I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Friday, 20 April 2018

Dadlington Bridge Number 28 (Ashby Canal) – Thursday 19th April

What a glorious morning we woke up to and a big decision had to be made – what to do today!  In the end we decided to go up to Shackerstone winding hole, turn around and head back to Sutton Cheney but would there be any room on the pontoon/jetty there!

I put pontoon/jetty in the last paragraph as Richard and I have a difference of opinion as to what it should be called!  I am talking about a wooden structure that is put in the water for boats to moor up to.  The Oxford Dictionary says the meaning of pontoon (me) is

A flat-bottomed boat or hollow metal cylinder used with others to support a temporary bridge or floating landing stage.

And jetty (Richard) as being

A landing stage or small pier at which boats can dock or be moored.

Damn – Richard is right! 

We stopped briefly at Shackerstone Aqueduct to see what was underneath!  It is the River Sence. The river rises on Bardon Hill and travels about 12 miles before joining the River Anker at Mythe.  On doing my research I came across a couple of villages which I would just love to live in!  Sheepy Magna (Great Sheepy) and Sheepy Parva (Little Sheepy)! 

Richard was hailed by one of my blog readers this morning – Beaujolais.  Sorry I missed you, but I was busy writing this post!

There was a spot on the jetty, so we moored up and walked along to the café for lunch –   just a panini with a sneaky bowl of chips!  It was very hot but we were sitting under an umbrella. 

We walked back to the boat and found it really hot – 34°.  Last time we were there it was in August and all the leaves were on the trees which kept the boat cool.  Sadly, we decided to move on and see if we could find a mooring on the right side of the canal where is would be shady.  We found a nice one and moored up – the trouble was we weren’t far from a bridge which carries a fairly busy road and almost every car hooted at least once as they approached it!!  We realised that we couldn’t cope with that so moved on to just before Stoke Golding visitors moorings which were in the sun.

We spent a very pleasant early evening sitting on the towpath – I didn’t need to cook as we were still full from lunchtime.

9.85 miles
0 locks

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Terrace Bridge Number 49 (Ashby Canal) – Wednesday 18th April

We woke up to a much brighter cabin than we have been waking up to.  On drawing back the curtains it was still grey, but the sun was trying it’s hardest to break through.

I asked Richard where he was heading for today, but he said that he didn’t have any plan – so we started off on a magical mystery tour though I’m not sure you can do a mystery tour on the Ashby Canal as it’s up to the top, turn around and then back down!  By the time we stopped at Sutton Cheney Wharf to empty what needed emptying, the sun was out, and it was warming up – I even opened the side doors!

We stopped for lunch and then moved on but only for about half an hour as I saw a nice place to moor which we did.  I had done a load of washing and was keen to get the airer up and get it dried!  Our afternoon was spent sitting on the towpath and reading – it’s a hard life this canalling! 

The Ashby Canal was opened in 1804 to transport coal from Moira to the Coventry Canal.  A number of tramways were constructed at Moira to service collieries, one of these being Rawdon Colliery.  This colliery was sunk in 1821 and was one of five collieries at Moira owned by the Earl of Moira. For many years it proved to be a troublesome colliery and operations ceased in 1844. With apparently some optimism the Rawdon shaft was deepened in 1868 to reach the Stanhope seam at 362 yards, and the colliery re-opened in 1874. Further difficulties ensued, and mining ceased again in 1877.  In was reopened in 1889 on a small scale.  

Rawdon Colliery’s seams extended 6 miles from the shaft, and some had been worked twice, recovering lower grade coal. The pit survived Britain's pit closure programme in the mid 1980s that followed the miners' strike but eventually ran out of viable coal seams.  It finally closed in 1986 after 165 Years.

The two photos should really be the other way around but I wanted Muffin to headline this blog!!

7.02 miles
0 locks

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Wooden Top Bridge Number 31 (Ashby Canal) – Tuesday 17th April

The fridge was beginning to look a bit empty and we could see that there is a Sainsburys in Hinkley which is just over ½ mile from the canal, however by the time we had found somewhere to moor it was just over 1 mile!!  We walked to the store – it wasn’t an onerous walk but we decided that, with the shopping, we would get a bus back.  We could see that there were two if not three buses going our way so we hailed the first one and got on.  I asked the Oriental driver if the bus went over the canal and he hadn’t foggiest what I was talking about!  In the end I just swiped my bus pass.  Richard’s bus pass has expired so he got on and asked “how much for the same journey?”  This threw the Oriental driver completely as he had no idea where I was going!  Eventually, after a lot of tapping on his ticket machine, he asked Richard for £1.60 who was horrified and couldn’t believe it was so expensive!  He has had a bus pass for 8 years now so hasn’t had to pay for bus fares – he reckons it should have been 1s 6d not £1.60! 

We got moving after lunch and did another 4 miles before pulling over.  Richard said that most of the nice places were already taken but where we are is OK but it is still so windy.

I had bought a small piece of lamb for dinner however when I opened the vacuum pack it sprung up to be quite a large piece – enough for two meals!  When I picked it up in Sainsburys I thought to myself that it was a) small for a leg and b) expensive for the size but those thoughts didn’t get transferred to the part of my brain that says “hey something is wrong here”!  I find this happens quite a lot these days!  However it was a lovely piece of meat.

The Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal is a 31 mile long canal which connected the mining district around Moira with the Coventry Canal. It was opened in 1804, and a number of tramways were constructed at its northern end, to service collieries. The canal was taken over by the Midland Railway in 1846, and remained profitable until the 1890s, after which it steadily declined. Around 9 miles passed through the Leicestershire coal field, and was heavily affected by subsidence, with the result that the section from Moira, southwards to Snarestone, was progressively closed in 1944, 1957 and 1966, leaving 22 miles of navigable canal. 

7.34 miles
0 locks

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Bramcote Bridge Number 6 (North Oxford / Coventry / Ashby Canals) – Monday 16th April

We left our mooring and filled up with water then cruised up to Hawkesbury Junction.  Another boater told Richard that were several dead sheep in the canal, but Richard said he only saw two – but that’s two too many.

Richard executed the turn at Hawkesbury excellently and reversed onto the services area.  It was then up the Coventry Canal, with a stop for lunch, and onto the Ashby Canal. 

We passed Charity Wharf with its eclectic collection of bric-a-brac.  I found a very good article in Towpath Talk which you might find interesting as it tells you not only about the boatyard but also the mannequins.  Steve Hayward once said in Canal Boat magazine, “More like a scrapyard than a boatyard … squalor with a history. … The dock then was run by the legendary Joe Gilbert, a man not noted for his efficiency, and the place was always full of people for whom he'd promised to complete some job which he hadn't yet got round to."

We hadn’t been on the Ashby long before another boat, Sparrowark, had a head on with us.  Richard said that the other boat came round the corner on the wrong side of the canal, he put Mary H into reverse but Sparrowhawk kept on coming and coming until the two boats collided.  The chap said that he couldn’t see us so I said that if he didn’t have dark glasses on he might have seen us to which he replied “I’ve got cataracts and am having them done next week”.  He was too far away to hear my reply “if you can’t see you shouldn’t be steering a boat”.  He has got to be a danger to other boats, if not himself, if he is steering whilst practically blind.

I was reading through the blogs from the last time we were on the Ashby in August 2016 and I talked about it being windy – its flippin’ windy today too but the washing was dry in no time!

This is the view from my kitchen tonight 😊

8.78 miles
0 locks

Monday, 16 April 2018

Ansty (North Oxford Canal) – Sunday 15th April

Rain was forecast for the afternoon so Richard decided to get away before 10am.  However as he went to start the engine the battery was dead   He said he had been expecting it!  He managed to divert the solar panels to charge the battery up a bit and, even though it was grey the battery had enough oomph to start the engine in just over an hour.

We stopped at Rose Narrowboats and Richard managed to get a new battery and struggled back to the boat with it!

We stopped at Ansty for lunch but, once again, we stayed put as the rain started.
I’m bored – will this rain ever go away!
Richard disappeared down the engine bay to change the battery and eventually came out – a successful job done!

The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions Ansty as part of the hundred of Brinklow - the main landowner was Lady Godiva!  Its toponym comes from Old English Ānstīg meaning "one-path", i.e. "lonely or narrow path" or "path linking other paths".  A cottage industry of weaving developed in the parish from early in the 18th century. This grew into a substantial ribbon-making trade early in the 19th century but declined in the 1830s. James Brindley completed the section of the Oxford Canal through Ansty in 1771. In November 1963 a 30 foot high embankment on the towpath side gave way, spilling 10,000 tons of sand and clay onto adjoining land. 

I’ve got a new camera with a much better zoom.  I took this from up near Brinklow Castle – chuffed!
The Oxford Canal was originally built as a contour canal, meaning that it twisted around hills to minimise vertical deviations from a level contour. However, with one eye on the developing railway network, in the 1820s the northern section of the canal between Braunston and Hawkesbury Junction was straightened out to reduce navigation time. This work reduced the distance by 14 miles. The section south of Napton was never straightened.  The northern section of the Oxford Canal between Coventry, Braunston and Napton remained an important trunk route, and remained extremely busy with freight traffic until the 1960s. The staple traffic was coal from the Warwickshire and Leicestershire coalfields to London via the Grand Union Canal. However, the southern section from Napton to Oxford became something of a backwater and carried mostly local traffic.

4.53 miles
0 locks

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Easenhall Lane Bridge – Number 34 (North Oxford Canal) – Saturday 14th April

The first thing I need to mention is that there will be 6,200 houses in Houlton not 62,000!!  An anonymous blog reader put me right.  I thought that it was a hell of a lot of houses, but it still didn’t sink in that I might have made a mistake!!

We were a bit tardy in getting away this morning, but we are in no rush to go anywhere!  We need to set off for home on the 24th but until then we are just pootling along!  People who know us will find this very strange as we are always heading somewhere, and we don’t usually hang around.  I will never forget Sue on No Problem XL writing in her blog that we were using the Thames as a motorway (or words to that affect)!!

The sun was shining, and I had a burst of energy.  I made some soup, did some washing and ironing and cleaned the bathroom.  Yes, I know, people don’t iron anymore – but I’m afraid I do as I really don’t like creased clothes!!

We stopped on some visitor’s moorings near Brinklow for lunch, but it was so nice that we stayed put.

The Oxford Canal through Brinklow was completed in 1778. However, by the late 1820s, the extravagant winding contour route of the Oxford canal had become outdated. It was said that boatmen with their horse-drawn boats could hear the sound of Brinklow church bells ringing for morning and then evening prayer on the same day!

We took a stroll into Brinklow – it was a bit further than I thought it would be.  I’ve been having so much trouble with my knee that I was a bit worried but no problems at all 😊 As we entered the village we saw a sign for a deli that did coffee so headed in that direction, sadly it was just closing up but the Post Office was open and they did lovely ice-creams -Muffin was given a treat too!

We couldn’t go into Brinklow without visiting the Motte and Bailey castle.  These castles were constructed first by enlarging existing mounds, or creating new ones, the earth thrown up by digging the moats and ditches being used to heighten the mound and the ramparts. The Brinklow castle, which dates back to the 12th Century, has a mound which rises some 40 feet above the natural rise of the land, and about 60 feet above the bottom of the moat, which is approximately 40 feet wide, and some 20 feet deep. The outer bailey was higher by some 10 or 20 feet than the inner courtyard, and would have been crowned by an imposing wooden palisade - strong pointed stakes used in a close defensive row. A second ditch and rampart would have separated the inner from the outer bailey. On top of the mound would have been a watchtower, reached by a ladder, which in dire emergencies, would have been used as a last refuge, and almost certainly there would have been some kind of drawbridge between mound and outer ditch, supported on two, or perhaps three wooden tiers. 

Muffin found four rabbits to chase but they were faster than him!

These are just a couple of random photos of the castle site.

You may or may not know that Richard had a quadruple heart bypass 18 weeks ago and yesterday he climbed up the motte and said that he wasn't even puffed - amazing!

Back at the boat we opened a bottle of sparkling wine and drank it on the deck – it was so warm and sunny.

6.27 miles
0 locks

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Clifton Bridge – Number 68 (North Oxford Canal) – Friday 13th April

I had the best night’s sleep I have had for ages – in fact we both did.  It makes such a difference 😊

Richard needed to go to Midland Chandlers for more coal and I needed to post a card so we headed to Braunston.  We also realised that we were running out of Coke (that’s Coca Cola not the other stuff!).  

We saw this at the bottom of Hillmorton Locks
Back at the boat we made ready to leave just as a big yellow ball appeared in the sky.  It obviously didn’t like what it saw as it quickly disappeared again - but it is still up there!

It’s just over an hour to Hillmorton top locks.  Sadly, a boat went passed the marina, in our direction, just as we were about to turn out so they took all the empty locks at Hillmorton! 

As we arrived at the top lock Muffin jumped off the boat and saw a rabbit, of course he had to chase it, but it fell into the canal!  I called Richard to fish the poor thing out but he said I could do it – macho man he isn’t!  Fortunately, it managed to scrabble out and ran and hid in a flower bed.  It looked very sorry for itself but once we left it alone it hopped off.

There were three boats coming up and the lockies were at the bottom lock so our first locks of the season weren’t too onerous.

We had hoped to stop at the visitors moorings at the bottom of the locks but Goosy Gander had taken the last spot.

We cruised on passing three large balls floating in the canal.  They were marking this.

The whole area was a mass of earth movers and portakabins. 

I had a look on the internet and it seems that a whole new town is being built locally and this is the 1.5 miles link road.  The new town is called Houlton and will have 6,200 houses, 3 primary schools, a secondary school and an 8 doctor medical practice.  It is set within 1,200 acres and there are three different construction companies building the houses.  I bet the locals weren’t happy about this!  I have to say that it has excellent road and rail links, they say that this is one of the most well-connected places in the country, and you can reach 80% of the country within 4 hours.  Apparently the development will take some 15 years to complete.

We pulled over and moored up against some Armco.  We noticed a strange smell which upon investigation was coming from Muffin!  Goodness only knows what he had been rolling!  It was a shower for him.

4.48 miles
3 locks