Well those three days went quickly. I can’t believe it’s that long since I wrote a bog entry. And what a mixture of weather we’ve had – frost first thing on Friday and a nice sunny morning then it clouded over and we had a thin snow cover on Saturday. The snow soon disappeared as it started drizzling and to be honest it was grey and gloomy for the rest of the day.
Karen and I took it easy on Friday and Saturday and took Buddy for a couple of long towpath walks. We knew we took it easy as we didn’t miss any of the six nations matches – some good tense games this year so far.
Whilst looking for good places to park the car in Lowsonford we saw a life-size zebra-cow in a back garden
BT are selling this old kiosk to the local community for a £1. A good way of retaining the inherent heritage. (The picture I took directly looking at the kiosk was too fuzzy hence the strange shot here)
For sale notice in the kiosk
Buddy following his favourite activity on one of our walks – stick killing
On Sunday morning we met up with Mike and Lesley at Stoke Bruerne. CRT are working on the flight of locks there and opened one up to the public for the weekend. None of us had been inside a dry lock before, although between us all we have been through most of the locks in the country a few times.
Karen and I arrived at the car park to find it was full so we had to drive to a school in the next village where a park and ride operation had been laid on. We knew Buddy wouldn’t be allowed in the lock for H&S reasons but were most surprised that the coach operator said he couldn’t take him because he wasn’t insured. After a pleasant bit of gentle persuasion from me and the CRT guy on hand, he agreed to let Buddy on but the CRT guy had to agree to tell any other visitors with dogs that they would not be allowed on the coach.
Buddy rather pleased with himself on the park and ride coach
We all learnt a lot on our visit to the lock and were really impressed with the CRT guy who explained everything to us. At one point Mike, cheekily, asked him what they call stanking planks and he replied, “Stop planks” (Mike is not really happy that I call them stanking planks). But he did agree that in some parts of the country they are called stanking planks. He also said that the dam that stop planks make is referred to as a stank.
Mike looking pleased that he may have caught me out!
The stairs on the right have been installed to allow the public to access the lock. They are also the reason dogs are no longer allowed on these trips into locks. Apparently one caught a claw in a metal grating once and ripped the claw out.
Karen paying attention to our CRT guide
The picture above shows stanking planks in use. You can see them placed beyond the lock gates and have formed a stank to hold the water back so the lock could be drained.
The picture above also shows the cill, the large masonary step protected by the horizontal pieces of wood. It is the cill that boats sometimes get caught on when a lock is emptied and hence capsize if not rectified quickly enough.
Looking out through the bottom gates into the next pound
The signal crayfish is an invasive species and if caught should be killed. They came from the US and carry a fungus which is wiping out our native crayfish population; our crayfish are also somewhat smaller and are generally greyish all over.
One of the holes (at the bottom of the lockside) where water comes into the lock to fill it up when the paddles above are raised
You can see from the size of the hole that if the paddles are raised too quickly then the force of the water can really bounce boats around in the lock whilst it is filling.
The lock floor is made of bricks placed upright. The floor of this lock is still the original that was laid in 1797.
The floor of the lock is still made of the original bricks
Some lock walls have been repaired with a substance called gunite that gets sprayed on like liquid concrete. Gunite is still used in a lot of situations today but not where water ingress may occur. Because gunite isn’t porous, water can build up in the walls behind the gunite and eventually the pressure cracks the gunite and the walls collapse.
A large section of gunite has fallen away on the left wall exposing the underlying brickwork
Part of the programme of works includes re-covering the exposed brickwork. Apart from the danger of the wall collapsing inwards, the exposed coping stones along the top could catch on the gunwales of a rising boat and cause it to topple over when filling the lock.
After our visit we retired to the Navigation by the top lock for a well earned pint and a snack – it really had been quite cold standing around in the lock.
I’ve stopped sharing what we cook and eat, mainly because I do most of the cooking now Karen is working so it feels a bit too self-indulgent to discuss our meals. My middle son Steve told me the other day that his partner, Amanda, is a bit upset that I don’t talk about food – apparently for the first few years of the blog that’s what she looked forward to reading about. Well, that and Buddy!
So just for Amanda, here’s the salmon Florentine we had on Friday evening. Forgive the frozen peas but we’re clearing the freezer out ready for spring cleaning.
Salmon Florentine (fillets topped with spinach, garlic, shallots, chilli and feta)
The empty lock