There is a Green Hill Far Away

The water shortage was making it problematic to travel and it was unclear whether we would get through at all to make it to Banbury where Bryn was travelling by train to join us. The environmental education centre he works at have no bookings over Easter so he had time off.

We moved forward to the first lock to find someone had overnighted on the lock bollards and the lock was not available either. They told us we needed to go back and the locks would not be open until eleven – a tight schedule to get to Banbury but may still be possible as long as there wasn’t too much of a backlog at the broken lock ahead.

Shane reversed to our original place. The CRT workers were trying to work on all three locks to move water, but not with boats in them, until there was enough in the stretch with the lowest level. Shane asked them for information and they assured us we would be informed when the locks were ready. They were ready long before eleven, so we are glad we trusted a reliable source. One of the CRT volunteers would not have been a very reliable source of information. I caught up with her walking along the towpath. I am not sure she is much good at lock and water management either.

Dog CRT volunteer
Low water levels evident in the muddy bank on the far side

We were fourth in the queue for the broken lock. We didn’t operate it, only CRT staff did that, and there were some shenanigans with the boats ahead of us, as the steering was hard in low water, and in the lock itself we were advised to keep our engine driving forward as the boat would be pulled hard backwards. Shane had to use full throttle to avoid hitting the gate behind him and to leave, once the lock was ready and the gate open, but it worked. The queue going the other way was much longer.

The long wait was less pleasant than it might have been yesterday. People were going to stand holding ropes for over an hour and it was a grey and distinctly cold day.

Bryn has a habit of bringing colder weather with him, but hasn’t been put off visiting. The sun started to push through a little and Shane was wearing his shorts but was well wrapped up top.

Ready for mixed weather

From then on I operated the locks. There were small brightening things along the way on grey day, a grey wagtail sat and watched operation of the lock, matching the colours on the wall he sat on. They are usually on the water.

Grey (and yellow) wagtail on the wall

A wren was hopping round the hedge at another lock. There were strong scented hyacinths at one, wind chimes tinkling in a garden and the peal of church bells at another. Easter Sunday may be a special occasion, or perhaps they peal every Sunday. The last time we were here was the day of the Queen’s funeral and heard the bells then too. Some lock houses were nicely planted out.

Colourful gardens with tulips and wind chimes
A row of flowerpots and a bank of primroses

I fitted in a load of washing and an Easter themed poem before Banbury. The plan included a supermarket shop at Banbury and we needed to get there before four o’clock on a Sunday. As we moored just before 3 a boat passed fast and the torque on our fender broke the attachment that hooks it on to the boat. We had a spare so Shane mended that. Shane had noticed that electric hook ups that had not been operational before, were now in service, so we moved to plug in. I went to the shop only to find despite the sign on the window saying otherwise, it was closed. Easter Sunday is an exception – other supermarkets were not available – we are still learning the trading rules for England.

Shane set about making bread and I am confident we have enough food in for other meals. I started on an Easter treat I had in mind for Bryn. We used to do egg hunts in the garden on Easter Sunday, when they were little, so I hid 23 mini foil wrapped eggs around the boat interior, some quite exposed on a shelf and others more thoroughly hidden, like inside the egg box.

His train was on time and he was happy to do the hunt, which pleased me. He has had some hints but two have yet to be discovered, a further treat in store.

Happy Easter!