Footprints

Shane had a video chat in the afternoon so we planned to try to get through the main flight of locks towards the junction of the grand union and the Stratford canals, before lunch, even though the afternoon was meant to be best. We didn’t set an alarm so not an early rise but no dillydallying. Shane pushed a lot of slush off the roof while I undid the ropes. Already my old ski gloves were wet inside which makes for chilly fingers and I fancied Shane doing the lift bridge so I changed gloves and drove off.

Shane was greeted by someone saying it was almost tropical, and while thawing doesn’t quite equate with tropical, Shane had to admit he was pretty warm winding that bridge. It takes longer to lift than you might think and an awful lot of turns, so I approached very slowly.

Unusually, due to a day without moving, we were going to drive on diesel through the locks. Normally the person on foot can easily get ahead of the boat but with the slow bridge lowering, the slippery slush underfoot and the large puddles to dance around Shane was not as quick as usual along the towpath. I needed to be slow and hover near to wait for the gates to open, despite him trying to work as fast as he could. He didn’t feel it was safe to run or cross the narrow paired gates in his usual fashion.

I had noticed the pussywillows looked particularly large and silvery with a coating of ice. While I usually go round a tree and hasten to the next lock, with Shane still behind at the previous lock, I diverted to get close enough to a tree to take a photo and removed a glove to operate it. I took a picture and heard Shane shout.Was he wondering why I was in a tree? No he had seen my glove in the water. In shades of grey and white it looked like some ice or slush. I moved the boat backwards but then the glove drifted to the side. It was a steep snowy bank but Shane carefully shimmied down and retrieved it.

Slushy pussy willows, were they worth it?

He threw my glove back aboard at the next lock. I swapped the other glove back and forth depending on which hand was coldest and I had other gloves underneath so was doing alright. I had been noticing birds’ footprints in the snow at the sides of the lock and when Shane said he would like to get on and get a coffee I was happy enough to swap and get a photo as well as keep my hands warm. I would have more chance to get them when walking around the locks than driving.

A moorhen has been here

I was surprised that a bird that swims well and flies would bother walking long the concrete or stonework. I often see them walking along the towpath but guess they may be hopeful of finding a slug or are pecking at grass but no such goodies on the concrete. At a few locks I saw they had used the same grippy crossing point on the gates as is designed to be used by people crossing to operate the paddles or open gates on the other side of the locks.

Moorhen footprints on the gate

I had to use it myself but didn’t want to obliterate the footprints so took care to step around them. Then when the gate was open and Shane was driving out I had time for another picture of our footprints together.

My bootprints and moorhen footprints on the lock gate

Moorhens seem to steer clear of the camera most of the time, rarely looking for food from people, unlike ducks geese and swans that speed across when a person appears, but they obviously come very close to the locks when no one is around.

The locks were now close enough to run back and forth and the towpath was less slushy so I was able to hurry bach and forth between them. By the time we had got through the bunched locks, the sun was out and with all my woollens I was definitely feeling the heat. I shared a picture with knitting friends chat group, who were already commiserating about the wet glove and the sharing the joy of recovered gloves. I let them know I was well supplied with warm handknits!

Saying hello to the knitwear fans

I was both hot and hungry when we pulled in. We had made it to the planned mooring spot for lunch. Shane suggested the pub (one we had eaten in for his birthday before) but I felt I would need to change and wash before going there and then by the time I had read the menu and ordered, I would still be waiting. All that would put lunch a lot further away than I was prepared to wait and we had just bought some deli cheese and artisan bread yesterday so there seemed no point in not tucking in to those straight away.

While Shane had his video chat I set off to find the village shop for milk. I walked along the canal and there was a cute little footbridge beside the road bridge.

I noticed a post box while I was out and remembered about my postcard so enjoyed a second stroll in the sun going back out with the post card. I did try looking for a local church but the pavements ran out at the edge of the town. I turned back. Lapworth had a couple of large houses mentioned that had visiting hours. I wasn’t sure if I was beside one but there were signs saying the grounds had CCTV surveillance. The hedges inside were beautifully scalloped and another sign warned that police dogs trained in the area.

It was already unrelaxing walking along the pavement with some puddles and flooded water pipes meaning there was regular spray across the pavement from passing cars so you had to look out and time passing those spots carefully. Even when I stepped well back into a driveway, the spray reached my trousers. I found a cut through to the towpath and got off the road early.

Sunny day on the towpath – much more tranquil.

It is due to be very cold tonight and it was pretty chilly even in the sunshine and a lot cooler when we went for a walk before dark together. It was worth the chilly walk though as we discovered the obvious towpath route, for whoever is working the locks tomorrow looks treacherous if icy. There were very large puddles across the whole path. But there is a less obvious but safer route round a house. Good reconnaissance trip for tomorrow and may have prevented a major slip or fall. We have grippy boots but sheet ice is no match for them. We also got some local history and it was Shane’s turn to discover hand operated poetry recitation.

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