After much deliberation and studying of the weather, we decided to start our Cristmas cruise on Christmas eve. It was half past two when we left Hinckley and headed up the Ashby canal. We had no real plans as such, the most important thing was to have an enjoyable few days out on the cut and with no real need to return until January the 4th, our options were definitely open. It gets dark around four o’clock at this time of year, depending on cloud cover so our first leg of the journey ended just outside the Ashby canal centre near Stoke Golding an hour later. Roast rib of beef with yorkshire pudding and mustard enhanced mashed potato warmed us from the inside while the fire and central heating warmed us from the outside.
Christmas morning started with the heating going on at half past six so that by the time we eventually decided to get up and dressed, the boat was warm again and there was a tank full of hot water for showers. We decided to stay where we were and have the day inside. We opened the presents that we had brought with us and then made our ‘phone calls wishing our families a merry Christmas. All too soon and it was time to open the bar and then make a traditional Christmas lunch, both activities were carried off without a hitch and everything was just fine. We had both done what we were good at, Sue cooking and me watching. Of course when it came to eating, we both did our fair share!!!
Boxing day saw us having another lazy start but since it doesn’t get light until eight o’clock, there’s little point in rushing around. We had decided to move on to Market Bosworth and hopefully secure a mooring near the town bridge. We needed to take on water, something that we would normally do at Market Bosworth itself, however we decided to stop at Sutton Cheney on the off chance that we would find other services available. Our normal weekend trips up this way are usually short enough to empty the toilets and dispose of our rubbish when we return to Hinckley, however with the possibility that we might be out for a week or more we would need these services along the way. The guide books only show these services at the end of the navigation but with two trip boats and a number of BW permanent moorings at Sutton Cheney, it seemed logical that there would be service facilities too. An hour later and we discovered that our reasoning was correct so we moored for half an hour while we carried out our essential services. The towpath between Sutton Cheney and Shenton is usually well used by walkers and joggers but today being Boxing Day it was really busy with couples and families partaking in the traditional annual “let’s get some fresh air and walk off the exceses of Christmas Day “ walk. As we approached Market Bosworth, the engine slowed before finally cutting out. We re-started it and moved on tickover to the visitor moorings where we found a space without any trouble. We walked up to the town and discovered that there were no shops open, only the pubs so we had a quick drink in the very busy Red Lion before heading back to the canal. I guessed that the engine problem was fuel starvation so I changed the fuel filter and that cured the problem. We closed the doors, set up the heating and the fire before settling in for the evening, devouring the rest of the roast beef with more yorkshire pudding along the way.
Saturday the 27th came and we decided that we would not travel any further up the Ashby because the weather forecast showed sub zero temperatures from Tuesday onwards. We decided to have another day in Market Bosworth and at nine o’clock we were striding up “heart attack “ hill. A short stop at the Co-op for a basketful of essentials and then we returned to the boat for another lazy day.
Sunday the 28th saw us starting to re-trace our steps with a short stop for services at Sutton Cheney again before carrying on to Stoke Golding again. So far everything had gone well for us, our only concern at this stage was whether we had enough coal and peat for the fire. It would be close but we had burned more than we had anticipated and whilst we had the heating system, it would be nice to keep the chill off the boat overnight by leaving the fire in. No sooner had we gathered all of our solid fuel reserves together and worked out a plan to conserve enough to feed the fire overnight, than the coal boat arrived. Sue quickly flagged him down and we soon had another hundred kilos of coal on board, the canal spirits were certainly looking after us on this trip!
Monday the 29th was to be the last day of our winter cruise, we could have stayed out for almost another week but with the weather set to turn very cold for the rest of the week, we decided to head for home. Winter on the canal is very different to summer cruising, the cold creeps into your bones if you stay out on deck too long. The water freezes easily and then you are faced with the coice of smashing the ice or sitting tight until it melts. We had been able to choose when to move and when to stop and although we didn’t travel very far, it was those elements that made it all enjoyable. It would have been a shame to spoil our Christmas cruise with a few needless days of freezing weather so we got up, got dressed and cruised the last hour back to Hinckley. We had all our stuff off the boat and were back home by eleven o’clock, happy and relaxed.