Maximus June 3-17th 2001 Part One
Route: Gailey to Stretton Stop and return
This is our first two-week trip on Maximus, something we had been looking forward to for over a year. We spent the first week with just the two of us and the second week with assorted crew.
Sunday 3rd Gailey - Hatherton - Penkridge 7.25 Miles, 6 locks 4 1/4 hrs
We had a very early start from home so that we could stop and view a boat on the way. It was a very nice boat, though not to our requirements - but it made a nice break in the journey.
From there, we decided to use the A5 instead of the M6, in the hope of finding a better lunch stop than the awful motorway services. It looks like this will become our preferred route, what with the roadworks on the M6 scheduled for the next 18 months. After an abortive stop at the Blue Boar at Atherstone we ended up at the Boot just up the road, for a rather ordinary Sunday roast.
We arrived at Gailey mid afternoon and started to move in whilst chatting to to fellow share boaters on Nb Alexandrine, which was moored in the next slot. The winding hole at Gailey was full of hire boats so we headed off the wrong way and turned at Hatherton. Chris had the helm and made a very nice turn in the junction, she says Max handles better than any other boat we have had.
The canal was quite busy in both directions and there was a queue at the lock when we got back to Gailey. Progress was slow and it took a couple of hours to get to Penkridge. We moored just above the lock and went for a quick drink in the Boat pub after dinner.
Monday 4th Penkridge - Armitage 18 Miles 8 Locks 8 3/4 Hrs
Despite yesterday's early start, we woke early and were away by 8:00 in the hope of beating the queues. At one lock we met a posh new tug coming the other way, but the numerous crew didn't offer any help - they just watched the two of us working the lock. The owner was most put out when Chris asked if they we new to the canals and suggested we would have been out of their way sooner with assistance. "Been doing it 20 years" was the reply, I get the impression the question was not received with favour.
We turned right at Great Haywood and stopped just above the lock for lunch at the tea-rooms (see picture). There are good moorings both above and below the lock. The folks in the tea shop were busy with a party, which probably explains the limited menu and the rather slow service.
After our lunch of ham baguettes went to explore the village in the hope of finding a chemist and shop. We found the chemist about 3 minutes after it shut for lunch. We then set off to explore further and eventually found a useful Spar shop where we succumbed to the dual temptations of ice-cream and a canal magazine.
Just above the lock on the towpath side there is a path that leads beautiful old Essex pack horse bridge. This is a really beautiful spot with the river Sow running over rapids in a tree lined course.
we left the village we were greeted by a young lady and her dad as we
passed under the cast iron bridge. This was built for the family at Shugbrough
hall so they could get to church in their carriage as the pack horse bridge
was too narrow for it.
The locks on this section don't have tail bridges, which slowed us down as we don't like the idea of stepping across the gates. Fortunately the locks here are relatively shallow so I could assist Christine occasionally by hopping up from the boat to the lockside.
Our two-handed lock technique was something we had to work on, especially once we reached the Atherstone flight. We have got rather used to having a crew.
We considered stopping at Rugley for another attempt at finding a chemist, but the town didn't seem very inviting. We made a brief tea stop at the visitors moorings by Bridge 67, but were not very impressed so we didn't stay The moorings a bit further on by bridge 66 looked better so we noted them for the return leg.
The Ash Tree pub at Br 62 has moorings for customers so we tied up there and had a reasonable meal in pleasant surroundings. We didn't fancy spending the night at the bottom of a pub garden, though, so we pushed on after taking on water just after the bridge. This was probably a mistake as we had to get past the narrows (that used to be the Armitage tunnel) and the rather unappealing toilet factory before we found a nice spot by Bridge 58. It was rather a long but satisfying day.
Tuesday 5th Armitage - Polesworth 18 1/2 miles 5 Locks 8 1/2 Hrs
After the last two long and busy days I had promised Chris a lie in, but despite this we got underway at 8:30. We swapped jobs and Chris steered while I did the locks. Once we cleared the outskirts of Rugely the scenery improved and it took just a couple of hours to reach Fradley junction.
We moored just below the top two locks and noted that this spot is reserved for Swan Lines hire fleet on Fridays and Saturdays. We then went for a good look round, exploring the small chandlery and gift shop, where we bought a Pearson's guide (we had loaned our Nicholsons to a friend and we were about to travel off the map).
The Pearsons Guide has a very different style than what we were accustomed to, much more chatty. They don't keep the maps in a consistent orientation, and miles are not marked - more of a commentary than a map. Then we took a walk beyond the junction to the BW offices where a very helpful chap gave us a list of visitor's moorings.
The first few mile of the Coventry canal are through through peaceful countryside, but this is soon shattered by the busy A38 at Streethay Wharf . We did consider stopping for a look round but the traffic noise and total lack of mooring space put us off.
Whittington is a much nicer spot, so that's where we stopped for yet another tea break. After that it didn't take very long to reach Glascote locks where the very friendly chap in the ex-lock keeper's cottage helped us through. There are good visitor's moorings just above the Glascote locks, so we stopped for dinner, but decided to try and find somewhere quieter for the night. Once again we ended up boating for longer than we would have liked but we found an adequate spot on the way into Polesworth.
Wednesday 6th Polesworth - Near Nuneaton 8.5 miles 11 locks 6 hrs
We were keen to tackle the Atherstone flight before it got busy, so we were away by 7:30 and arrived at the bottom lock an hour later. We had the flight to ourselves (although 3 were behind us since Polesworth) and we came to the conclusion that the provision of tail bridges at locks would make life easier.
These locks are quite spread out and are in pairs so there are places to moor up if you have had enough. There is also a useful looking boatyard about half way, selling cheap diesel, but we didn't stop as we had plenty on board. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get up the flight which isn't bad with just the two of us and no oncoming traffic.
By the time we got to the top we were ready for a break so we stopped for lunch and a rest. After lunch I did some boaty things while Chris went shopping - the town has a good supermarket. We had intended to take on water here but the water point is awkwardly placed right by the top lock so we moved on to BW's Hartshill yard and got it there. We made a brief stop at Valley Cruisers and admired their new canalside shop before finding a nice spot to spend the night just before the outskirts of Nuneaton.
Thursday 7th Polesworth - Stretton Stop Hawksbury
We decided to get through Nuneaton before the kids got up and were away just after eight. The transit through the town was uneventful.
At Marston junction a hire boat came out behind us who didn't like to slow for moored boats, and every time I did so he got a bit closer. Finally he had enough and tried to overtake as I slowed to pass Nb Psalm moored - fortunately he saw the error of his ways before things got sticky. We also passed a sunken cruiser barely visible above the water with just a piece of plastic pipe sticking up as a warning.
Hawksbury was very crowded with about half a dozen boats queuing for the stop lock. We proceeded to Stretton Stop to turn and visited the chandlery at Rose boats. Hawksbury was still busy when we returned but we found a mooring after the junction on the Coventry canal. I had a very pleasant chat with John on Stokie regarding fuel prices etc. After that we met up with Roger Millin for a meal at the Greyhound and a really good evening's natter about boats.
Friday 8th Hawksbury - Atherstone bottom lock
After making use of the shore based facilities we were away at 8:20. It was cold and windy, and we made slow progress to Atherstone with multiple trips down the weedhatch. We stopped above the top lock for lunch and managed to time our departure just after a boat went by. This then meant a 25-minute wait for the lock.
This time there was some oncoming traffic on the flight, which lowered the workload a bit and we went down in just over 2 hours. By then we were a bit tired, and so made use of the visitor moorings at the bottom of the flight. It was a sunny but cold evening, so we lit the stove - not someting we expected to do in June.
Saturday 9th Atherstone - Fradley
We woke to the sound of light rain so we had a leisurely get up and re-lit the stove. The weather soon improved and we got underway at 9:30. We passed some guys bow hauling a hulk right through a fishing match. The anglers were not pleased but they were civil to us.
At Amington we stopped at Canal Crafts (near Br 68) where Neil Winfield gave us a warm welcome and we took a look at his range of canalware and reclaimed windlasses. We grabbed a quick fish and chip lunch while a heavy shower passed over and then set of for Glascote.
We got lucky at Glascote locks and had a couple of boats coming the other way so we flew down those and made our way to Fazeley Junction. Whilst there we took on water while watching the chaos when a Canaltime boat met a day boat attempting to turn in the junction. After that was sorted out we ended up following the day boat as it wove its slow way back Streethay wharf.
We soon caught up another Canaltime boat, which was going slower and slower. Soon we were reduced to tickover and I could hear their engine above ours and see lots of propwash. Chris asked them if they had something on the prop, and they invited us to pass while they investigated it.
We moored above the locks at Fradley but had trouble getting anywhere near the bank, as there are underwater rocks. The best we could manage was to have the bow close-ish (within leaping distance) with the stern about four feet out - not good for official visitor moorings.
Sunday 10th Fradley - Radford Bridge
By now we were well ahead of schedule so we had a relaxed get up. Chris took a turn at the tiller while I did the locks. The top gate at Woodend lock had been left open, we could only assume it was the crew of the hire boat that passed us at high speed earlier.
We found better moorings at Rugely right by Br 66, Chris went to get some provisions while I pottered about on the boat. After a pleasant run through Cannock Chase and Great Hayward, we stopped at Tixall wide and enjoyed the view for a while. I was concerned that we might have trouble getting away as there was a very strong on-shore wind. As it turned out we had no trouble and I could probably have used a bit less throttle than I did.
We met up with our friends Peter & Karen when we moored by the Radford Inn, and enjoyed another evening's good chat.
Monday 11th Radford - Gailey
After an uneventful trundle to Penkridge, we decided to take a look round to see what the town had to offer. It has several pubs, a reasonable Co-Op supermarket, some bakers, an old-fashioned sweetshop and a few other shops.
As was becoming our habit, we were ready to leave just as a load of boats went past and ended up in a queue for the lock. One boat was particularly slow, we were later told they took over 25 minutes to get through Gailey lock.
Once back on the home mooring we did some boat maintenance tasks and tidied up before my parents came to visit. They arrived and we had another really good evenings chatter.
(Because of the photos and the length of this trip report, we've put the second week on the next page)