The weather this morning didn’t encourage us to get going quickly, and the view across the adjacent fields was pleasant.  Other boaters were clearly keener than us, passing by in both directions.  In rural locations I usually give a smile and a wave to whoever is passing, on a boat or on the towpath.  I glanced up to wave at one boat and was surprised to see the driver pointing at me and grinning.  Andy, an erstwhile colleague, had rented a boat for a week and knew we were in the same area.  He’d recognised our boat, and then me.  I popped out to say hello, and once they had moored up invited Andy and Chris in for a cuppa and a blether.  I also showed off some of the fancy features of Bartimaeus that I thought Andy would appreciate.  It was just like the old days in the coffee room.

They set off ahead of us, but we soon followed.  We caught them up at the next lock and had a bit more of a chat as I joined them to work it.

A man dressed mainly in dark clothes sits at the controls of a narrowboat. Behind is a spray of hawthorn blossom.
Andy Descending in to Somerton Deep Lock

The weather had been dry while we were chatting, but soon turned to an unpleasant heavy drizzle.  We decided it was lunch time and moored up at the first opportunity, directly behind Andy and Chris who had clearly had the same idea as us.  By the time we’d finished lunch it was dry again.  We gave them a cheery wave as we passed.

While waiting for a boat to emerge from a lock, I overheard the youngest member (perhaps six or seven) of a large family group asking how the water got in to the lock.  Although I had just let the paddle down, I couldn’t resist winding it back up and explaining to her that it opened a door in a tunnel under the water.  She was clearly very interested and continued to ask pertinent questions.  I enjoyed explaining what was happening, and also incidentally recruited her and her family to open and close the gates for us.

The canal runs down the valley of the River Cherwell.  When we were here last year we occasionally glimpsed it as a trickle in the weeds.  Today it was almost as wide as the canal, and in places separated from it only by a narrow strip of towpath.  In places the canal was leaking across the towpath in to the river.

A section of canal with a narrow towpath separating it from a parallel river.
River Cherwell Running Parallel to the Canal

Coming round a bend we noticed what I thought initially was a canoe – we had met a canoeist in this section last time we came this way.  It turned out instead to be two paddle-boarders, and to our surprise, one had a dog with her – all equipped with flotation aids of course.  Is this what doggy-paddle means these days? They made for the safety of the outside of the corner as we came slowly by.

A paddle boarder kneels on her board in the canal.  At the front of her board a dog is standing, looking ahead.
Dog on a Paddle Board

We moored up for the night just above another lock where we didn’t think we’d be in the way.  A while later, a group of four people appeared, rope-hauling a boat with engine trouble.  They were in surprisingly good spirits and managed a fine job of pulling the boat along even when they had to hold the rope above our roof.  They only had another mile to go…