Atherstone (helping a care home escapee)

We stayed in Hawkesbury on Wednesday and took things easy.  I was sitting outside in the evening waiting for Karen to come home and next door’s cat was becoming quite brave.  She kept coming out to eye Buddy up.  The neighbours and I had a good laugh watching the way the two animals behaved.  If Buddy went to the cat it would scamper into the boat and Buddy would stand looking through the side hatch whilst the cat stood its ground and stared at him from the kitchen counter a couple of feet away.

Buddy and Kath’s cat eyeing each other up in the late evening sun

We have put together a plan (yes, on an Excel spreadsheet) for getting to Northwich over the next couple of weeks.  I have tried to save a lot of the locks until the weekends when Karen will be around. Obviously when we are up in Cheshire, where most of the locks are, she won’t be around so I will have to do those on my own.  We have also had to factor in overnight stops during the week where Karen can easily park the car.

On the plan I had to travel ten miles to the top of the Atherstone flight of locks on Thursday so Buddy and I set off about 9.30 in the morning which is early for us these days. First we had to go down the Sutton’s stop lock at Hawkesbury Junction and make a tight 180 degree turn onto the Coventry canal.

The stop lock – a height of only six inches but it meant boaters had to stop to pay a toll to pass from one canal to another.

Such a shame – the roof has caved in on the old toll office – I do hope it gets restored but it’s bound to be expensive

As it was early there were no customers sitting outside the pub overlooking the turn and there were no tourists wandering around. Because it was quiet I executed the turn perfectly in one go without touching any sides.  Of course, as soon as there are spectators something always goes wrong.

Canal signpost: Rugby, back down the Oxford canal where we had come from; Coventry, south to the start of the canal; Atherstone, north to the half way point of the Coventry canal

Starting our trip northwards up the Coventry canal.  Original steam pumping station on the left

A couple of miles up the canal is Marston Junction where the Ashby canal heads off for a pleasant 22 mile, lock free, journey to Shackerstone.  Hinckley is the only town on the canal and it doesn’t take long to get through it fortunately. We last went up the Ashby canal in the winter of 2014.

In the distance is a boat coming off the Ashby canal to join us.  Not really clear from the photograph but it is a blind junction straight onto a blind bridge one way and a sharp corner the other.

Passing the start of the Ashby canal at Marston Junction

Our journey took us through Bedworth and Nuneaton; both of which look a lot better in the summer, but the towpaths and water are still full of litter.  Once out of the built up areas we stopped for lunch besides Judkins granite quarry.

Lunchtime stop by a good old fashioned telegraph pole with ceramic pots followed by a quick walk for Buddy

Despite its name, the Coventry canal is rural for most of its length

Contractors carrying out some dredging

By early afternoon we hit Atherstone and the plan had been to moor at the visitor moorings at the top of the 11 lock flight.  That way Karen and I would do the locks together over the weekend.  There were no spaces available, which we have never known before at these moorings, so I had to carry on and start the descent.  Further down the flight there are a couple of longer pounds so I knew I could moor up somewhere.

Approaching the top of the Atherstone flight

The first five locks are rather pleasant in the shade of overhanging trees

Looking back up from one lock to the previous one

There were volunteer lock keepers on duty at the first couple of locks which made it easy for me as I didn’t have to leave the boat.

Volunteer lock keeper operating the lock for me

After the first five locks there is a longer pound with easy access to the centre of the town.  We moored up so I could pop into the shops if needed.  I checked the recipe I was going to use for the evening meal and found that we had everything.  So I didn’t need to go into town and, as we were moored next to the noisy A5, we set off to find a quieter mooring.  

A guy on his own was just in front of us so I helped him through the first lock and then we went through ourselves.  When we got to the next lock I couldn’t believe that he had gone through and left the bottom gates wide open.  I was really rather cross especially as he knew I was on my own.  Anyway the lock was by a small marina and a woman was watering the plants in the attractive garden so I calmed down by talking to her for a while.  All the dwellers in the marina take turns to do the watering, deadheading and bulb planting etc., which is a really nice way to do things and keep the gardens looking good.

Little tunnel for me to go up and close the gates as we leave the lock

Buddy happy taking the boat through a lock by himself

We finally moored up in the countryside after the first seven locks.  My son, Steve, called me just after we had moored up and as I was talking to him a chap appeared next to me and started responding as if I was talking to him.  I soon realised that his responses were nothing to do with what I was saying.  He seemed really enamoured with the boat and flowers and we talked away without making any sense whatsoever. After a while I saw a guy walking purposefully towards us and he introduced himself to me explaining that he had been looking for Donald for about two hours.  Poor Donald was suffering from dementia and had escaped from his care home.  Staff had searched the town and had then spread the net wider. Fortunately this carer had some intuition that made him walk a mile down the towpath to find Donald.

Ironically the only understandable part of our conversation had been that Donald wanted to live on a boat with flowers when he grows up.  Karen’s view was that sounded like the sort of thing I would say.

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