Monday, July 04, 2016

I loved Atherstone Locks

We'd chosen a really lovely place to moor yesterday afternoon. The railway was at a respectable distance, and. despite the wind, which felt like gale force inside the rocking, very shaken boat, we had a peaceful stop. In the morning, Grace had work to do on her laptop, so we set out about an hour later than expected. No problem, though, since this was to be a shortish day's travel anyway.

We chuckled at the sign on a shed at the bottom of a canalside garden,
"Grandpa's shed. Strictly no entry! Trespassers will be shot. Survivers will be shot again!"

and we were amazed at NB JayBee's solar panel array. Twelve of them, flat in the roof, each of them taking up the entire width of the roof and pretty much the entire length of it. That's a lot of power, even on a dull day!

While I admit that my memory's never been as good as I'd like it to be, I was more than a little surprised that I arrived at the top of Atherstone Locks to find that I had little or no memory of it at all. That continued down the whole flight of ten. Worrying! But I loved Atherstone Locks. 

The top lock was manned by a very friendly vollie, and given a short talk about the history of the immediate area. Lock 2 was supervised by the wife of vollie number 1, a lady who knew the canals well, and made several suggestions of detours we might make on this trip. Lock 3's vollie's wife also worked on this flight, though she was unwell today, and not there. I have rarely seen female vollies. This flight has four of them on its rota, all of them with their husbands.

The top lock has a Book Swap outside its vollie-hut. They sell plants there, too. A young man coming up the lock offered more books to add to the collection, and the vollie accepted gratefully. I then watched his jaw drop as the man went down into his boat, and came up a few minutes later carrying five or six carrier bags full to bursting with paperbacks.

At the third lock, I chatted as usual with the vollie. We opened the gates for Kantara to enter, emptied the lock, opened the bottom gates. We were still chatting as I walked down the steps to the foot of the lock, where I would step back onto the boat as Grace brought her out. We were still in conversation when I stepped onto the gunnels. And still, when Grace shouted out "Bridge!" I turned in horror to see a low bridge looming towards me. I couldn't step off the boat again. It was too late to walk quickly along the gunnels towards the stern, where I would be able to step into the profile of the boat. In desperation, I lay my head and shoulders on the roof and pulled myself in as close as I could to the cabin side.

I made it. Obviously. Otherwise I'd not be writing this. But it was a scary moment, I can tell you, and one to remind me not to become distracted by anything when getting on or off a moving craft.

At the fourth lock, a young couple were coming up on their week's hire-boat, and I chatted for a while with the woman, who was doing the locking. They were canal holiday veterans, having done ten over the same number of years, and were determined to have their own narrowboat when they retired - in over 20 years' time. We talked about the cost of hiring a boat for the week. We used to pay in the region of £1,000 when we were canal-holidaying back in the day. Now, she told me, it can be up to £1,600! So, if you buy a second-hand boat for, say £60,000, you've paid for the cost of it in the equivalent of about 38 weeks of holidays! That'd be 38 years for most of us!! That makes buying a boat sound cheap!

This is a picturesque lock flight. The mechanisms are well maintained, and easy to use. Our descent was a delight. We stopped half-way down for lunch. Goldcrests perched on a nearby fence, and swallows skimmed the surface of the water at high speed. A fly-through feast.
Carrying on an hour or so later, we passed NB Miner Bill, though Nikki and Ralph - Twitter contacts of mine - were apparently not there. Beyond Bridge 50, we pulled over to moor for the night. This is another beautiful spot, seemingly miles from anywhere. Cows are looking over a gate, curious about our arrival. There are just two other boats visible.

Since receiving some good advice from the Northants Fire & Rescue Service (when they came to the marina a couple of years ago, to give a talk on safety aboard boats), I keep a log while we are out on the cut, a record of the location of each day's mooring. One doesn't like to think about it, but should we need emergency services, we'd have to be able to give them accurate information about our whereabouts. The fireman at Yelvertoft gave out copies of a form they recommended for the job, which requires the name of the canal you're on, the name and/or number of the nearest bridge, name and/or number of the nearest road, visible landmarks - all sorts. I used this for a while, but last year I installed an app on my phone that simply gives me the current map reference, accurate to 10 metres. I record this in a notebook at the end of each day. Hoping we'll never need it. Today's is SK278016.

And very pretty it is, too.


  1. It's funny how we all have the same favourite spots to moor. Bridge 50 is where we stop after Atherstone. We are bringing up the rear, just slowly as we are half a mile outside Braunston.

    1. Yes! Then there's Bridge 100 on the Oxford South, just above Norton Jn on the Leics Line, below top lock at Buckby... I'm often amazed that there's space for us at these popular spots!

      Have a good trip. :-)