I’m Still Standing

We went for an evening stroll. The hedges and trees obscured the car park and lorries of Watford Gap service station.and it was an attractive walk to the locks. There are 3 individual locks and in the middle a staircase. The staircase locks are manned by lock keepers. And despite the sign we found one helping a boat through. This was the last one of the night. He told us there were a lot of boats coming the other way and they had priority.

Notice at the bottom lock, advising boaters they must speak to a lock keeper before entering locks

The locks were locked for the night, but we could walk to the top and get a picture and it was good to have made contact with the staff and have a feeling of what was ahead of us. It is always advisable to do what the lock keeper says and make friends with them.

View down Watford locks from standing on the bridge at the top of the staircase lock

We enjoyed the visit, after we got back, from very quiet swans and eight cygnets last night. They seemed very young and Tiny. They don’t look like they have long necks but I could see that they could indeed stretch their necks right back to their tails.

In the morning it was very rainy. We were again visited by the same swan family but it looked like they were keen for breakfast. We didn’t fancy going out in the rain, but Shane poked some crumbs out of the window and the cob was tapping and grabbing at crumbs. Then Shane took out the window.

Now Mr Swan was showing us who’s the daddy. He stretching in through the window and we had to take care. Crumbs from the wholemeal loaf were welcome but hard to feed safely so we switched to lettuce. Some was thrown in the water and some grabbed from the hand.

After lunch, hoping for less rain, we moved forward towards the locks. It started raining as soon as we had set off. When we arrived we were first in the queue but it was now raining hard. I walked up to speak to the lock keeper and he was at the second last lock near the top and said I looked soaked when he saw me. He took the boat name and radioed through to the other lock keepers. He said it would be a while as he had to take this boat up then help another down the flight and I should go and boil the kettle. Shane and I stood chatting to the woman in the boat behind and then we all decided getting a hot drink was preferable to standing in the rain.

Shane drained his drink pretty fast and went out to see what was happening. I felt I should keep an eye out for activity and stood at the back or the towpath and had more chats with the lady behind while we waited. I saw a boat emerge and thought it might be my turn to go up but got no wave and could see no one. I walked up and was told there were 5 boats coming down. I said I was wondering where my husband was and was told he was being very useful then he waved to me. I went back and stood around waiting again.

The policy seemed to reverse after the second boat came out and I was beckoned forward. I was only to move through one lock. The lock keeper (a different one) chatted to me while Shane worked the lock, saying she would let me and the lady behind through.

Chatting to lock keeper while rising in the first lock

That pound became pretty crowded once two boats were in and waiting while the other 4 were passing through. I helped the woman behind’s 12 year old son pull their boat to the side then stayed standing at the helm, ready to go in case they wanted me through the next lock. Good that the woman and son were good company as we had to wait for the whole batch then I tried to get in quickly. Shane had been doing sterling work and was still doing the lion’s share as we headed through the staircase locks.

Shane operating the staircase lock

I had given up the hope of getting to the Post office today. It was nearly 5 o’clock and we were still in the locks. Once at the top we had a mile and a half drive to go to Crick tunnel (almost a mile long) ahead too. I was glad not to meet any boats in the tunnel but we were followed by one going faster than us so I upped my pace as it caught up with us. We were getting as wet in the tunnel as we had in the rain.

Acceleration needed with a boat coming up fast behind in Crick Tunnel

By the time we were out of the tunnel my driving arm and shoulder wanted a rest and Shane took over. We got moored in a decent spot with good access to the village for tomorrow and were soon joined by another boat slotting very neatly behind us. It’s been a busy boat day even if much of it was standing around.