Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Retracing our route

Three years ago we brought our newly acquired tug Star home to the Middle Level from Streethay down the Coventry and North Oxford canals. Now we are retracing that journey - though in rather different weather. Last time we happened to hit the coldest week of the year with falling snow and frozen cansls; this time we've just had rain and cold winds.
Not surpringly the canals haven't changed a lot – a few new houses here and there, a couple of new marinas, more moored boats and a lot more undergrowth on the non towpath side.
They certainly have changed a huge amount in living memory though. Both canals were built to serve the coalmines around Coventry and, indeed, coal was being moved from mines in the area until the eqrly 1970s. You'd never know it - the mines have not just closed but virtually vanished. Nature, with the help of man's landscaping, has reclaimed all and now these canals appeaar almost entirely rural in nature.
Tom Rolt in 'Narrow Boat' spoke of seeing miners returning home along the towpath at the Glascote Locks. Even recently you could see the Reliant Robin factory. Now there are smart new houses. Rolt also moored near Pooley Hall where one of the country's oldest brick built houses stood jeek by jowl with mines and coal wharves. No longer – the Hall is now a smart looking manor and the only coal is in the fire hearths.
One thing that hasn't changed since Rolt's day (and since our first trip) has been the miserable mess that is canalside Nuneaton. First, rubbish spills into the water from a canalside landfill site; later on is a large, messy and crudely fenced off quarry. Add graffiti-ed bridges and a mile of largely overgrown allotments and you have a town that seems determined to present its backside to the waterway. A great shame: a tempting canal frontage can bring business to any town. Which is why we're now moored up in Rugby, getting ready for a trip to Tesco.

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