Thursday, 4 March 2010

Sunbeams will soon smile through!

So, good mornin', good mornin'! Sunbeams will soon smile through, good mornin', my darlin', to you. - sang Judy Garland.

Day three.... it's first light and we have all had another good nights sleep. I noticed that Pops must have left our bed sometime during the night. She had gone back to sleep in her own bed next to the stove! As usual, I was up and about first. I fettled the stove for Pops and then did a cup of tea for two before having a plunge in the shower. The back berth was quite cold so I ran the Eberspacher central heating to warm the air a little before Mag's climbed out from under the duvet.

I decided to have a long cruising day and to complete the Ashby canal. Just so that we could get back to the Coventry canal to meet up with our guest Dr Steph who was planning on joining us on board . So we needed to get an early start. We were on our way by 8:30 after eating a good traditional breakfast of bacon eggs and tomato, hot coffee with several rounds of toast smeared with a good layer of honey. Boating food!

Pops was kitted out in her life vest for the first time and allowed up onto the rear deck where we could keep an eye on her. She had quickly become accustomed to the boat layout and was not bothered by the engine noise. We were quite surprised to find that she actually enjoyed watching the ducks and geese through the windows. As well as having a word with each passing dog. It was quite clear that she was not going to fall overboard as we had feared she might. So we decided to promote her from the role of engine room "donkey man" to junior deck officer and given free reign to roam the roof. She created quite a bit of attention in her life vest and we were asked quite a few times where they could be obtained from. (eBay £14) 

We wondered how she would be with low bridges and overhanging branches. However, there were no problems encountered as she took it all in her stride. Whenever there was restricted room Pops would just trot to the stern and jump down onto the tiller deck. Pops is now a real "deckie learner" dog! The handle on the life vest also come in handy when we want to lift her up or down!
  • Donkey man: Engine room greaser.
  • Deckie learner: A nautical term used for a new deckhand without any qualifications.
The snow had settled over night on higher ground. There was a slow thaw going on at canal level. As we plodded on, we encountered several large mats of floating weed which we inevitably picked up on the propeller. But as it was well rotted stuff, and by throwing the engine into reverse I managed to clear it away each time. I was thankful that with the current water temperature that I did not have to make a visit to the weed hatch.

We soon passed the Bosworth Field moorings the sight of the battle of Bosworth moor. The "War of Roses" 1455 - 1485 ended at the Battle of Bosworth. The outcome of the battle actually changed the face of British history. For thirty years, a bitter struggle for the English throne was waged between two branches of the same family, the House of York and the House of Lancaster. According to the barons, the York family, cousins of the Lancasters, were truly entitled to reign.

The Struggle for power was know as the War of the Roses because the Lancaster emblem was a red rose and the York emblem a white rose.

Henry Tudor in an attempt to claim the throne of England gathered supporters from far and wide. By the time he arrived at Bosworth, he had amassed an army of 5,000 men. Richard III, on the other hand, had an army of nearly 8,000. Richard III was the last English monarch to been killed in battle.

After winning the battle, Henry Tudor was crowned as King Henry VII, marking the beginning of the Tudor dynasty in England. Henry Vll married Elizabeth of York. This marriage re-united the two families. Henry then created the Tudor rose, containing both the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster.
We came across several small groups of staff busy trimming the towpath hedgerows. At one point we even followed a small dredger and sludge bucket for a while. Luckily they pulled over and we were soon waved on. There were sections where the banks had been fitted with revetment boards and the sludge and silt had been backfilled behind the boards. It looks like the canal is getting some much needed running repairs done.
The canal must have a very healthy population of Swan mussels. There were thousands of shells that had been dredged out on the bank. The shell is thin and rather flat. The shell color is often pale greenish or brownish
Soon we passed Shackerstone on our way to Snarestone and the 250 yard long Snarestone Tunnel. We were following another boat for a while, which was making slow progress whilst heading towards the tunnel. They then decided not to have a go at the tunnel. However, the skipper and crew of four seemed to be having problems mooring up at the tunnel mouth. After much revving of the engine someone managed to jump ashore and drag the boat in. After a while we were able to pass them and proceed into the tunnel after removing the funnel and the dog from the roof! I noticed that the tunnel roof came lower than I expected as we reached the far end.

After leaving the tunnel the turning hole at the end of navigation was just a short distance. A few deft movements of the tiller and a few forwards and reverses of the engine soon had us facing the right way. As we went back towards the tunnel, the other boat was just coming out. We slowed to a stop and waited for them to pass. It did cross my mind that the turning point might have made for a good spectacle!

Nb Foxy - as seen on the Coventry canal.
We encountered three dead foxes in the canal on one short section. Soon afterwards we also came across several dead rabbits. My guess is that during the spell of bad weather the foxes had been drawn onto the canal chasing prey and had fallen through the ice. We did however, spot a fox slinking through some canal side back gardens.

Later, for a split second I saw some rapid movement from the bank going into the water - It was a quick movement - I did not get a good enough sighting - but my first instinct was Otter - then thinking it could possibly be Mink. It was much too large to be a Rat or Bank Vole and I have seen plenty of Mink on my home water. However, I think that an Otter if disturbed would go for the water - and a Mink would go for bank side cover. I did not see any of the tell-tale bubbles associated with the Otter when swimming underwater. I never got a glimpse of the mystery animal again, drat! So I shall never know!

We set off to retrace our steps on the return trip back along the Ashby canal. We stopped at the Trinity marina to take on fuel and to pick up a copy of the "Towpath". We had spoken to Dr Steph by phone and we were trying to arrange a time and a place were we could all meet up. However, by the time we had reached the junction of the Ashby and Coventry canal, Steph had rung back to say that she would not be able to come until tomorrow. So we went into crawl mode for the rest of the day. I made a much better job of manoeuvring from the Ashby into the Coventry canal this time. Mags was put on lookout on the bow, but all was clear and we turned without problem. A slow cruise down the Coventry canal towards Hawksbury ensued.

In no time at all we were back at Hawkesbury junction. As there was an empty place on the mooring we decided to stay for the night we were moored next door to the water point. So we filled the water tank at the same time. We met up with a couple of boaters from our part of the world called Chris and Lillian. Plus their two dogs Toby and a new crew member called Ruben. They were all living aboard nb "Faulknor". If nothing else dogs are always good at socially introducing their owners to each other.

So far we had not been on a visit to a canal side pub. Mags had done a sterling job so far with the "Crock Pot" AKA Slow Cooker. So tonight I decided that we both deserved a special treat and pay a visit to the Greyhound at the canal basin. The whole meal was first class and portion control was something that had not reached this part of the waterway system. All at a price that would fit most pockets and with a cheery service that was second to none.

Spotted at Hawksbury Junction - This boat seems to have a new style of toilet pump out system. Based on a pub beer hand pump :-)

The next part of our cruise is to do the length down to the Coventry basin and then to return back to Hawkesbury for the night. But we would have to wait for Steph to arrive.

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