We didn’t plan to travel on the first day back as we thought the office would be shut and we needed to settle up before we left. We planned to go a little walk and perhaps try the cafe at the top of the locks for lunch. We headed to the exit and saw that the site manager was in after all. We popped into the office and paid up and had a chat. He followed us along the path astride his mower, which doubles as transport for him on site. We were not on grass at all. We stopped to look at a gate which we had not remembered seeing there before and he started to explain that he had just finished power washing it. It was an old lock gate that had been recently removed and due to be replaced. Work hasn’t finished yet so we can only go west as the locks on the east are not scheduled to be open until the end of next week.
There are many old items being exhibited as he was clearly an enthusiastic collector of large canal memorabilia. He warmed to his theme and showed us other recent acquisitions, a winch and an ice breaker, which he was pleased to have got “free” though the transportation of it cost £1500. The ice breaker had broken the hedge, and got him chatting, but he didn’t want to pose for a picture.
A man drove through the gates into the car park and this was who the manager was really out to meet, to sell some coal. We let them get on and moved off. We passed through a trading estate where Shane will want to buy de-ionised water, though shut today then we had to walk over the large lock gates to get onto the canal side path. We have been along this walk before but always see new things. The season brought blossom and primroses and daffodils were opening beside the snowdrops. A few gardens back on to the canal and one caught my attention with a plaque of a boat emerging from under a bridge on it.
Having “missed the boat” at the cafe before we were pleased to see it open. It looked full, but the friendly man at the counter separated what looked like an occupied table for four, into two tables so we got seated and pretty fast service. The cafe is full of crafts and curios and when ordering I noticed an extensive range of jams so bought some of that too. Outside a very small sample of what might be inside was on display on a half door or gate. I am guessing this was across the doorway and take away coffees and snacks served to passing dog walkers in lockdown.
Our walk took us round the village of Hampton Magna, through kissing gates, and into fields, some empty and some full. It was quite the English idyll.
The next morning Shane fetched the de-ionised water and I donned thermals expecting to find the locking too heavy and be driving in stead. We detached the electric cable, and untied the rope from the boat beside us, Spark, and pushed us out. Shane drove us out of the canal centre where Bartimaeus has been for over three months. I popped the battery back into the fire alarm, now we were away from the stoves that set it off. This morning I had heard of a fiend who is staying in a hotel after a house fire last night.
Sooner than expected we were at the first lock and I thought I would try it. It was set our way and I managed better than I expected though they are pretty hard work. I did not need gloves and was soon hot, they take a long time to wind (or at least for me). I was glad that Shane agreed that it was not worth crossing to open the other side. The gates weigh three and a half tonnes. We spotted one of the newly repaired ones, fresh wood but just as heavy.
Still I managed to where we stopped for lunch. I thought we would be swapping over and perhaps finishing the flight today, but we have just stayed right here, where we have stopped before.