Thursday 1st April
We have been reading weather forecast after weather forecast, trying to decide whether or not we can venture out on to the canal for the Easter weekend. Unfortunately, it seems that the BBC have become as discredited as the Met Office when it comes to forecasting the weather. Presumably someone in that organisation has decided to work to extremes on the basis that by forecasting heavy rain and high winds , no-one will complain when the weather turns out to be better than forecast.
We took the decision to provision the boat and wait until Good Friday before taking our chances with the elements and cruising towards the Marston Junction and the Coventry canal.
Friday 2nd April
We rolled out of bed at seven o’clock and made our final preparations for our trip. We had decided to be philosophical about the weather and just accept whatever nature threw at us. By nine o’clock we were pulling out of the marina heading in a south-westerly direction on the Ashby canal. It was a bit windy and we endured the odd shower but our trip to Marston Junction was a pleasant one. Turning right on to the Coventry canal around eleven o’clock we were congratulating ourselves on making the decision to spend the weekend aboard ‘Phoenix III’.
An hour later and we reached Nuneaton where we moored beyond the bridge near the Cock & Bear pub.
Nuneaton gets very little coverage in Nicholson and Pearson guides. It’s a shame really because although it is true to say that it is not a town that is making the best of it’s canal presence, it really is worth stopping there. A ten minute walk brings the canal traveller into the town centre with its shops, pubs, banks and market. We made that walk, not for the first time and had a drink in the Jailhouse which is just behind the Ropewalk shopping centre. A walk around brought us to the George Elliot Hotel, named after the town’s greatest “son” (look it up if you don’t know about George!). We walked back to the boat after another drink and then settled down for the night on our mooring, safe and quiet and near the flats that stand on the land which was previously the old football ground belonging to Nuneaton Borough. It would be good to think that the residents of these relatively new dwellings are occasionally disturbed by the odd ghostly call of a supporter shouting “Up the borough” or maybe even have the unnerving experience of seeing the ghost of a former player scoring a goal at the town end of Manor Park. We listened to some music, ate our dinner and watched a bit of telly before retiring for the evening.
Saturday 3rd April
We both slept soundly before waking at seven o’clock. The sky was blue and we laughed again at how we were having a good time despite the pessimism of the BBC weathermen. By nine o’clock we had dressed and eaten breakfast before setting off for Atherstone. The trip took us two hours and along the way we took it in turn to shower and change in to clean clothing, taking advantage of the hot water generated by the engine running.
We pulled into Atherstone just after eleven o’clock and tied up before walking into town. A wander around the shops preceded a spot of lunch in the Red Lion where we watched Chelsea beat Manchester Utd, life just doesn’t get much better than this!!!
We returned to the boat and after turning her around, taking on water and getting rid of our rubbish at Atherstone top lock, we made our way back in the direction of Nuneaton, tying up for the night just outside the BW yard at Hartshill. The rain started shortly after but with our mooring secure and a roaring fire, we were happy enough.
Easter Sunday, 4th April
The day dawned, getting light around seven o’clock and we slowly came around to face Easter Sunday. The great thing about this trip has been that there has been no pressure on our time. We had some crumpets for breakfast before untying and leaving Hartshill just before ten o’clock. We enjoyed a lovely cruise to Nuneaton and moored back at the Cock & Bear bridge an hour and a half later. We toddled off into town to discover that all of the shops were closed. Luckily enough the pubs weren’t closed so we had lunch in the local Weatherspoon’s, a building which apparently used to belong to a funeral director called Smith. This escapade is worthy of a separate article so I won’t inflict this story on you, dear reader, at this moment in time.
On returning to the Phoenix, we once again thanked our lucky stars that we have the ability to spend our leisure time out on the canal system. We untied and set off back towards Marston Junction with no real plan in mind. The great thing about this, the “Let’s stick two fingers up to the BBC weathermen” tour has been that it really is a very relaxing break for both of us. At the junction with the Ashby canal we pushed on past and made our way to Hawkesbury Junction. Turning around at the junction with the Oxford canal we headed back and moored up on the visitor moorings. After dinner we took a walk to the Greyhound, purely for the exercise although it seemed a little rude not to have a drink at this ancient watering hole so we imbibed and spent a few minutes there.
We returned to our floating cottage at seven o’clock and settled down for the night.
Easter Monday, 5th April
Seven o’clock in the morning and it wasn’t time to wake up so we both went back to sleep and had another hour.
Eight o’clock in the morning seemed a much more sensible time to get up and have a cup of tea so we did. By ten o’clock we had managed to get dressed and motivate ourselves to the stage that we were setting off and heading back home. Sadly, the wind was quite strong and we had to battle our way around Marston Junction back on to the Ashby canal an hour after leaving our berth at Hawkesbury. Just after midday we reached the Limekilns on the A5 where we tied up and went for lunch. What a laugh we had! Our meals were superb but the entertainment was excellent thanks to the clientele which consisted of some of the boating fraternity. One boater, a bearded scruffy type who reminded us of the Owen Newitt character in the Vicar of Dibley played by Roger Lloyd Pack , bragged about how his boat was “like an oven inside”, Gary the landlord asked him if that was because the inside was covered in grease and had a knob on it!
Mooring at the Limekilns is a bit like being just on the other side of the wardrobe in Narnia. We decided to stay on the boat overnight but took the opportunity to go home and have a shower and get a change of clothes first. So there we were, afloat on the Ashby canal (favourite canal), outside the LImekilns (favourite pub), next to the A5 (George’s favourite road). Tomorrow we will have to get back into the marina, tie up and then return home before going to work.
Wednesday 7th April
Well we didn’t make it back to the marina yesterday but after work today, we took a stroll round to the Limekilns where we collected the boat and made the final leg of the journey. Half an hour later and we were in and tied up. We carried out our usual chores before walking back home.