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Almost Nottingham, spring 1991

weed hatch job
My job as usual to clear the prop

A 1-week trip from Valley Cruises at Atherstone via the Coventry Canal, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Trent to Trent Junction and back. Total 101 miles and 62 locks.

We were intending to get to Nottingham, but we decided to stop short and instead had a day excursion into the city by train from Long Eaton.

Diary extracts:

Sat 1991-04-20
To Atherstone in two cars with 2 dogs. Away on Lune Valley at 14h, sun shining. Valley Cruises 19.2m boat, 4-cyl BMC diesel, indirectly cooled by canal-water through a heat-exchanger, primary cooling closed circuit. Not bad in presentation, but lacking in storage space, especially oddment ledges. Single circular pipe heating system, gas fired and electrically pumped. Two gas bottles, but not auto-change, and no spanner if we need to buy more. First day to just beyond bridge 68, 8mi and 11 locks, arr at 18h. Eve to Gate Inn, by bridge 69. Marston's Pedigree again.
Sun 1991-04-21
Away at 8h30, in damp and dismal weather. 14+1/2mi and 7 locks. Windy, stuck on the towpath side for 1/2 hour before Balls bridge, eventually punted it across and held on ropes on off-side and started from there. Got caught coming out of a few bridge holes as well. Lunch at Swan at Whittington, 1250-1350. Won a chicken and associated vegetables in their raffle, which were locally produced and excellent. Then on in rain to Fradley junc, where water for 15 mins, and down Trent and Mersey as far as Alrewas, just below Bagnall lock by 18h10. This boat quite difficult to steer in wind for some reason - it seems all right, then suddenly the nose does something unexpected. Today is census day, and we're caught at the evening mooring. We have to fill in a form for the boat, even though we've all done one for our homes. Eve to Navigation in Alrewas, filling in the census form between us with the boat as address; should provide some interesting statistics. Fairly decent pub but almost empty.
Mon 1991-04-22
Away at 8h15, in sunshine. Few locks, spaced well apart. Not much of Burton-on-Trent visible from the canal, and only Bass and Marston's breweries identify themselves. Sights now set a little lower than Nottingham, perhaps Long Eaton, and then take a train from there. Lunch at Green Dragon, 50m from canal at Willington, by bridge 23, arr 13h10. Then water here and away at 14h35. Keep going well all afternoon, to Shardlow, just before bridge 2, by 19h30. Total today 23mi and 11 locks. Broad locks from Stenson onwards very heavy. Eve to "Malt Shovel", Shardlow (Marston's). Hard day.
Tue 1991-04-23
Away at 8h30 in gloom, getting to Trent Junct about 10h. Take on water in entrance to Erewash canal, then moor pointing homeward just outside the entrance. A lot of water here on the river Trent, quite different from driving on the narrow canal. Weirs also. Crew apart from me to Nottingham, by train from Long Eaton, me looking after the dogs and reading. Away again 15h20, boat going slower upstream in the river. Up through Shardlow and back onto decent canals again, arr Weston upon Trent, above lock, at 18h20. Short walk to Old Plough in village. 9mi and 7 locks.
Wed 1991-04-24
Under way at 9h05, managed to unblock the forward bog. Dull, but mild. Through the broad section by 11h45, back onto real canal now. Stop at Willington, above bridge 23, at 12h30, then take on water and lunch at the Green Dragon again. Lots of good food and cheap, but vegetables boiled to oblivion. Back in motion at 14h30. Stop to remove a load of rope and a piece of steel reinforcing bar from the prop by bridge 32B (about 20 mins, using the bread-knife), get to Branston, beyond bridge 34, at 17h45. Our least capable steerer, supposedly being supervised by a more experienced crew member, got the rope caught round the prop and tiller, couldn't steer so tried going faster, and rammed the lock hard. Rope is broken too. The supervisor just did nothing. Never trust anybody. Today 15mi and 4 locks. Eve to Bridge Inn, by bridge 34, Pedigree and Owd Roger from the cask and live music.
Thu 1991-04-25
Away at 9h. Windy and difficult to steer. I went aground on the towpath side by the weir N of Alrewas and had problems getting it to point towards lock 12, let alone get in straight. Fun. Moored for lunch just onto the Coventry at Fradley Junct, at 13h15. Water 15 mins below Barton lock. Lunch at Swan at junction and bought map in adjacent shop. Afternoon ended at Hopwas, just S of Dixons bridge, between the Chequers (Courage) and the Red Lion (Ind Coope), at 18h. Today 15mi and 9 locks. Afternoon no locks and 8 mi in 3+1/4 hrs, average 2.5 mi/h. Eve to Chequers, juke-box, no atmosphere, but good evening despite that.
Fri 1991-04-26
Leave Hopwas at 08h30. To Polesworth, bridge 54, at 12h00. Bully Head (M+B, but Bass available, fortunately) for lunch and visit to village. Away again 13h55. Dropped my specs into the canal just below the bottom gates of Atherstone bottom lock, so I'm now on the spare pair. Thunderstorm during the flight caught us unprotected. Called at boatyard for re-assurance on quality of winding-holes, then went on to turn just beyond bridge 34 (plenty of width but not very much depth) and moor at same spot as three years ago, just N of bridge 36, 1815. Today 15mi and 13 locks. Tomorrow just under a mile, so total for the trip is about 100mi and 62 locks. A slack week, but going has been slow everywhere but in the river sections. Eve to Plough in Mancetter about 1km walk from canal.
Sat 1991-04-27
To boatyard by 8h15. Today 1mi and 0 locks. Eve to Dragon Inn Chinese at Leighton Buzzard with the whole boat crew. Fuel 59l = 37l/100km, or 7.6 mi/UKgall.

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