Monday was a day of showers with the promise of getting colder in the afternoon with frost overnight. On our morning walk, Buddy and I met Noel out on his daily bike ride around the perimeter of his farm. Noel and his brother Martin are the surviving members of the Smith family that farmed Turners End Farm at Rowington for over two hundred years. They are in their late 70s and still live in the farmhouse but let all the land to a local farmer. I have talked about them before and picked up lots of interesting local history from them.
Every day Martin cycles down Dicks Lane to the canal, up the towpath to Lapworth to buy a paper and then cycles back again. Noel cycles down Dicks Lane too but at the canal turns left to Lowsonford and then back along a lane to their farmhouse. I bumped into Noel at Dicks Lane lock so he dismounted and we walked along the towpath to Lowsonford together. I remarked on his bike and how it reminded me of my first ‘adult’ bike; he told me that their father had bought them one each (us oldies remember Sturmey-Archer gears and dynamos 😉) and they are both still in daily use.
When we walked past the lock cottage that is for sale I mentioned about the drinking water coming from a well and he told me that they too didn’t have running water at their farm until the late 50s and that the well water in the area is very sweet.
Picture taken when they were both working farmers (Martin on the left; Noel on the right) – they wear the same outfits to this day 😊
Tuesday was one of the two days a week that the shop at Finwood Hill Farm at Lowsonford is open, so I took a good circular walk to pick up some eggs on the way. This was my first visit to this shop and the lady farmer was a good chatterer and when we got onto canals she explained that their farm completely surrounds the lock cottage that is for sale. She and her husband (and previous owners) have refused to negotiate about granting access to the cottage across their land. An access drive of over ¾ mile would present all sorts of problems such as maintenance; fencing for livestock; potential for gates to be left open etc.
I had the car for the day as we were off to play bridge in Stratford for the evening and, as Karen’s office is on the way, it makes sense for me to drop her at work in the morning and pick her up in the evening. This meant I could drive to the coal merchants at Hockley Heath to stock up on coal. Buddy and I spent some of the afternoon trolleying coal from the car to the boat ¼ mile away down the towpath.
We woke to a light dusting of snow on Wednesday and I decided to go litter picking during the morning. Even though this is one of the most litter-free stretches of canal we have been on, it’s amazing how much litter lurks at the water’s edge or under the hedges.
After one hour the bag was getting on the heavy side for me and my back
We are now just over a year away from moving the boat over to France to start cruising the waterways over there. We’ve done a lot of chatting about it but not really made any plans etc. So, in the afternoon I started getting some information together such as how to get there, modifications needed to the boat, boat documentation required, exams we need to take such as the French equivalent of helmsman courses and VHF radio operation. Of course, our friends Mike and Aileen are two years ahead of us so are full of information and experiences and are more than willing to help us on our way. It has started to feel more real now that we are putting pen to paper and planning things out.
We’re going to have a busy 2018 before we go though. When Karen got her contract, nearly two years ago, we were just about to get to Chester. Unfortunately, we had to turn round and head back down to the Midlands so that Karen could start her job. As soon as we set off again, in a couple of months or so, we will head straight for Chester and then to Liverpool where we have booked into the docks for a week in May. We will then set off on the length of the Leeds & Liverpool canal. Our previous boat was too long for the locks on that canal, so it’ll be good to finally cruise through my parent’s village, Gargrave, which is at the northern most point of the canal. We plan to spend a couple of months in the Yorkshire Dales as we go through.
After the summer we will find a mooring for the boat as we are going to Italy for a month (with Buddy of course) taking a further two weeks to get down and another two weeks to get back. Where we go after that depends on where we decide to have the boat craned out onto the lorry to take us to France.
Exciting times ahead 😊