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The Odyssey 2009: Day 51

Posted by indigodream on 19 September, 2009

Saturday September 12th

Fradley Junction to Atherstone

Fradley by day. Doesn't Indigo Dream look good - Richard's polished that side.....

Fradley by day. Doesn't Indigo Dream look good - Richard's polished that side.....

Well here we are on day 51 of the odyssey – this time last year our odyssey was over – it’s been a tremendous summer.

We decided to set out early today – our mooring was a little close to the junction and we suspected that it would get busy later on. Before we left though, Richard found some excellent dog-walking – head in the direction of Alrewas, cross over the first lock and follow the footpath into some perfect rummaging woods.

With dogs satisfied, Richard got us through the swingbridge and we decided to stop for water at the point immediately after the bridge, which was surprisingly unoccupied. The water pressure wasn’t fantastic so it took a while to fill the tank – just as well. We were joined there by nb Treacle Dolly who have 3 greyhounds on board – Geri, Alice and Bonny. We let our two out and there followed a joyful greyhound bundle with very little commotion from Lou – she does tend to behave when there’s overwhelming odds. Treacle Dolly’s canine crew were

Me and two of Treacle Dolly's canine crew - see what I mean about Geri? The photos of the greyhounds together are blurred for some reason.....

Me and two of Treacle Dolly's canine crew - see what I mean about Geri? The photos of the greyhounds together are blurred for some reason.....

aged 14 years, 11years, and 18 months – they were utterly gorgeous especially the youngster (Geri?) who had a very endearing habit of leaning in for a cuddle.

Our greyhound gathering might have gone on for longer but our water tank filled up and another boat came into the queue so we had to move on. It was delightful meeting though – I hope we run into them again.

Rather than the railway as our close companion today, we picked up the busy Ryknild Street dual carriageway, separated by barely a metre of scrubby verge. I doubt if the speeding drivers even knew we were there.

The Nicholson’s guide suggests that this stretch of canal is somewhat lacklustre, but we disagreed for the most part. We thought that Whittington Wharf had really pleasant mooring spots and we found the rest of the canal to be full of interest and much more congenial than we expected. It must be pleasant canal – there are plenty of boats here, to the point of being a little congested in places.

Our first views of the leafy Coventry Canal

Our first views of the leafy Coventry Canal

We had a more welcome meeting later on when we saw nb Waterways Routes passing the other way – they’re another boat that we met several times on the BCN Challenge. Gratifyingly they recognised us and waved cheerily. We received a complement for them later on in the day – another narrowboat that we met commented on the high level of skill and teamwork that Narrowboat Routes’ crew had shown going through some of the locks in Birmingham.

As we passed by Fazeley junction we felt the familiar pull towards Birmingham but the pull towards undiscovered country on the Coventry Canal was stronger.

Congestion at Streethay Wharf...

Congestion at Streethay Wharf...

The canal continues to be pleasant – maybe not as beautiful as some but well worth a visit. Despite the fact that some of the bridges are graffitied, there are lots of moored boats looking safe and sound. The locals are friendly and Richard noticed a nice ‘slow down’ poem by Bridge 74 which promised smiles for people going at the appropriate speed – so it proved, there were smiles and waves aplenty. The houses make good use of their canalside locations; sadly most of the gardens were far too narrow to moor a 60 footer though in some places some neighbourly negotiations had resulted in some narrowboats overlapping the gardens on either side.

Note: there’s excellent dog-walking around Bridge 68

The moorings around Alvecote are particularly attractive – there’s a basin full of working boats here and the nearby ruined priory and nature reserve looked like a good place to explore. There are also attractive moorings between Alvecote and Polesworth – surrounded by great dog-rummaging woods.

The junction with a short section of the Wyrley and Essington canal - I wish is still connected to the rest of the curly wyrley - now that would be great cruise....

The junction with a short section of the Wyrley and Essington canal - I wish is still connected to the rest of the curly wyrley - now that would be great cruise....

We crossed under the M42 today – another indication that we’re really on our way south. Soon after the motorway we passed an unusual canalside teashop – it might have been the Pooley Fields Heritage Centre.

Note: Bridge 48 – watch out for swimmers in the winding hole and canoeists just after the bridge.

We uhmed and aahed over whether to moor in Polesworth or press on up the Atherstone flight. Well, you know us – on we went….

The Atherstone flight was nicely busy – just enough boats coming down to keep the locks set our way and to be sociable. There’s also less pressure here than on many flights as you can moor in the longer pounds – the basic pattern (at the bottom anyway), is to have two closely spaced locks then a long pound. There are particularly nice moorings between locks 10 and 9 with fine views over the open countryside. Unsurprisingly the railway line is close by but the noise doesn’t intrude. The locks are largely rural and the dogs had some good rummaging opportunities though Blue may have over-reached himself – he had a few illicit runs off the towpath and got thoroughly confused – we had to rescue him a couple of times. The bottom of the flight is particularly pleasant and the local people are very friendly; the frantic sound of the church bells being chimed as if to repel the devil himself completed the ambience.

Big sky....

Big sky....

Lock 8 has an interesting side-paddle which takes water from a side-pound – sadly it’s the only one left on the flight though you can still see remnants of the side-pounds at most of the locks. There’s an old adage about the Atherstone flight – ‘slow to fill, fast to empty’ and so it proved.

There was the enticing smell of steak wafting across the canal at Bridge 43 – this is one of the few canalside pubs that is still open in Atherstone and the only one recommended by some local walkers that we spoke to.

Our guidebook mentions that the top lock and basin are beautifully maintained by the lock-keeper. They are very tidy but the weird tableau of two stuffed dummies (one with red painted bloodstains) falling down the well/sluice near the lock was very off-putting – not to our taste that’s for sure. On a more positive note, there are good services at the top lock and a huge canalside coalyard.

We moored a little way up from the top lock in an unassuming but popular spot reassuringly covered by CCTV cameras.

Mellow views from the Atherstone flight

Mellow views from the Atherstone flight

Atherstone’s got a reputation as being a historic market town. A wander around town led me to wonder whether there’s a difference between historic and merely old! I have to say that Atherstone’s not at its best on a Saturday night. We left the dogs on board (they were exhausted) and had a wander around town. There are two canalside pubs on Coleshill Road (Bridge 41) – one is shut and the other isn’t recommended by locals. So we headed into town – it has narrow alleys and an open market square, a town built for horse and carts. But the main shopping street is the A5 – you’d never know by looking. But the shops are run down and many have grilles over the windows; it wasn’t even dark but many of the locals were singing drunk already. The presence of an ambulance with paramedic crew on standby in the high street further persuaded us to ditch the idea of eating out. We did, however find a very good Chinese takeaway – Atherstone House, by the back of the Red Lion hotel. We ordered a blowout takeaway and went back to the boat, where the dogs gave us, and the food, a rapturous welcome.

We spent a peaceful night here – despite our misgivings about the state of the high street, the canal was quiet and we had no bother.

Photoblog:

There are all sorts of businesses on the water....

There are all sorts of businesses on the water....

The sun's breaking through.....

The sun's breaking through.....

Canal users come in many shapes and sizes...

Canal users come in many shapes and sizes...

Pleasant suburban scene

Pleasant suburban scene

At least this sign is on the offside - shame, the woods did look enticing!

At least this sign is on the offside - shame, the woods did look enticing!

I know it's a bit blurred but doesn't nb Waterways Routes look good against this multihued backdrop

I know it's a bit blurred but doesn't nb Waterways Routes look good against this multihued backdrop

I thought that the railway's contempt of the canals would inhibit them from having a boat, but here we are...

I thought that the railway's contempt of the canals would inhibit them from having a boat, but here we are...

Decorative stern design.....

Decorative stern design.....

Fazeley Junction - looking towards Birmingham

Fazeley Junction - looking towards Birmingham

Bye then Lou...

Bye then Lou...

Dodgy parking space!

Dodgy parking space!

Pastoral views from the Atherstone Locks

Pastoral views from the Atherstone Locks

Even Blue has to rest sometimes.....

Even Blue has to rest sometimes.....

That's the old side pound to the right - sadly only one lock now has a working side-paddle

That's the old side pound to the right - sadly only one lock now has a working side-paddle

Working canalside coal yard at Atherstone Top Lock.

Working canalside coal yard at Atherstone Top Lock.

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