Yesterday morning we could see that we had three days to get back to the Saltisford Arm in time for next trip back to Edinburgh. We could see that we had time to dawdle if that is what we wanted to do. I remembered an enjoyable lunch in The Boot Inn (other pubs are available) on my birthday and suggested we could walk the short distance there for lunch again. I phoned them, only to be told that they were fully booked.
I wondered instead about driving on through the junction and on to another pub (I told you they were available). Before I called, I checked the map to see if we could walk there instead. I was pleased to discover that although it was a mile-and-a-half and three locks by canal, on foot it was only three-quarters of a mile along a quiet lane. When I spoke to them, they said they could squeeze us in, but only if we arrived early or late. We were already hungry, so we chose early and walked there.
We both enjoyed our meals at Tom O’ The Wood. The sun came out while we were in the conservatory so we were both quite warm as we walked back. We decided to move on a short distance in the afternoon, mostly because the weather seemed so pleasant. We had three more locks and a few of the narrow bridges to do.
We were rising in the third lock, when the rain started. It gradually got heavier, so eventually I retreated inside the boat. I could see that the sun would be out again soon, and that there was unlikely to be another boat coming before then. As the rain eased, I opened the gate and we set off again. The receding shower treated us to a double rainbow.
We rejoined the Grand Union Canal and drove on until Rowington – stopping at the moorings which would have been convenient for our lunch. We’d stopped here before and were pleased to re-acquaint ourselves with the goats in the field opposite.
This morning before we were ready to set off, we saw a boat pass us heading in our direction. I wondered about chasing after them to join them in the locks, but quickly decided that we weren’t ready, and not in that much of a hurry. We set off a while later in pleasant weather, though the air was a bit cool. On a long straight section, Clare noticed a boat behind us, but we didn’t see it again for a bit. Just before we came out of the Shrewley Tunnel we could see it again. So now we knew how far behind us they were, almost exactly one tunnel length – 396 metres.
They were gaining on us slightly, so by the time we reached the locks they had almost caught up. As I prepared the lock, they came and suggested we do the flight together – we readily agreed.
John was driving Liberty most of the time, while Clare drove Bartimaeus. Tania and I soon got in to a good rhythm with her preparing the locks ahead and me working the boats through. I usually opened only one gate for Clare to drive out and John snaked over to follow her out. At one lock, I opened the gate in front of Liberty first. That didn’t work anything like as well – I didn’t do that again!
I had to close the gate behind the departing narrowboats each time, so I spent most of the time playing catch-up. At the middle lock, Tania and I were both in need of a little sustenance. So before we operated the paddles, we all grabbed something to eat and sat out at the backs of our boats chatting.
It seemed very soon that we were coming in to the last lock. John and Tania were continuing on, so we said our farewells. I walked on from the last lock to the Saltisford Arm leaving Clare to drive. That way I could pop in to the office if anyone was there. Ian greeted me with “I thought you were arriving tomorrow” – I replied “So did I”. He was just about to lock up, but sorted me out with an electricity card first.
Clare meanwhile had had to wait for another boat to moor up just ahead of her. She followed them in very gently before executing a flawless turn in the winding hole and reversing back to “our” berth alongside Spark again.