Friday, 20 September 2013

Hillmorton - Blog 500 (recovered)

(This post was inadvertently deleted but has been re-instated from our draft files)

Today's Canal : Oxford

We began with a bright sunny morning, distinctly warmer than this week so far. Apart from a grey spell at lunch time, it remained this way until evening. After we had moored, sitting outside in the sunshine was very pleasant indeed.

We set off a little earlier than usual as we had been told that the joint owner of the small marina at Hillmorton would be there until 3.30. In fact we did arrive by then but he had already had to leave so payment will have to be sorted out another time.

Several parts of the north Oxford were straightened to improve journey times, using cuttings and embankments to replace the contour following original sections. As as result some parts are very straight with high level bridges.

In other places the original line can be seen - in some cases good use has been made of parts for moorings or marinas.

As is often the case, the little footbridge across Stretton Stop was shut across the canal so we had to alight and open it. A boat that came through a few minutes before us commented that it was very difficult to move. Indeed, starting it requires a hefty push, not helped by the fact that it is not sufficiently counter balanced, but thereafter it swings freely.

Fancy cast iron bridges in the style of many that an be seen in the Birmingham area cross the old sections - we guess that as these are not original bridges but date from the improvements, they had to be added to maintain the towpath across the soon-to-be-disused arms.

Lime Farm Marina is another former arm. We called here for diesel last year - this time they seem to have a number of boats out of water, perhaps for maintenance.

Newbold Tunnel is only 187 metres in length but at some stage had coloured lighting installed. The number of lights is gradually diminishing and although we read recently a report that none were operation, today three were still working.

We began to skirt around Rugby. Sadly the canal does not make it easy to visit the town centre but we aimed stop at a large Tesco close to Bridge 58 where we have called several times before. There is a good mooring which is popular for shopping so we hoped to find space.

Before that we passed over an aqueduct over a very minor road. It looks inconsequential from a boat but Mike was allowed to hop off and take a look below. It is surprisingly spectacular and the inscription says that it was renovated in 1991.

CanalPlan website lists this as the Old Leicester Road Aqueduct but how this was is far from clear looking at an OS Map. Google throws up very little information except for a link to a photo from 1910 ( ).Obviously at that time this was a much more significant highway.

Immediately afterwards we crossed the River Avon - at least the purpose of this aqueduct is more obvious!

After shopping we also had lunch before setting off for the last lap of this short trip.

Just before Clifton Wharf a former railway bridge has now been decorated as a reminder of its former purpose - others nearby similarly now discarded are much less obvious.

Several cattle with rather large horns were resting in a field alongside the canal. Christine was determined to catch one in a 'I am fierce' pose!

Apart from yesterday's stop lock, the only change in level the whole trip came just before we finished today with the three Hillmorton locks. These are built as pairs and today there was a steady stream of traffic both ways. At least on this occasion there was plenty of good will and humour, boats helping each other. We have known it busy and people be a bit pushy but there was non of that this time.

The middle lock is one of those chosen for a lock poetry project with short lines inscribed into the balance beams, a different line for each side of each lock. However, we could not assemble them into any logical order!

A short distance later and we were able to turn into the marina. A rather tight turn and we had to give in and use the pole to ease the boat around. Once lined up in the entrance it was straightforward to manoeuvre onto the pontoon.

We were greeted by a couple who have had one of the boats for some years - they made us very welcome and we (well, Mike mainly!) sat chatting in the warm sunshine for some while. The clearing and packing called and, for once, we were ready for tomorrow's departure without much difficulty.

13.0 miles - 3 locks

Thursday, 19 September 2013


Today's Canals : Ashby, Coventry, Oxford

The weather was a day of two very different halves. Mid morning heavy rain arrived and was very persistent until after lunch. At times it was quite windy which made it even more uncomfortable. when we set off again in the afternoon, the sky cleared rapidly and we had largely blue sky with fluffy clouds until after we moored. At least it was better that way round!

We needed just a few grocery items and a paper so Mike set off in search. He took a quick look at the Londis local store which Christine visited last night but it did not have most of the items. So, as we had plenty of time today, Mike set off to walk into town, just over a kilometre. he looked for a suitable bus but the timing was not right.

The town centre has lots of small shops but few national chains - a WH Smith (for newspaper), Wilkinson's and a couple of Greggs (alas for a loaf). The Co-op, although a large electrical and furniture store, had only a small food section but did provide two items on the list! Eventually, all the items were located and Mike set off back to the boat. At first it looked as if the buses were not being kind but, just after leaving the central area, a 48 bus came as needed and cut out the main part of the walk back. At least it keeps the bus pass active!

Later than usual we cast off and continued down the Ashby Canal with still five miles to go. It was now very wet and, sensibly, Christine kept well wrapped up inside as Mike gradually dripped more and more!

Our second bridge is called Lime Kiln Bridge and the building alongside gives the same message. Perhaps we will one day find the history behind these.

The photos are neither bright nor interesting - even the rain does not show up well! Just before we looked for a lunch stop, a short distance ahead of Marston Junction, we passed nb Yarwood, one of the blogs on our list that we follow. Although the chimney was smoking, anyone on board was well wrapped up so there was no chance to say hello.

nb Yarwood
Mike was rather grateful when he spotted a mooring spot even though it meant pins - the ground was rather soft so there was a question about what might happen when boats passed by. In fact it turned much quieter (perhaps everyone else was doing the same thing?) and we were still well fixed when we set off again.

By now the sun was emerging and Christine took over the steering - still not warm enough to sit outside.

We were followed through Marston Junction

At Marston we turned onto the Coventry Canal once more.

Charity Dock

£1.60 a gallon?
the next corner we passed the well-known canal landmark: Charity Dock. It looks rather as if it is aiming to be the buried treasure site for future industrial archaeologists! No doubt it is some time since its fuel was this price - or even sold by the gallon. The garden alongside is noted for its collection of characters which seem to have expanded since we were last here.

Newdigate Colliery Arm
The long stretch close to Bedworth was once busy with coal mines but only a label on the map helps to distinguish this as once the Newdigate Colliery Arm. The mines have now been greened over, returning the landscape for modern uses.

Hawkesbury Engine House
As it is over three days since we filled our water tank, this was a priority stop at Hawkesbury Junction. By now the sky was bright blue and whilst we waited for the tap to do its job we were able to find some better photos of the remaining features of this junction.

Hawkesbury Junction : Coventry left and Oxford right
The two canals were long at odds with each other when being built, each fearful of the commercial advantage of the other. In the end the two were linked, after running parallel for for some distance but with a stop lock. This prevented the Coventry Canal owners from taking more water than necessary from the Oxford Canal. There is only a few inches difference rise in the lock.

Coventry Gauging Stop
The Coventry also has a gauging stop where the company could measure how much load a boat was carrying and so levy an appropriate toll.

Hawkesbuty Stop Lock
Suddenly the junction was very busy and we had to wait in line for the lock whilst Mike popped to the sani station.

Now on the Oxford Canal it was a pleasant late afternoon cruise - warm enough to sit and read at the front!

We continued in the sunshine until Ansty where we found a mooring spot - and possible a pub for a meal

11.7 miles - 1 lock

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Back to Hinkley

Today's Canal : Ashby

A better day than yesterday, slightly warmer and very little rain. Although it was largely cloudy, there were breaks for the blue sky and sunshine to show through. When it was sunny it was very warm.

We set off in good time, leaving the terminus mooring through the little swing bridge. As another blogger wrote yesterday, coming back down the same canal after turning around at the end is a challenge to a blog, especially finding something different to say or show. In the case of the Ashby it is even harder as there are few notable landmarks. Even so, we still found it a relaxing, undemanding experience.

After a few minutes we passed the ornate boat mooring we mentioned yesterday. We are still not a lot wiser about the place to which it belongs and why it was built.

Inside Snarestone Tunnel
This time we managed some pictures inside the tunnel, showing its size and how dry it is.

Gopsall Wharf
Gopsall Wharf does not look especially interesting but on the information board at the terminus we leaned that it was used to load boats with coal from local mines, using lorries, up until the late 1970's. However, it seems possible that this was an enthusiast's attempt at resurrecting water-borne freight rather than a remnant of long-standing trade. Another web site also indicated that it was a good place for wheelchair fishermen, complete with car parking!

A couple of bridges before Shackerstone, Christine alighted to walk along the towpath, leaving Mike to follow on behind on the boat!

Station Road
At Shackerstone we decided take a short break and walk the short distance to the main station of the Battlefield Line. The present footpath was once called Station Road - failed to find out how visiting cars reach the station. The road from the canal bridge, which we thought at first went to the station, is definitely not!

No trains were officially running today but a diesel loco was slowly moving up and down, pulling a long line of miscellaneous wagons and coaches.

Shackertson Station
A couple of people (they were all men!) were keen to chat - one had just been on a helmsman's course and the other told us about why the footbridge is closed - it is supposed to carry a public footpath over the railway. He blamed the local council who botched a repair and now refuse to find the money to restore it and have forced its closure. An official notice states that it it a temporary closure but it seems that this has already been going on for 18 months.

Closed Footbridge
Other people were much less welcoming and we came away with the feeling that intruders into 'boys toys' were definitely to be excluded! Our initial sympathy over the bridge quickly evaporated - money from the council is only likely to be found if there is a greater willingness to visitors outside the weekends which are the only times that trains run. The tea room was open, although it had no customers and its prices seemed unrealistically high.

We were running short of milk and we already knew that there are no shops near the canal north of Hinkley although we had spotted a farm shop at Bridge 23 advertising bread and milk. As a result we felt that we should make an effort to reach there by mid afternoon. So, back to the boat and we set off planning to have lunch 'on the run'.

Our occasional series of unconventional design canal boats continues with this one.

For a little while we were almost back from autumn to summer . . .

There are several sharp corners on this canal and most have a bridge with a blind corner. We came through one bridge and were about to make the turn when a boat came the other way, not able to see where it was going and apparently unwilling to slow down. As a result, since it was on the inside of the bend, the inevitable happened and its bow hit our side. Fortunately it was not too forceful but we were not best pleased when the steerer said without a hint of an apology, "These things happen on the canals".

Approaching Market Bosworth we were now better informed and took a closer look at the new marina under construction. Several diggers were hard at work - it is early days yet. We could not be sure where the entrance will be but all along the edge is currently a popular visitor mooring for the town.

By half past three we reached Stoke Golding and the advertised farm shop at bridge 23. Whilst Mike tied up the boat Christine went in search of milk and also hoped for some logs which they also advertised. Alas, the shop was rather a disappointment although she did come away with just some green top milk. They had sold out of logs and bread.

We continued so that we could at least look for a newspaper at Hinkley. We stopped at the mooring we first considered on the way up. Whilst Mike continued with meal preparation, Christine went in search of shops. Local enquiries only told her about a Londis and seemed to say that there were no other shops! However, when she returned we looked up o Google and there is at least a Tesco close to the station. Perhaps, at about a kilometre distance, the locals just thought that to be too far!

However, Mike managed to set the satellite dish and found a signal through a gap in the hedge - we were perhaps in a slightly better place than last time. As it was now just after 5 we called it a day and stayed put. At least Mike has the chance to looking for tomorrow's paper before we set off - there is little sign of shops now before Rugby.

16.5 miles - 0 locks

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Today's Canal : Ashby

The day was generally grey and occasionally wet. Never very heavy rain but it was not especially pleasant around lunch time. On only one occasion did we see even the hint of blue sky!

As the Ashby Canal is level and rural it is not only pleasant but rather laid back for cruising. Not a lot happens! Sometimes there is an open outlook but elsewhere it is tree-lined on both sides. Mooring places are quite frequent but otherwise it can be difficult to get close to the bank.

At Stoke Golding we called to fill up with diesel - the price was not too high. Most of the hire boats seemed to be out, unlike several hire bases we have seen recently.

At Market Bosworth we saw a site being excavated. Was it yet another large housing estate? or might it be a marina - it had that sort of look about it although nothing obvious was in place. It was not easy to see and we failed to take a photo - it was only later when by coincidence the subject came up on Canal World Forums with a confirmation that work has just started on the construction of yet another marina. Let's hope that it will lead to a reduction in the number of in-line moorings as there were several long stretches where we had to pass slowly.

Sutton Wharf is now a pub and seemed quite busy, especially for a cold weekday in mid September. It is also the only service stop along the canal, other than at the far end. So we called to do the usual disposals but, as we filled with water yesterday, we did not bother with that.

A former railway line passed over the canal - it follows much the same route for some distance and the section just north from here now operates as the Battlefield Line with steam hauled trains most weekends. The line was originally built to fill in part of the rapidly expanding network (a map on their website shows an amazing set of branch lines) However, it eventually closed in 1970 along with so many others, although passenger services ceased in 1931. Shackerstone is the northern end of the preserved line and was once a junction. Less of the eastern branch is now in evidence.

On its way down
Fast behind
Moored for the night
 After lunch we met a CaRT boat and pusher tug on its way to deliver materials to a repair site. It must move a some speed as a little later it came up behind us and we let it pass. After that we saw it again when its crew were closing up for the day.

Shackerstone Aqueduct

Shackerstone Aqueduct, close to the railway station, looks very substantial even though there is little room underneath for the water flow. The adjoining bridge looks as if it belongs to the railway age by its style but later investigation showed that it was the access road to the station.

Shackerstone Castle was a medieval earthwork motte and bailey fortress and in the Second World War an air raid shelter was built on the top.

Snarestone Tunnel is just over 200 metres long, is wide, dry and has reasonable headroom. However, it does have a slight kink which is a little more obvious from the start than when actually passing through!

Just north of the tunnel is an ornate boat mooring and landing (we missed a photo of the former but will try on the way back!)

Snarestone Terminus
A couple of bridges later and we were at the present terminus for the canal. When we were last here in 2010, work was in progress to restore a short section as the first part of a long-term project to re-connect to Measham and then to the detached portion to Moira. As can be seen, this part is only about 100 metres in length.

However, there are good 40 hour moorings and, as we had not seen too many suitable places in the last part of the canal we opted to stay here for the night.

Alongside the canal is a building, now converted to a large private residence, that was once a pumping station, built in 1890's and worked originally by steam. Although the engine has been dismantled, some of the parts have been incorporated into the building and some are outside by the canal, presumably awaiting a good idea about what to do with them!

The canal from here is still clearly visible there is obviously a lot of work to re-open it, not least because of the subsidence that let to the closure in the first place. (Interestingly, the restoration of the detached portion was funded by the relics of the coal mines who had restoration liabilities)

15.5 miles - 0 locks