Day eight. Atherstone to Rugby, 22 miles, one lock, 8¼ hours = 23 lock miles.
Another full-on day. Doing the Warwick Ring in one week is doable – indeed, I know it is having done the Ring on my very first canal boat holiday with a friend and our shared four daughters in 2000. But, slogging our way round the Ring this time, I’m reminded that I must have been somewhat younger and more vigorous then, as this has been an equal measure of fun and hard work.
Moral of this story – pack in the distances and the long locking flights in a first few long days, and enjoy a more leisurely back end of the week confident that you’ll make the boatyard in time for your handover.
That said, my own day has been rather relaxing, having left to Sue most of the steering along the long, pretty but fairly uneventful rolling landscape of the Oxford Canal.
In part, I’m sparing a shin bone that got a rather nastier battering in that lockgate fall on the way out of Birmingham than I’d realised. Also, there’s been serious guitar to be played and emails to be attended to. The delights of Google and an Android phone…
Time also to enjoy contemplation, of the meditative nature of canal boating, the way we’re cast gently back into an early time in the English countryside (remember these old telephone poles from the railways of the 50s and 60s?) – and of the character of boaters and their boats.
Like meditation, I muse once again, canal cruising slows down and quietens the thought processes – an outcome reflected interestingly in the names boaters give to their craft.
Here’s a selection from the past couple of days, elegantly indicative of what boating is all about, and some thoughts on what the owners might have meant:
- It’s Five o’clock. Somewhere. (Sun over the yardarm, elsewhere six o’clock, but on the canals, clearly it’s OK to open that beer or wine an hour earlier…)
- I Don’t Believe It (I think the owners do)
- Dawdler’s Dreams (self-explanatory)
- Stealyn Away (ought to be, maybe is, a Fairport Convention song, as we are indeed close to Cropredy…)
- Widdershins (a term, Sue explains to me, which in witchcraft means doing things the other way round in a profoundly meaningful way…)
- Another Smart Move (how true – that tax-free lump sum from the pension?)
- At Last (a long life hard-lived, now enjoyed in retirement?)
- Me Mother’s Yacht (paid for from the inheritance?)
- Comfortably Numb (homage to Pink Floyd)
- Narrow Escape – one of our favourites.
- Molly May….
Ah yes, that’s us. Why Molly May? Sue loved the name, and Kate Boats were ultimately open to persuasion that this would fit their practice of naming their hire boats after people close to the family.
We had originally thought of the name Duck Attack for our first narrowboat, but thankfully that really wouldn’t have fitted the Kate Boats identity. And as you can see from the picture, we turn out to be not the only people on the canals who like the name.
Mooring up just five o’clock before Bridge 58 in Rugby, near an almighty Tescos, has been utterly delightful. Giving us a much more leisurely ninth day tomorrow, Saturday, to get to the Braunston turn, a measly three locks there and then three locks beyond the Napton Junction to get us back to the boatyard by late Sunday morning.
Checking some of the facts about this rather lovely stretch of canal, I’m indebted to http://www.canaljunction.com for the following description of the Oxford canal at this point:
Braunston is an old canal town well worth a look. The section up past Rugby was straightened in the nineteenth century, almost halving the length of the original winding route. You can still see the remains of some of the straightened out loops and the entrance to the old Newbold Tunnel is near the churchyard. The “new” tunnel is at right angles to the old one and is of fairly generous dimensions, having a towpath on both sides. Rugby Borough Council and BW have created a very effective ‘Circle of Light’ in the tunnel. The Oxford Canal joins the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.