It has been 4 months since our last blog sharing our narrowboat journey through England. But we have not been hibernating through the Northern winter months! Our trip to South America has been detailed in three previous blogs – Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina.
Unfortunately, poor health kept us tethered in Bosworth Marina for far longer than intended, with just a few trips out to stay with narrowboating friends, Julia and Malcolm, nearby, our friends Sue and Christopher in Baldock (one of our other homes in this country!) and the odd foray for supplies.
However on Monday 21st March, we finally untied our mooring ropes and headed back out onto the Ashby Canal to revisit the head of the navigation at Snarestone (and for Bob to enjoy the offerings at The Globe Inn!!) before heading slowly back down the canal to the Marston Junction where again we headed north up the Coventry Canal. It felt so exhilarating to both of us to finally be out on the cut again enjoying the crisp air, the emergence of spring and the wonderful sensation of freedom. Couldn’t help but provide health improvements as well!!! Whilst we have done this canal before we always enjoy cruising it – no locks, beautiful rural setting, lots of wildlife and serene peace.
We had set a goal to be at Fradley Junction by the end of March to meet up with our traveling companions for the summer – Jim, Chris, and Gina aboard NB Sylph. But first Bob had another of his eye appointments in London so we made for Atherstone and moorings very close to the train station. Benefits of this location included access to shopping for supplies and extra little creature comforts for Celtic Maid, clearing up our mounting laundry at a nearby laundrette (we had become very accustomed to the laundry at the marina where Bob spent many an hour catching up with people via skype or phone), purchasing carpet for our decks and enjoying an amazing lamb shank lunch, best coffee and stunning bacon sandwich at Cafe Resta. A very positive sojourn and good outcome with the eye appointment too.
As we continued our way north we discovered via texting that NB Sylph was moored only half a mile down the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal from the Fazeley Junction that we were fast approaching. So it seemed the obvious thing to do to meet up with them and commence our summer journey together. What a lovely catch up over a drink or two, sharing the separate experiences of leaving Gloucester and transiting Birmingham. However, we are none too happy that Jim now refers to us as “seasonal boaters” given that for the last 2 summers we have left Celtic Maid in a marina whilst we headed to warmer climes in the Southern Hemisphere. For some reason, he just isn’t buying our need to see our family!
Our journey together continued the following day to Fradley Junction where we remained for a few days, taking the opportunity to visit our friends in Baldock to establish a relationship with the medical clinic there. Jim and Chris also had a few things to do so this was a good spot to rest a while. We were delighted to spot our new friends Brian and Suzy from NB Mustang Sally, enjoying a beverage at The Swan on our return from Baldock, so the six of us sat in beautiful sunshine sharing stories. Even as the sun sank lower we enjoyed the hospitality on board NB Mustang Sally before finally calling it a night.
The next stop was Alrewas where we walked the 2 miles from our moorings alongside busy highways, to experience the National Memorial Arboretum. This is a truly beautiful memorial to those who have served Great Britain not only in the armed forces but all levels and areas of public service. A mix of planted woodlands, sculptures and structures, and manicured gardens make this site is a must see. We only had a short time there so took the guided train tour with commentary but hope to return some day and meander through it all.
We were nearing the end of a few very sunny and warm days, so took the opportunity of enjoying it by making a short cruise to the Branston Water Park and mooring up to spend the afternoon in the sunshine on the towpath. We enjoyed a very healthy shared repast and a few thirst-quenching beverages to celebrate the short-lived visit of sunshine. The next morning, our walk around the lake (a regenerated gravel pit attracting a range of birds and other wildlife), required the wearing of our winter coats as the wind was again very cold and the sun refused to show its face.
After a couple of short stops going through Burton Upon Trent to get supplies (requiring a comic taxi ride back to the industrial estate near where we left the boats, with the back full of too much food, wine and beer and none of us really knowing where we were headed) and a diesel pickup to keep Celtic Maid and Sylph going, we finally moored near Willington so that Jim could do his car shuffle again.
Our goal was to get to Shardlow by Thursday lunchtime before Easter so that we could pick up Sue to spend the weekend with us. Christopher had a busy weekend photographing cars at Silverstone but joined us Sunday night. We were unlucky with the weather for all of Easter but Sue got a good rest, and the chance to identify many birds, and we got to pamper her with lots of love, food and of course our sparkling company. We did a small amount of cruising making it to Nottingham before Christopher joined us.
Jim and Chris’s daughter, Kim and her husband Lawrence, also caught up with us in Shardlow, bringing Bella for a visit with Gina. It was great to have a quick catch up with them as well. We regard the families of our friends as our family too. And we were lucky to have skype contact with some of our family over Easter as well. Very blessed.
After the early departure of Sue and Christopher on Monday morning, we went to the shopping precinct of Nottingham for a quick look around, before relocating to the conveniently located Sainsburys supermarket ready for an early morning stock up. It does sound a little like all we do is eat and drink on board but anyone who has ever spent time with Bob in a supermarket knows you can’t come out loaded lightly!!!!
That done we ventured back to the junction of the River Trent, Erewash Canal, and River Soar, turning south to continue our journey around what is known as the Leicester Ring. This joins the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line, through Braunston, up the North Oxford and Coventry Canals and then along the Trent and Mersey. Some keen boaters achieve this ring in breathtaking time – we are somewhat slower!!!
The River Soar is a refreshing change – in parts very rural, winding its way past the power station near Ratcliffe on Soar and its many connecting power lines, with some sections between locks becoming more canal like particularly as you pass through the larger towns and cities. We enjoyed a rural mooring one night just south of Kegworth but aimed to moor in Loughborough by Bob’s birthday on the 20th to celebrate at a nearby Italian restaurant with Jim and Chris, and surprising him with a visit by Malcolm and Julia. We found 2 moorings in the less than salubrious surroundings of the Loughborough Wharf but with close proximity to eateries and supermarkets, as well as the all important services (water, rubbish and waste disposal) we made the most of his birthday and the quiet moorings.
On Friday morning – having celebrated, supplied and serviced, we headed south towards Leicester and whatever new experiences await us along the way.