While the rain was coming down yesterday evening and last night, the water level in the pound where we were moored was also dropping. It was down by around eight inches by this morning. We were awake when a boat went past at 6am, and decided that as the Atherstone flight can be slow at the best of times, we'd beat the crowds by getting up and going early. We set off just before 7 -- noticing that the boat which had been moored behind us (and going the same way) had gone. This meant all the locks were full and had to be emptied before we could go up.
The Atherstone locks fill painfully slowly. But halfway up the flight there's a lock with a working paddle on the side pond (all the rest have been taken away). I used it to speed up the filling process, but of course you have to lower the paddle when the lock is half full, or you start losing water to the side pond.
We met a boat coming down at lock five, so the next few were in our favour. But the top lock was full -- not just of water, but of the result of someone's gardening. I managed to fish out quite a lot of the rubbish, but we still ended up with yards of rose cuttings trailing behind us, which had to be extracted from around the rudder.
We passed Bendigedig moored at Bridge 34 just before Hartshill (and noted the mooring for future reference!). The Hartshill yard is looking a bit unloved, although the buildings are still impressive.
At Nuneaton it rained, although even this couldn't make this stretch of canal look any worse. There's rubbish in the water, graffiti on every bridge, and the towpath (which looks as though money was spent on it at one point) is overgrown along the edges. I like the description of Nuneaton in the Pearson's Guide, where it's given a whole two lines: "Oddly nebulous town of some size which holds itself at arms length from the canal. Nice fountain in the middle of a roundabout on the ring road."
As we passed Marston Junction, where the Ashby Canal starts, a woman was arriving by car to the little car park there, apparently to walk her dog. She was paying so much attention to us going past that she drove straight into on of the wooden posts on the waters edge, cracking he bumper and grille. The noise gave the ducks a fright, too.
Charity Dock looked, to my eyes, much tidier than usual. The mannequins appear to be arranged in proper vignettes now. Here's the obligatory photo of today's entertainment.
We stopped for lunch at Hawkesbury Juntion, then set off again round onto the Oxford. A boat was just coming through the stop lock, so it was ready for us, and Adrian did a great 180 degree turn through the bridge. I thought, yet again, though, that I really don't get the appeal of Hawkesbury. The junction itself is fine, with the bridge and the engine house; but the noise from the M6 is loud, the moorings are next to a bit of scrub land, and there's a huge electricity sub station right there.
The northern Oxford canal was straightened in the 1830s, so there are several long straight sections without much interest. We went through the recently demolished bridge at Ansty, then onto the embankment where Vigin trains fly by right next to the canal.
At Stretton Stop, lots of Rose Narrowboats were waiting for their hirers to arrive. Adrian got off to swing the little bridge which connects the shop to the sheds on the other side. We moored up for the night in a lovely and popular spot past Bridge 34, just before All Oaks Wood, less than two miles from the marina.
20 miles, 10 locks. (204 miles, 209 locks)