Sheep May Safely Graze

As predicted the day was wet and windy. We had heard it through the night and it was still raining at breakfast. I wondered if we would move at all but the rain stopped and Shane got ready to go and I cast off from the front. There were no locks in the next stretch and Shane’s plan was to check out if a nearby marina had spaces and also to find a shop. I was happy for Shane to drive in the wind and all the bridges were very narrow, rather like a lock. We went over another small aqueduct but this time with a guillotine.

Approaching the guillotine
Looking back over the aqueduct

I was enjoying the ducks, while drinking my coffee and saw a heron fly over and later standing at the side. Having remarked that there were not many swans and geese but plenty ducks, earlier, as if to prove a point, a swan came by our boat this morning and enjoyed some titbits from our compost peelings. The ducks did not approach, some were on the towpath and some had found a space just beyond the canal, in a space where sheep or cattle might come for a drink, though we had not seen cows much at all.

Ducks on the other side of the fence

There was also the possibility of eating out ahead with the marina boasting a restaurant for “casual dining”. Shane was worried that me enjoying a coffee and a biscuit, while he drove, might put me off my lunch. There was time to work up a small appetite as the access was a walk across the field. In fact there was more energy used mooring the boat than usual. The wind was blowing us away from the bank. He had asked me to be ready to jump off quickly at the front. He got off the back to secure it and the front was right across the other side. The bow thruster did a good job and I jumped off. There were no rings but pilings that we could attach to with chains I kept a tighter hold of the rope than usual. As soon as Shane stopped using the thruster the wind blew the boat across the other side again. He got it back with the thruster and I dropped the chain through the pilings and slipped the rings through each other with one hand, keeping hold of the rope with the other. Usually I can just use two hands for the chain and let go of the rope or stand on it. I looped the rope through and could stop the boat going far but not really pull it in, unless the thruster was on. We managed at last to secure the front, by just leaving the thruster running until it was secured. Phew!

We had perused the marina on the way past and could not see any spaces but thought we would try the restaurant anyway. We had just stepped off when a muddy dog charged over to us, barking fiercely. I turned away and Shane tried to shoo it away. “Don’t look at it, turn away!” I said, remembering the advice of Johnny Morris, on Animal Magic, for trying to discourage a dog and make it less likely to get aggressive. A man was calling and shouting at the dog and, when he was close, it went towards him and he grabbed it firmly and apologised and asked if we were okay. We were fine but I had been nervous of its behaviour….perhaps not as nervous as Shane was last night when he spotted a large spider in the bedroom. It was a large striped leggèd kind that is usually outside and it was in a far corner. Reaching and removing it with my trusty glass and card was a trickier feat than usual when I was clambering on a spongy mattress with Shane in the way.

Across the bridge and we got to the gate advertising the restaurant and telling people to beware of livestock and keep dogs on a lead. That is not a requirement on the towpath and usually I don’t mind, but today I was thinking that dog we had just seen should be under tighter control. The field was unsurprisingly muddy and when we got there we could see the restaurant was prepared. There were two boot cleaners by the doors.

Clean your boots

We made use of them but still felt a bit of a mess and inside someone had decided to remove their wellies. Nobody told us to take our footwear off and we found a seat and were given menus. When our server was offering drinks he asked if we had been there before. We said we hadn’t and he said “Ah it’s your first rodeo!” I had been planning a relaxing lunch rather than a buckeroo challenge, and had already had a struggle roping in against a greater force than me and had also had an animal charging at me, in the last half hour! The locally brewed beer, and meals from the specials menu didn’t disappoint and we continued to enjoy the cheery comments of the server, relaxing casual dining after all.

Salmon on a leek risotto with asparagus and pork with sweet potato and onion hash with gravy

When we left the field we had to cross was now filled with sheep. Returning to the boat we also saw some had escaped the fences. Wool on the branches showed some of their preferred routes through the trees.

Walking theough a field of sheep with Bartimaeus visible in the canal beyond
Sheep foraging on the canal side of the fence

Equipped with a bag and a route plan on public footpaths, we went off to Wootton Wawen to find a shop. It was a good walk through fields and over footbridges with minimal contact with roads and we had the good luck to see a pair of green woodpeckers on the way. I particularly liked passing a field of ewes with lambs.

Twin lambs

Reaching Wootton Wawen we saw a grand entrance to Wootton Hall. I was more interested in the church beside it with a notice saying it was the oldest in Warwickshire and telling of the Saxon Sanctuary within. The churchyard was well kept and inside was airy, for a smallish church with high stone arches and light windows. Glass doors led to an exhibition of the history of the region and the East window. There is a nearby Iron Age hillfort.

Having got our shopping, we walked back. A field, previously empty, now had horses in, but they were unperturbed and we spoke quietly to them on the way past, so as not to frighten them as we walked behind them. Nearby a farm building had a cat weather vane and there seemed to be another outdoor museum, a collection of vintage vehicles and farm machinery.

As we were returning though another horse field, the rain started to come on lightly. We were nearly back but hadn’t escaped quite as well as yesterday, when we came back from our walk and the rain came on just as we went inside. However it didn’t get heavy and there was still a bit of sun so back in the sheep fiel we we treated to a rainbow.

Rainbow over the sheep

The last stretch was the muddiest and the clay soil clings and drain poorly. It was fairly well trodden by the gate though we saw noone else in the field. It was the human not the sheep’s gate that was trampled.

Muddy path past the sheep

The towpath wasn’t any better, and by the time I got back I was wishing we had one of those boot cleaners by our door.

These boots were made for walking
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