High Speed Flight

Bartimaeus had waited for us across the road from Hatton Railway Station while we were on our jaunt to Manchester.  I’d switched off various things while we were away to save the batteries.  The night we were away must have been a cold one because the temperature on board dropped to 5°C – at least that was the temperature recorded in the cupboard at the back of the boat.  On the positive side, I wasn’t at all anxious about having switched the fridge off.

I started the heating by remote control while we were on the journey back.  It was still a bit chilly when we arrived, but not unpleasant.  During Jack Dee’s introduction, he’d claimed that “what happens in Manchester today, happens in the rest of the world tomorrow.”  He then warned the rest of the world that it was going to be wet – and where we were, it was! So once we got back to the boat, we stayed put for the rest of the day.

Knowing we had the Hatton Lock Flight to deal with, I was keen to set off promptly. Clare missed at least one kingfisher sighting in the mile before the locks because she was still eating breakfast. Most of the locks seemed to be set against us, so I was quickly taking off layers as I dashed up and down the tow-path.  When we reached the section with closely spaced locks, I went ahead and opened the paddles on five locks ahead to reduce the amount of dashing about.

Clare on Bartimaeus in a lock with a steep set of locks rising up behind.
Middle Lock with Locks Behind Us

I was amazed to reach middle lock by 11am and wondered if we should stop for a break.  We still hadn’t managed to have lunch at the cafe at the top, so we could even walk back up – it isn’t very far.  There were one or two more locks before there was a mooring.  Before we got there, I noticed two women on the towpath, one of whom had a windlass. The other woman asked if we wanted help, and I agreed readily.

They went ahead and got the next lock ready.  When we arrived, we were told that the woman with the windlass was autistic and enjoyed being a volunteer lock-keeper.  She certainly seemed to – she set the rest of the locks in the flight for us.  Her companion also helped us by opening and closing gates.  The plan to stop was abandoned, and I had to put a layer of clothing back on.

Shane standing by to open a lock as seen from the stern of the boat.
Shane Waiting for the Lock to be Ready

At the bottom of the flight we were going to go on through the Cape Locks to a wharf where we hoped to get more diesel. We had thought to do that tomorrow, but our helper’s enthusiasm made it an option before lunch today. We thanked them very much for their help as we parted.

The short stretch of water to the wharf was teeming with bird life. We passed a heron standing on one leg. A moorhen took to the water as a cat approached it. In the bush above the cat, we almost missed a kingfisher sitting motionless.  As usual, our photographs are useless, but Clare did get a photo of some ducks.

Ducks in the canal near Warwick
Ducks are Easier to Photograph than Kingfishers

We soon reached the wharf, but there didn’t seem to be anywhere to moor up.  I called to somebody working on a boat and asked if we could get diesel.  “He doesn’t have any just now” was the reply.  Other boat yards are available, but not for some distance – the tank is over half full, we’ll be alright.

We reversed back to a winding hole we’d spotted a short distance back, and turned round.  We moored up while Clare dashed off to a nearby shop for some bread – I finished the last of what we had while she was away.  We drove on electric the rest of the way back to Saltisford so as to conserve diesel.  Electric charging was assured on arrival.  Several more kingfisher sightings meant the diversion was not a complete waste of effort.  Once a kingfisher flew towards me and then landed on a branch alongside.  I don’t think I’ve seen one slowing down as it approaches before.

As we passed the office in the Saltisford Canal Centre the manager waved to us. He explained that we could return to our previous location, but that another boat was due in soon. When they arrived, we were to let them take our spot and then breast up alongside them.

While we were waiting, Clare spotted a kingfisher eating a fish. Our new neighbours duly arrived and we manoeuvred as requested. So now we have to cross their boat to reach the bank, but our view in the direction of kingfishers is undiminished.