Thursday, 29 October 2009

Hilmorton to Newbold-on-Avon and back

The North Oxford doesn't think much of Rugby, skirting first its eastern suburbs, then running to the north of the town. Rugby always seems to have been content with the railway in the valley, leaving the canal well alone as it passes by. It's odd, as there is no real semblance of industrial activity on the canal around Rugby.

The locks at Hilmorton take the Oxford swiftly down almost 19 feet to its low point, although that is almost 7" higher than it should be for a perfect junction with the Coventry, due to a rather unfortunate surveying error when the canal was first built. What with the construction errors in the tunnel, they didn't have much luck connecting Braunston up to the outside world.

Hilmorton deserves a few older buildings and warehouses than it actually has, in order for it to compete in the "Fradley cute" stakes. And a pub. The three locks, each doubled up, sweep gently down a slope, round a corner, under a bridge and down a final step into the countryside once more.

After a short distance, the Oxford finally decides to get up close and personal with Rugby and slides into the northern industrial suburbs on long embankments, over aqueducts and past the odd furtive teenage drug dealer. By bridge 58, the canal curves sharply past new apartments and by a rather grim little park, but it is enough to attract a large group of boats moored on both banks. Beyond, and under the awkward bridge, the still waters make a final bound straight across the young River Avon before curving away towards Newbold.

We turn North Star in the arm, and have partially completed the job - including running the stern aground on a piece of concrete - before discovering a full-length winding point right next to the entrance. I feel somwhat foolish, especially as the 'aground' bit holds up three boats. Typical.

After a walk up to The Boat for a drink, we start the return journey. A rather worrying smoking engine room delays us for an hour while we strip off insulation material and try to work out what is causing it. We think it's a broken exhaust connection.

We make it back to Hilmorton, but the need for an early start means we have to get up the three locks this evening. It's hopeless, this darkness at half four. Our new headlight throws shadows of trees onto the surface of the moon, so the absence of a sun doesn't make a huge difference. We settle for the night too close to the railway, too close to the back road into Rugby but also near the little wetland again.

9.6 miles, 6 locks (the same ones twice!)

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