Sunday, 21 October 2018

early up the flight

It was cold enough to wear my old motorbike gauntlets, when I set off on my bike in the early dawn. Not that dawn is particularly early at this time of the year; it was already 7:20. My boat's moored at Sells Green, in the wide basin of the Avon between Devizes and Trowbridge, and days like this start chilly and foggy. I was off to help Jenny on Black Cat, and Victoria on Aquilon (the coal boat) up the Caen Hill locks. We'd got up as far as the Rowde basin the night before, and were doing the final staircase this morning, eight o'clock sharp.

A kingfisher flew close past me, its colours deepened to indigo and deep viridian in this light. Early fishermen were setting up their little nylon igloos and computerised fish monitors, or still trundling along the towpath with great cartloads of tackle and legged boxes like lunar landing modules, for perching on.

Jenny and Victoria were up and about, and there was just time to dump my bag on Black Cat and decline a cup of tea before they cast off and were into the first lock just as Chris the CRT man arrived from the top compound on his quad bike to unlock the ground paddles, without which you can't fill the lock. They took to locking the flight overnight a few years ago, after someone stole a boat in Devizes and tried to make a getaway down the flight... giving up some way down, they'd torched the boat. Not the shiniest of apples in the fruit bowl...

Everyone knew what they were doing, and Jenny and Victoria zipped the two boats into each successive lock side by side and barely touching the brickwork. It was a joy to behold.

The mist ahead of us was glowing in the early sunlight, and presently there came a distant honking, and skeins of Canada geese appeared from their night quarters, wheeled round us a couple of times, and dropped into the adjacent pound, with a great splashing and quarrelling.

Jenny tries not to be distracted by the geese
here they come again!
 ...and then we were at the top, and in brilliant sunshine. And it was time for a late breakfast in a Devizes cafe, and a goodbye to Jenny, in whose company I've been cruising these last couple of months and who is now heading off to that wider world beyond the Vale of Pewsey, while I'm still down in the Shire.

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