Friday 10th February; Marston Doles to Fenny Compton
Another freezing cold day and no locks to warm us up. But we were only going to Fenny Compton so there was no need for an early start. We were in quite a sheltered spot last night, out of the wind. The towpath wasn’t particularly muddy, either.
There were flakes of snow in the wind as we set off but at least the bends in the canal meant that we were out of the icy wind for at least some of the time. The person who lives in the boat in the field seems to be there to stay – he/she’s got a washing line anyway – but with no way out other than across a muddy field their boots must be thick with mud every time they come back to the boat. They have got a good wide metal gangplank but that looked pretty muddy.
Apart from a hire boat that passed us while we were having breakfast, we saw only one boat on our way to Fenny. It was Jo and Stuart, the professional boat movers with whom we locked up the Stockton flight last year. This time they were on their own boat, NB Norma Jeane. It was a pretty uneventful cruise after that. The HS2 placards are still in evidence. I’m not sure whether there’s any point to them now.
We saw a couple of kestrels but they were not very obliging and both flew off when they saw my camera. It’s a new one, with better zoom than the old one. Most disappointing.
We also saw a white pheasant but there were too many bushes in the way for a picture. White pheasants are specially bred for the shoots; I think they are bought in as eggs, and once the pheasants are grown they tend to hang around together. The white ones are easy to see, so the gamekeepers know where most of the birds are and can more effectively decide where the beaters should operate. I couldn’t find out much but it appears that if you are on a shoot and you bag the white one (leucistic I think is the correct term) you get fined. I tried to check this info – we had a white one in the garden a few years ago – but I can’t find the original source for my info. I hope I’ve remembered it correctly.
Then we saw this poor chap – bet he’s cold!
As we passed Wormleighton we noticed how visible the lumps and bumps have become where the mediaeval village must have been. We have only been this way before in the summer, when the grass has been growing and the reeds and vegetation high and we could never see anything of interest.
All the way from Napton we have seen evidence of CRT vegetation clearance activity since the summer and that may have helped. The weather remained mostly overcast with the odd spell of snow, but occasionally a few shreds of blue sky appeared, though they didn’t last long.
We arrived at Fenny Compton just before lunchtime and Dave winded while we considered our mooring options. There was one spot on the moorings below the bridges, but the towpath is very muddy there. We waited on the water point and he walked up to check the size of a space further along on the bend. We had to pause while another boat turned, but thankfully he went away and didn’t pinch that space! before Dave took us gently back past the two moored boats and we slotted neatly in. Silky manoeuvring!
After some warming soup for lunch we set off in the gently falling snow. Meg needed her walk after all, and so did we with no locks today!
We walked to the turnover bridge where the de-roofed Fenny Compton tunnel starts, crossed over and went up onto the road to turn back over the canal and pick up the footpath to Fenny Compton. When we cruised through the ‘tunnel’ in the summer there was barely room for a single boat in places – now I would say it’s as wide as it’s ever been.
It was a bit of a slog through the mud up Mill Hill but not really that hard. At the top is the lovely Mill House with the mill on the end incorporated into the living quarters;
then it was downhill into Fenny and we came out just up from the shop. The sun came out as we neared the canal, and we were able to clean our boots, wet-weather trousers and the dog before the cloud came over and the snow started again. By then we were snug and cosy inside.
We went up to the Wharf for a meal and a pint – the beer was ok, the meal was fine, the place was warm and comfortable – not a lot more to say really.
8 miles, no locks