Thursday 25 August. 6 1/2 miles, 11 locks.
We meander through the countryside passing the Hartsill boat yard where there are old canal buildings, one of which has a lovely clock on top. Diana wants to take it home to put on our sheds out the back. It would really suit the property. We have been past here twice before but going the otherway you don't see it coming as it is just after a bridge. This time there is time to slow down and get the cameras out. As we approach the Atherstone flight I check the weather as we have always struck rain here before, no exception today as we enter the 3rd lock the drizzle starts. Nothing like the first time through when a thunderstorm struck going up. It was so bad we put the boat in a lock and waited inside for it to pass. After the 5th lock we moored up and walked into Atherstone for a look around and a bite to eat. It is a town I enjoyed the first visit so was keen to walk around again. It has one of the best looking railway stations I have seen. It would have been even better in the days of steam when there was not all the electrification gantry & lines around. Late afternoon we continued down the last 6 locks of the flight, which are in 3 pairs mooring up just before the next downpour.
Friday 26 August. 3 1/2 miles.
Just a short run to Alvecote where a number of historic boats are heading for a rally this Bank Holiday Weekend. Arrive and have some lunch before we walk to the pub where the boats are. But first we catch a taxi to a chiropractor in Fazeley. Diana has had a sore back for a few days now and it isn't getting any better. She was lucky to get an appointment at short notice. After the treatment it is a taxi back to the pub. There are about 20 - 30 boats in the marina with a row of working boats all backed in so it is easy to have a look at the boatman's cabins at the back. There is not a lot going on as everyone involved are doing there own thing. Diana's back needs a rest so a quick meal (average quality) to support the event then back to the boat.
Saturday 27 August. 6 miles, 2 locks.
The Historic Narrow Boat Gathering officially starts today so we are off down there again. First up we talk to a Canal & River trust volunteer who is showing off one of the trusts work boats. This is used for education so is decked out as it would have been during it's working life. We are taken into the boatman's cabin and shown how every nook and cranny was used by a family of up to 6 living in a space only slightly bigger than 6' by 6'. Next we walk down the line of boats. These people are fanatics and every cabin was decorated to the nine's. Many photo opportunities here. It was good to be there but it was a bit like kite flyers getting together. They wanted to be and play with their friends and not concentrate on the public. We went back to the boat for lunch and then set off at 1415. At 1400 the old boats started one of their competitions. They come down the canal and turn in a wining hole then go about a mile and turn again. They are scored on their ability to turn. So as we come around the corner three boats have turned and 20 plus are heading towards us. We pop in behind number 3 and at snails pace weave our way past the oncoming boats in front of the public. Molly got a mention over the PA system as we went past. The next mile was probably the slowest done so far. Clear of the parade we continue through Tamworth, mooring up for a while as a thunderstorm goes through. Stop for milk & bread, fill with water then down the last two locks this year. They are all up from here on. Through Fazeley Junction and stop short of Hopwas for the night.
Sunday 28 August. 8 miles.
A mix of quiet countryside and noisy highway on a busy canal. It seemed like every boat coming the other way wanted to meet us in a bridge hole. Some didn't see us coming till the last minute so reverse gear was getting a bit of use. Arrived at Fradley Junction, where the Coventry meets the Trent & Mersey canal, in time to meet up with Roger and Pat who moor their boat about 10 miles and 14 locks down the Trent & Mersey. They came by car. The four of us partook of a Sunday roast in the "Swan", the pub at the junction. They then took us the two miles to The National Memorial Arboretum at Airewas. We made our first visit on the 27th August last year. A very moving place to visit. Back to Fradley junction for a cuppa before we returned to our boats.
Monday 29 August. 7 miles, 3 locks.
Up to the, reportedly busiest junction on the network, around the corner and straight into the first and open lock. There are volunteers to help so Diana doesn't have to put any strain on her back. Second lock much the same. Who said it was busy? About a mile further on at the next lock there is are no volunteers but we are second in the que to go up and there are 3 waiting to come down. Nothing unusual in that But, one of the paddles is broken so the lock takes an age to fill and the gate arms are short making them very heavy. No way Diana will move them without help. Lucky there are many boaters hanging around. 45 Minutes later we settle in at a stately pace until we stop for lunch on a beautiful day before continuing on to Rugeley and a stop at Tesco's. It is a day to enjoy so here we stay tonight.