Saturday 11th February; Fenny Compton to Marston Doles
There was a thin layer of snow on the boats this morning and sleety snow in the air. I took Meg up to the village – we needed a few bits from the shop and she needed a walk as she wasn’t going to get too much of one on the towpath today. The snow looked quite pretty though there wasn’t much of it.
We were away at about 10, aiming to get below Marston Doles locks today so that we have plenty of time to get to the Folly for Sunday lunch. It was miserable weather for cruising; it snowed for a while, which was ok, then it turned to sleety drizzle which made it seem even colder in the keen wind. There was a boat moored at the Wedding Bridge, well tucked up with their fire lit.
Rather different from when we stopped here last year in baking heat!
Apart from a distant view of a deer there was very little to see as visibility was rather poor. Needing to warm up, we had a quick lunch stop in the Priors Hardwick area with some hearty soup made from casserole leftovers. We set off again smartish, aiming to get below Marston Doles locks where there is a good stretch of piling. It was still sleeting and freezing cold but these sheep didn’t seem to be worried.
Everything went well till we reached the top lock. It was empty; no problem. But it just wouldn’t fill enough to open the top gate. I checked the bottom paddles – one wasn’t quite down – so I sorted that, waited, trotting up and down to try and get warm, and still no joy. Dave came to help, as my boots were slipping on the brick surround, but to no avail. There was nothing for it but to empty the lock to see if anything was stuck between the bottom gates. There seemed to be a small quantity of cuttings from the vegetation clearance that has been carried out; nothing big, but we thought we’d try again anyway. I went to close the paddle again but wasn’t paying attention and tried to do it from the wrong side of the balance beam. I think your brain slows down when your feet are cold. My hand slipped off the windlass, the paddle whizzed down and the windlass clouted my elbow. (I have to confess the air was blue for just a tiny second). But the paddle wasn’t damaged, the windlass stayed on land and I didn’t seem to have broken anything, and as the lock filled again we could see what must have caused the problem. Amid the bits of bramble and small twigs was a finger-thick length of willow. As I pulled it all out it was clear there was more like six or eight similar lengths, quite enough to stop the lock filling properly. After that excitement we were quickly down the two locks and moored, and I was lighting the fire before Dave had finished closing up the back. Copious applications of arnica were applied to my poor elbow and Dave got to cook the tea.
2 locks, 6 miles