Saturday 31 July 2021


It's a long time since we added a boat to our list of Tolkien-themed names. But today, coming through Glascote to Fazeley, we encountered Arwen – we already had Arwen Evenstar.

Not quite as fair as the original, I fear. If you want to see the entire list, which now numbers 27, click the link, or this link.

The rest of today's journey was marked by edifices of a non-Elvish nature. The M42 – we must have traversed this section many times without realising there was a canal underneath.

Alvecote marina – I don't think Elves would have produced anything quite so utilitarian.

…and the aqueduct over the River Tame.

We're tied up on the visitor moorings at Fazeley. This place has some happy memories for us, but it's more like the factories of Orthanc than the Shire.

Friday 30 July 2021

Rain, repairs and roses

The Met Office website promised some serious rain for today. We have some time in hand, so considered staying put on our Atherstone mooring. However, by noon it looked as though the threat might have been overstated, so we took off down the remaining 6 locks of the Atherstone flight.

There were engineers mending something on the top gate of the first lock. They didn't seem to be at all worried by boats coming through as they worked.

A little lower down the flight, my best beloved spotted this wild rose in splendid bloom.

The rain returned. By the bottom of the flight we were pretty wet. By the time we'd filled up the water tank at a convenient service point we were soaked. By the time we passed Bridge 49 we were saturated, so we pulled in where canal-side trees promised some shelter from the wind.

We even have signal for accessing the outside world. But we're glad to be inside.

Thursday 29 July 2021

Farewell to the Ashby

There are some canals we have quite cheerfully visited on more than one occasion. The Shroppie (Shropshire Union) is a case in point, along with its side-arms to Middlewich and Llangollen. We have always relished timing a visit to Audlem for the weekend, so we can join in with the folk session at the Shroppie Fly. But while it's been good to cruise the Ashby, I don't think we'll be in a hurry to go back. No locks, and not a massive amount of interest along the way. The site of the Battle of Bosworth ("a horse – my kingdom for a horse") was just a bit too far to walk, and the food at the one pub we patronised was about OK, but not really worth the price ticket. Anyway, we finally reached the end of our return journey this morning.

We'd rung Streethay Wharf before setting out, as we needed to know whether they could fit in a radiator system check. So at Marston Junction through the bridge we turned right to re--trace our steps up the Coventry Canal. Four days or so to cover what would take you half an hour or less in the car. But having the radiators working properly will mean we can be more flexible with the timing of the repair to the solid fuel burner's chimney.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Pumping it out

Last night we had an early bird meal (2 for £9) at the Brewer's Fayre restaurant opposite where we were moored. It was good value and we didn't mind having to get in before 6 p.m. The building is rather fancy, with a high, sloping vault over tables that look onto the canal. From where I was sitting I could see, just down the wharf a little, another sloping construction that, from behind, looked as though it might be a huge solar panel or a placard of some sort.

It turned out to be the roof of the pump-out station! Since we knew the tank was nearly full, we pulled across in the morning and availed ourselves of the facilities. Then it was dodge-a-shower time as we headed back towards the start of this cul-de-sac canal.

Finding a good-enough mooring, we had lunch in the sun, then under a few drops of rain, then in the sun again. I thought it was worth while trying to get the next coat of primer on the front locker. Half-way through the clouds started playing silly games again, so I had to improvise.

That's me, painting under the tarpaulin, photo courtesy of my best beloved. When we bought our solar panel, some years ago, I had discovered the value to the intrepid boater of car-roof magnets. You may be able to spot two of them, holding down the two ends of the tarpaulin, while I work underneath. Now that's something you can't do on a Sea Otter!

Tuesday 27 July 2021


This was certainly a first! Approaching Hinckley from the north this morning, we looked, and blinked, and blinked again.

Yes, it really was a group of doves, on a cover over the stern of this boat.

I know that pigeons are trained to know their home, and return to it. But how do you teach them that home is a cover over the stern of a narrowboat? Wonders will never cease.

And what do you do with the doo-poo?

Monday 26 July 2021


Coming south from Congerstone, we came past a field with some donkeys, though there weren't quite as many as when we were going north. Not sure whether or not it is a donkey sanctuary.

It was a suitable metaphor for the way I'd got grounded five minutes earlier. We had passed a sign for a farm shop "just a minute away", so I was trying to get into the side to stop. Unfortunately the canal is so shallow here that you certainly grind to halt, but not at all in the position you want to be. I managed to get off the front, but no amount of pulling on the bow or centre lines had any effect. I tried to pole the front off, without success. In the end I took the pole to the stern, and managed to push it into slightly deeper water, where I could reverse out. Carefully, because we were in danger of hitting the shallows on the other side of the canal.

It was 10 minutes of unwanted activity, and we never even made it to the farm shop. Donkey indeed! 

Sunday 25 July 2021


We joined in with our church on-line today, and then went down into Congerstone for Sunday lunch at the Horse and Jockey. Fortified and back on Erin Mae, it was time to continue with sorting out the right front locker.

Yesterday's application of Fertan to "convert" the rusty bits seemed to have been successful, so now it was time for some primer.

The darkest bits of the base are where the Fertan has got to work, while the lighter section on the right is where the old Hammerite was still apparently doing its job. On the left is the first coat of primer going down.

The datasheet for my International Yacht Primer says to give it four coats, and I'm quite happy to put that amount down. The tin I had is from two years ago, and I'd already used about 80% of it, so there was a solid crust which took a bit of removing. Even after a good stir the remainder had lumps and bits in it, but I picked those off as we went along. This is not a cosmetic affair, especially given the roughness of the base from the corrosion. However, I'll probably open my new tin for the sides.

So far, everything is going according to plan.

Saturday 24 July 2021


We had all sorts of plans for bits of boat maintenance while on this trip. Two years ago I had painted the inside of one of the lockers in the cratch, and was pretty pleased with the result, given that I was still in the process of learning to paint Erin Mae's metalwork. Now it was the turn of the right-hand locker.

I think the previous owner had encountered some rust in this locker and had used Hammerite paint on it. You're supposed to be able to apply it over rusty bits, but my past experience is that the result can be a bit hit and miss. The entire base was showing signs of corrosion and I wasn't sure – or especially competent to determine – how deep it went. I asked engineering John in the marina, and he was very unconcerned. 1 mm of steel, he said, produces about an inch of rust – it always looks worse than it is. He recommended hitting it hard with a ball-ended hammer to break up the rust. He even lent me an angle grinder with a sort of flexible sanding disc to take off the loosened rust. 

After a first session with a hammer I went down to B&Q to get some ear protectors – my tinnitus didn't need the extra excitation. The overall results were promising, though I gave up on any attempt to get back to bare steel. The angle grinder wasn't as productive as I'd hoped. I thought we'd be continuing with this project as our cruise got under way.

It didn't quite work out as planned. First there was simply the business of getting used to cruising again. Then the heat wave struck. But today, finally, progress was made. We cruised for just a couple of hours back from the terminus of the Ashby Canal before tying up at Congerstone. The temperature is down about 10˚ from what it was, and at last I could continue the work on the locker without melting or burning. I used my Dremmel with a wire brush attachment to finish cleaning up the base of the locker, and got a coat of Fertan rust treatment down.

No pictures today – it was too late by the time I'd finished. I don't know whether my efforts will even out the roughness caused by the corrosion – I have plans for a great many coats of primer / undercoat / bilge paint!

Friday 23 July 2021


We did 10½ miles today, made possible by the complete change to the overcast conditions of today. The downside of less sun is that the photos are less sparkling! 

The canal tends to close in a bit north of Sutton Cheney, though at one point we did encounter the broadest and deepest stretch of all, making good speed for half a mile or so. Towards the end of our journey we had to go through Snarestone Tunnel (250 yards).

It's still a bit scary going underground, even though we're used to it by now. It's especially so when the tunnel has a slight curve or is offset from the main direction of the canal, so you can't see the other end as you approach. However, all was well and, shortly afterwards, we tied up at the 48 hour moorings at the furthest extent of the navigation.

Just around the corner is the swing bridge that leads onto the Ashby Canal Association's section, with a wharf where they have a shop and café.

Beyond that is a stretch of a few hundred yards where you can take your boat if you ask nicely.

One of the notable features of the Ashby has been the bench-seats donated by members of the society and others, dotted regularly along its length. and we've been struck by the numbers of couples making use of the towpath for a walk. Just round the next corner you come to Bridge 62.

Seeing the notice up close, you might be fooled into thinking this bridge had quite a history.

In fact, I'm reliably informed it's an old farm bridge recently renovated. Whatever, I went up to get a picture of what the ACA are hoping to turn into fully fledged canal-in-water.

This hole is fine for winding if your boat is 50' or less. If we brought Erin Mae up here, we'd have to reverse the whole way back.

So here we are at the current terminus. One of the interesting features at this point is an old pumping station.

In the grounds of the shop are a couple of beams from the old engine.

I assumed that this would be the pump for the canal, but the chappie in the shop (bored out of his mind on a customer-free day) informed us that it was for providing fresh water for Hinckley, and that the canal's water comes from the Coventry Canal (which we left at Marston Junction).

Over 4 hours travel today. It wasn't quite the slog that it might have been, but I don't think we'll be in a hurry to repeat the exercise! 

Thursday 22 July 2021

Sutton Cheney

When my best beloved was a little girl, she and her mum called willow herb "Maggie Anne's weed", for reasons best forgotten. We've tied up today at a CRT 2 day mooring where Maggie Anne could have gathered her fill.

It's a busy spot, Sutton Wharf, with café and ice-cream boat 100 yards back, where we countered the heat of the day with an iced latte each.

A couple of days ago I wrote about the isolation of our spot in the Warwickshire countryside. That was before the evening brought out a load of boy racers on a nearby main road, and a kennel full of dogs began to give tongue for a couple of hours. This bit of the Ashby may well be a little like that but, for the most part, it's a much more pastoral affair.

The farmers have been making use of the hot weather.

Wednesday 21 July 2021


The ancient name of this town apparently means something like "Hinck's meadow". I've long assumed that it was the origin of my own surname, of which there are (were) many examples in the local Leicestershire telephone directory, as opposed to about three in the whole of Greater London. Some years ago I came through here on a train and, having seen the part of the town shown to passengers in transit, never felt any inclination to make a further visit.

But here we are. And Hinckley has a district museum. Since it had a flourishing hosiery business from centuries ago, that sounded promising, so we moored up and caught the bus into town. The driver dropped us outside the door.

It was in a building like this that they had installed the hosiery machine that kickstarted the factory phase of the industry and we were looking forward to seeing the exhibits. I'd checked the website before we went, but I should have checked it better. It's only open on Saturdays!

I can confirm what I had always suspected – walking round the middle of Hinckley on a hot day holds few delights. Mind you, if it's a Saturday when we come back through, we might just make the journey again.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

New territory

Nuneaton is not our favourite town for boating. The last and only time we came through (in the opposite direction), we picked up all sorts of rubbish around the propeller. The canal is really shallow, and some places seem to offer themselves as moorings, only for you to find that you can't get in near enough to the towpath. However, we did manage to find a place to tie up for long enough for me to walk a couple of hundred yards to a Sainsbury's Local that we'd found on the map. And the people were very friendly. 

Then it was down to Marston Junction.

We've never been on the Ashby Canal before.

However, everyone seems to say it is very picturesque, a bit under-visited (because it's a dead-end) and well worth a visit. It has a reputation for being shallow.

So we've moored up in the first spot we could find and, because we're now facing north-west-east are enjoying a bit of shade from the towpath trees.

Monday 19 July 2021


Coming up the remaining 5 locks of the Atherstone flight this morning was made easier by various people who assisted. At the top lock there was a CRT volunteer who wound and pushed and pulled in the most helpful way. I told him he'd get an honourable mention on the blog tonight, so here he is:

I asked him what he was called, and I think he said "Coley", which would have been the first time anyone responded to this question with their surname. But my best beloved later said it might have been "Charlie". Anyway, thank you, Coley / Charlie. You're a star!

The top lock is very nicely kept, and the cottage is a treat.

So now we have no locks for the foreseeable future. Just as well, really, given the heat. We'd had about enough after a couple of hours today, and tied up in a beautiful, lonely spot in the wilds of Warwickshire, with only the odd tractor or two for company.

Of course, the sunshine has been great for the solar panel.

18 amps into the system. Enough to compensate for the washing machine, without the engine running. And the sun dried the result as well, in just a couple of hours.

However, one of the effects of being out in the sticks is that there may be an inadequate signal for getting this post posted. We shall see…

Sunday 18 July 2021


We wanted to visit Atherstone for some provisions – they have an Aldi and a good Co-op within walking distance of the towpath. But at that point the canal rises through a flight of 11 locks, with mooring space limited. The maps indicated that there was a stretch of 48 hour moorings near to the best access point for the town. But designated moorings are designated for a reason (they're convenient and popular) so you can never tell whether they will also be full up. There were some earlier sites, but they would have entailed walking much further in temperatures pushing towards the 90s.

So we took a gamble on the 48 hour having space. If we lost, we'd have to go up the remaining 5 locks and find somewhere beyond – but that would be out of range of the town centre. Fortunately (!) we won.

Throughout the afternoon other boats pulled in. I'd been feeling a bit guilty about leaving a potentially unusable space between Erin Mae and the boat behind. But then someone came in with a boat about 30 foot long, which fitted just fine!

It's a noisy spot (car traffic on the A5 and trains), so I don't think we'll be using our 48 hour allowance. But we're in better shape than what my best beloved snapped as we came through.

Saturday 17 July 2021


As we came through Polesworth, we saw a notice across Bridge 52 – Polesworth Abbey was a 5 minute walk from either Bridge 52 or Bridge 51. Well, for us that's quite a lot of what the boating adventure is about – encountering things you never would in the normal course of events. So we pulled in just after Bridge 51 and set out to find the Abbey.

It would have helped if I'd looked at the map first. Then we'd have known to go downhill from the bridge. Even without the map I should have known. Think "Abbey": river, fishpool, mill, water meadows, etc. Instead I was thinking "city set on a hill" – stupid! So we had a longer walk than necessary, finding our way all around Polesworth until we got there. It was rather impressive from the outside.

It said "Open for private prayer", and we thought we could live with that. But the lock on the door to the North Porch hadn't been told about the notice, so whether the Abbey is as impressive on the inside remains to be seen. That's a shame, because the Christian witness on this spot dates back to Saxon times, and it would have been nice to have seen some of things linking us all the way back to them.

As can be seen, it was a hot day, 30˚ this afternoon, so we were glad to find a shorter route back to the boat. It involved crossing a bridge over the River Anker, and some of the locals were using the facilities to cool off.

We were tempted, but not for long. Back at Erin Mae we found we'd tied up just in front of Liz and Graham (NB Reeve), who are also members of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship. Liz brought out some excellent home-made fruit cake as we brought our multiple glasses of water out to the towpath and sat down for a natter.

Friday 16 July 2021


In Fazeley, on the outskirts of Tamworth, live David and Mary, longstanding stalwarts of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship. Their boat, Kew, is old, long and traditional, and like nothing else we've ever come across.

Fazeley was our target for today. We tied up opposite David and Mary's house, and found that John and Jane, also BCF members, were moored just below Kew. So we popped across and had a very merry cuppa with them all in David and Mary's garden.

We had some other little successes today. We survived the heat, and managed to process a load of washing. We were able to purchase a cylinder of gas in Fazeley Mill Marina – apparently one side-effect of the pandemic had been a national shortage of standard 13 Kg containers. And the engine's overheating was held within reasonable limits. All in all, a good day.

Thursday 15 July 2021

Streethay Wharf

A new owner bought Streethay Wharf not so long ago, but it still retains the feel of a traditional boatyard.

(Photo courtesy of the internet and A.Non)

After a sandwich on the move, we called in as planned to follow up on conversations about sorting out the water ingress that had caused the chimney of Erin Mae's solid fuel fire to corrode. Today's chat was really helpful, though the time frame for fixing everything is still longer than we would have liked, and it looks as though we shall cruise the Ashby Canal before any heating issues are resolved. If the weather stays like it is, that will not be a problem!

We also discussed yesterday's overheating engine. Nigel thought it was probably a slightly sticky thermostat taking a while to wake up after 20 months inactivity. Monitor it (he said), and it will probably sort itself out. We shall see. At least there is no shortage of hot water for showers at the end of s sticky day!

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Up and away

May, in case you'd forgotten, was wet, cold and horrible. With no heating in Erin Mae, it was not the time to be boating. In June, our GP kept arranging extra appointments for my best beloved. In the end, it was not until the beginning of July that we could come up to Great Haywood and get settled in for some boating. And with all that needed to be transferred from home (think: guitar, accordion, contents of larder and fridge, tools, etc, etc.), it was more than one car trip. I hadn't realised was how much we had forgotten about life aboard. Basic things like how much food do we need, faced with no freezer and a fridge much smaller than the one(s) at home. And trying to remember what there is to worry about.

On Monday we drove over to Streethay Wharf to talk with the boatyard about sorting out Erin Mae's chimney. I'd talked about this with the proprietor in November 2019, and he's a glass-half-full person. Monday we didn't see him, and the visit was rather different, but at least we were told we could bring the boat across and see what could be done. I'm hoping the proprietor will be on site when we get there.

So yesterday we finally emptied the waste tank, filled the water tank and left the marina behind. Over the last year and a half my best beloved's body has been playing up in various ways, and our first concern was how we would manage the locks. As it happened, we had help at the first two we negotiated, and they went fine. We sauntered gently to Rugeley for the night, did a quick shop this morning in Morrison's and Rugeley's excellent fruit and veg emporium, and then cruised for about 3 hours towards Fradley. Tied up just above Wood End lock.

Yesterday, the rev counter I'd fitted a few years ago was behaving erratically. That's not a major problem, partly because I know how to judge engine speed without it. However, it also has an integrated engine-hours counter, and I'd been using that for my log. It's all going to get horribly out of sync. I know what the problem is – the connection between a couple of wires in the engine compartment. Unfortunately, since Maplin went out of business last year, it's become more complicated to get the bits and pieces for sorting it out.

More seriously, today I noticed that the engine was overheating. There are only a few things (I think) which can cause this. I'll check the oil and the anti-freeze mixture once the engine has cooled. It might be the thermostat, as it was once before, and that's not expensive to replace. But it was interesting to be back in worry-worry mode. Jesus said: "Why do you worry about tomorrow? Today's got enough worries of its own!" But it's today's worries I'm worried about!

I'm rather hoping that, when we get to Streethay Wharf tomorrow or Friday, we find lots of glass-half-full people saying things like "No problem!", "Not a hassle!", "Give me a minute and we'll have it fixed!"