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Archive for September 21st, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 52

Posted by indigodream on 21 September, 2009

Sunday 13th September

Atherstone to Hartshill

Services at BW's Hartshill Yard

Services at BW's Hartshill Yard

Our original plan for the week was to stop cruising on Saturday morning and be home ready for a full day of tidying up at home after the builders on Sunday. But the weather’s been too good and life on Indigo Dream is just too tempting. We were musing on whether to cruise a full day on Sunday but the morning’s weather told us to go home. For the first time this week the sky was overcast and it was cold without the prospect of sun to come.

Our plans were therefore dictated by the train timetable – Richard needed to get back to Kidsgrove for the car. He was disconsolate when he found out how few trains there were and that it would take an astounding two and a half hours to get there via Birmingham. I was perplexed – it was only when I overheard him ringing National Rail Enquiries again that I realised that he was asking them for trains to Kidderminster not Kidsgrove!

Distinctive clock-tower at BW's Hartshill Yard

Distinctive clock-tower at BW's Hartshill Yard

The most convenient train to Kidsgrove left Nuneaton at 12.20 or so – plenty of time for Richard to enjoy an hour’s cruise to our final destination.

We needed a secure 14-day mooring and we’d rung the local BW office on Friday for advice. They recommended the mooring between Bridge 28 and 27, near to Valley Cruisers. It sounded fine, but road access looked a bit limited. We headed in that direction with the intention of mooring up sooner if we saw a suitable place. We fancied two mooring spots on the way:

Atherstone – the best moorings are 48-hour; the stretch just beyond the 48-hour moorings is 14-day but near a smelly chemical factory.

BW Yard Hartshill – ideal but they’re only 7-day

We cruised on – despite the cold we made the best of our morning – there was plenty to see, even in this brief stretch. The BW Yard at Hartshill is a thing of beauty – the buildings are very attractive and it felt very homely. We’d have loved to stop here if there had been a 14-day moorings available.

Our mooring - it's not beautiful but it seems to tick all the other boxes....

Our mooring - it's not beautiful but it seems to tick all the other boxes....

The other landmark was a distinctive hill in the distance – too big to be man-made but such a defined shape that it couldn’t possibly be natural.  We read later that it is man-made – one of the area’s famous spoil heaps, left behind from local quarrying. Our guidebooks seem to have different opinions on what was quarried here – we’d assumed coal but it was either granite or sandstone. Apparently the quarries may be deeper than the spoil-heap is tall – it’s hard to believe.

We found our ideal mooring just past Bridge 29. There’s a short stretch of 48-hour moorings then the rest of the sheet piling (with a few mooring rings) is 14-day. Bridge 29 carries a decent B-road for access and has a pub right by the bridge. There were also some very friendly boaters here – nb Gentle Jane were very helpful and reassured us that it was secure to moor here – everyone watches out for each other’s boats and the pub landlord walks his dogs along the towpath twice a day and keeps an eye on all the boats. The crew of the Gentle Jane were very kind – they actually told the pub landlord that we’d be mooring there and he promised to keep an eye on Indigo Dream.

With the boat securely moored, Richard cycled down to Nuneaton in time for his train. I forced myself to pack the boat up and do a deep clean – she was looking a bit lived in after a whole week’s cruising.

We were far enough from the road for Blue to have a rummage (under my watchful eye) – he was very happy to nose around under the disused railway bridge nearby. He was ecstatic when he caught a rabbit there! After that excitement both dogs were happy to settle on the sofa and observe me while I swept and scrubbed.

I eventually got the boat into the required state (i.e. clean enough to host a parent if necessary) and took the dogs for a stroll along the towpath (away from the road bridge). What a surprise – a few boat lengths along, we found a kissing gate into a perfect rummaging field – plenty of grass to run in, small copses of trees to explore and lots of rabbits – Lou caught one this time. For our dogs it is all about the chase, it is very rare that they catch anything particularly when they are inclined to do things like catch up with a rabbit then overtake it and decide to chase the next one.

Blue and Lou had a wonderful time just running around and rummaging – they were so happy – they flattened great swathes of grass with their contentment rolls. It was a joyful thing to see.

Note on rabbits: This field is perfect rummaging for me, Blue and Lou but don’t go there if you’re squeamish. The rabbits here are not well (myxomatosis) and they’re obviously easy prey (and not just for Blue and Lou). The field was littered with rabbit remains at various stages of decay.

The Anchor Inn - dog-friendly and good carvery.....

The Anchor Inn - dog-friendly and good carvery.....

With the dogs well satisfied we got back to the boat shortly before Richard arrived with the car. It was gone 3pm by now so we went off to the pub for a late lunch. Not only does the landlord watch out for the boats but he also does a generous carvery and his pub is dog-friendly. Blue and Lou behaved impeccably, as you’d expect when they’re tired and have their sheepskins to lie on. They had a lot of fuss from the locals and enjoyed the remains of our carvery meat.

Note that there is a pub sign in the right place in Nicholsons but no write up.

After such a big meal there was an almost overwhelming temptation to stay on board, but Richard HAD to work on Monday and, as our parents always used to tell us, holidays have to come to an end sometime.`

We loaded the car and headed off, but we’ve come a long way south on our odyssey so the drive home wasn’t as onerous as we’d feared. We got home by 8.30pm and immediately regretted it – the builders hadn’t finished as promised and the house was indescribably filthy. Just as well that we have the memory of a wonderful week’s cruise to keep us cheerful as we sluice concrete dust off every conceivable surface…..

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