Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Hugging the shade

Monday 23rd July; Braunston Top Lock to bridge 103, Flecknoe
Following recent problems with posting this blog (error 103), and the fact a text-only test worked, I’ve re-entered the text in a new file and posted it, which went ok, but one with an image didn't.  I remember someone said they were having to edit photos in from blogger; that seems to be working, though I can't find a way to crop the images.
Last night three hire boats arrived late and squeezed onto the moorings, leaving not quite enough room to use the lock landing, but it had been the last movement of the day.  The last boat up had left the top gate open, expecting them to go down; when I went down to close it, I discovered the hirers had to be back at base, at the bottom of the locks, for 9.30, so there would be no point going for an early start this morning.  The first boat through the tunnel joined them, so we just waited for someone else to come along to share with.

NB Eremiah (I think – unusual name, anyway) arrived.  Tony and Mo had been out for a while and were on the way back to their mooring at Droitwich Spa marina.  As I went to set the top lock I was pleased to see absolutely no trace of the barbecue the three hire boats had been enjoying the night before – not even spilt ash or a stray bit of lettuce.  The water levels were fine and we locked ahead, meeting no-one till we arrived at the bottom.  I nipped into the little shop at the lock for some freshly-baked bread, then we were delighted when two crew appeared from boats arriving below so we could leave the bottom gates open.  We were so slick and efficient working the locks that I forgot all about taking photos, so this is the first, taken as we were leaving.

It was a good time to arrive in Braunston and we had a choice of several shady spots outside the marina.  I made some coffee and we relaxed for a while in the cool.  At last we had an internet signal to catch up with mail and I could put up a blog post – Wednesday 18th, when we went through Braunston in the opposite direction!  The ducks of course came to the open side hatch, though there was nothing for them.  They come so close you can see the beautiful delicate barring and shading on their feathers, although my technique ‘point-and-shoot’ camera doesn’t do them justice.  I think this is a young male – the glorious iridescent feathers on his head are beginning to develop.

The canal was busy and one of the passing boats was NB Inca, which used to belong to Carolyn and Gary.  We enjoyed reading their blog and hope they are keeping well and enjoying life ashore.

A while later I took Meg for her walk; it was very hot out in the sun but we could keep to reasonable shade by the hedge along the towpath.  When we bought ice creams at the bottom lock shop last week I noticed an odd thing in the hedge by the water bowl – just couldn’t think what it could be.  Today as we approached from the other end it was obvious;

 and here’s the tail!

It has a name too ….

which translates as ‘Great Humped Water Vole’!

Inca was just about to enter lock 3, so as we were crossing there anyway I stopped for a quick chat.  They picked her up last month and say she is lovely and they are thoroughly enjoying life aboard.
I disposed of our glass recycling in the Admiral Nelson's bottle bank, then we followed the lane to the village.  As we approached the farm we had to pause for a tractor to manoeuvre; it was shifting swiss-roll bales from a yard to a barn, and had to drive almost blind for a few yards to avoid an overhanging tree.  I took the photo from the shade beside the barn.

Fortunately the way to the village was fairly shady.  Normally I can’t get Meg to keep out of the sun but she didn’t need any persuading today.  I moored her outside the butcher’s, where there was shade and a water bowl, while I nipped over to the supermarket and then into the butcher.  Along with other independent butchers, if you take your own container along (like a plastic ice-cream tub with lid) they are happy to use that instead of the traditional plastic bag.  As well as avoiding single-use plastic, I find it easier to carry and store in the fridge too, with no smelly rubbish to store afterwards.

The walk back to the canal was scorching but Meg still insisted on investigating every interesting smell along the way.  I took a snap from the bridge while she checked on the wee-mails; Chuffed is in the middle of the photo, on the end of the moorings, with Dave busy washing the port side.

While we were having lunch, Dave was taken aback by something passing the side hatch.  Looking at it from an angle, he couldn’t think what it was for a moment.

It was mounted on a tug at the front of a CRT work boat.

After a while the sun began to come round so we moved on.  The water point at the Stop House was vacant, and in the shade too, so we pulled in for a top-up.  I’d not been inside before so went in for a look.  CRT has an office here, and the guy on duty was keen to tell me all about it.  The original junction of the Grand Junction and Oxford canals was here, and tolls were, of course, exacted. There used to be narrows outside the Stop House, with a stop lock for boats to be gauged and tolls collected.  The marina entrance is just past the Gongoozlers’ Rest cafĂ© boat (below).

We stopped for the Elsan too, which was in full sun so we were glad we hadn’t waited to top up the water here.  Here’s another view of the church (the spire, anyway) which I haven’t snapped before.

 We didn’t fancy our usual night-before-Calcutt mooring at Flecknoe, because we knew it would be in full sun.  So as soon as we found a vacant patch of shade we grabbed it – this one is shortly after bridge 101.  The towpath is wide enough to sit out comfortably as well.  I cleaned through inside and Dave touched up some paintwork, but it was too hot for more jobs.

It’s usually pretty busy along this stretch.  Today there was the added traffic of hire boats starting out on their holidays later in the afternoon.  Bridge 101 doesn’t carry a road, and the fields round here have all been harvested, so once the boat engines had faded away it was very peaceful.

 As the sun went down it threw some interesting shadows.

Later, everything glowed.

3½ miles, 6 locks

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