Just outside of the shopping centre where the post office was, we saw a woman stopped by the pedestrian crossing, leaning forward on her walking aid. I wondered if she was okay but didn’t want to crowd or embarrass her. We said ‘hello’ or ‘y’alright’, which in these parts is regularly used as hello anyway and she said she was just getting her breath back. So we hovered close by in case she didn’t recover as quickly as hoped but just back enough she could just carry on if she didn’t want any interference. She was hoping to get to John Lewis, and asked if she was quite near. We had noticed it was in the shopping centre so we hoped that was fine for her to be able to get there. She didn’t seem breathless or dizzy so hopefully that worked out for her okay.

On the way back to the boat we passed a pub we had seen on our first day, Ye Olde Salutation Inn. I have since found out that the competition for the oldest pub in England has mainly had three contenders in Nottingham Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, Ye Olde Salutation Inn and The Bell Inn. Early records leave it unclear. One may have the earliest cave, another the oldest building but not evidence it was an inn at the time. Some parts of it have been extended or rebuilt and didn’t look like it needed ‘ye olde’ title at all – but the original parts are and a pub was recorded there in the 13th century The Archangel Gabriel Salutes The Virgin Mary (Hail Mary) which was a common name for refreshment stops attached to monasteries. Ye Olde Salutation was near two monasteries which makes this possible but unproven. It also claims to be the most haunted pub. It looked like it was popular haunt for bikers nowadays.

Ye Olde Salutation Inn and Harley Davidson fans.

We had seen moorchicks near our mooring they are normally shy and move away when people approach. This time one was cheeping towards us. Later geese arrived and they seemed happy to mingle with them too.

Once we had voted, we made a move out of Nottingham, Shane driving and me working the two locks in Nottingham with another couple in their narrowboat. Then they moored up and we continued, mooring up near Holme lock. Shane knew the mooring opportunities were less good on the other side of it. We found the large space was tighter than we had thought as there was a partially sunken boat we had to avoid. It was an awkward exit with high stepping to the bank but meant that from the back deck I was face to face with a group of ox eye daisies, a cheery greeting. The man ahead of us was keen to meet and greet too and kept Shane in a lengthy conversation.

Eye to eye with oxeye daisies

In the morning I went to look at the canoe and kayak centre with rapids and slalom challenges that Shane had mentioned. Most canoes were shooting down the rapid, but when I arrived there was a man holding stationary or pushing himself into the flow and then somersaulting his craft in various ways. He would sit aside to let other canoes pass giving them the nod to get through. He had a rest and another man came and did the same. He gave a wave to his audience looking over from the bridge before getting going with some practice flips.

We set off to go to the lock. We had to sail between two boaters, who were having a conversation about electrics and batteries. The wide beam boat saw our solar panels in passing and spoke to Shane about their output. We came into the lock and the lock keeper asked if we had done this before. I said we had not been to this lock before but had been on the Thames locks (other large river lock) he said this was nothing like the Thames apart from beginning with T. He indicated that the rope went round a blue pipe and not round the bollard. We have met this on the Severn and other places so I gave him a thumb’s up and passed it round. Then he went to speak to Shane and noted the boat name and registration number. The wide beam then came in but it was a lot harder to explain things to them being on the other side of the lock and having some inattentive crew, so things were being repeated and passed on. It all got sorted and we had a gentle descent. It is a big lock and takes a long time to empty.

Shane and the other driver in Holme Lock deciding who leaves first

The lock keeper had a chat to me, while it emptied, about travelling by narrow boat He had had a share in a boat but being a fixed place mooring it limited exploration of the network. He had sold his share but was planning a trip to Scotland on a cruiser to do the Caledonian canal. That is a more suitable boat for that trip. I told him to look out for Nessie. He was very friendly to us, giving Shane a card with the numbers for phoning locks ahead, so they could start setting them out way in advance, definitely not a service at the Thames. He waved us away and it’s the first time I have been blown a kiss by the lock keeper!

We didn’t phone to the next lock though as we found a mooring just before it. It was a beautiful setting with the added bonus of being kingfisher territory. Shane went to look at the lock. The couple we had shared the Nottingham locks with drove past and waved. When I went up to the lock myself they waved again from the lock bollards. The lock has various signs and light displays saying when you can go through and whether it will be operated for you, or self operated and warning ‘No licence, no passage’. A sign visible from the footpath, beside the lock office was an added extra. This lock keeper wanted to say hello to everyone.

Friendly lock keeper on duty

Shane had already had a chat to Matt saying we might be through in the next few days. When I got back Shane had set up chairs for us both to sit on the floating jetty. We had a Pimm’s outside and enjoyed the view, followed by a walk in the other direction from the lock.

The next day we had a cycle ride and had the perfect weather for it. A swift stop at The Unicorn pub for refreshment and then we headed back. We took a slightly different route back and went through a village where we stocked up at two shops and also saw a post box topper with a greeting strapped to it. I thought it might have some Beatrix Potter theme with Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck on display, but when I got close I saw it said Hoppy Easter, not even a Midsummer greeting, but the Peter and Jemima have weathered pretty well considering.

Spring greetings in Midsummer

We didn’t get to greet the lock keeper at Stoke Lock the next day either, not that it would have been Matt anyway as he was a weekend volunteer. We were heading back the way we had come as Shane had heard from the man who could do fuel polishing. Shane asked me to ring ahead to Holme Locke. It was still half an hour before our arrival was due but it is a slow filling lock. I called the number and without naming the boat began by saying we had been advised to phone ahead and he said he remembered giving us the number. Shane assumes he just recognised my accent. I said we would be there in about half an hour and he said he would have it ready. True to his word the lock was ready for us. A cruiser came in and joined us. During the rise he went to help her move her rope to the bollard. He had quipped, when dealing with the wide beam last time, “Hang on, I’m a man I can only deal with one thing at a time!” He did manage this time to take a phone call with one hand while taking a rope, wrapping it round the bollard and handing it back to the waiting boater.

Holme lock keeper helping with the rope

He came back round and continued his chat to me. I remarked it was a very hot day to work. He said he planned to get the grass mown in the morning before it got too hot. “And then I rang and spoilt your day!” I said, to which he answered, “Your call made my day!”

I explained about the blog and he dictated his email so I could share the link with him. A phone number at one visit and an email at the next, he certainly likes to keep in touch. We had a friendly exchange with the other boat, letting them go ahead as they are much faster and got waved off and blown a kiss again. We will be back and able to say hello on our way back here again.