(Posted by Alan)
Cook's Wharf to Winkwell
For various reasons we have known for some time that it would be impractical to do one of our summer "mega trips", where we usually stay out at least 3 weeks, and pile on both the miles and the locks. A great shame, really, as the two weeks at Easter largely also fell off our boating schedule when yours truly contrived to fall from a push bike beforehand, and smash his pelvis in three places, and an elbow in one.
So the idea was to start the school holidays with a trip which of necessity had to be rather less than 2 weeks. We should have set off yesterday, the day after Cath's term ended, (although I'll be the first to admit we were ill prepared!) However, soon after her school day had ended, unfortunately Cath got a call from her mother, who apparently had been suffering severe pains in much of her body, had seen a GP, but was now being despatched to hospital. We live miles away, but fortunately a very caring neighbour had stepped in, even to the point of going to sleep at Cath's mums house on Wednesday night to look after two dogs and a cat. So plans rapidly changed, and Cath drove up yesterday, first to deposit son David at his gran's house to act as a longer-term animal minder, then to see her mum in hospital.
The short version of events, (I'll spare you the long one), is that hospitals communications are seldom great, and knowing when anything will happen, tests be done, results known, or feedback given is at best a guessing game. All we knew by this morning was that Cath's mum felt better, was awaiting results of some extra tests, but likely to get sent home today.
Difficult decisions then. If we didn't start our planned break, (already shortened by over a day), then we would run out of time, but what if the situation ended up being less favourable ? Fortunately we live close to the boat's mooring, we had two bikes on board, and the canal runs close to the railway for many miles. We reasoned that if we had to abandon the boat for a bit we could, (even if it then only got taken back to base quite quickly at a later date), whereas we could not claw back time lost by not trying.
So eventually we were on our way South by about 11:30, just the two of us and Charlie the Spaniel, as David was now elsewhere.
Not too much to report on the boating. A fair day, mercifully free of the excessive heat we have had. Canal levels were unusual, after all these dry conditions, as a few pounds down from the summit were unusually low, but in pounds around Berkhamsted where levels do drop quite often at any time, water was pouring over some lock gates for no obvious reason.
Good water levels between "Gas Two" locks
Unusually we shared locks the whole way. Initially we shared with a Wilderness boat, with a couple taking grandchildren on a day trip. These charming boats are made of glass-fibre, so it is usual to agree how to handle entering and leaving to keep steel and plastic well apart! As soon as they made their first planned stop, another boat was just casting off, and has stayed with us all day, (now being about 10 feet behind, actually).
The lady we shared with most of the day had just bought her ideal second-hand boat in the Braunston area, and was bringing it down to it's new mooring.
By mid-afternoon our decision to travel was suddenly made to look "iffy". It turned out that the hospital were now saying my mother-in-law needed an ultrasound done, but this was not going to be until Monday, and they would be keeping her in over the weekend. The usual heart-searching followed, but we decided to carry on, whilst we contacted people, and to see who would be available to visit, and when.
But later on, David rang us to say that his Gran was now at home having been taken home by Cath's brother! Apparently another doctor had seen her, and reversed the decision to keep her in as quite unnecessary! Based on what's happening this time around, and on my own hospitalisation in February, I'm starting to think it's no exaggeration to say that whatever you are told is going to happen will not, (or at least not then, anyway!). David is planning to spend a few days with his Gran and then meet up with us.
So at the moment the decision to travel is still working for us, but tomorrow is of course another day!
A less sound decision was probably to visit the "Three Horseshoes", however. What they can charge for a pint and a large glass of wine almost beggars belief, and my beer proved to be cloudy enough to need replacing something you could see through properly. The food, whilst delicious, did not come in sufficient quantities for those who have just done 24 locks, and was over-priced. However, as usual Charlie came in for much admiration, including from a girl who gave him enough attention to cause him to jump up her for even more. "Hello, Georgia", said Cath, recognising one of her pupils. "Oh, no! Don't give me a detention," said Georgia, "I didn't realise it was your dog". (Cath note: I had no idea I am considered that scary!) Although the dog rescue said Charlie would be admired everywhere he went, I don't think we expected anything like the adulation he actually receives! He was less popular this morning when he managed to eat a small plastic bag - something we rather fear we may not have seen the last of, (yuk!)
Cook's Wharf to Winkwell
Miles: 10.6, Locks: 24
Total Miles: 10.7 , Total Locks: 24
Scenes from the museum
14 hours ago