Sunday 29 March 2015

North Oxford and Coventry Canals. Newbold on Avon To Coventry and back.

While we were on the visitor moorings at Newbold, some local oiks thought it would be funny to swipe a flower bucket off the front of Legend and chuck it in the canal. It had the Valentine’s Day snowdrops that we’d brought with us from the house, and we were rather hoping for several more years of enjoyment from them. Whoever launched it can’t have extracted more than 2 seconds worth of fun from the act and we feel sorry for them if that’s the limit of their imagination….. That’s not strictly true; we’re furious and we’d dearly love the opportunity to make them go and get it.

In the late 1920s the Oxford canal between Braunston and Hawkesbury junction was significantly straightened and, as a result, shortened by nearly 14 miles. This was done using cuttings, embankments and, at Newbold, a tunnel. It’s a quite small affair compared to the gigantic bore at Netherton, but built to exactly the same design, i.e. two boats wide with a tow path on both sides.  In 2005 floodlights were installed in the tunnel which cast purple and green light across the roof and looked fabulous. Apparently the last bulb failed a couple of years ago so it’s all dark again now.
In order to allow access the wharves and warehouses on the loops that were left behind when all this improvement was carried out, graceful, cast iron towpath bridges from Horseley Ironworks were installed, many of which remain.
We went from Newbold to Ansty with Kim and George on board and moored opposite the Rose and Castle. Marked on our map was a bridge from the towpath to the pub car park, however no such bridge appeared as we rounded the final bend. A pile of bricks suggested that there may have - up until quite recently - been a bridge at that location. Our faithful Canal Plan website shows the story of what occurred and why it's not there any more.  This made things a bit awkward as we’d deposited Kim’s car in the aforementioned car park that morning. Luckily there was a footbridge a quarter of a mile or so behind us so it wasn’t too bad.

From Ansty we went through Hawkesbury Junction - AKA Sutton Stop - onto the Coventry canal where we turned right.
This was so we could fill in a missing bit of our log and navigate up to Marsden Junction which was the limit of our journey from the other end of the Coventry last year.
Our trip took us past the amazingly haphazard and utterly chaotic Charity Dock boat yard at Bedworth,
before we winded in the junction and returned to Hawkesbury.

Kim, Luke and George joined us once again for the final section of the Coventry Canal; the trip into the city. They used to live there and know it quite well, but like John in Leeds, have never seen the other side of it from the water.
Bishop’s Street Basin is at the end of the line, right on the edge of the city centre, and we were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get there after hearing tales of woe about the state of things. There was lots of evidence of off-side vegetation clearance and litter picking, and towpath improvement work was going on as we passed by, all of which has no doubt improved things of late. We didn’t pick up anything on the prop, despite ignoring advice about gliding through bridge holes and never going over tickover, and we thought the basin itself, with its statue of Mr Brindley waiting to greet you, was smashing.
Later on it got a bit noisy with the nightclub just behind it, but we were in a city on a Saturday night for goodness sake.

At about 1am there was a clonk on the roof. Dave looked out to find three lads standing right outside the window, one of whom had just put his beer bottle down. There were a couple of minutes while they stood chatting without noticing him, then he knocked on the window. They nearly fell over each other then, bottles in hand, they made a hurried, apologetic exit to the other side of the basin while we went back to bed with the giggles.
Next morning, after a trip to Ikea and Wickes for a new bed base, (more about that later) we retraced our steps under the tiny number 1 bridge and back out to Hawkesbury, where we moored up just before the water point and our passengers departed.

Since we’d left our new Squirrel stove at Dave’s sister’s house we’ve been on the lookout for a handy spot to tranship it onto the boat.
This one seemed ideal, so we shot off to Derby to pick it up. Getting it to the boat from the car was easy enough, but actually manoeuvring it through the doors took a little more planning. We did it though, and it now resides in the lounge next to the old one.
Maybe if we leave them alone there’ll be little squirrels running around the boat.


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