Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The scent of hay in the sunshine

Sunday 17th July;  Pigeon Lock to Chisnall Lift Bridge

Later yesterday evening a hire boat arrived and in spite of 100 yards of empty mooring they tied up 4 feet from our bow.  Anyway they were quiet and were just getting up as we left at 9am.  We were soon into Pigeon lock.

1 entering pigeon lock

You know those rows of bricks you brace your feet against when you open a gate?  Well I wonder if the chaps who put them in place have ever opened a heavy gate in their lives!  I know my legs are a bit short but I couldn’t use either set at Pigeon lock – one was outside the arc of the beam and the other not close enough to the business end for the smaller person to use.

2 just where should those bricks have been laid   3 so in the wrong place

Anyway the weather was glorious and on we went.  We waved to Jane and said how much we enjoyed our tea yesterday.  I wonder if her morning tea was as enchanting as the afternoon version?

4 jane having morning tea

Further on, we have noticed the murderous rabbit before (has it just shot the frog in front of it?) but not the golfer…. watch out, you could be next!

7 murderous rabbit

At Lower Heyford we found ourselves behind two dayboats.  Our hearts sank but there was a big benefit; at Mill lift bridge, which is really heavy, the first crew was being helped by a local chap who held it open for the second dayboat and us too. 

8 mill lift bridge

At Allen’s lock we had one dayboat in front and one behind.  I went up to see if the first wanted any help.  The second crew rushed up to watch and between them they made me feel as if I were giving a masterclass.  With equally sympathetic boats coming down I think we got them off to a confident start.

Farmers work hard this time of year don’t they?  We couldn’t see if they were cutting silage or harvesting grain below those wonderful skies. The machine on the left is cutting the crop, sucking it up and shooting it into the trailer on the right, which was nearly full.  The two other tractors in the picture have empty trailers waiting their turn.

9 harvesting below constable skies

As we passed, the full trailer turned and went off with its load, the second was in place within seconds and the work continued.

10 changing trailers

There was space to moor at Somerton meadows but we wanted to get through the Deep lock before we stopped for the day.  There used to be a winding hole at Somerton Bridge – we remember turning with Padworth, our old share boat, when the boat moored there had car tyres all around the stern and sides.  Now it is all private.

12 ex winding hole somerton bridge

Three boats were waiting at the lock.  The first had pulled so close to the lock that the boat coming down had trouble getting out.  Would the waiting boat move back?  No.  So it took a while.  The day boat in front of us was worried about getting back to base in time as they would have had to join the queue to come back down too.  The other boaters in the queue reckoned we could just turn them round, and so it proved with the rear fender lifted, some poling at the bow and hauling on the stern rope.  In spite of it all, the crew had decided to book a canal holiday when they got home.

Eventually we made it through the lock and moored a few hundred yards past the lift bridge.  We have stopped here before and it’s beautiful.  There was a tractor turning the hay in the field next to us and when he finished it was very peaceful.  The M40 is far enough away to be ignored.  It was far too hot to do much – I did some baking and made a quiche for tea, and when it cooled down a bit Dave took Meg for a walk up the towpath.  When the boat traffic stopped there were just two boats moored in the distance.

14 wonderful mooring

We sat out for ages as the shadows grew across the field with the lovely warm scent of hay on the air.

13 late shadows in hayfield

8 and a half miles, 6 locks, 2 lift bridges

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