Time Will Tell

Yesterday we had a surprisingly good visit to a tiny village. There were no shops but there was a village hall, a church and a pub and fish and chips shop. Who knows how such a business keeps going in such a tiny place. Churches too frequently merge these days. This church was obviously still open and active with evidence of expecting current visitors. The gate had an open and closed sign on it and inside was a plate of Easter treats. I decided to leave them for the children, tempting as they were.

Knitted lambs containing chocolate eggs, free or whatever you want to give

For such a small church I was surprised to see a large monument, such as one often sees in cathedrals. Resident in the not too distant Norton Hall had been Elizabeth Seymour, first cousin of Edward VI, her father was Catherine Seymour’s brother, and so there was a family tree and information nearby. I read the inscriptions while Shane bought books.

Tomb of Elizabeth Seymour

We had an excellent lunch at the pub, delicious fish, chips and mushy peas, and very friendly service. As she chatted, as often happens, we feel a little guilty to be only passing through and unlikely to be repeat customers. We assured her if we were near here again we would be keen to return and we can definitely say The White Horse is the best pub and restaurant n Norton and well worth a visit. Will we ever visit again? Who knows!

Norton: home to The White Horse, fancy signs and All Saints Church.

During the morning, Shane’s face lit up and he called out “Liberty!’ I looked out the window and he was waving to the boat Liberty. We have shared a particularly long set of locks with them in the past and seen them since. They were looking delighted to see us again. We were not ready to chase after them yet, so we’re not going to share with them today. I remembered that they had only planned to go boating for a fixed time and wondered how that was going and had they perhaps decided to stay on.

We set off this afternoon, after the rain had stopped and a swift lunch, to go a slightly longer trip than yesterday. Perhaps it wasn’t a very much greater distance but it would take longer, due to the flight of locks. We arrived, just in time to see another boat had just left and it was set against us with no sign of anyone else around. I started working the lock and a woman appeared from the pub and started asking me questions. I couldn’t hear her over the rushing water and she gave up her communication. As she walked away, I realised they were moored by the lock (not on the lock bollards, which is correct, and that what she had been hoping for was to share and not have to work the locks alone. Another person appeared going the other way, so I ran over and explained that another boat would be coming up (so she would get help getting through when we were out) and we could wait for them at the next lock. That got the thumbs up.

Once Shane left the lock I asked if the man wanted one gate open or two and he said two so I left the gate open and left it in his presumably capable hands. Our view of his boat was obscured by the road, but as I walked past I could see the boat was in the hands of a slightly anxious looking boy and very excitable girl, squealing as he steered in. I hoped all was well as I walked to the next lock around the corner. Shane drove in and tied to the side while we waited for the other couple to catch up. It can seem a long wait and we couldn’t see if they had come at all. At least we were by a field with lambs.

Tranquil Spring scene of ewes and lambs

Just as we were wondering how long it had been and had something happened at the last lock, the boat hove into view. As it approached I could see it was a hire boat. The couple seemed capable and experienced and I was surprised they had hired such a large boat for just the two of them. It turned out he worked for the company that owns Black Prince holidays and they got it at a very cheap price as a result. She wasn’t sure how other people afforded canal boat holidays. We hadn’t ever used Black Prince as they are not the cheapest and kept the family holiday price down by going in a large group, so sharing the load and the price. They were planning on getting a boat when he retired so they were both quite interested in how it was going. She wasn’t convinced she would want to do more than a month at a time. We hadn’t known if would would enjoy it for more than a month either.

The lock gates were quite heavy and we occasionally needed both of us on a particularly stubborn gate. We both thought we had reached our last lock then discovered there was an unlucky number 13. While we have been here before I hadn’t noticed this bench before. It had a little door in it. It was dedicated to a lock keeper and to his family as his parents had a long career on a working canal cargo boat, until the industry dried up. Their boats had been called Forget-me-not and Sarah Jane and the wood from their boats had been used to make the memorial bench.

Bench made of old boats, Forget-me-not and Sarah Jane
Memorial bench inscription to the boat owners, revealed behind the door on the bench

As we had gone down the flight Shane had left first each time but as they planned to travel further, I suggested they could go first. She didn’t leap on though, she decided this was a two person gate and wasn’t going to leave me to it. It would have been a tiring flight alone. We thanked them and I wished them all the best. I wonder when or if we will meet them again, and if so, will it be in another Black Prince boat like Matilda, or their own boat.

Matilda’s driver pulls in to pick up his wife after the last lock, while Shane leaves Lock 13

After helping her close the gate, I caught up with Shane and looked for where to moor. Across the canal he had spotted Liberty moored up outside a marina, rather than on the usual moorings. Shane spoke to John and Tania and found out they had reached the end of their journey and where mooring there to sell. We moored up and then thought about going over to see them. I fed the ducks while they spoke to someone from the marina.

Shane checked back in the blog and found it was last March we had first met them. We went to have a chat and John invited us in. They had done their two years, Tania had a job and they were heading away back to their home this weekend. We are not sure how long we will continue and what will make us choose to stop. Time will tell. They clearly had regrets of places they had not reached within the two years. We had a lively chat about various adventures and agreeing that you cannot do this with a fixed plan, but be prepared for change. It started to rain and Tania went to collect in things from outside. Then wind picked up, and the clouds looked ominous. We took our leave of Liberty.

Tomorrow is meant to be stormy. I had heard the words ‘gale force’ uttered by Matilda’s helmsman. It is just as well Tania and John had got Liberty to her safe place before having to tackle the locks in a storm. We are prepared to sit tight and see what tomorrow brings.

Liberty moored up, ready for sale
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