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Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Bad day at Black Rock

I don't know if you remember that film but after it was on, whenever we had an awful time that's what we used to say.
 The day (Thursday) started OK with an early walk and cruising from 8am. It took 4 hours to do 11 miles and two locks but I arrived in Hopwas and found our favourite mooring vacant. I was so pleased with Bon as she had been so good and patient with all the cruising so I popped her on the towpath whilst I secured the boat. The time was 12.10pm. Having got the boat sorted, I fetched her lead and called bon to have her walk. Nothing. No sign of her at all. I assumed she had started without me and so walked the way we usually go. No sign or sound of her.
After an hour or so I finally spotted her at the bottom of the field, worryingly close to the mainline railway. I did my usual walking away and calling her but she immediately dived into the trees to the side of the field and that was that. I tried all the usual tricks to get her back but she had slipped into that mad state of mind where humans, particularly me, were the enemy and to be avoided at all costs.
I won't bore you with all the details of the endless afternoon but despite hail storms, wind and almost constant rain, by dark she was still on the run. I was fairly sick with worry, particularly when the trains flew by.
At 7pm I saw movement outside the boat. I made her supper and called Bon to come in. At 8.10pm, 8 hours after she went, my bleep bleep dog jumped in the boat. She was soaked through, covered with brambles and shivering with cold. I was not sympathetic, although I did let her warm up on my lap.
So we will be going to bed shortly as I am shattered. Fortunately I was planning to stay here till Sunday. Guess who won't be running free in the woods this time?!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Return journey

The plan came together and I had the best cruising weather so far for my journey from Hawkesbury to Mancetter. I managed to get the same spot and was untroubled by any neighbours for my entire stay, just the way I like it! Here is a picture I took from the top of the hill opposite my boat.

1 small footprint

It reminded me again what a small footprint I have, and am. My wee 50 foot living space looks so small in the large landscape, but it is more than enough for me. I may have a small home, but what a garden!! It made me think how insignificant I am in the world as well. No one in that town behind my boat knew of my existence. I shall move on leaving no trace that I was ever there. Having had two careers where being significant to a lot of other people was par for the course, I can honestly say that anonymity suits me better now.

Mancetter, a suburb of Atherstone has some of the best signed footpaths I have ever seen. Lovely circular walks and good posts so there is little risk of getting lost. I wish more parishes followed suit. Here is Bonny panting to get started on an excellent woodland walk…

2 entrance to brill mancetter walk

The plan to stay through Tuesday was a good one as it rained without pause from when I first woke up at 7am until we went to bed at 10pm! I did walk the hour round trip into Atherstone to buy supplies and of course walk Bonny – three times! But not cruising was a good option and meant that we could explore more of this hidden gem. The Midlands keep surprising me. When I first came here, I expected cities and dark satanic mills, but even close to places like Nuneaton or Tamworth are the most beautiful areas of countryside.

Today (Wednesday) I started off at 8am to tackle the Atherstone flight while it was quiet. I felt I had cheated a bit on the way up by accepting lots of help, so this time I faced the 11 locks alone. And I really was alone. I only met one boat, a working boat at lock two and then no one else until lock 9. It meant that most of the locks were in my favour which really helped, but because there were no other boats coming towards ,me, it meant I had to balance my boat at the tail of each lock and then climb back up to close the gates. I worked out that at each lock I opened or closed a gate 5 times and there were 11 locks, so that makes… my arms very tired!

I stopped at the bottom of the flight to water up and get rid of rubbish and then went on to Meadow bridge (is what it sounds like) to moor.

5 meadow bridge mooring

After a shower my arms still felt like limp spaghetti but I am happy that I can do 11 locks and 4 miles in less than 3.5 hours! It has hailed and rained this afternoon (after I was safely moored) but I am hoping it will dry up for our return to Hopwas tomorrow. My plan is to veg there till Sunday when I will very reluctantly return to Fradley to put my boat into dry dock for blacking and then return to work.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Alvecote to Hawkesbury Junction

Here is a picture of the working boats at Alvecote, mentioned yesterday…

4 working boats at Alvecote

I set off for Atherstone by 8.30am in almost dry but fairly chilly conditions. The wind which has been our constant companion so far wasn’t too troublesome. It took about 90 minutes of cruising before I reached the bottom of the Atherstone flight. I received unexpected assistance when I reached the fourth lock up in the shape of my mate Stan and a small herd of volunteer lock keepers. With their assistance I rose to the top lock with relatively little effort. Stan and I then visited the chippy and a local pub before I waved a fond farewell and carried on my cruise.

I moored only a couple of miles further on near Mancetter as it had started to rain quite hard, but after the bustle of Atherstone, it felt a lot further…


6 Mancetter mooring

There were some fantastic footpaths here and so I have decided to stop for the day here when I return to explore further. My ankle is almost recovered but just to remind me that suffering is good for the soul, I am brewing a cold!

Sunday morning, and after a lovely though chilly walk around the golf course and woods, we set off for Hawkesbury junction where the Coventry Canal meets the North Oxford and where you can get a rare picture of two canals in one frame…

8 Two canals in one pic

The Coventry is just visible on the left, the Oxford on the right and at the junction of the two, a pretty bridge and attractive pub…

12 Bridge over Coventry

11 Greyhound pub at junction

It took three and a half hours to get here and this time the wind was absolutely bitter and it felt like a lot longer. Still, once I lit a fire and had some tomato soup for lunch I felt sufficiently recovered to take Bonny for a walk. I had particularly wanted to come to Hawkesbury Junction as I had stopped here once before when cruising with my friends Roger and Shirleyann. It is an area where there used to be mining and once the pits were closed, the area was given over to nature and I had not had the chance to really explore on my previous visit. I had remembered a lovely wooded and gorse covered area with footpaths running all around. Unfortunately on our return I discovered the walk I had remembered was no more. The trees had all been cut down and the gorse pulled up, leaving behind a barren wasteland, suitable only it seemed for motocross judging from the churned up tracks!

Ah well, never mind, a night here and then I shall mooch back through the fairly unattractive Nuneaton to Mancetter where I shall sit out the forecasted bad Tuesday weather. I am also fairly short of food so I shall wander into Atherstone for supplies.

Oh, I do wish I was well enough off not to have to return to work. The North Oxford looked so inviting, and then I could have followed onto the South Oxford, The Thames and who knows where I could end up! Ah well, seven more years before I get my police pension and then there will be no stopping me.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Hopwas to Alvecote

I’m glad I took another day before moving as my poor sore ankle got a bit fat…19 poorly ankle


But it got much better so this morning I took Bonny for an early walk and then made the most of the sunny morning by setting off by 8am.

We had a lovely but uneventful cruise through Tamworth to Alvecote, where we found a brilliant mooring near the ruins of an old priory and close to Alvecote Marina which is known for its collection of working boats. There used to be mines here but they are now nature reserves and Bonny and I were delighted to find some beautiful walks. We are close to the M42 here, but you would never know it as any noise is muffled by all the trees.

Tomorrow I will work a bit harder as a few miles ahead lies the 11 lock Atherstone flight. Thank goodness I have practiced sizeable flights quite a bit now and so it holds no fears for me. I just hope I don’t have to do it in the rain!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Exciting so far!

Well, so far sitting still has seen much more excitement than cruising!

I was very happy to tie up near the woods yesterday as the wind had really started to get up. It increased in strength throughout the afternoon, so that by 4pm it was blowing a hooley. I had just taken Bon along the towpath when I saw a hire boat coming round the bend with the crew clearly struggling for control. As I watched, he lost it entirely and, missing my boat by a whisker, ploughed full speed into the Canal and River Trust boat moored behind me. Why CART insist on using nothing but blue string to secure their boats is beyond me but predictably all three strings snapped on impact setting the work boat free. The hire boat was blown into the bank with its stern having unnatural relations with my stern and its bow jammed up the chuff of the work boat.

I returned having watched them struggle for a bit and offered my help which was accepted with alacrity. I tried to steer them off backwards but the wind was too strong, so I eventually managed to manoeuvre their boat so that it was alongside mine and then told them to gun it for all they were worth. It is just as well I am getting my boat blacked on my return as I must have lost several coats of paint along the stern! They shot off like a cork out of a bottle and I turned my attention to the work boat. It didn’t look particularly damaged so I rescued some strands of string and retied the boat to the metal shuttering – a little further away from mine just in case!

The next morning Bonny and I went for our morning walk. With much trepidation I decided on a trust exercise and let her off the lead.

Here she is considering her options…

5 trust exercise

6 even more trust!

You can still just about see her as a spot in the distance

7 Bon off piste

Waiting for me to catch up – trust justified!

These are the woods at Hopwas – beautiful even with no leaves yet on the trees…

13 no leaves yet

10 proper British wood

And here is one of many pill boxes that line the banks of the Tame. Apparently they were worried about Germans using the rivers to invade during the Second World War

16 pill box and bridge

Much to my relief Bonny and I returned to the boat together. I made a cuppa and then sat outside while she mooched around the towpath and then settled down to meditate on the rabbits in the field.

2 meditation time

All of a sudden her ears and tail shot up and she jumped to her feet. Fortunately I managed to grab her just as she started a bout of hysterical barking. Turning, I saw two horses approaching with riders. There is nothing in this world that Bonny is more scared of and she was beside herself. The horses didn’t look too impressed either, so I bundled her into the boat. Unfortunately she was struggling so much that I missed my footing and fell down the three steps into the boat, landing hard on my ankle. For one heart stopping moment I thought I had broken a second leg! But no, fortunately after the first shock of pain wore off, I found my ankle was just bruised. Bonny didn’t stop screaming with terror until about 15 minutes later!

So, that is the second day of our cruise. The weather is forecast to be wet and windy tomorrow and we are staying put so who knows what could happen!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Happy Boater!

I cast my lines off this morning which is about all the preparation I need to do for a holiday, and went cruising. Predictably as soon as I took hold of the tiller, the warm, sunny, settled weather came to an abrupt end and squally rain blew in. Of course I would prefer sun but still I was grinning like a loon as I worked up the locks.

The forecast is for generally windy weather all week so I have changed my plans. Instead of heading for the Shroppie,  which would mean I would hit the many locks of Penkridge on the wettest and windiest day, I have gone down the Coventry. There are less locks until I reach Atherstone which is helpful when the wind blows the boat around, making getting in and off lock landings hard work. The added bonus is Bonny and I get to moor at one of our favourite places… the woods at Hopwas.
It took us three and a half hours to get here and we arrived windblown and drippy but very happy. I am planning to stay here till Friday as Thursday is supposed to be wet and windy.

Photos to follow but to give a flavour, if I look out of my windows to port (left) there is a long field stretching to a railway line and a line of trees beyond that. To starboard there are the woods covering one of the only hills in the area, not a plantation either but a proper British wood …bliss. Squirrel hunting to follow when both of us are rested up.

It is so lovely to be away. I am so fortunate to have friends who actually want to spend time with me and work mates who are fun to be around but my soul craves solitude and it has been too long since my last retreat. Two weeks of this will sort me out a treat and that is just as well as the wedding season to come means that work will be full on till September.

When it stops raining I'll be out with my camera and share a photo or two.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Cruise Approaching

Sorry about the silence. Partly it has been that the working season has started up again and so I have less free time. Partly it is because I have a new toy – a Google Nexus 7 tablet which now doubles as my dongle and is fantastic fun to play with. As a result I have not been using my laptop and rather forgot about the blog!! The downside of using the tablet as a dongle is that for some reason it won’t let Internet Explorer work on my laptop so I can’t access my emails or any of the internet except for this which is a bit odd.

Anyway, enough computer stuff, there is a two week window in an otherwise pretty packed wedding season and I am grabbing it with both hands as I haven’t had a lone cruise in far too long! I am hoping to return to the Shropshire Union Canal as I loved it last time I was there and perhaps this time it won’t be raining every single day! I start on the 18th of this month.

Talking about rain, several people have asked how we coped through the wettest winter in a zillion years. Well, being on a boat was the answer. Because our canal water level is controlled by locks and by-washes, we had no problem at all; not the same for the poor boaters moored on a river! My only bugbear was the level of mud on every path and having to wash Bonny every time she stepped outside the boat. The upside for us was the mild temperatures. I got pumped out, dieseled up and watered right through the winter without once being iced in. Our hearts went out to all the poor folk living in flooded houses though.

So I shall next write when cruising as I might finally have something to say!