Friday, 5 August 2011

Grand Union Canal & Warwickshire & power problems!

I spent a couple of days in Warwick, and made good use of the time to cycle parts of the grand Union Canal, which links London and Birmingham.

Living in Plymouth, I am not used to canals at all, and the fact that I was not cycling alongside a river was brought home to me when I cycled across the bridge that carries the canal across the river Avon.

I cycled from the Hatton Locks through Warwick, then through Royal Leamington Spa. After some time, I left the canal when I saw a sign pointing out NCN41. Annoyingly, there was quite an obstacle course to get through and I believe trikes, and bikes pulling trailers would not get through, nor would tandems or tagalongs. And I thought NCN was short for National CYCLE Network, implying cycle-friendly infrastructure!

The sign, seen above, seemed to promise a very nice cycle ride, but sadly this wasn't quite the case. I found the Offchurch Greenway to be of quite poor surface, with a single picnic bench along the way. At the other end it continues after a reasonably busy road, though I opted not to continue along it, but rather to follow the NCN41 markers. It turns out that this was just as well, as the other section of the Offchurch Greenway apparently doesn't go anywhere!
At the other end there was another gate obstacle course to negotiate, meaning all those other bicycle variants I mentioned above would again not be able to get through - very  disappointing, Warwickshire County Council!

Before I offend the entire county, allow me to say that Warwickshire is simply gorgeous, and in both Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa I was pleasantly surprised by the cycling provision. This just makes the obstacles on the Offchurch Greenway so much more disappointing!

After having followed NCN41 for several miles, I turned around and cycled back the way I came. When I got back to Hatton Locks, I simply continued straight on.
The trusty steed, with Hatton Locks in the background
The canal towpath is quite rough and narrow in places, plus of course there are many people using it, so speeding along isn't quite an option. Nevertheless, after Hatton Locks I soon found there weren't many others using the towpath, and I managed to cruise at between 10 to 15 mph.

Before long I came to Shrewley Tunnel, which doesn't have a towpath inside it, and I had to part ways with the canal as I followed the path up the hill.

The path leads to the top of of the little hill, where I had to cross the road, before descending down a track on the other side. Quite soon, this track disappears into another tunnel that ends next to, and slightly above Shrewley Tunnel.

I continued further until I came to a junction, where the canal joined another. I crossed the junction using the steep little bridge and took a photo of the direction signs:
Birmingham left, Warwick right
My phone ran out of battery at this point, which is a pity. I continued for quite some distance towards Birmingham, and eventually turned around at Knowles, before heading back.

Overall I was delighted with the town of Warwick, and with the Grand Union Canal. One day I'd like to cycle its entire length. I also have to say that by far the majority of people on canal boats seemed exceptionally friendly, and I have never greeted (or been greeted) by so many complete strangers in all my life!

I've since acquired an extended life battery for my phone, which helps of course, but isn't a complete solution. I really do need to look at an on-bike charging solution, and that simply means either a bottle or hub dynamo, or a solar charger. I'm not at all convinced that a solar charger would do the trick, especially in winter!

If you have any experience of on-bike charging solutions, I'm open to suggestions.