We are now a couple of delightful days further south, roughly speaking. Added to the fact that the canals (especially those designed by James Brindley - whose canals wherever possible followed the contours of the land rather than built straight with locks and tunnels to go over or under hills), the navigation books we use (J. M. Pearson Canal Companion) always shows the route in landscape mode regardless of direction (north is rarely up). It is possible to go both north and south whilst going east, and it is necessary to be extremely careful between pages near an intersection, it’s easy to pick the wrong canal! At 3 mph with little ability to reverse these are tricky decisions.
Spring is precisely on the point of bursting forth. I’ve seen one bank with remnants of snowdrops but they are effectively gone. Daffodils are very plentiful in gardens, canal banks, fields and public places and are in full flourish. The trees are mostly still leafless but a few have a haze of green noticeably increasing every day. Blackthorn is just starting to come out with it’s lovely white May blossom (why is it called May?). Willow trees have mostly gone beyond the soft velvety, pussy-willow stage, they are potently laden with yellow/green pollen - hell for anyone with allergies. Catkins drip in abundance from other trees. I also saw primroses and celandines today.
The weather has been consistently inconsistent, but better than one might expect from the number of raindrops shown on the BBC forecast. The day time temps have been around 10 -14, with a prospect of frost later this week. In the main it has been very breezy with occasional blasts accompanying a short heavy rain shower. We haven’t been too badly caught out thus far. My sheepskin flying helmet and mittens have been very welcome as it can get cool standing at the helm for hours.
We’ve spent rather a lot of time calculating routes using https://canalplan.org.uk/index.html it’s a remarkable web site which computes the estimated travel time between points on the canals. You make more speed on a canal with no locks and whoever programmed this site has made excellent estimates of the time locks take and entered every junction, bridge, winding hole …
We are having to do this as we have a booking for the Ribble Link, initially we were aiming for April 7th but if we wanted to go up the Ashby canal (new for us) and in completely the wrong direction for the booking, we were going to be tight for time for the booking. There are many variables that we have no control over, such as delays at locks, stoppages for canal or boat repairs, shopping requirements, tunnel bookings that it was looking risky. We were allowed one change booking and now we are set for the 17th. This gives us more time to potter about and seek the perfect pork pie.
Today we have reached the Ashby - it is as billed thus far, a quiet rural backwater, a little shallow, with squishy towpaths and marshy banks. It will probably take another day and half to reach the top, when we have to wind (turn around in a wide spot) and head back down again.