It has been an amazing experience to have traveled through the seasons as well as travel the canals. I began in darkest winter, literally dark by about 4 pm, but I could see right into the distance during the day – there were no leaves on the trees. And hardly any boats moving on the canal. As we moved into spring the birds began to mate, and build nests. And the flowers came and then the leaves on the trees. So many daffodils! A personal favourite. And then the lambs and chicks came. It is almost impossible not to count how chicks or cygnets there are in a family group, and it is quite a challenge. They skitter all over the place, it is as if they hydrofoil, they paddle with their feet so quickly that they rise up out of the water and wizz along the surface. They almost seem drawn to passing in front of the boat even though Mom is on the opposite side. Then they chirp like crazy trying to find her after they are on the wrong side. I have had to abandon coming in to a mooring because one was between the canal side and the boat. Finally it scampered away, if you can scamper in water.
Now the grass is even greener, the fields are filled with crops including rape, which we call canola, and the trees are in full leaf so my view is limited unless there is a break.
The lambs are growing up, it is amazing how fast they grow, and their moms have been sheared. Who knew sheep have such long legs. Sadly, the wool is not used commercially, it is too coarse. In this age where we are trying to reduce our use of synthetics it is sad that we can not find more use for this natural fibre. Sheep that give good wool for weaving and knitting are from sheep specially bred for that and are not usually used for meat.
Each year this group of men get together to travel the Thames, virtually from the source, but I am not sure where they end. They have all made their boats by hand, although some were not using them this year. One used his feet, like a paddle boat. He could read while he traveled!
I am in the middle of a stretch of single-handing and it never ceases to amaze me how much help has been to hand every day. Lucky lucky me. When you have crew and someone helps you out at a lock it is a bonus, when you are single-handing it is invaluable and you really appreciate canal etiquette. What is canal etiquette you may ask? Well, it is a lovely thing. If you arrive at a lock that is already in use you take over closing it and the people in the lock move on. This works whether you are going in the same direction, or opposite direction. I have been single-handing for three days, and every day I have had help at the locks. Today is a perfect example. I was just pulling Little star out of a lock with ropes when a boat showed up behind me. It was the first lock of 9. They took over the lock and I drove to the next lock. I set up the lock, e.g. fill it with water, as all of them were empty on arrival, open it and drive my boat in and close the lock. By which time the boat following would have arrived behind me. The top paddles would be opened, and the lock emptied, and they would open the gates and I would drive to the next lock and repeat the whole process. In the pouring rain. Yes, it is June 7th and it feels like March or April, not early summer. Now, I got to the last two locks, and low and behold, there were volunteers. No fair weather volunteers either. They were all wrapped up in rain slickers and they helped me through to the end. The Napton locks were in the bag, now for a long stretch with no locks.
After a hot shower, and several hours figuring out the route back to my home base, Overwater Marina, I went to the local pub, The Folly Inn, to back up all my devices, and hopefully all the pictures that I was having trouble with would be sorted out by icloud, and, of course, to have a drink. And in the pub were the three people on the boat behind that were helping me.
All from Perth, Australia, doing a couple of weeks on the canals. So of course a round of drinks were bought for them and we had a lovely chat after I got my devices sorted out and a bit of this blog written.
I sat down at a table that has an electrical outlet, necessary for all that backing up, and at the same table were a couple with a greyhound. Turns out they are fostering him, his name is Alan. He dislocated his hip and after a while was given up by the dog racing people. There was no treatment for the dislocation so his body has done the best it can to stabilize the joint and he is under weight. They are re-habbing him for adoption. Turns out they are both trainers for guide dogs for the blind. Talk about pulling on my heartstrings. Zoey was a failed hearing dog, and she dislocated her hip. I think Alan will land on his four paws with a good family.
It is getting busy here in the pub, I am at a table that has been booked for 7.30 and they have arrived so it is musical chairs at the moment as we all get sorted out, the couple with Alan have moved tables and I need to evacuate. So more later.
Something I keep meaning to write about is the number of houses that have pv (photo-voltaic) panels on their roofs. Now I know that it takes good government subsidies to get a huge uptake in innovative technology that is quite expensive but I am still impressed. Sometimes a whole flock of houses situated together are covered with panels. It warms my heart to see all of these mini power stations generating power. I wonder how many panels it takes to put one coal burning power station out of work, and how many more for a nuclear power station. And wind turbines are common here, but it seems more in the north than the south. I haven’t seen too many from canal, but I have seen lots of high tension wires with their massive pylons appearing to march over the countryside and I know I would prefer to see elegant windmills. Apparently traditional windmills were seen as an eyesore when they were first built and now we treat them as tourist attractions.