The overnight rain we’d heard on the roof gradually petered out in the morning.  As we set off in warm sunshine one of two boaters who were chatting in their t-shirts called to Clare “You know it’s closed do you?”  She replied “Yes, we’re just going to have a look at it!”

I got an email alert in early February about the landslip in the Easenhall Cutting a few miles north of Rugby.  This is one of three routes north we can take when we eventually start to head that way.  As the weeks have gone on the estimates for how long it will take to clear have gradually increased.  The latest is a further two months from now, so we are likely to take one of the other options.

We cruised as far as Brinklow Marina, the entrance to which is the last winding point before the damaged section.  After turning I reversed a little further to get us on to a reasonably puddle-free section of towpath.  The towpath along here is very soggy – only passable with wellies.  We had some lunch and then set off on foot.  I’d vaguely considered getting the tandem out, but we’d have had quite a job getting it to the road on the bridle path that was imitating a bog.  It was still in better condition than a footpath on the other side of the road.

View along a footpath. The narrow path between two hedges is completely covered in water so that it looks more like a stream.
Footpath Imitating a Stream

The road meets up with the canal a mile or so further on, at which point we rejoined the tow path.  It wasn’t long before we found the first evidence of the problem – a bunch of working boats moored up by a warning sign.

Work boats moored in the canal.  A large yellow sign says "Warning Canal Closed".  The blue sky is reflected in the surface of the canal as it curves away behind some trees.
Canal Closed except to Working Boats

We picked our way along the towpath as far as the next bridge.  At this point the towpath was very thoroughly blocked by temporary fencing held by stakes against the bridge stonework.  We could just make out something in the canal in the distance. 

View under a canal bridge. The towpath is blocked by an arrangement of temporary fences forming a square.  These completely block the towpath making progress impossible.
No Access Along Tow Path

There were steps on to the bridge, but the view from there was also disappointing.  We set off along the road heading for the other end of the blockage.  A footpath marked on my map had a new-looking sign up saying “No Footpath”.  I think this may be the route the contractors are using to cut a roadway to access the slip site.

Down in the valley Clare found a very boggy footpath alongside an overflowing stream which led to an aqueduct.  The steps up the side of the aqueduct led to the towpath, which was also barricaded, but not so effectively.  Not very far along we found a sign indicating we’d found the other side of the trouble.  This sign is for boaters who can wind using the winding hole under the arch.  The opportunity to wind is all that remains of the Brinklow Arm.

Sign saying "Navigation Closed".  The sign is free standing at the side of the towpath.  Beyond the sign a stone arch bridge takes the towpath over a side branch off the main canal.
Sign for Boaters

The Brinklow Arm also marks the point where the surrounding land reaches canal height.  We had approached on an embankment, but were now entering in to the cutting.  It was only a few boat lengths to the main landslip site.

Landslip blocking the canal.  Mud has slithered down from both sides of the embankment forming a blockage several feet above water level.  Stumps of trees stick out from the towpath side.  The towpath is buried to a height taller than a person.
Portage is not Normal for Narrowboats

It’s more than a month since the slip happened.  Initial work has cleared vegetation and some of the debris.  The estimated amount of material to remove is 4000 tonnes.  There is concern that removing the blockage could result in further slippage, especially from the off side, so the slopes will need to be stabilised further.

I cautiously followed the tracks of the heavy equipment to get a view from higher up.  The newly exposed slope above the slip is noticeably steeper than the original slope of the cutting.  I wouldn’t want to bet on its stability.

Newly cleaved slope.  The material sliding in to the canal has left a smooth face at a steep angle.  The dark mud does not look stable.
Mud Slope, Probably at the Critical Angle

Looking along the canal I could see that the blockage was not very long.  The trail of light in the picture is the puddled surface of the towpath.  The still surface of the canal reflecting the trees is harder to make out.

View along the canal from on top of the debris. The foreground is brown mud churned up by machinery.  Above are trees with a small line of light between them.
Canal Continues Beyond

We retraced our steps as far as the village of Brinklow.  I was thirsty and suggested we make the short diversion to the pub.  Unfortunately when we got there it was completely full of people noisily watching sport ball.  We beat a hasty retreat, I wasn’t that thirsty!

We could cut the corner on our return if we went via Brinklow Castle.  The castle was wooden and was demolished many centuries ago.  The earthworks it was built on remain – clearly more stable than the canal cutting.  At the top we were higher than any land for many miles around.  This area is quite flat though, so the view was not spectacular.

Brinklow Castle.  A mound of earth rises behind a field of sheep.  The sky is blue with fluffy clouds.
Brinklow Castle

We could hear a green woodpecker laughing at us from some nearby trees.  Although we looked for a while, we could only see pigeons and crows in the branches.  The bird continued to mock us as we headed back to the boat along the quiet lanes.

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