Yesterday was bright and a little breezy, quite pleasant in the sun. Meg and I had a walk around Hawkesbury Junction before we set off…
Panoramic shot of Hawkesbury Junction
To the left is the lock-keeper’s house, occupied for a long time by the Sutton family, with a boat in the stop-lock just in front.
Just right of centre is the Greyhound Inn, recently granted Canal Boat magazine’s Pub of the Year Award. At the end of the junction bridge is the Toll Office, where boats were charged according to their cargo as they moved from one navigation to the other.
Heading away is the Coventry Canal down to the city, 5½ miles away, and the North Oxford commences at the stop lock, after a sharp turn under the bridge in front of the pub. There is only 10” inches of difference between the levels of the two canals. The background to why the junction is a bit odd can be found here.
The above composite photo was taken from taken from the footbridge near the old engine house, seen here.
The engine house sheltered first one, then two steam driven beam pumps, lifting water into the canal from shafts sunk down to the water table. The first pump engine had already seen a century of use in a local colliery before being moved here in 1821. That’s recycling!
By 1837 the old pump’s capacity proved inadequate and a newer, more power engine, drawing from a deeper shaft, was installed alongside. Both became redundant in 1913, when the sinking of a new shaft at Coventry Colliery upset the level of the local water table. The later engine was scrapped in the 1940’s, but the earlier Newcomen Atmosphere Engine languished in the engine house until 1963, when it was removed, restored and now takes pride of place in a museum in Dartmouth, birthplace of it’s inventor Thomas Newcomen.
We toddled off at around 10:00, up to the junction then under the bridge and around the 180° bend to the stop lock. Easily completed in one with a boat of this length, but it must have been interesting with a full length motor and butty!
Outside the stop lock
The fine cast iron bridge spanning the junction
The development opposite is on the site of the busy Sephton’s boatyard.
Minimal difference in level in the stop lock
Out of the lock and now the North Oxford Canal, the navigation follows a wide loop around the former site of Longford Power Station. The only reminders are a great pile of rubble, pylons and more recently installed electrical sub-stations.
Under Tusses Bridge (the Elephant and Castle pub has closed, by the way) there’s a strip of land alongside the canal which contains some interesting motoring history.
An early Volvo P1800, the model made famous by Roger Moore’s The Saint series on TV in the 1960’s
The earlier cars were built under licence by Jensen in West Bromwich, and this appears to be one of those.
A VW Beetle, less wings, and what may be a Dutton?
And a trailer made from the rear end of a Ford Zodiac Mk III!
Our day’s trip ended just around the corner. We were cruising past a green boat when suddenly there was a commotion from inside, excited shouting and banging on the windows. It turns out we were passing Les and Jaq’s NB Valerie. We were looking out for each other, as we knew that we were on opposing courses, but I hadn’t expected to see them this far up the Oxford yet.
So we pulled in and spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting and swapping anecdotes. We’d not met before, but have several mutual friends.
We decided not to carry on today. I wanted to watch the London Marathon, and also to wash and polish the right side of the boat.
Hah, talking of marathons… Just over 12 months ago I did my first (and probably last) 26.2 miler. Or at least thought I did. It turns out that the organisers of the Greater Manchester Marathon in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15 made a cock-up with the tape measure and the course was actually 380m short! So the run was only 25.96 miles! Does this mean I‘ll have to do it all again…?
Hi Adam. Yes, the side pond beside Lock 6 at Atherstone is in use, but not for us mere mortals!
Locks 1, miles 1½