Pity the poor boater, when the nor'westers hurl snow along the icy towpath and no comfort is to be found:
Calde geþrungen wæron mine fet,
forste gebunden calde clommum
Step inside, though, and you'll find that we're actually toasty warm, especially Miss P, who came to visit for a couple of days and was cheerfully settled in front of the stove.
Well, I say cheerfully....
|can I help you with that bacon butty? Please?|
But you can't spend all your time being cosy. So as the dawn began to make itself known, we crossed Smelly Bridge and headed up the hill. In the moonlight, the concrete lagoons of the sewage station looked like fresh-built raths, or possibly a ziggurat raised to a rather peculiar deity.
Up on the hill the glacial wind had sculpted and combed the tussocks into pale, transient roches moutonees. The moon was setting over Winsley, and as the morning sky lightened, the hills glowed with their powdering of snow. It was that perfect moment when everything is luminous and shining, just before the night abdicates the sky.
..but we were plunging back into the darkness of the woods, where fallen trees overhung the path and a grey squirrel screeched its alarm call. The ground is uneven and interspersed with hollows and sudden lumps of rock; like the Scowles in the Forest of Dean, though less emphatic. I guess that quarrying once took place here; there are underground quarries all around here. Somewhere beneath us was a former Royal Enfield factory...
As we emerged onto the lane and slid down the hill to the aqueduct, a robin thawed out its song and tried a few phrases.
Presently, the sun rose and the joggers came by. Presently, generators were starting up on the moored boats. And it was time to chop some wood.