Sun Seeker

I walked to the station with Clare as she set off for her long weekend.  By the time I got back to the boat, the temperature was noticeably high.  I noticed that the solar panels were not doing as well as I would have hoped though.  There were one or two high bits in the hedge by the towpath, and the September sun never managed to get quite high enough to give all its attention to the panels on the roof.

I spent a good deal of the afternoon in a folding chair under the hedge – inside the boat was just too hot.  In the evening I went for a stroll in the cooler air, and noticed that there was plenty of space at a mooring we had used before – it was on the north bank, and so has uninterrupted sun.  As a bonus, since we’d last used it the long grass on the bank had been cut back. I decided to move there in the morning.

I set off after breakfast, keen to get moored up before the day got too hot, and before anyone else took the mooring.  There is a swing bridge to operate, so I moored up at the bollards and went to the controls.  There was nobody around as I started to open the bridge. I drove the boat through, moored again and went back to the controls.  By the time the bridge was closed again there were a dozen pedestrians waiting.  Nobody seemed very bothered.

It’s hardly any distance to Newbury Lock where I moored up again on the lock bollards.  As I was doing so, a man on a boat moored nearby hopped off and offered to help with the lock.  I initially thought he might be wanting to join me in the lock, but he just wanted to be helpful and have a chat.  We worked the lock very efficiently, so I ended up squinting up in to the sun in the roar of the leak at the back of the lock.  We’d have had a much longer chat if I’d been coming up in the lock.

Earlier in the week, Canal and River Trust (CRT) had announced emergency repairs to a lock just above Newbury.  I decided to cycle back to see what was happening.  The notice had said they were going to lower the water levels in the pound below the lock to be repaired.  As I reached the pound below that, I found myself cycling through deep puddles on the towpath – this pound was overflowing.  At the next lock, all the paddles were up watched by a couple of CRT volunteer lock keepers.  I mentioned the flooded towpath to them, but then went on.  The next pound was visibly at least two feet lower than its normal level.

Reduced water level in a canal.  The view is from under the arch of a bridge.  The stonework on the far side is wet above the water line for two feet or so.  The bank further along the canal also looks low.  Some reeds are lying flat on the surface.
Two Feet of Water Missing

At the lock itself three CRT staff were discussing their actions.  They had found more holes in the gate when the water was lowered, and had gone for more repair materials.  They decided the water was low enough, so one of them put on a dry-suit and clambered in to the lock.  The holes in the gate and the gap between the gates was clearly visible.  The repair was not expected to take as long as the time to drain the pound.

Worker repairing lock gate.  A view in to a lock.  The water is low but the gates are closed.  A man is standing in the water looking at the holes in the gate.  The feet of his companions can be seen on the lock side near the gate arm.
Gate Repair in Progress

Back at the boat, the new mooring location was indeed getting more charge in to the batteries.  The inside of the boat was unpleasantly warm though.  The towpath here is also in full sun, so I took my folding chair down the embankment to the side of the river running below.  As luck would have it, this spot is not only shaded, but also within range of the WiFi from the boat.

I’d been sitting there for a short while when I realised I had company.  Two swans were coming down the path.  I was slightly concerned that they might object to me being in their territory, but they weren’t perturbed by my presence.  They grazed a little as they came and then took to the river in front of me.

Two swans walking down a grassy bank.  At the top of the bank is the bow of a narrowboat.
Swans Coming to Visit

They continued to dabble and preen in the section of river in front of me.  My private section of river now had extra interest.

Two swans swimming in a section of river.  The vegetation gives a suggestion of a small pond.
Swans Enhancing the View
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