Heather can be relied upon in many ways. One of them is that she comes well prepared for cold, wet weather with walking boots, raincoats, (yes more than one) fleeces, a woolly hat and waterproof trousers. Sitting out the rain is not on her list of what to do on holiday. When the company is cheery, the activity is enjoyable whatever the weather. She wasn’t with us much longer so we were packing in the boating activity.
We all took turns driving and locking, throughout the day on Thursday. It was Heather’s last day with us and we had to arrive at a suitable train station. The target was Berkhamsted and we got there mid afternoon. I wondered about going shopping and looking for a post box and should I do that during the lock, not knowing how near we were to the train station.
The train station was less than five minutes from our mooring and it had a post box too so I nipped out with the postcards Heather and I had written. I noticed a sign to a castle and thought Heather would like that as she has an interest in both history and archaeology, plus she likes a walk. By the time I got back, I had been distracted by the totem pole and tea and had forgotten to mention it to her.
Heather was looking into the area herself though and announced that there was a motte and bailey castle and she should like to see that. We set off before it got dark and found that we only had a short time before it closed. There were more remains visible than I expected.
It didn’t suggest in any of the notices that it was ever used to defend against Scots. I am sure it is too far south and built in Norman times and was attacked by the French in the 13th century.
The winter opening hours gave us not much time, but Heather wanted to walk round the outer wall that surrounded the bailey protected by ditches. It was darkening but it looked an easy walk so Heather and I set off even though it was close to closing time. When we were more than half way a man in a high-viz jacket waved and told us not to try to come into the grounds but just to leave at the end of the wall. That seemed fine as the wall ended at the gate and we got round and left at the same time as another visitor so we didn’t get locked in or hold him up (much).
When we got back we had received messages from Benny asking how the holiday was going and did we have any photographs. He seemed to enjoy partaking of the fun virtually when I sent a bunch of photos. Then we enjoyed a last night at the nearby pub, having dinner and beer. We didn’t take photos of that – perhaps he wouldn’t have thanked us for that. He was already missing driving.
In the morning we saw Heather to the station and set about the rather mundane tasks of laundry, shopping and getting water. Shane had spotted a refillery for us to top up all our washing liquids. There was some November yarn bombing and painted stones by the church in Berkhamsted.
We went through a lock then pulled up behind another boat to wait for the water and I had plenty time to go to the supermarket while Shane sat in the queue behind three boats.
When I got back he had finished getting water, having got in slightly earlier as the third boat had given up waiting. We were now behind the two that had filled slowly at the water. It seemed they took an easy pace generally and we caught up with them as they entered the next lock. I went up to help. One woman was on a boat and two men were chatting, one of the boat drivers and a CRT man, but only one side had been operated. After a few exchanges with the woman, I established it was okay to work the other side. The men seemed oblivious and enjoying their chat. The two boaters were on first name terms and seemed to be travelling together. The man was chatty and friendly with me, trying to decide on the most helpful gate arrangements and arranging that the CRT man could help shut his side after he had driven off to save me walking round. He laughed when I pointed out his rope was still tied to the bollard when he was setting off. I untied his rope and he said you always make mistakes when you get chatting, as you are distracted and lose your routine. Too true.
I worked the lock for Shane to drive through and we had soon caught them up again. Shane went to work a lock and his only communication with him was to tell the man that the gates could stay open as another boat was coming in to which the man swore and Shane came back thinking the man was very grumpy. After we had got through we were delighted by the sudden arrival of a heron – on our roof. It hitched a ride for a few minutes before flying off.
I shared the experience with Heather and Benny and Heather kept me up to date with the progress of her journey and her arrival to visit her parents. At the next lock I went to work I spoke to the man in the boat ahead who seemed in good humour. I told him about the heron on the roof and he asked if I had got a picture. There was no sign of grumpiness.
At the same lock a woman with a wide boat was asking where we were going. She had to get water and pick up from nursery and didn’t want to be in a queue for the next water point. I assured her we had all taken in water that morning. I worked the lock and she got ready to go ahead of us. When we rose in the lock we saw a different wide boat swung across the water so I ran forward to see what was happening. It was moored at one end. I called out but nobody seemed aboard so I climbed on and got the middle rope to pull it in to the side.
As I was pulling it in the woman with a wide boat that I had spoken to earlier came running back with a mallet. She had noticed that as she passed it, the pin had pulled out. The ground is very wet and that doesn’t hold the pins so well. She got hold of the dangling spike and banged it in. I told her that if I had known she was in a hurry I would have advised her to pop out before the other two boats as they were slow. I was worried she was now making herself even later by stopping to help tie up this boat. She said she was okay. She was mainly worried about the water and she had phoned a friend who would come to help her through the lock. When we reached the next lock her friend was there getting it ready. I took the other gate and noticed the friend looked familiar. We exchanged a few pleasantries and she said she thought she had met us before. Shane appeared and we soon established we had met around March and been buddied up near Leamington Spa and Long Itchington. I thought her hair had grown a lit but she said one side was always shaved and I remembered she had had a hat on so the rest of her hair had been covered. We reminded each other of our names and had a catch up on her eventful year. I showed her the blog entry from April 1st which I found by typing Vicky into the search bar as I knew I had named her in it and she told me the boat had since been repainted. She took a note of the blog name.
She was as energetic and friendly as I had recorded six months earlier and here she was just coming along to help work locks for her friend when she was moored up herself. She was looking forward to her friend being moored beside her and going long walks together.
At the next lock we had caught up again with the man on his boat and he seemed cheery and chatty with Vicky. Who wouldn’t be? She helped us through too while her friend was pulling up for water, and told me to hop on and she would finish up the gates for us.
We managed to get moored before the rain started. We had had a fun day after all, saying goodbye to one friend but meeting another friendly soul, briefly sharing the boat with a heron and finding a lovely spot to moor.