We've cruised today one of the most popular sections of the Inland Waterways, through Braunston but strangely Leo has never before been up the six locks at Braunston and through the tunnel. So we have been filling in another blank in our cruising map.
Last Tuesday we were on the Coventry Canal south of the Atherstone Locks, but it was a miserable day so we only cruised for about 3 miles, enough to warm the water for a shower. On Wednesday the weather was better and we carried on into Coventry.
This is the historic Hartshill Boat Yard, now a depot of Canal and River Trust. It is a very attractive group of old buildings, but they really should fix the clock!
'Mount Judd' is actually a spoil heap in a quarry but is now one of the sights of the area.
Coming into Nuneaton this house and bridge made a peaceful scene. As you can see the blue sky has returned.
At Marston Junction we passed the end of the Ashby Canal but had already decided not to go that way this year. We have since heard from other boaters that it is very shallow and seems in need of dredging, so that was probably a wise decision.
At a rather ramshackle boatyard there are several characters hidden in the trees including the Stig seen here.
The last 5 miles from Hawkesbury Junction into Coventry tend to be a bit shallow and also strewn with rubbish in places. This rather seedy stretch is enlivened by passing 'Cash's Hundred Houses' which were built for weavers. Coventry was famous for weaving ribbons.
And here is Leo moored in the basin in the centre of Coventry. The basin is a delight and several boats were there for a few days exploring the city on foot.
Even James Brindley who planned the Coventry and the Oxford Canals is there, seen here planning his next canal.
While in Coventry we visited the Road Transport Museum, the Herbert Gallery and Museum (both free and well worth visiting) and the Cathedral (which charges entry but is now cheaper than it was last time we came here).
This wonderful building is the Council headquarters.
The Transport Museum has the best collection of bicycles we've seen anywhere including this bicycle made for five. Another articulated bike could carry up to 14 people all pedalling.
In the Herbert Gallery we were quite taken with this statue which is called 'Michelangelo as a Boy' and is by Emilio Zocci.
As they had reduced the entry price we decided we would visit the Cathedral which was built after the war by Basil Spence. It is an impressive building. This picture is of the West Window which faces the old cathedral which was largely flattened in 1940 by German bombs.
The weaving behind the altar is by Graham Sutherland and is the largest in the world.
Last Friday (5 August) we left Coventry returning to Hawkesbury Junction where we turned right onto the Oxford Canal.
Filling with water before we left Coventry another boater mentioned that he had seen some turtles a short way up the canal. As you can see we found them, presumably escaped pets but now well settled to life on the cut.
The junction at Hawkesbury is always entertaining with its tight turn under this bridge followed by a stop lock and all outside the Greyhound pub where customers are watching for you to make a mess of the manoeuvre.
Having made the turn the stop lock is in front of you. The function of a stop lock, which only changes the level by a few inches, was to limit the loss of water from one canal company to another.
Further on we came to Stretton Stop. This is now a boatyard and hire boat centre and has a tiny swing footbridge which needs to be swung out of the way to allow boats through.
And here is Helen doing just that.
Friday evening we moored near Brinklow and walked into the village in the evening. Brinklow has a fine Motte being the mound on which a castle was built. The mound is about 40 feet high and must have entailed a lot of spade work to build. It is now a good viewpoint.
From the top you can see ditches separating the inner and outer Bailey of the castle.
This is inside the church at Brinklow which has a very odd claim to fame. The floor of the church slopes very distinctly up the nave towards the altar. This is not because of subsidence; it was built like that. The difference in level between the two ends of the nave is about 12 feet so is quite marked.
A stormy sky that evening made for some splendid colours when the sun set.
On Saturday we set off in good time to pick up our friends Maurice and Carolyn who joined us in Rugby for a couple of days' cruising.
Coming into Rugby we came through the Newbold Tunnel which is wide and has a towpath on both sides.
We managed to pick up our friends easily and cruised on to the pretty Hillmorton Locks. There are three of these locks and each set of locks is paired so there are no queues.
Maurice and Carolyn undoubtedly brought us some good weather as this shot looking back at Hillmorton Top Lock shows.
Here you can see Maurice, Carolyn and Helen on Leo moored on Saturday evening near the village of Willoughby a few miles before Braunston.
We walked into Willoughby which was a beautifully kept village and had a field with these creatures. I think they are Alpacas rather than Llamas but I could be wrong.
Back on Leo we had a pleasant evening together. The arm holding the beer really is part of Ian shown on the left and not some extra person as it appears.
Today we've come through Braunston which is the epicentre of the canal system in England. It was very busy. Not surprising given this was a sunny Sunday in the school holidays but it did take us quite a while to get through and up the six locks.
The first sight of Braunston is the spire of its fine church. As soon as Maurice took the tiller, the boats came thick and fast towards us, mostly around the bridge holes.
Ian took some time off driving the boat and Maurice looks pretty relaxed at this point.
Carolyn also enjoyed the cruise. Behind her you can see the twin iron bridges at the junction where the Oxford and Grand Union Canals jointly go right. Our way lay on the Grand Union to the left of the two bridges.
There were a lot of boats around us as we approached the bottom of the six Braunston locks.
We've spent most of this summer on narrow canals so it was a bit of a shock to be sharing locks. Curiously we shared with three different boats in the six locks but did several with this Black Prince hire boat with a lovely family onboard who were new to boating.
Up the top of the locks we were soon in the darkness of Braunston Tunnel which is a long one at one and a quarter miles. The other side we came to Norton Junction and turned left (north) on the Leicester Branch of the Grand Union Canal. We moored very soon in a windswept but sunny spot. Leo is the third boat on the right.
We had to say goodbye to our friends and hope they had a good time. In the next few days we will be heading north towards Leicester as a first step towards returning home to Yorkshire.