This is the final full day of our adventures on the South Midlands and Grand Union Canal networks. So far we’ve travelled from Rugby towards Banbury, then thought better of it and headed back up to Market Harborough via Braunston, across onto the Welford arm, then on up to the Ashby Canal, and today we’re cutting across to Coventry, before heading back towards Rugby once again.
The Ashby Canal is a busy one (though in fairness most of them around here seem to be), with lots of moored up boats to avoid, and people travelling in all directions.
We set off early this morning, to make use of the cooler morning temperature, but also to get underway before the masses awoke.
Our plan was to drive through the remaining 30 or so bridges on the Ashby, then hang a sharp left at the end onto the Coventry Canal, and stay on it until the very end (there is supposed to be a pleasant marina there), before turning around, and hopping onto the Oxford Canal for one final time.
Our first stop of the day was to fill up with water. We also filled up on a cooked breakfast at the same time. Yum.
After that we carried on along the Ashby, counting down the bridge numbers as we went. Eventually we made it to Bridge 1, and took a sharp left onto the Coventry Canal.
It takes about an hour to get from here to Hawkesbury Junction, and by the time we arrived it was already busy.
The one small stop lock may not take very long to fill or empty (as the water level between the Coventry and the Oxford canals is just a few inches different), but when there are four or five boats trying to get through it in both directions, it can take a while to sort out.
All we wanted to do was head straight on, to get to the terminus of the Coventry Canal, but we still had to wait for an appropriate gap in the queue to weave our way through.
The shift from rural setting into a more urban one is quite jarring. The quantity of graffiti goes up exponentially, and the colour of the water changes. It turns almost black in parts on the Coventry, and there’s rubbish floating around. We even saw the wheels of a stereotypical shopping trolley poking out above the water line!
We were beginning to wonder if this part of the journey was really worth it, we didn’t feel overly safe (there were some very dodgy looking people “hanging around”), and the scenery was inner city grim. Still, we’d come this far, so we carried on.
We were very thankful that we did, as this part of the Coventry Canal ends with a surprisingly quaint and picturesque wharf, including a statue of canal building legend James Brindley.
We took this opportunity to moor up and check out the prop, there was no way we’d driven through that much mess and rubbish without picking something up. And sure enough, after I opened the weed hatch, put my hand in the cold water and felt around for a second I found it all… bits of plastic bag, some fabric strapping, and fishing line.
This detritus was all tightly wrapped around the prop, and took a few minutes of pulling and grunting to remove.
We started the return journey along the Coventry in a brighter mood, despite the bit in the middle that wasn’t pleasant, the end result was worth the effort.
As we travelled back we also spotted coconuts floating in the canal. First one, then another, and then a few more.
The Captain recalled her GCSE Religious Education (with Google as a quick backup) and decided they were part of a Hindu tradition for celebrating life. Sure enough, we passed a Hindu Temple (sadly the view of it was blocked by some thick security fencing so we didn’t manage to get a photo) and everything fell into place.
At least they were coconuts, at first I thought they were dead, bloated rats!
We wended our way back to Hawkesbury Junction, only now the crowds had gone, and we were able to drive straight into the lock. Our last lock of this trip.
It was Captain’s honour to operate the lock whilst the SSO and I remained onboard.
We only had one last swing bridge to get through, and the rest of the journey was counting down bridges.
We moored up around 20:30, another long but enjoyable day.
All things considered, this final stretch was rather uneventful. Just the way we like it. No drama, no animal attacks, no stress. This is life on the inland waterways.
Doesn’t sound so bad really, does it?