Free Four

While the air was cold, the sun has made for gorgeous cruising. On the third of April it looked nice and bright but I soon ducked back indoors and got on hat scarf and gloves and offered to do the few locks there were and help a lone boater through too while waiting for the water to fill. We had a friendly reception at the Calcutt marina, where we got our pump out, diesel and the milk we badly needed and a great array of biscuits. They also had some hand-knitted headgear for sale, at a very reasonable price (perhaps unreasonable if you were trying to make a living at only £5) If I hadn’t my own warm hat already I might have been tempted, as it was my stomach did the choosing.

Four hand made head pieces in different designs going for a song at Calcutt Cruisers shop

Cruising slowly, almost silently away in electric while Shane tested the panel’s power felt idyllic. In the quiet, I had out the bird call app and it identified the call we had never heard before as a little grebe, calling from the nearby reservoir. It wasn’t long before I had changed to the sun hat in stead of the woolly one.

Shane had remembered a lovely open spot further along where we settled for the night. A man on the towpath commented that it was opposite a field known for hare sightings. I was hopeful but perhaps after March we were out of luck for that. We enjoyed plenty of birdsong, perhaps helped by some feeders being hung up there.

Good mooring spot for birds

In the morning I was chatting on my phone with a friend on holiday in Portugal. He had sent me a photo of parakeets (apparently) in palm trees. I looked out my window and took a photo of blue tits and a robin outside, enjoying the coconut. (I told him there was a coconut tree out my window). The light was brilliant but you’d need to take my word for it on the birds as the rump of bluetits and robins are not the distinguishing features.

I was reluctant to leave such a spot and went for a morning stroll listening to birds. I was amazed at how many were being recorded. I could catch glimpses of chaffinches and a chifchaf and great tits. They seemed quite a lot louder than the man singing and playing his guitar on the towpath and aeroplanes overhead didn’t stop them being indentified. I saw birds of prey high up and that caused a fair amount of extra noise.

When I got back Shane reminded me that we were out of bread and we should try to reach Braunston before lunchtime. I said it seemed a shame to leave, and he said we only needed to go to Braunston for the shops and we could turn round and come back.

I remembered I had looked a bit pink in the cheek before leaving and with clear skies all day, I applied a little suncream to my face. I started to recognise the area we had passed before in Autumn with fallen apples on the ground, where I had walked with Heather. We had seen a chaffinch that day too. Shane remembered that he and Benny had seen an unusual bird. I wondered if it was a woodpecker. A few minutes later we heard an unusual call and Merlin identified a green woodpecker. That was probably it then. (Later he checked the blog and confirmed it, this is very handy for us!)

A bird that does not frequent the canal, especially not The Oxford, nor even anywhere in England, the capercaillie, made a boaty appearance. I think I noticed it here before. We found one thing we had missed last time. It looks resident. I saw writing in a tiny bit of wall and saw it said “Pink Floyd”. Of course! What name would you give your random bit of wall? It is quite overgrown now.

A capercaillie on the canal
Pink Floyd’s Wall

We got to Braunston and I was just mooring up when a man approaching said “Is this Bartimaeus?” He introduced himself as Matt, from Paintbrush, another Ortomarine boat owner and they were moored just two boats away. We had a rough idea of their itinerary but hadn’t really expected to meet. He wondered what our plans were. They weren’t fixed, other than getting lunch soon. Turning back didn’t seem vital any more. He suggested a meal in the evening and said his wife was back in the boat knitting and would be happy to meet us. He booked a table at the nearby restaurant.

We had a few hours to get lunch, explore the rope makers and area around. I had no camera to take the beautiful cherry trees, and the camera would not have shared the delicate scent. What a lovely warm day to sit outside knitting (already I think I’ll be able to chat to the stranger easily) and recording even more birds! Later I did a count up and on that day alone the app had recognised 30 different bird species.

Over dinner the four of us agreed you had to be able to plan for things to go well, but it also really helped to be free to change your plans. Matt and Toy were great company. Originating from 4 countries and 3 different continents there was plenty differences to explore, and apart from the boats we had several other interests in common. I hope we meet them again. We really enjoyed getting to know them.