Helping Out

When we moored up at the top of the locks yesterday, I’d noticed that despite seeing a lot of boat movement during the day we had hardly seen any in the afternoon.  If we were to work through the locks with somebody else it was likely to be best to do so in the morning.  By the time we were ready to go this morning at least six boats had passed and I was starting to think we might have missed our chance.

Then a boat came by that we had seen going the other way yesterday.  They had been finishing their drinks in the beer garden before going through the tunnel.  They’d seemed a friendly bunch, and six men would make light of shifting heavy gates!  So we cast off hastily and caught them up before they’d got in to the lock.

They were very friendly – it turned out they were a family group, and had been intending the trip as a treat to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday.  Unfortunately their father had caught Covid a few days before the trip, and so wasn’t with them.  They were all new to the canals but enjoying it immensely.  For a number of the locks we managed to drive alongside each other out of one and in to the other.  It is a lot less fuss to drive two boats in to the lock side-by-side than try to hold one to the side as the other arrives.  My fellow driver enjoyed that new experience too.

Two Boats in a Lock
Descending in a Lock with Our Companions

We didn’t make great time through the flight of seven locks because there were other boats ahead, but it was a relaxed and enjoyable time. At the bottom we spotted a bin for glass recycling.  We haven’t seen one of those since we got back on to the boat, so we had rather a stash.  With that job complete we drove on looking for a good spot for lunch.

While waiting for one lock to be ready, Clare had recognised a woman out for a run on the towpath.  We had shared the previous locks with her boat.  She stopped to chat, and also recommended we take a look at the church in Grafton Regis, so we moored up there and reheated the remains of last night’s excellent curry.  We then explored the church which had an exhibition about royal connections.  It seems the first Queen Elizabeth – wife of Edward IV, Not Queen Elizabeth I – mother of the “princes in the tower” was from Grafton.  We’re learning more English history than we might have expected.

Heron Taking Off
Heron Flying Away from Us

The afternoon’s cruise included extended sightings of a red kite.  I was pretty sure I had seen one yesterday, but today it stayed visible for much longer.  We had a couple of flashes of its orange tail as it circled gracefully and effortlessly on the stiff breeze.  This stretch of canal also has many herons.  A woman on a passing boat said they were like milestones.  We saw more interesting boats on the side of the canal too.

We moored up at the edge of Wolverton which is a constituent town of Milton Keynes.  We’d hoped to get a few things for dinner from a nearby shop, but it turned out to be attached to a petrol station and had very little that we wanted.  As we got back to the boat we saw a man on the far side of the canal looking at something in the water.  It gradually became clear that he was looking at his fishing rod which seemed to be floating away.  He asked us if we “had a boat or something” and seemed very pleased when we got on ours and said we did.

We quickly cast off and set off across the canal (not the easiest direction for a narrow boat).  As we got nearer we understood the situation more clearly.  The fishing rod wasn’t drifting, there was a fish on the hook towing it.  I managed to get the back of the boat near enough to the rod to reach it with the boat hook.  To everyone’s relief I was then able to pick the rod up and see the fish attached.  I passed the rod to its owner who quickly released the fish back in to the water.

Bream on a Line
Bream that Caught a Rod

After dinner we heard more calling across the water – there was a repeat performance going on.  The fisherman assured us this had never happened before, so twice in one day was pretty strange.  We cast off again, but this time he managed to reach the rod himself from the bank before we’d gone anywhere – phew!