Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The year closes

Sunday 7th October
We left Napton on a bright crisp morning making our way the five or so miles to Braunston. We have been here many times before, it is a mecca for narrowboaters, especially for the historic boats that attend the rally in June/July. The village upon the hillside overlooking the canal is also very pleasant with its useful general stores, butchers and pub.
For those boaters wishing to empty their pockets, there is also a large branch of Midland Chandlers.

We moored here overnight before moving onto Rugby the next day. We were treated to another lovely autumn day with blue skies and sunshine although a tad cooler now.

Autumn colours on the North Oxford
We passed through the three locks at Hillmorton descending onto the long pound below that provides miles of lock free cruising, we had intended to moor here but the moorings below the lock were busy and difficult due to being shallow. We pressed on hoping to find better moorings at Rugby. Our arrival was greeted by the sight of a long stretch of new moorings, recently improved and dredged.
We decided to spend a couple of nights here so we could have a walk into the town as neither of 
us had been here before. Just below the moorings is a huge Tesco store and a little further along a large retail park with the usual chains on site.
We continued our walk into town, a good mile and a half from the canal, walking through the park before entering the town centre.
The town centre has suffered the same fate, as many these days, with the competition from the out of town stores causing the closure of lots of the available units.
We walked across the town to see the school, famous for its creation of the game of the same name as the town. The 16th century school buildings dominate this part of town, they contain a museum to the great sport but unfortunately it was closed for our visit.
Rugby School
We made our way back to the boat calling in at the small cafe in the park to have a coffee and a slice of cake the size of a house brick.
Wednesday morning arrived and we decided to move on, calling at the facilities before getting underway, unfortunately the Elsan was out of order, luckily we were allowed to empty it at Rose Narrowboats a few miles along the way.
Arriving at Hawkesbury junction (know as Sutton Stop to boaters, named after the family that manned the toll office and stop lock), we found a spot just before the lock on a seven day mooring so tied up and settled in for a few days.

The following day we took the bus into Coventry to have a look around the cathedral, done in shifts due to Scruff being with us. We crossed town to the old medieval part of the city that managed to escape the pounding of the blitz during the second world war, here is the church of St John the Baptist, a little gem somewhat overlooked due to its large modern alternative.
The church is charming and well worth a visit, during the Civil War it was used to prison the scottish royalist soldiers captured at the battle of Preston, the towns folk were Parliamentarians and treated the prisoners coldly giving rise to the phrase "sent to Coventry".
We made our way back to the boat, the forecast alerted us to wet and windy weather so we stayed put until Saturday having spent an enjoyable Friday night in the Greyhound pub, a place famous in the boating world as it sits right on the junction.
On Saturday the rain had subsided, the wind was still gusty but we decided to brave it anyway.

The journey up to the Ashby was fairly uneventful despite the gusty winds, my main concern was making the tight turn onto the Ashby canal at Marston Junction but fortunately the wind did no more than to assist me in swinging the boat and we got round unscathed.

We carried on up the Ashby as far as Sutton Cheney wharf where we turned around making our way back to the moorings at Stoke Golding, we had moored here in February but this time things were a bit drier so we decided to walk across to see the site now defined as the actual site of the Battle of  Bosworth. There is not a lot to see but it fascinating to stand where such momentous events took place. We also passed Crown Hill where Henry Tudor was pronounced King following his unlikely victory at the battle.

Monday morning brought us to Hinckley Marina, we left the boat here for a week or so whilst we returned to Leeds for Dads 90th birthday celebrations. We travelled there and back by train, during our time in Leeds Scruff had eaten something that had given her bad wind causing much embarrassment aboard the train as she almost cleared a carriage at one point!

On our return to the boat we headed back up the Ashby, mooring at Sutton Cheney, this is useful for visiting the battlefield centre, we chose to go on the weekend guided walk around the area, only to find that we were the only ones attending that day. The walk is a must do if you ever visit this area, it is both interesting and informative, our guide Eddie, an ex-policeman had and encyclopedic knowledge of the "Wars of the Roses " and was currently investigating the mystery of the princes in the tower.

We spent the next few days exploring the villages along the Ashby before returning to the Coventry canal and making our way to Atherstone. By now the clocks had changed and it was getting dark by 5pm.
This was the place we had to sit out the Beast from the East in March, we moored at the top of the locks but as the weekend ahead was bonfire weekend we decided to move down 5 of the eleven locks to moor away from the houses to minimise any distress to Scruff as she gets into a real state these days on hearing fireworks. We moored at a spot with horses to one side and a small holding with chickens, ducks and geese to the other assuming that all would be peaceful here.
During the day on the Saturday we walked up to look at what remains of the old priory at Merevale, it was here that Henry Tudor spent the days before the battle. The hills around here command fantastic views across the vale towards Ambion Hill (King Richard III's camp).

Merevale Gatehouse

Returning to the boat before dusk it wasn't long before we started to hear fireworks, these were been let off right next to the boat in the small holding accompanied by a large bonfire which, once it took hold started showering the boat with burning debris carried along by the strong winds. We had no alternative but to run outside, untie and move the boat away from the inferno which by now was threatening to ignite all the trees and bushes along the canal bank.
The next morning revealed, to our relief that, not too much damage had been done as I had rushed to remove some of the burning debris whist moving the boat.
During our last visit we had had a couple of meals at the Kings Head just off the A5 and decided to call in again for Sunday lunch, as before the food was excellent in a great pub, highly recommended if you are ever in Atherstone.

Monday morning arrived and we decided to move down the remaining six locks of the Atherstone flight to moor at Bradley moorings just below the last lock. This is a peaceful spot and has full boater facilities.
The last lock of the flight was the 1000th lock since we had embarked on this trip 18 months ago.

We made our way towards the Trent and Mersey at Fradley, stopping over at Hopwas on the way, whilst here we took a short bus ride into Tamworth for a look round on a very wet Wednesday.

Rope Marks at Tamworth

We have decided to spend a few months in the marina at Mercia, as the winter closure program pretty much blocks our way until March, so following spending a few nights at Fradley, Alrewas, Burton and Willington we made our way to the marina where we are now moored up.
Wychnor Church

Its a little early, but, as this is our last blog of the year we would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you all for reading the blog.
All being well we should be back underway in March for a whole new set of adventures and places to see, but for now its buckle down for the winter and carry out maintenance ready for the next stage.

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