Monday 28th Feb. to Sunday 6th March 2011

Monday 28th
Up with the lark and after a short dash we were into the Atherstone flight ahead of a sail-away on its way to Hinkley.

A cold day for cruising but we were soon into our stride and while V went ahead to prep the next lock I finished off the one behind and lifted a bottom paddle for the following boat.
The system worked well enough until I forgot to throw the stern rope ashore. While I was lifting the bottom paddle the boat drifted away from the top gate and I had nothing with which to pull her back.
Quick as a flash I crossed the top gate, leapt the bywash and made it onto the stern before she disappeared into the bramble bushes on the offside of the canal.

MiL was still in bed and had no idea how close she came to being promoted to captain.

Atherstone’s top lock promised to be interesting with a boat at the water point and four more jockeying for position for the lock. One could hardly see any clear water between the boats and it was very tempting to announce that we would hang around for water but like those sliding block children’s puzzles we were the only moveable piece so we wiggled our way through the boat jam ‘til we found the only mooring on the other side of town with a patch of grass bigger than a handkerchief.

Another yucky grey day with winds from the north and enough mist or drizzle to keep the muddy towpaths squidgy.

A quick shop-stop at Nuneaton did nothing to improve our perception of the place. Miles of polystyrene pieces, household junk and drinks bottles complemented the bridge and fence graffiti. What a dive. I hope they fill the vacancy at the council cleansing department.

It was a relief to leave the muddy brown Coventry Canal at Marston Junction and enter the luminous green waters of the Ashby Canal.

For those who read the last Blog entry our plans changed halfway through the day and we dropped the idea of going to Coventry for the night in favour of a less stressful plod up to the Battlefields at Market Bosworth.
The aim is to reach a visitor’s mooring next to a road so that MiL can be collected by car. Easy you would have thought, but not so, not in the winter.
BW have been very unhelpful by renting out all visitor moorings at Sutton Wharf and Stoke Golding through the winter months up until the end of March – dooohhh.

The last time I saw one of these paddle boats was on the Mississippi on our way to Baton Rouge in a chemical tanker. Ok, it was bigger, but then they always are in the USA.

Wednesday was confusing. I thought the plaque given to announcing Richard 3rd’s demise was somewhere else, I have seen it and can picture the place but it couldn’t have been where I thought it was because it’s here in a paddock, between the canal and Shenton railway station. Have they moved it or was I dreaming?

The exact place of Richard’s demise might be debatable but there’s no doubt about Henry’s celebration because the residents of Stoke Golding stood on the church tower and watched Henry being crowned. And so they called it Crown Hill.

There’s more to Stoke Golding than the Kings of England. V’s ancestor lived here in the 1800s and produced a family but there’s no sign of them now. No grave in the churchyard or the cemetery and nothing remaining of the family name in the village today. So much for a generation of canal and railway workers and hosiery machinists.
A census puts them in a house which, if our bearings are correct, could be this row of cottages at the end of Main Street **.

But today there is nothing left of them, they were razed to the ground and replaced by retirement homes. It’s probably for the best.

There is a mooring near the road, it’s next to the picnic tables at Basin Bridge (22). Popular with walkers, canoeists, van drivers and locals it has to be the number one fast food centre for wildlife on the Ashby.

Bread by the bucket is thrown across the grass all through the day and what doesn’t land on the boat is eaten by the ducks and Canada geese.
It’s not just the ducks that get fat, we have three retired guys who each day fill bird feeders hanging in the branches so there’s plenty of (large) pretty birds to see in the trees.

But sit quietly and you’ll see activity below the trees too.
Two dozen brown rats live in holes under the bird-feeder trees and they’re about as tame as the ducks round here.

I’m afraid I was a bit naughty and put a few stones over one of the holes only to find them cleared away the next day.
Thought we were in for a treat this evening. A car pulled up and disgorged three youngsters who took up positions on one of the picnic tables. A Carlsberg can popping session started but within five minutes it was all over and they’d gone.

We say hello to Claire and Ter at lunch-time and cheerio to MiL by mid afternoon. I hope the change was as good as a rest for V’s Mum, low temperatures put paid to any thoughts of sitting or standing outside during the cruise but one takes a chance at this time of the year.

We’ve enjoyed having her and it has been fun picking her brains on family history. She’s an amazing 91 year old with a memory of several elephants. I only wish we could have told her that her great great grandfather’s offspring were still in evidence on the Ashby Canal.

Sunday 6th
I finished Leo Marks’ book Between Silk and Cyanide.
I found it totally absorbing from cover to cover and wished it could have gone on for many more chapters. Written by an insider at SOE in WW2 he reveals much about codes, espionage and politics and wrote a poem that I knew and which I would never have attributed to a cryptographer.

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours

Read the book and you’ll discover the sadness surrounding the creation and use of this poem during the last war.

ISBN 0-00-710039-6 (613 pages)
** our thanks to Mrs Bradbury for use of this photograph.