Sightings along the 300 foot contour

 Hillmorton (North Oxford Canal) – Hinckley (Ashby Canal)

22½ miles, 1 lock, 1 tunnel transit, 1 swing bridge 

Some 2½ miles on from Hillmorton is Rugby, a magnet for boaters along the North Oxford Canal. There’s a water point there – and easy access to an enormous Tesco Superstore (one of those “open to midnight” types!) There’s a limit of course to what you can trundle up a footpath and along a towpath on your back, but at least the milk stocks were topped up.

The canal winds out of Rugby, crossing the River Avon on an aqueduct (yes, the same River Avon just visible at Welford, noted here in March  and again in late April.). It was a disappointment however, not to even manage a glimpse of the river below…

Along this stretch of the North Oxford the canal user sees several distinctive white arched bridges. Beyond the bridges are canal loops, often still in water and several now used as home moorings. They indicate the original route of the canal which wound its lengthy way between Hawkesbury Junction (near Coventry) and Braunston. In 1769 James Brindley had surveyed the original route.  A cryptic comment in Pearson’s Canal Companion Guide reveals the commercial view of the day: “Like a Royal walkabout Brindley also felt that the more places one could visit, the more influence one might have.” Hence the windy canal route…  “Shortening” of the canal (between 1829 and 1834) straightened out much of the route – and knocked 15 miles off the Hawkesbury – Braunston distance.

There’s a tunnel at Newbold-on-Avon: in former days it used to be floodlit in purple and green colours. Now it is dark.  Ahead of Cleddau was a slowly moving boat, crewed, it seemed, by a pair of Hawaiian flowers. As the boat entered the tunnel a wall of party music swelled through the tunnel, arms waved about and voices sang!

 

Another “loop”, another marina…

Some bridges are really showing their age. (Bridge 37).

Urban Rugby had been left behind – and in a thoroughly rural setting a good overnight mooring was found.   It’s good to know that a canal separates the bull from the boats…

Through All Oaks Wood in the morning, passing a workboat on  a mission  – and a serpent designed to scare…

At Stretton Stop two kind chaps worked the swing bridge  and then fast trains thundered by. Who knew that Tesco now moves goods by rail…?

Paris – what a cleverly painted boat name…

Onward, under the M6  – and less than an hour later – under the M69 at Ansty.

And as the canal approaches Hawkesbury Junction boaters in the know look out for the pylons,     the switching gear from a former coal-fired power station.

Here there’s a stop lock, just a 7 inch difference between the water levels of the Oxford Canal and the Coventry Canal.

Just yards from the lock is the popular  Greyhound Inn    and the challenging turn under this stunning bridge to join the Coventry Canal. It’s left towards Coventry, or right towards Atherstone (and Marston Junction).

It was to Marston Junction that Cleddau was heading. The canal runs to the east of Bedworth, a small market town in what was once the Warwickshire coal field.  A grassy area was puzzling – farmland now open for public walking? Single trees and small hay stacks were dotted about – and one of the stacks was ablaze…

Tree branches encroach across the canal – passage seemed to involve a game of duck and weave, the challenge greater when another boat approached…

There are people hereabouts: a walking group of living, breathing folk paused to watch the boat pass  while the human figures at the well known Charity Dock remained stonily silent and still!  Amid the collected paraphernalia of decades were cheerful mannequins,    famous figures and grotesque creations…

Just before the junction to the Ashby Canal the boat was pulled in. To post a congrats card* and a birthday card** a post box was needed. Much research involving canal maps, post box finder websites and Google Earth maps had identified a post box about 600 metres away. A mid-century housing estate had large semi-detached houses all with large front gardens (many now paved for car parking).  Some semis had been designed as ground and first floor flats. Built as post war council housing? Or maybe – the Captain’s suggestion – it had been Coal Board housing…

Post box successfully found, Cleddau was lined up for a sharp right hand turn. This was Marston Junction, access point for the Ashby Canal. Youths in bright orange waistcoats serving community service were taking a break from their litter-picking duties (“Do you think we’ll find any dead bodies?” one had joked.)

It’s a narrow channel and with just one or two nudges against the stone work Cleddau joined the Ashby Canal (explored first in April 2017 , revisited in part in September 2018 ). Oh, yes, here were familiar Ashby Canal features – the stone bridges  and the distinctive mile markers, displaying miles from the Junction and miles to the end of the canal. Though the canal is 30 miles in length, only the first 22 miles are currently navigable.

Initially it’s a relatively empty landscape; a church, Burton Hastings, arouses fleeting interest    and then there are occasional surprises (Stink Pot, an  unusual name for a boat…!) 

Moored up just before Bridge 13, Hinckley (the one-time hosiery town) lay ahead. After that there’d be a search for a mooring with access to the Battlefield Line and the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre . Sometimes you just want to go back and revisit places all over again…

2023 totals: 281½ miles, 259 locks, 5 swing bridges, 13 tunnels

 Do you live aboard?  FAQ now posed 16 times

  • 2023 Monkton Moments*– 8 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

*Exam congrats to Pony Lover

** Birthday greetings to the (former) Tentatrice First Mate

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