In this entry Trustee John Dodwell cruises with more Trust staff and ventures on to the Coventry Arm for the first time in a long while.
I couldn't resist taking the photo of Atherstone bottom lock, bathed in the early morning sun (above). Mark you, the sun played hide and seek for the rest of the day and we had half an hour of light rain after lunch.
I was joined today by Mat Wells and Stuart Smith from the Trust's water management staff. They not only wanted the experience of boating (both turned out to be competent steerers) but also wanted to to check water intakes and storm water weir discharges. I've never given it a thought before but the Coventry doesn't have any reservoirs and so depends (above Atherstone) on small feeders/ drains and what it can get from the Oxford.
At Hawkesbury, Mat showed me the bypass valve which serves the Coventry from the Oxford, additional to what passes through the stop lock. Water management is a little known side of the Trust's work but is as important as lock repairs.
I'd left Atherstone Bottom at about 8.30 and met Mat and Stuart at lock 6 after they'd walked down from the top. We met some volunteer lock keepers near the top - also some manning the Welcome centre. They are part of a group of 25 who aim to provide a service 7 days a week in season.
I'd also met some volunteer lock keepers the day earlier in the middle of Cudworth Locks - they reckon to cover Tuesdays and Thursdays, which they understand to be the busiest days of the week.
The journey to Hawkesbury had many reminders of the old industrial past. Stone quarries around Mancetter and coal which used to come out of the Griff Arm or Newdigate Basin. Not much to see now as nature has done its healing stuff - but then Pearsons Guide helps you identify industrial relics. But a place which is still very much active is Charity Dock at Bedworth - no doubt full of hidden gems!
Mat and Stuart left me at Hawkesbury. Unknowingly, we'd been following two coal boats which we found tied there - SOUTHERN CROSS and BLETCHLEY. They had both loaded bagged coal and other fuel at John Jackson's Awbridge coal wharf on the Staffs & Worcs - carrying out 20 tonnes each. They had come round via Great Haywood and were on their way to the Grand Union. I needed more diesel and so took advantage of their presence and bought over 120 litres.
A little after 6.30pm, I started down the Coventry Arm. I hadn't been there for ages. As is to be expected, industrial buildings have or are being replaced by housing. But it's not all buildings - see my photo right. I tied for the night in the Basin and spent Thursday on boat tidying and cleaning things as well as walking into the city centre. The Basin has various listed buildings, including a magnificent warehouse with covered unloading bays for about six boats.
John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!See more blogs from this author