12th to 18th June – Along the Cov and onwards to the North Oxford
We had a pretty good thunder storm on Sunday evening, which rumbled around and produced some very loud claps but very little in the way of rain. Just enough to make us rush round and put all the windows back in and close the doors, only to stop. We soon had those windows back out.
At night we have a 1 tog quilt, which I discovered a couple of years ago. It is the perfect thing for hot summer nights, which are often followed by chilly summer mornings. We also sleep with both the bow doors wide open and the blind half down so that plenty of air can get in. We seem to have reasonably comfortable nights that way.
As I was finishing off last week’s blog, Hargreaves II went by and greeted us merrily. They are an Ortomarine built, all electric Community trip boat, based in nearby Nuneaton. It’s always nice to see a fellow Ortomarine boat.
I think I mentioned that we were near Mancetter. There is a notice a little way up the towpath that suggests that Mancetter was where the Romans beat Boudica (who was always known as Boadicea in my youth and childhood). Queen of the Icene, a Celtic tribe based in Norfolk. The battle was as the result of an overturned will left by her husband, Prasutagus, which apparently saw Icenian lands seized and Icenians being enslaved by the Romans, who also violently humiliated his family, flogging his widow, Boudica, and the raping of her daughters. The history of these times is very hazy and often accounts are contradictory. One thing is sure though – throughout history, Boudica/Boadicea has always been seen as a woman of strength.
We had a little rain at teatime, but it didn’t freshen the air much, really. I think we are stuck with this heat for the week. I wish the canals were cleaner so that we could have a little evening dip but sadly that joy is denied to us, thanks to the stuff that ends up in the cut.
We had a touch of drama late evening. We were moored a little way back from a winding hole and we suddenly heard a lot of revving and then some shouting. We popped out to see what was happening to see a hire boat widthways across the canal, with its stern in the shallows opposite the towpath. Well A) it was too late to be cruising safely, B) hire boats are not permitted to cruise at night and C) you put your bow into the winding hole, not your stern (see Fig A below). That way madness – and potential damage – lies. Paul walked up with the boys to see whether he could lend a hand, but a chap from anoher boat by then had it all under control. Once he had got her winded, the chap suggested that she (a lone female on a 60 footer) should now tie up because it was more or less dark. She was not taking advice and went off on her way. More fool her.
We set off at 07:00 on Tuesday morning as we were aiming to be in the basin at Coventry by Friday afternoon. We plan to do a succession of short hops this week as we don’t want to be cruising during the heat of the day. And what a gorgeous morning it was, with early hints of how hot it was going to be later. As we came round a corner we saw a herd of cattle, fresh out of the milking parlour, making a beeline for the canal. It was such a beautiful, bucolic scene and I simply had to film it. They are such graceful, inquisitive creatures.
This week I have mostly been making myself a sewing roll. My sister-in-law Mel has one that was made for her by her Aunt and I have always coveted it. When I saw her at Christmas, I took some pictures and dimensions and have finally got round to drafting the pattern, cutting it out and making it. I bought the fabric and notions ages ago. It’s Liberty Tana Lawn, with sage bias binding and velvet ribbon and has one big full width pocket and then two half width pockets. And there’s a matching needlecase and pin wheel, to boot! With needles, snips. scissors, safety pins, thread, hem gauge and tape measure, it’ll be perfect to take with me on my travels. You never know when you’ll be called to arms! You may consider me chuffed.
We had a quiet day on our mooring – very few boats on the move, presumably because of the heat. But the poor hire boaters still have to press on regardless to get back at their allotted time. All the sun meant that we had a bumper solar day – 11.1 KWhs. I think that is close to our previous record? A sizeable chunk of free power anyway.
We agreed to move on in the morning again. Wednesday’s goal was to get through Nuneaton and Bedworth and out to the countryside beyond, near Marston Junction, where the Ashby Canal heads off towards deepest, darkest Leicestershire. We had a great time on there last year. Good memories.
We noticed a lot of new building in the year since we had last been through here. In particular a new and very ugly Behemoth of a place for Logistics giant Rhenus. Built on land that was formerly farmland too, sadly. What with the construction noise from that and the nearby HS2 shenanigans, we had to go further than we expected, but we eventually found a spot that suited us.
We also noticed a film on the water that looked like diesel spillage. as it went on for some miles, I thought it best to report it to CRT as it’s not good for boats (as it can eat into your blacking) and it’s certainly not good for the wildlife that live in and around the canal. And the fact that it is such an widespread problem will not make it easy to deal with. It’s a bit of a worry and I will await, with interest, news of their findings and what they plan to do.
It was a nice spot we had chosen and we had a very quiet day and night there, other than a succession of e-bikes and scooters going way too fast down the towpath. The speed is another worry – there’s going to be an accident sometime soon and everyone will be sorry. And it seems that we are powerless to do anything about it.
We moved on early again on Thursday and moored, once again, where we moored last year on this stretch, about a kilometre away from Hawkesbury Junction (aka Sutton Stop) ready for our trip down to Coventry Basin on Friday. It’s another lovely quiet spot but we had a a youth on a motorcycle zooming past. Paul and the boys were out on their evening walk and I was worried that they might have collided. Luckily, with a motorbike, you get an aural warming and he was able to gather up the boys and move to safety. With the e-bikes there’s no noise. – they are suddenly upon you.
And this is something I have pondered about with the rise in silent boats like us. In the past, on blind bends you always tend to listen to see if you can hear the engine of an oncoming boat and if you can’t hear anything, proceed with caution. With e-boats there is no noise. I have taken to using the horn in such cases and proceed with utmost caution. And it’s mainly because people on diesel-engined boats may not think there is anyone about as they are not yet used to the fact that we stealthy e-boats are about,
Our destination for Friday was Coventry Basin, We left our quiet spot a little later than usual and made our way down to Hawkesbury with the intention of dumping the loo. Unfortunately, the Elsan Point was u/s so that was a bit of blow. But we think there are services at the Basin so hopefully they will be in good order.
The CRT has recently set out a new standard for the provision of Customer Service Facilities (CSF – water, elsan etc) after a consultation at the end of last year, in which we participated. I’m not sure what informed the new Standards document, but it does not reflect my views! An Executive Summery of the main points would seem to be fewer CSFs and further apart! I have asked CRT for sight of the responses to the survey to see how far those responses are reflected on the outcome. Watch this space.
The journey down to the basin was hot and occasionally hazardous. At the first bridge we were warned that the boat preceding us had hit an underwater obstruction and dislodged his rudder from the rudder cup. He was on a time share boat and planned to call out RCR. Needless to say, we went through this and every other bridge with extreme care, as we generally do in urban areas. We did come into contact with a couple of under water things, but the technique is the minute you hear the slightest scraping/graunching sound from under the boat, take it out of gear. We stopped to water and to our joy, the Elsan was open so we did that too, before tying up for the day. around lunchtime. All 38 miles of the Cov done.
We both agreed that we would probably never make this trip again as it did not fill us with joy. But what did fill us with joy were the absolutely delectable Pasteis de Nata from the Portuguese Cafe/Deli (Gorety Portuguese Mini Store and Cafe) on the basin. They were the best I had had outside Portugal and still just a little warm, being freshly baked. What a delight.
Coventry has its own sweet delicacy, which you may not have heard of. It’s called a “Coventry God Cake”. It’s a triangular shaped pastry (said to represent the Holy Trinity) and is traditionally made by godparents to give to their godchildren at christenings. It’s made of sugar dredged puff pastry and filled with mincemeat, Sounds pretty good to me. I think we’d probably refer to it by the slightly grandiose term “mincemeat turnover”?
The Coventry Canal was built to transport coal from the coalfields in Bedworth, Nuneaton and Coventry and eventually as a link to the Trent and Mersey, which gave access to the ports at Liverpool. It was started by James Brindley and there is a statue of him at the basin. Work started in 1768 and it had quite a chequered career, although it was a very busy route.
We had planned to do a spot of exploring ashore, but it was just too hot – for us and also for the poor boys. We did not want them to have sore pads from those red hot pavements. But we are very close at Brinklow, so can always come back and explore by car.
It was a tad noisy in the basin but by midnight, it suddenly quietened down – and so did we! Until about 1:35, when I heard a little noise and then fancied I had felt the boat dip slightly – as if someone had stood on the gunnels. I was dosy and more or less dismissed it until I heard another noise. I opened my eyes and could make out a dark shape on the well deck. I tried to make sense of it with my sleep befuddled brain until it finally dawned on me that the shape I could see was someone sitting cross-legged on our well deck! Adrenaline rush! I nudged Paul who was instantly awake. He asked if we were Steve. Paul said “No – you need to get off our boat”. He was all apologies and “sorry mate, I didn’t take anything!” Reassuring! I have to say, he must have been very quiet indeed, as I’m a light sleeper. Stealthy one might say? I think he was probably a druggy. But no harm done, he left with alacrity, once we made it clear that he was not welcome, calling for Steve. Loudly!
It took me quite a while to get back to sleep after that burst of adrenaline. Paul, not so much. And where were the boys when we needed them? Especially Ted – who is always super alert and will bark if he hears a twig crack! Not a flipping word from either of them. It was a first for us, that’s’ for sure and is a reminder why we do not much care for city moorings. Paul had the bright idea of looking at our security camera footage, the next mooring and there he was, large as life and twice as ugly! He had not fully made himself at home at this point.
We left the next morning, as planned, stopping briefly to pick up breakfast “batches” (that’s what they call a roll round these parts!) from the Playwright’s Cafe cafe as we left. We also stopped to top up the water tank – a nice fast tap, too. To be honest I was glad to be leaving. We carried on down to the junction and a boat was just coming out of the stop lock that leads you onto the Oxford canal. Perfect timing. We were on the homeward stretch!
We pulled over early afternoon for lunch and a beepy and then pressed on, looking for somewhere not too near the M6 and not too near the railway. No mean feat on this canal! It was just getting to the point that we were thinking we might as well press on to the Marina of Dreams, when we suddenly found a spot that would fit the brief.
It was very close and humid and I wasn’t at all surprised when, in the early hours I awoke to quite a decent thunderstorm, accompanied by heavy, nay, torrential rain. I had to quickly get up and close the bow doors and luckily fell straight back to sleep.
Sunday was Father’s Day and also Beth’s birthday. so we made the various calls. We had looked at the weather forecast, which predicted heavy rain and had decided to stay put for the day and do odd jobs. A bit of a pain but well worth doing and it’s nice to sit back after and survey the results of your labours. Still very hot and humid mind you. A little overheated tetchiness ensued, from time to time!
Remember this pic? Well no one responded, which either means you all know what the little door is for, don’t care/couldn’t be bothered or didn’t read the blog!
Well I’m going t tell you anyway. It’s for stop planks. If a length of canal begins to leak, or needs to be drained for repairs, the stop planks are lowered into the grooves at each end of the section. The planks stack up to form dams and are often numbered. The water between two dams can be pumped out, exposing the canal bed or whatever for repairs. Rotten planks are no use to man nor beast so need to be kept handy but covered.
Over the years they have used quite a few different styles of storage, from brutalist to cute. The latest design iteration, which has not been popular with the boating fraternity because it is painted a bright CRT blue – not very pastoral. Here is a selection of a few that we’ve encountered (and remembered to take a photo of!)
We will definitely be back at Brinklow at some point in the forthcoming week, which will mean an end to our cruising – for now! But we will have access to a car and are also looking forward to the Jollity of the Nation event (30th Jun) and also the Brinklow Bash (8th July) at which we will be joined by our muckers Sue and Paul, and of course, Lulu!