Wednesday, 27 October 2021

The 50th Anniversary Trip - Days 7 & 8: Atherstone to Rugby Wharf

 Thursday 7th October 2021

Day 7  Atherstone to Newbold

There is not a lot to say about today's boating. After we got away from Atherstone we settled down to enjoy the long, lock-free stretch of the Coventry Canal, passing a very run-down Hartshill yard shortly after setting off.

Ken was at the helm for the 180 degree turn at Hawkesbury Junction.  He realised straight away that he had started his turn too late, but then - like many occasional steerers - failed to put any "welly" on, meaning that he had to have a few shunts to get round. He didn't actually hit anything - even the badly moored boat just above the stop lock - so I gave him a B+.  The "watchers-on-the-bridge" may have thought differently!

In 1971 we had found the time to go all the way down the arm into Coventry and back, which in those days was considered quite an adventure, but there was no enthusiasm for it today, so after I'd penned us through the stop lock that really was it for the day, with the only other feature of note being the footbridge across the cut at Brinklow, which was mildly amusing I suppose.

"Grebe" at Coventry Basin in 1971.  It's changed a bit since then!

Ken opening the footbridge at Brinklow

and hurrying to catch up with boat afterwards!

Wilow Wren had told us that the boat needed to be back at their base for 08.30 on Friday, but when we asked whether we could bring it back the night before, to save us a rushed start in the morning,we were told this wasn't possible. The obvious stopping place for the night was therefore Newbold, where we were pleased to see a mooring space outside the Barley Mow. It was only after we had struggled to tie up there and complained about the state of what we assumed was a visitor mooring that we realised we were on the well-hidden and badly signed water point!  By now it was not far off dusk and as we would be away very early in the morning we decided to play the "ignorant hire boaters" card and stay where we were.

Like many pubs these days the Barlow Mow looks inviting from the outside...

The Barley Mow
...but inside it has, unfortunately, been mucked about with in ways that have left it with an incoherent and rather unfriendly, un-publike layout. In fairness though, the food was good and I'm told the beer got better as the evening wore on, although I was back on the boat by then.

Friday, 8th October 2021

Day 8 Newbold to Rugby Wharf

We'd assumed that Willow Wren had asked us to be back by 08.30, an hour earlier than stated in the brochure, in order to stagger arrivals and prevent mixing on the wharf due to Covid.  But no, it seemed that everyone had been given the same arrival time, resulting in a convoy of boats approaching the arm on which the base is situated at the same time.  A boat coming from the south had to wind before it could enter the arm (we'd had to do the opposite manoeuvre when leaving a week ago) and then it was our turn to follow it almost back to the wharf where we'd all been asked to wind again before reversing onto the wharf itself. By the time we had winded, there was a third boat waiting its turn.

The company were taking Covid precautions very seriously and we were asked to vacate the boat as soon as we had tied up, irrespective of any last-minute cleaning and tidying up and the crew were asked to wait in a designated spot whilst Mark and I, as the "designated crew members", completed the hand-back formalities.

With those done we all set off to walk to the station where Pete, Clive and I boarded a northbound train to take us to Manchester, Lancaster and Cambridge (via Nuneaton) respectively; Ken and Mark headed westwards to Wolverhampton and Oxford, leaving Spike to make a lonelier journey back to Slough.

Hire Boating v. Ownership

Having owned a boat for ten years, this was the first hire-boating I'd done for over twenty. It does have certain advantages:

  • Cost.  The week, including the daytime food kitty, cost us £175 each. Boat owners will recognise that sum as small change when it comes to boating.
  • Lack of worry.  The broken alternator - and anything else that might have gone wrong - was fixed by a simple phone call to the boatyard.  A more serious failure would presumably have resulted in a replacement boat and/or a refund.

But also some disadvantages:

  • When hiring you commit yourself to a route and a timetable which, especially if you do a "ring", can be difficult to change. We had a couple of days when the weather was such that on Starcross I would have declared a "cabin day" and not bothered untying.
  • As part of a crew, especially an all-male crew, there is an expectation that every night will be spent in the pub!  Much as I like pubs that wasn't the way things were on Starcross (believe it or not).
So would I do it again?  Well, not for a while and then perhaps with a smaller and more select crew and definitely, although I'm now showing my age, on a less-ambitious route!


Davidss said...

I enjoyed reading this tale, but did wonder how your colleages took your comments on their boat handling :-)
When you reached the conclusion, it didn't surprise me: '... not for a while and then perhaps with a smaller and more select crew and definitely, although I'm now showing my age, on a less-ambitious route!'.

Writing this, I have wondered how many of the others might echo the comment 'with a smaller and more select crew' :-)

Still, I thought it was good to make the attempt!


Jim said...

Thank you for your comment David and I'm glad you enjoyed it. The comments on the rest of the crew's boat handling skills were made in person at the time and taken in the spirit they were intended. (I hope!). Given we've nearly all known each other for almost 50 years I think we all knew what to expect. I'm assuming from the absence of any comments on here that no offence has been taken.

Dave K said...

Echoing above, an enjoyable read. I hope it won't be too long before you're off boating again, you know you want to !!
I know myself that it's getting slightly more difficult as I'm getting older, eg. no way I could do the Wolverhampton 21 on my own anymore, but luckily I have a daughter who comes out to help! So yes, choosing routes is a more defined process now rather than spinning a coin at the next junction. But hey ho, its still FUN !