30th June 2020
We leave Long Itchington today and we travel just four miles, negotiating ten locks, including a staircase lock which we haven’t done since we were on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal 2 years ago. The Basecote Locks are a set of four locks and includes a canal staircase lock, where the bottom gate of the top lock is the top gate of the bottom lock, with no pound between they are cheaper to build than standard locks and a greater drop in a shorter space can be achieved. These locks originally built as single locks were modernised in the 1030's into wide locks.
Even though we are only covering four miles today there are two water points on this journey so I took advantage of this by getting two loads of washing done while cruising. An automatic washing machine is fairly water hungry, I do find that there needs to be balance between water usage and the need to replenish so this takes a bit of practice to achieve. I therefore tend to do washing when I know that we are on the way to the next water tap!
Heading West now, we cruise through some quiet wooded countryside while descending the six Fosse Locks which are widely spaced, finally mooring near the quiet village of Radford Semele.
Although we stay here for two weeks, the earlier days of our stay are marred with long days of heavy rain and high winds so we really don't manage to get out very much. we manage a trip to the local Asda which is about 15 mins cycle ride away and its all on good cycle paths. The car hire firm Enterprise has an office about 15 mins walk so we hire a car for 4 days and return to Kent to visit our daughter and family whom we haven't seen since Christmas! We were due to visit in April but Covid 19 put a stop to that visit. On our return we stock up with some supplies again from Asda and manage a walk around the local country park before heading into Leamington Spar.
26th June 2020
We hadn't intended to cruise today as the weather forecast was for frequent thunderstorms. As we had ten locks to do we really didn't want to get caught in a torrential downpour! However after showering I rechecked the weather app and the thunderstorms were now predicted to be at the end of the day. As we were both up and showered by 0730, we decided to make an early start to get through the locks before it got too hot as temperatures were predicted to be in excess of 30 degrees C. We were planning to moor somewhere near Long Itchington as they have a local Co-op store there where we can pick up some groceries.
We leave our mooring just past Bridge 20 on the Grand Union Canal main line by 8am and cruise just 3 miles. We pass Nelsons Wharf, the home of Willow Wren Training before descending the ten Stockton Locks. Sometimes known as the Itchington Ten these were originally built as single locks but were modernised into wide locks in the 1930’s. You can still see the remains of the old single locks beside the newer wide ones.
As we approach the bottom lock a couple come out of their cottage to walk their dogs and kindly open the lock gates for us. This first lock turned out to be the only one in our favour, the remaining nine being set against us. As we travelled through lock 8, a viewer (Mick) of our YouTube channel came out of his boat and had a chat with us. We also purchased a couple of Magnum Ice creams here for later in the day, although they cost a whopping £2.50 each!
After descending lock 8 we filled our water tank at the water tap opposite The Blue Lias Inn, a well kept and attractive canal side pub, which is sadly closed due to Covid 19. The pub sign shows a picture of a dinosaur, which I believe is a reference to the many fossils found in the locally produced Blue Lias stone also used in the construction of the Thames embankment.
After descending the remaining two locks we moor up with some difficulty just past an old railway bridge near Long Itchington. The difficulty being that the pound is between two sets of locks and on our arrival was quite low, we moored eventually using our barge poles (only the third time having to moor this way, the other two times was once at Granary Wharf on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and then at the end of the Lancaster canal) . However we soon found out that this pound continually fluctuated when the locks were in use. We had travelled three miles, we stayed for four nights and visited local Co-op to pick up some provisions.
24th June 2020
The day started a little cloudy and overcast, but it wasn't long before the sun came out and it turned into a scorching hot day.
We leave our lovely little mooring spot by Bridge 100 on the Grand Union Canal main line and head in a south westerly direction. There are initially, no locks and no villages as we pass through open countryside with a back drop of hills on this quiet section between two busy junctions.
At Napton Junction we follow the Grand Union Canal as it heads North to Birmingham while the Oxford Canal heads off to the South. We pick up some water before descending Calcutt Locks and diesel midway at Calcutta Marina before mooring just past Bridge 19. The temperatures by this time had risen to above 30 degrees C and we were both becoming a little over heated. Ahead were the 10 Stockton Locks and there was no way were we going to manage them in the heat. Although we were fairly enclosed on this mooring, apart from a little road noise from the nearby bridge and the sheep and cattle from the nearby fields, it was fairly quiet here. We had travelled a grand total of 5 miles today.
22nd June 2020
We leave our mooring on the North Oxford Canal near Willoughby and head towards Braunston, where the Oxford Canal meets the Grand Union Canal and is one of the busiest stretches of canal on the system. Although not the original meeting point the unique triangular junction has two iron bridges carrying the tow path over the canal. Although there seemed plenty of mooring here, it was very busy and we would have had to go past the junction to moor up, so we pick up water here but will return another day. We continue our journey on the Grand Union Canal main line heading towards Birmingham. there was some lovely moorings at the beginning of this stretch of the Grand Union Canal or is it the Oxford Canal? It seems that this section is shared, the Oxford Canal Company actually owned this stretch between Braunston Junction and Napton Junction, they charged excessive toll rates to their rivals in an attempt to get even with the Grand Junction Canal Company whose route between London and the Midlands was shorter and more successful.
In 1929, it became part of the Grand Union Canal when several canals were merged.
There are no locks on this section, no villages and the bridges are well spaced which makes for some very pleasant cruising.
We moor just after Bridge 100 where we find a lovely little mooring spot with a gap between the hedge where we can watch the lovely sunset. This was a total of just 4 miles and we stay here for two nights.
20th June 2020
We have been moored at Brownsover near Rugby for 8 days and have replenished our supplies. The Tesco was within easy walking distance and it was a reasonable sized store. There was also a couple of retail parks nearby for any other shopping requirements and the town was about 25 mins walk away with an even bigger choice of shops.
It’s time now to find a more rural mooring spot. We top up with water and head in a South -easterly direction down the North Oxford Canal. We climb the three Hillmorton locks, reputed to be the busiest flight of locks in the country. Originally three single locks these caused a persistent bottleneck on the now busy Oxford canal. So in 1829, when the canal was shortened by 11 miles these were extended to the paired locks you see today thus relieving the bottleneck and improving the London to Birmingham route. The canal then meanders in a south westerly direction, we pass the new Dunchurch Pools Marina with its impressive gateway and finally moor just before bridge 87 near the little village of Willoughby, 5 miles south of Rugby. Total of miles travelled today is 8 miles.
We thought we had found a lovely quiet isolated spot, and that can be said about tow path traffic as not many people passed while we were here. However, boat traffic was entirely another point. Because we were moored between two busy marinas and to be fair it was the week end, we had about 50 boats pass us in both directions! Also the Government had announced the easing of some restrictions and leisure boaters were allowed to take their boats out for the day but still not spend overnight. So every boat that passed one way, passed again on their return journey! Pat had to keep going out to bang our mooring pins in as they kept coming out!
21st June 2020
It was our daughters birthday on the 20th, our son in law's on 17th and Fathers day today so we celebrated with a virtual dinner party via FaceTime. Rebecca chose the menu and the time and 30 mins prior to sitting down we got together to make the final preparations. it was a great success and we will defiantly be doing it again.
We leave Brinklow and head in a south easterly direction towards Rugby, passing through some quiet countryside and canopied woodland. We pass through Newbold Tunnel, the 250 yard tunnel was built in 1829 as part of the modifications to the North Oxford Canal to shorten it by 11 miles as a response to proposed competition by rival canal companies. The entrance to the original tunnel built in 1777 can still be found in the local church grounds.
After filling up with water we continue onto Rugby, we pass Trev (from Trev's Travel by Narrowboat) and we cross the River Avon over a small aqueduct before mooring in Brownsover just past Bridge 58 on the outskirts of Rugby. There is a large Tesco and retail park about within 5 minutes walk which was handy for stocking up our bare cupboards. We had used most of our store cupboard supplies while on the Ashby as there was no large supermarket within a short walking distance to enable us to keep stocked up. We also needed to buy enough groceries to last us for about 10 days or so as there is now no large supermarket until we get to Leamington Spa, which is approximately 25 miles away, although there is a small Co op at Long Itchington if needed.
The local post offices both in Brinklow and in Brownsover took click and collect parcels so we made use of this service while in Brownsover.
We stayed overnight in Coventry basin and as everything worthwhile seeing is closed we decide to make a move back to Hawkesbury Junction.
We leave the Basin, top up with water and we make our way back to Hawkesbury Junction. There is an interesting row of elegant weavers houses, where the living accommodation was on the two lower floors with the top storey being occupied by looms, driven by a single shaft from a steam engine. These were known as 'Cash's Hundred Houses' part of a cottage factory constructed in 1856-7 by quakers John and Joseph Cash. One hundred three story houses were planned but in the end only 48 were built and only 37 remain.
We duck under the M6 Motorway and continue to Hawkesbury Junction. Here, the Coventry Canal meets the North Oxford Canal and we take a sharp right turn, through the 7 inch stop lock known as Sutton Stop, after the family who once lived in the adjacent cottage.
The elegant bridge which spans the junction has a span of 50 feet and was cast at the Britannia Foundry in Derby at a cost of £630 in 1837.
We moor for six days about a mile south of the junction, this was really not by choice although it turned out to be quite a good mooring.
It has rained for every day of those six days. so on the next nice day we continue our southward journey on the North Oxford Canal towards Rugby. We pass through some open countryside and steep embankments before mooring just past Bridge 34 at Brinklow.
The mooring here was just lovely, it was a nice wide tow path which wasn't too busy and about a 15 min walk into the village. There was a little sandwich bar which was open and a fish and chip takeaway where we had our first take out meal for 4 months. We would have liked to visit a nearby park (Coombs Park) about 20 mins on the bikes but again due to weather restrictions we didn't get round to doing this. We probably could have stayed a little longer as there is a Morrisons and Lidl about 30 mins cycle ride, however we would also need water within a few days so we stayed for four days then moved onto Rugby to pick up water and provisions.