Shane had said it was a cold start. I didn’ t fancy the manoeuvre, as Shane described it, of coming out on to the Severn, going up to the “slack water”, turning and coming back to collect him from a pontoon on the river, and especially as it was described as cold, I thought I would lock. The first two were narrow locks which I had driven through before and Shane had possibly remembered they were quite stiff and was saying, “Are you sure?”. I remembered the two massive locks next to the river which had very heavy gates, but I had done them before so went for the windlass.
Oddly a fisherman had set up on the lock bollards, where the boat has to come to the bank to get a crew member off to work it and wait. The fisherman had thought there would be no boats. We had seen one pass us already this morning, going the other way. The paddles were indeed stiff to wind. Plus the space for walking around them was quite narrow and Shane was calling to me not to take any risks when he saw me hurrying alongside the lock.
At the next one I wound it up. As lots of the recent locks have been in this stretch, the ratchet is put on when you complete winding, rather than resting on throughout, unless deliberately lifted. I disliked these at first but was used to them now. I popped the ratchet in place when I had reached the top and was about to take the windlass off when the ratchet slipped out again and the windlass started spinning round on the spiggot, flicking the hood string on my coat. I stepped back and hoped it didn’t fly off. It didn’t. If I tried to grab it, it could break my hand. I had heard of a woman’s jaw being broken, so I just had to hope I didn’t lose it and keep away. Shane watched anxiously from the boat, with the same thoughts and was glad I hadn’t tried to catch it.
It was with trepidation that I rewound it and took great care placing the ratchet back on. By the time I had finished that lock I felt in need of the shower I should have had that morning. I had a short time to have a quick freshen up and changed into a fresh t-shirt. Then it was time for the big locks and they actually were much easier to operate and a passing woman helped me close one of the gates. Shane managed to wait at the pontoon without going forward to the slack water first.
Two people had stopped to speak to me while I was working the locks to check where we were going, as the locks on the Severn are not operated on a Wednesday and you have to book on other days, at this time of year ( probably why the fisherman was hopeful of a peaceful day by the lock) but our plan was just to go up to the lock, have lunch and turn back.
As we headed up the Severn, the sun was shining and we saw several cormorants. We were looking forward to lots of bird spotting. But strangely apart from the odd pigeon, gull, crow or magpie, we didn’t see much wildlife at all. You don’t see many people either as there is no towpath. The views were good though, and the sun exceptionally warm.
We had a short walk after lunch by the closed lock and then headed back downstream. Getting off the pontoon was harder than expected and the sun disappeared too on the way back. We hadn’t seen any other narrow boats but as we were approaching Worcester again we found the rowing club and school groups were out and we had to watch out for them. They don’t tend to wave to acknowledge in any way, so it is hard to know if they have seen you or what their intentions are. They are quite manoeuvrable and very fast. There were sculls and some small support boats with their teachers and some coxed boats with 4 or 8 rowers.
Shane wanted a go at the big locks as he hadn’t worked them yet so I turned at the slack water (as instructed on the big red noticeboard) and he had the idea to be let off at an earlier mooring pontoon which might save me hanging around or having to rope up while he got the lock open. He had had to wait a long time previously for me to fill and open it, but it was set for us as no other boats had come through, so he just had to open it. I was glad to just make my way slowly along and turn in, without any roping up involved. He also signalled to me which of the two gates he had opened, so I knew where to aim for as the gates are not visible until you have already turned.
There was a heron perched on a rooftop but too distant to photograph as he flew off then returned when we had passed. This fine larger-than-life wooden swan planter at the lockside didn’t escape.
Swan from the lock
Coming out of the lock, past the marina, needed a bit of care as one person was triple moored and then had 5 sleepers side by side against the boat directly in front of the lock. We had seen this in the morning, so was able to steer round them, even though I could not actually see them all as I aproached. We were back just in time as the sun was setting already and so we were glad we had planned to just collect water and moor up nearby and not go through the other two single locks.