Friday 31 August 2018


Today's Canal - Oxford

It really was a bright and beautiful morning as we awoke and when we set off.

A few fluffy clouds appeared at time during the day but they did little to dent the the feeling that this was the last throe of this year's summer - perhaps autumn will begin tomorrow!

Whilst many of the farm accommodation and road bridges remain (albeit in many places extended to cope with modern needs) some have been demolished with little evidence of their past. It is a teeny bit satisfying to see the buried remains of a former railway - the railway having been closed whilst the canal remains!

Through the trees we could just make out Ansty Hall. Built in 1678 as the manor house, it is now 62 bedroom four star hotel, wedding and conference centre.

The very high span of Nettle Hill Bridge is a reminder of how the improved sections of the north Oxford Canal adopted the deep cuttings that others had found necessary in order to shorten journey lengths and hence improve delivery times and reduce operating costs.

The track which the bridge carries leads to Mobbs Wood Farm which has provided facilities for several business ventures. At one time there was a paintball centre here and a recording studio still operates here.

Another of the elegant cast iron bridges over the junction with former arms which became redundant after the straightening.

A few days ago we included a photo of a bat box - something we had not spotted before. Of course, once you have seen one, others start to appear! This bridge had one on either face.

This could be a typical rural scene from any time over the past couple of centuries - the white picket fence is the front of a set of cottages once a local pub. It is unclear how it attracted sufficient customers as there are only a few farms in the immediate vicinity.

The relatively modern wooden footbridge is an indicator that we are about to reach the moorings close to Tesco in Rugby, always a popular stopping point for boaters to catch up on shopping - not too many opportunities for filling larders along the north Oxford. We too went to fill a trolley but only after a  lengthy lunch break. When we talked to the boater who had just moored behind us - turned out to be a boat that moors at Droitwich Marina.

The stretch immediately before this also used to be a well used mooring but that is not allowed at present. Whether this is permanent (and why?) or just until new edging has had a chance to mature er don't know but at least the towpath on the other side of the bridge has had extensive new mooring rings added.

We opted to move on a short distance out into the countryside but aware that we needed to keep a careful lookout for a suitable place to moor so as not to end up in the queue at the bottom of Hilmorton Locks.

Most of the moorings at Clifton Cruisers are down an arm, one end of quite a long bypassed stretch.

Shortly afterwards we again passed the construction site for the new access road - work seems to be continuing both with the reparation of the concrete reinforcing but also in extensive earth moving works across the whole site.

As hoped, we found a suitable spot for the night, surprisingly with a tv signal, just short of the locks.

12.9 Miles - 0 Locks

Thursday 30 August 2018


Today's Canals - Coventry, Oxford

A very pleasant day, quite mild and with plenty of sunshine and only occasional grey clouds. First, Mike spent a little while adding a further coat to the touch up of the stern door paintwork.

We opted to spend the morning visiting the cathedral and then doing a little amount of shopping on the way back. Hence we once again crossed the high footbridge over the Ringway.

There are not many really old buildings in he city centre as so many succumbed to the incendiary bombing of wartime, most famously, of course, the cathedral. the Lychgate Cottages date back to the early 15C.

This squirrel was really begging for food but soon discovered that we were not worth chasing. A little later a group of tourists came with some food for the birds - but the squirrel quickly made  off with a morsel or two.

Christine was surprised by the appearance of the square outside the cathedral, especially the university building opposite. She later discovered that this new frontage is only about two years old.

In the bright sunshine the cathedral, standing alongside the ruins of the previous building (there had in fact been an even earlier one but that was lost in Henry VIII's dissolution)

We went inside and spent some time just wandering around. The main features are all well described but we will not attempt to summarise them here and leave the photos to speak for themselves. Many relate to the focus on the Ministry of Reconciliation which is a significant part of the work of the cathedral.

Sir Basil Spence's design for the new cathedral left as many of the ruins of the previous structure as they survived the disastrous fire in 1940.

Standing in the empty space is a powerful experience - as is in a different way the feeling inside the new cathedral.

We then walked back to the shops - here is another surviving old building. The plaque on the side of the building says that this "cottage built in about 1500 is the only remaining example of numerous medieval timber framed houses which stood in this area."

Back at the boat we moved onto the water point whilst preparing our lunches so that we could set off as soon as the tank was full. The journey back followed, of course, the same route as yesterday but it is surprising how often seeing things from the opposite direction reveals new details.

As we came round one bend and under a bridge we could see a moored boat that had come loose and was sitting right across the canal with its bow rope dangling in the water. a passing walked on the towpath tried to see if there was anyone on board but had no response.So, we came up very closely so that Christine could hook the rope over our front t-stud, allowing Mike to turn our boat so that both came into the bank. As he did so, a man emerged from the boat seemingly unconcerned and really did not want any further help! We heard later from another boat that they had a similar experience yesterday - except that they did not attempt to re-fix the mooring line.

As we approached the new housing development opposite the more northerly of the two former Courtaulds factories, we could see a very tall crane that we did not recognise from yesterday. As we came past it slowly lifted into place a prefabricated selection of a gable roof feature. We were very impressed by the speed and delicacy with which the operation was handled.

The Ricoh stadium is home to the Wasps rugby club as well as Coventry City. It stands on what was once a large gas works site.

After a brief elsan and rubbish stop at the service station we turned into the basin that marks the start of the Oxford Canal and we passed through the stop lock. Christine helped a hire boat ahead of us - they had only done one lock before this one in the opposite direction. The had started at Clifton and cruised up the Ashby and back, all lock free!

A house just after one of the next road bridges has a very large number of decaying vehicles in its garden, gradually being lost amongst the undergrowth! There must be at least two or three dozen.

Here is the junction with the Wyken Arm that we mentioned when we came the other way - this more clearly shows how the original alignment was to the right of the present one. The arm itself was substantially re-aligned when the motorway was built across it.

When you know what you are looking at, the other end of the original section can also be seen a couple of bridges further on.

Shortly after this we found a mooring for the night as we did not want to end up too closer to the next motorway.

8.6 Miles - 1 Lock

Wednesday 29 August 2018


Today's Canals - Ashby, Coventry

We had plenty of sunshine today and even the grey clouds that very occasionally threatened to drop rain managed to hold off. The temperature was pleasantly mild.

We set off in good time from our overnight mooring amongst the reeds.

It was about an hour to the junction and the start of the Ashby Canal at Marsworth Junction. As we passed near to the edge of Bedworth we came along a narrow section overhung by plenty of vegetation. To one side there is a substantial estate of mobile homes. They all looked well cared for and, where possible, the gardens down to the water have been pleasantry cultivated.

We arrived at the junction and very slowly edged up to the bridge just before joining the Coventry Canal. It was fortunate that we were being cautious as another boat, coming from the right, had no lookout at the front and started to turn rather rapidly onto the Ashby. It looked a little put out that it had to stop and reverse back, They did not find that manoeuvre at all easy!

A little to the south, on the Coventry, we saw this apparent milestone 13. We have not seen any others like it on this canal and where the distance is measured from.

We had intended giving Charity Dock a miss photo-wise but we discovered that it is a rule that passing here is not allowed unless one includes a different picture of the strange characters. In fact, every time we pass we spot something different- including this time the carved cropped tree trunks.

The former Navigation pub at Bulkington Bridge has now been converted to a large home. We commented on it in 2916 when Adam pointed out to us that it had been the pub. Now there is a For Sale sign outside and the agents are asking for offer over £1 million for it.

The next section was once lined by industrial developments, especially coal mining but today nature has reclaimed much of the space and it almost looks rural once more.

At Hawkesbury we paused just long enough to visit the sani station before continuing onwards towards Coventry itself. Most boats turn through the stop lock onto the North Oxford.

Shortly after the junction we passed under the M6 - the large number of pillars holding up the flyover look quite strange.

A little,later we saw this pub and, thinking that it might refer to some interesting part of the local history, we took a photo. However, we later found out that the pub was only given this name in 2010 and has had several other names in its history since opening in 1772.

We spotted a number of these information boards, each of which tells of the experience of a local person living close to the water of the canal.

At Little Heath there have been extensive housing developments on both sides of the canal - the site on the left of the photo was once a Courtaulds factory  making textile fibres and chemicals, as well as cigarette filters. Up to 5000 people worked here in its heyday. The other side is just beginning its development.

Another large Courtaulds factory has been demolished to make way for housing - this time at Foleshill Foad. As we passed, the remaining trees beside the canal were being extensively culled and reduced to just a thin boundary beside the water. This factory produced rayon - some say suitably appropriate as the early industrial history of much of Coventry, including this area, was in the manufacture of ribbons.

Nearing the  city centre we passed by the well known Cash's Hundred Homes. Cash's was started by two Quaker brothers who set about manufacturing quality silk ribbons in the 1840's. Although now very different it remains operating as quality textile company but its eponymous name ribbons, once familiar to many a school child whose parents ordered them to sew into school uniforms and sports gear!

In 1857 the brothers started a new site with enlightened ideas about working conditions. The weavers live in cottages on the ground floor with well lit jacquard looms on the upper floor. They gave these the name Topshop.

A large site just before the main canal basin was where electricity generation for the city was first undertaken in 1895. It used coal from nearby mines and the canals were important in providing the transportation. The electric power station has now closed and a number of the old buildings have been incorporated into a massive re-development along with plenty of newly built houses and apartment blocks.

We arrived at the canal basin hoping to be able to moor for the night. Alas, there are only about 5 or 6 spaces as half of the basin is now occupied by a hire base. There was no room! However, turned and went back under the entrance bridge to the moorings just the other side. Although part of the space is reserved for those using the water points we conclude that enough of the rings were outside this restriction for us to pull in.

Time then for a late lunch after which Mike attended to one or two small maintenance tasks including touching up the paintwork on the rear stern doors.

We walked into the shops for a paper which we readily found. To do this involved crossing the high footbridge over the inner ring road. It made Mike feel a little unsteady - on the way back he definitely did feel a slight wobble. It seems that this is actually a well know feature and some people have even tried to see how much movement they can induce!

We passed the old Grammar School, founded by Henry VIII using a building that started as a hospital in the mid 14C.

After wandering around the shopping centre - Mike bought a new gilet at M&S that Christine spotted last night on their web site - we had about an hour to visit the free Coventry Transport Museum. There is an amazing collection of old transport vehicles, from bicycles to cars and buses. It was well laid out and interesting although we did not really have enough time to do all of it justice. Here are just a few of the exhibits.

We did wonder if Trevanion House Holidays (our former business) might want to replace its fleet of minibuses with replica of this  very early version!

12.2 Miles - 0 Locks