Its funny how first impressions can be so lasting. I have long intended to venture up the Ashby but once on the Coventry canal I have gone past Marston junction in “next time” mode. Somehow it just didn’t seem to fit my criteria for being interesting enough – possibly something to do with when I used to live in Shardlow and took the odd day trip to walk the towpaths which were, to say the least, remote.
And so it finally dawned on me that with the boat in Braunston and the prospects of visiting a new canal it would be no great hardship to pop up the Ashby for a week or so.
Leaving Braunston was emabrassing. Heads popped out of hatches as I tried to nonchalantly reverse several hundred yards to the junction to save a lengthy trip to the first winding hole towards Napton but the wind decided to have some fun with us causing a rapid change of plans and direction. Once at the winding hole I had a bit of fun with the wind and made the turn in one. Nice one wind! Pity nobody witnessed this manoeuvre instead.
Braunston was much busier than last week but the North Oxford seemed pretty quiet as we headed towards Hilmorton. Predictably the wind played havoc with the queue as we hung back with half a dozen other boats and crazy though it sounds, everyone was being so polite with each other that nobody knew who should have the next lock – you know the “… no – you go first; no please, YOU go first…. no, no no no…”. So we we were waved through ahead of couple of others and soon clear of the third and last lock for many miles to come.
Boy was it busy too – each pair of locks surrounded by a dozen or more windlass-weilding hire boat crews all eager to do something but not quite sure what. This is, after all, the first set of locks experienced by hundreds of hire boats each weekend.
Despite the wind (why do you always meet an oncoming boat in the narrowest sections) we made good progress looking forward to a pint of Mild at the Greyhound. Rugby’s moorings were very busy and Newbold visitor moorings were virtually empty. I bet that wouldnt have been the case if we intended to stop there!
And so on to Hawkesbury where despite being after 7pm we found a lovely mooring just under the pylons.
Beer at the Greyhound is amongst the best in the world – it is a sheer pleasure to watch it being poured through a tight sparkler, first fill half the glass, then let it settle and then fill it to the top leaving a thick creamy head. Oh boy if only the Newbury bar staff could be brought here to learn the art of pouring rather than the one handed pull resulting in not a single bubble on the top of a freezing cold flat pint being gently warmed at the edges by the glass. Why do we have to pay £3.00 a pint for such crap, when at the Greyhound a pint of Hansons Dark Mild comes in with 10 pence chance out of two pounds.
We ate a huge plateful of home cooked food for a very reasonable price and left as very satisfied customers.
I note with great interest that there is to be a beer festival at the Greyhound on 15-17 August and decide that whereever Zulu is that week, we will be returning.