on Saturday!

3.1 miles - 3 locks

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Although the forecast had promised rain all day, it began grey and quite warm. However, by early afternoon rain did indeed arrive, lightly at first but by the time we moored for the night it was quite heavy. Still, we also received the notices from Waterscape announcing that improved reservoir levels mean that some of the restrictions have been eased considerably. We could, now, go via Leicester which is what we had originally planned but, as it happens, we have enjoyed the slightly longer route some of which we have not done for a while and we did go through Leicester last year.

Although this section does not have many locks, it does mean that we can take time to look more closely at the surrounding scenery - Christine spotted a couple of interesting trees.

May blossom seems to be late this year and only just breaking out, although other types are happily making a good display.

Canal architecture varies considerably from one canal company to another. Some of the original bridges on this section of the Birmingham And Fazeley (which divides the Coventry Canal into two) have a store in the bridge itself for the stop planks which could be fitted into slots either side of the narrowest section under the bridge - in case of a need to prevent water loss if the canal bank was breached.

Some wooded sections were again very pretty as the trees gradually spring into leaf. However, the foliage is still thin enough to reveal the underlying structure of branches.

We have noticed before that the area around Hopwas has some extensive strawberry and asparagus production under huge polytunnels. We also saw a large potato farm.

Huddlesford Junction
We passed through Huddlesford Junction, although the detached part of the Coventry canal began a little earlier at Whittington. The arm, now a short section used for moorings, was once part of the Wyrley and Essington (Curly Wurly), joining up with the remaining part north of Birmingham at Ogley Junction.

We stopped for lunch and just as we set off we passed by yet another marina development - so-called Kings Orchard Marina. Despite the enthusiastic sign - and grand plans on their web site, not much seemed to be happening although a large muddy hole has been excavated and partly piled. We are not the first to notice this situation (see for example and it appears that work stopped a couple of years ago.

Shortly before we reached Fradley Junction we had to pass a fallen tree partially blocking the canal. We had been warned by a passing boat earlier, but even so it was tricky as the part of the canal not covered by the tree is extremely shallow and we struggled to get through (but did not take anything like as long as the ten minutes claimed by our informant!)

Swing Bridge at Fradley
The arrival at Fradley is marked by a small swing bridge across a former stop narrows, presumably arranged to facilitate the collection of tolls from the cargo carrying boats.

We stopped to use the services at the wharf below the first lock. Although the BW information centre has now closed for financial reasons (or so it claims) an old van has been left behind!

At the next lock there is a small footbridge just below the lock between it and the accommodation bridge. A new wooden handrail has recently been added - we presumed that this is one of the unplanned works which have been undertaken following the unfortunate accident when a young boy ignored No Cycling signs at Stourport and fell into the lock. Some Health and Safety initiatives are clearly useful (for example the provision of ladders down into all locks) but this does seem to be rather excessive. After all, most locks still have boards on the gates to allow crew to cross from one side to the other with unprotected drops to one side!

After another lock we opted to moor for the night as it was now very wet and there was only a short run to Barton Marina where we plan to leave the boat for the next month whilst we are back at home, alas. We have confirmed the booking by email and Mike now has to check his travel arrangements for collecting the car from Milton Keynes tomorrow afternoon.

11.2 miles - 4 locks

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


We awoke to a bright sunny day - and it remained that way all day. Wonderful! Opposite our mooring spot we noticed the woodlands with a distinct tinge from the mass of bluebells flowering under the trees.

Bluebell Woods
Christine also spotted a new duckling.

Before long we reached the top of the Atherstone flight of 11 locks. We met a former boatman who grew up on the canals - we shared memories of Jack Monk, Uncle Jack, whom we met in the late 1960's. He helped Mike take our boat through the top lock whilst Christine went to a nearby local shop to pick up a paper and milk - but they had not yet had their bread delivery.

Atherstone Top Lock No 1

On the way down through the flight, most of the fields were bright yellow with rape seed crops.

At Lock 5 we were amused to see a notice in three languages concerning taking fish from the canal. We have heard that certain groups of people - no doubt the languages will help to identify them - relish the fish that are found in the waters here, even though they are not normally considered edible!

Lock 5 Overflow Weir
Below the lock, Christine went again in search of bread - which she found at a good Co-Op. Meanwhile, Mike noticed that the water pump was not working (close to as disaster as coffee time neared!) and investigated. As he was trying to see what had happened it started to work again!

Railway Bridge 44A
Two locks further on, as Christine was beginning to make coffee, she reported that the water pump had stopped again. As we moored under the railway bridge, Mike spotted that he had left the piling clip behind at the previous repair-stop so Christine offered to go in search of it - successfully - whilst Mike took a look at the pump. Again, it started up as he took a look making him wonder if the electrical connection needed looking at.

Atherstone Bottom Lock No 11
We completed the flight and them moored up below the last lock as it was lunch time and Mike wanted to take a further look at the water pump. After removing the connector block which joins the power supplies wires to those of the pump it seemed clear that it and the ends of the wires were corroded, perhaps from previous occasions when we had a leak. Fortunately we had suitable replacements in our tool cupboard and, fingers crossed, all now seems to be well.

After setting off once again, we stopped briefly shortly afterwards at Bradley Green to make use of the sanitary station.

Grendon Dock
At Grendon Dock, home to Narrrowcraft, there were several splendid restored working boats.

In between the various small towns, some of the countryside stretches were very pleasant, especially with a blue sky shining through the trees.

At, we think, Pooley Fields Heritage Centre, we spotted this brightly coloured decorative feature.

Glascote Top Lock
Some time later we arrived at Glascote Locks, just two, immediately below Glascote Basin. Tame Aqueduct followed soon aqfter.

Tame Aqueduct
River Tame
We passed through Fazeley Junction - we were not sure what is the state of the incomplete development to the right of this picture. Several buildings are shells and there did not seem to be anything further happening right now. A short distance beyond the junction we found a spot to moor and time to enjoy the last of the sunshine - the forecast for tomorrow is back to the rain.

Fazeley Junction
11.9 miles - 13 locks

Monday, 7 May 2012


Although it was bright when we awoke, it soon turned wet and cold - and remained that way until we moored. The rain was intermittent but long spells of drizzle kept the non-steerer firmly inside all day.

Alphabet Lodge
The run up to Sutton Stop was straightforward and uneventful, as we gradually approached the motorways, firstly crossing under the M69 and then running alongside the M6. Just before the M69 we spotted Alphabet Lodge - no idea why it has this name!

Wyken Arm
When the M6 was built, part of the canal had to be re-aligned and the bridge over the arm now used by Coventry Cruising Club is at a slight angle to the current canal. The arm itself was part of the original canal and left behind when the Oxford was improved in the nineteenth century and many of the meanderings straightened out.

Just before the junction stands a huge electricity pylon, looking like some giant alien from a sci-fi novel!

Sutton Stop Lock
Before passing through the stop lock we took on water (A local moorer reported that this is the best flowing tap of all the ones at this junction - there are four or five). Whilst the tank was filling, we also carried the elsan over the bridge and disposed of rubbish in the bins.

Hawkesbury Junction

There are several old and interesting buildings dotted around the junction - for reasons we have not discovered one of them has a West Midlands Police blue lamp on it! There is also an interesting terrace of cottages alongside the pub.

We turned north along the Coventry Canal and continued up to Marston Junction where we moored up for an hour to have lunch and to warm through. Central heating is a welcome bonus on days like this!

Marston Junction
Turn Over Bridge
Bridge 18 is labelled in Nicholsons as Turn Over Bridge, which should indicate that it carries the towpath from one side of the canal to the other. yet the map also shows that the towpath continues on the same side, so Mike was intrigued to see why. It is close to the site of Griff Arm (there were many large quarries just to the west of the canal along here) and a clear towpath could be seen from the bridge to the arm but no further. Presumably mystery solved - unless someone knows better!

We were skirting Nuneaton and one of our guides suggested that there were a couple of Post Offices and other shops near to Bridge 21 so we pulled in and Christine went in searhc of a newspaper. Alas, she returned empty handed.

Mike spotted an early set of cygnets - two of the three were happily resting on top of one of their parents but the other was getting used to the water. Unfortunately we were also approaching a tight bend which demanded attention and only part of the action came into the camera shot!

The numerous quarries led to many railway branches being constructed but almost all of them have all but disappeared. Occasionally the remains of a bridge mark the crossing point.

Hartshill Wharf
We passed through Hartshill Wharf, at one time an important maintenance yard where much would have been happening - it is hard to imagine the bustling scene.

Shortly after Mancetter Bridge and one-time wharf (not much to be seen now) we moored as the Atherstone flight is not far ahead. That will have to wait for the morning.

14.0 miles - 1 lock

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Sunday and we had already researched available church services and concluded that the best option was Hillmorton - which is why we moored here last night. However, the service this week was not at the parish church, just beside the canal, but at the Rogers Hall in the middle of the nearby housing estate, suburbs of Rugby.

St John the Baptist, Hillmorton
We walked up beside the bottom locks and across to the church. Altogether it took just under half an hour and we were in good time so sat for a few minutes in the playing fields alongside the hall. (Whilst we took photos of the parish church, we forgot to do so of the hall itself!)

We were warmly welcomed - a congregation of around 30 adults and 7 or 8 lively children and teenagers. The service was rather different from our usual fare and was conducted mainly by a local evangelist couple (or so we assume) with strong Australian accents, although the new parish priest was also there with her husband - who greeted us outside as we arrived. He certainly engaged his listeners of all ages at the outset but went on at some length and we rather lost the plot towards the end! In fact, apart from a DVD at the beginning, sponsored by the Eden Project, promoting the Big Lunch for the Diamond Jubilee in June, almost the whole service comprised the talk/show given by the two Australians. We began to see advantages in a liturgy!

Muddy towpath
It was a pleasant sunny morning/afternoon as we walked back to the boat following a different route, ending up by walking along the towpath from the opposite direction. We discovered that it was rather muddier than where we were moored.

We set off, with a mug of coffee to sustain us, as making progress seemed a good idea. We planned to stop in Rugby where we have visited a large Tesco supermarket on previous trips this way.

The Goodyear airship passed close to the canal - the third time we have seen it this year!

We passed a large imposing viaduct which was part of a now abandoned railway line. According to the map there some five disused lines out of Rugby. Another former bridge is now decorated by a modern mural.

Clifton Boats were closed - no chance of diesel there - so we continued into Rugby (actually the canal rather skirts the town centre). However we did see Petroc, one of the blogs we follow as they are friends of our acquaintances, John and Fi Slee on Epiphany.

Clifton Wharf
nb Petroc

Eventually we did our shopping, including some bread for lunch, which went well with more of Christine's soup.

At times the canal was rather busy - always when there are narrow pinch points! We probably saw more boats today than so far on this trip.

The Oxford canal was originally built to follow the contours and was very winding. Later it was straightened and a lot of loops were cut off but some of the bridges remain across the remnant, sometimes used as a mooring arm.

Lime Farm Marina
We stopped at Lime Farm Marina (yet another cut off loop) when we saw a sign indicating that they sold diesel. The place is named after an imposing line of lime trees. The people there were very pleasant and it was unusual in that they have non-bio diesel which they have to purchase specially - they are keen to have it for their hire boats! Reversing out was quite tricky and we had to wait to allow another boat to pass - turned out to be the two ladies with whom we came down Braunston locks. we followed them for some while until they moored for the night.

Stretton Stop
The little footbridge across Stretton Stop was closed so Mike had to hop off to open it!

Coventry Skyline
Christine spotted the tower blocks of central Coventry - just capturing the view across a bright yellow field.

After passing under the high M6 motorway bridge, the railway line followed the canal closely for a while. However, there were very few trains today and this was one we did spot. We wanted to moor away from motorways and railway lines but the next stretch was a cutting and rather boggy. A little further, alongside a golf course, we pulled in. It looked OK from a distance but the vegetation disguised the shallow edge and we ended up having to use the gangplank - not often that we have to do that.

12.4 mikes - 0 locks