A two week cruise to the Ashby canal – Day Ten: Sutton Wharf To Marston Jabbett

The weather has turned. Rain is running down my office window as I write this post. The sky is a uniform dirty grey, I can hear trains thundering past on the West Coast Mainline less than half a mile away and there’s a row of electricity pylons marching across the landscape. Our mooring is the best we could find in the last hour of our journey yesterday.

I don’t know where the time goes when we’re cruising. We left Sutton Cheyney Wharf at 10.00am, covered just eleven miles but didn’t moor until 6.00pm. We were delayed in Hinckley for a while though, and had to stop for over half an hour to clear our first propeller debris of the trip.

We had just passed through a bridge hole when I heard a bit of a clunk. I felt some additional vibration through the tiller and after about five minutes noticed that the engine temperature had crept up to ninety degrees. I stopped as soon as I could, which of course, wasn’t as soon as I would have liked to because of the extremely shallow water next to the bank, and dived into the weed hatch.

I removed about six feet of tightly wound nylon rope with the aid of a sharp knife and some mole grips (both attached to my wrist with a length of parachute cord to stop me losing them when they slipped out of my hands. I’ve learned from previous mistakes). Just to make sure that I had all bases covered I checked the oil and water, then set off again after a quick cup of coffee. The engine temperature stayed at its normal seventy degrees so the rope appeared to be the problem.

We reached the Brewers Fayre in Hinckley just before 2.00pm so stopped for a sandwich. I don’t know why we bothered. We stopped there on the way up the Ashby and didn’t particularly enjoy the mixed grill we had. I don’t know why we expected the steak sandwiches to be any better a week later. They weren’t.

We had to stop anyway. Nottinghamshire Police divers were in the canal under bridge seventeen so all boats had been stopped until they were out of the water. The search was part of a murder investigation. I don’t know what they were looking for but if the murderer escaped by bike, they were in luck. They pulled seven bikes out of the canal in the thirty feet stretch they were searching.

Over lunch Sally and I discussed the police divers.

“How do they do it? Sally asked. “Their job must be very difficult. I don’t know how they find them.”
“Find what?” I asked.
“Small body parts.”
I was puzzled. “They weren’t looking for body parts.”
“Yes they were.” she replied, “The policeman we spoke to said the diver was doing a fingertip search!”

She was having me on of course.

After lunch we walked back to the boat, saw that the police divers had completed their search under the bridge, untied the boat and set off again. We didn’t get very far. The divers had stopped long enough to allow the waiting boats to pass before moving their search 200m further up the canal. We had to wait for half an hour for them to finish.

While we were waiting I chatted to the couple on NB Cream Cracker in front of me. They were enjoying their first season as both narrowboat owners and continuous cruisers. In March this year they both left their jobs, sold the contents of their house, moved tenants in, bought their boat and set off for a full summer’s cruise before looking for a winter mooring and jobs at the end of this year.

They’ve both thoroughly enjoyed the experience but they weren’t that keen on the Ashby canal. They only ventured as far as Sutton Cheyney Wharf before turning back. With a draft of 2’3″ they had been ploughing through the silt for most of the journey. I agree that the canal is very shallow in parts. It’s often difficult to pass another travelling boat without running aground but, with care, there aren’t any real problems.

The section which caused me the most anxiety was between mile post 2 and bridge 5. The canal has been cut through rock. Both banks and the exposed rock seemed perilously close as we edged our way through it. We didn’t pass another boat on this section. I would have slowed to tickover and kept as much as possible to the centre channel if we did.

We moored at Burton Hastings on our way up the canal, but yesterday those moorings were full. We tried to get close to the bank at several likely looking spots after that but the best mooring we could find last night was between bridges two and three. We’re a little to close to the busy railway line for my liking but I didn’t want to risk going any further, joining the Coventry canal, and having to find somewhere to moor close to Bedworth.

We’re off to Coventry city centre today. I want to cruise the route just to see what it’s like. I’ve had a look at the comments made about Coventry Basin on Trip Adviser so I’m not expecting a beautiful landscape or a clean canal. I’ll try to keep an open mind though.