Sunday, 24 October 2021

The 50th Anniversary Trip - Day 6: Dog & Doublet to Atherstone

 Wednesday, 6th October 2021

Sunrise at the Dog & Doublet moorings

The early risers amongst the crew were rewarded by a spectacular sunrise as they prepared to untie and set off on another long day's run, with Atherstone as the target for the night.

Bloody Hire Boaters 

With seven of us onboard, some of whom had by now worked out how to use the shower, the first task was to take on water and this could be accomplished at Fazeley Junction.  The water point here is not ideally suited for boats coming from the south as it involves making the right turn on to the Coventry Canal and then reversing a boat length or two to reach it.  I had almost completed the turn and glanced behind before preparing to reverse when I saw a boat coming up behind. I pointed and shouted that I was headed for the water point, but the steerer kept coming, choosing to come between me and the towpath on my inside.  By the time I'd got the bow out of his way and he'd passed without a collision (or a word of thanks!) I was in a hopeless position for the water point, resulting in much manoeuvring with the engine and the shaft to get to it.

Whilst we were filling the tank a couple off a boat on the moorings came along and in response to my greeting, the lady said "I won't tell you what my husband has just said about typical hire boaters!"  As I doubt that they had seen the incident in its entirety it just goes to show that you shouldn't pass judgement without knowing the full story.

As Glascote Bottom Lock  I was reminded how much the cut has changed in the last fifty years, and how much less interesting it has become. On the 1973 boat trip my partner Hilary, who was on Willow Wren's "Guillemot", took this photo of Union Canal Carriers' "Bexhill", on which I was captain, leaving the lock.

Glascote Bottom Lock 1973

I wasn't really sure it was the same place when I took the 2021 photo, but the unusual roof line of the lock cottage is a giveaway...

and again, in 2021

After that it was a pleasant, but uneventful, day on the Coventry Canal.  Jeanette, who had been staying in holiday accommodation in Kenilworth whilst her husband Hugh was on the boat, joined us for the afternoon near Polesworth, having had some difficulty in parking her car in Atherstone due to road closures for a cycle race before walking back down the towpath to meet us.

Bloody Hire Boaters (again)

As we started up the Atherstone flight there was a minor incident with another boat at lock 6, which no doubt led its crew to roll their eyes and say "bloody hire-boaters" (although if they did they didn't let us see it).
Ken and Jeanette waiting for lock 6

Ken was holding Grebe perfectly in position waiting for the lock to empty. I suppose it might have been a clue if he had realised that two of the people leaning on the lock gates weren't part of our crew, but neither they nor Mark, who was one of us ,seems to have mentioned that there was a boat descending in the lock and which would need to come out before we could go in!  As a result, Ken's expert handling was all in vain...

Why didn't anyone tell me?

It wasn't as serious as the incident in 1973 when we arrived at the bottom of the flight when it was already dark, but decided to go up anyway. Approaching the top we were stopped by an irate lock-keeper who told us in no uncertain terms that we shouldn't have done it and that he would now have to walk back down the flight to check that all was in order after our passage. I did manage to deflect some of his ire by telling him that there was another boat - our companions on Guillemot - behind us in the hope that he would reserve some of his anger for them!

Back in 2021 there was then a debate about where we should stop for the night. The crew of a downhill boat had told us that the moorings above the top lock were choc-a-bloc. The alternative was to tie up lower down the flight, near the A5, although this would mean a much longer walk into the town that evening.  Pete went ahead to check the situation at the top, but in the meantime the rest of us decided that we would press on to the top anyway as the information we'd had from the other boat would be over an hour out of date and, rather optimistically, some boats may have moved on. Hugh was also leaving us at Atherstone and it would have been a long way for him to walk with his luggage, even if Jeanette could remember where she had been forced to abandon her car due to the cycle race.

The moorings above the lock were indeed full, but by asking nicely, Mark persuaded canal trader Kay on "Pea Green"  to move up to create a space long enough for Grebe just beyond the bridge and opposite the atmospheric remains of what was once Atherstone's largest hat factory.
Wilson & Stafford's Britannia Hat Works

Thank you, Kay, and in return here is a link to your website: Kay's Canal Crafty Arts.


Dave K said...

Aaah - the infamous Athersone flight incident, to which you referred on FB about my night boating . . . . . (hehe)
Dave K

Jim said...

I'll never forget it. He was VERY angry!