The Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal (full name) is one that we have passed on many occasions but never bothered to explore. That changed today! One thing you quickly notice when living on the cut is the way the majority of boats start moving around 9am. Of course you do have the early birds, often hire boats, but if you wait until 10am the rush is usually over. This morning we watched the 9am boaters jockeying for the water point and access to the stop lock.
1st boat on the water point mooring and then three more arrived for the lock
At 10am we crossed over to the water point and also disposed of the last of our rubbish. Water pressure here isn’t great and it took 40 minutes to fill the tank before Jan worked us through the lock. The Coventry Canal was busy but we left all of that behind when we reached Marston Junction and made the tight turn onto the Ashby Canal.
The reason for the canal was to access extensive deposits of coal and limestone from the area around Ashby Wolds. Initially the plan was for a wide canal to run north joining the Trent and Mersey Canal near Swarkestone. However the nature of the terrain meant this would have required numerous locks and at least one long tunnel. A southern route was identified using the contour technique. The route was longer (approx 30 miles) but cheaper to construct. Initial construction was for a wide canal and this can be seen in the wide bridge spans at the southern end of the canal. This was subsequently abandoned with the stop lock at Marston Junction being converted to a narrow lock around 1819.
The two red dots on the map below show the approximate end of the original canal and the proposed junction at Swarkestone on the Trent and Mersey Canal. The arrows point to the ends of the existing canal.
The old boaters affectionately knew the canals as “Moira Cut” after the mines at Moira. It is very rural and has a number of similarities with the Chesterfield Canal, although deeper and no weed (at least at the southern end).
We slowly cruised towards Hinkley eventually stopping on a quiet mooring just beyond Bridge 6.