One of the best ways of knowing roughly where on a canal you are is to keep track of the bridges you pass under. On nearly all the canals, the bridges are numbered. There are a few exceptions: on some waterways, and on rivers, they’re named instead (or have both a name and a number). But on canals it usually numbers .
The numbers refer to the bridges built at the time of the canal, and increase or decrease as you trundle along. Occasionally a bridge will have been demolished, leaving a gap in the numbers (although you can often see where they were because the canal narrows there). Nevertheless, knowing where you are – bridge wise – can be important, and it means other people can easily find you in an emergency, as we found out last year.
Of course, some more bridges will have been built since the canal was constructed. And the rule is that you take the bridge number below your shiny new one, and add a letter. So Bridge 15A will always be between Bridge 15 and Bridge 16 – it might be right next to Bridge 16 when Bridge 15 is miles away, but that’s how it works.
So, imagine our horror as we came out of Coventry Basin on a bright sunny Sunday morning, finding Bridge 5 nestling between Bridge 5A and Bridge 5B. You really can’t rely on anything these days: heads should roll!
Anyway, we recovered enough to retrace our steps back to Sutton Stop, and carrying on were soon at Marston Junction on the outskirts of Nuneaton, where the Ashby Canal turns off North. We were so discombobulated by the morning’s shocking discovery that we decided a few days rural recovery was needed, and on the spur of the moment turned Right onto the Ashby Canal. Well, it was a beautifully sunny Sunday lunchtime…