This has been a perfect week for hatch-gazing. Those double doors, set into the side of the boat, are my window on the world - it's the perfect place for getting a real close up of the watery wildlife outside. Ducks, geese, swans and coots glide by and I saw a moor-hen climbing around in a bush eating blackberries – I'd never have know they did that if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. The swallows are packing their bags for sunnier climes, how often have I watched them dipping and weaving along the water as I wait for the kettle to boil. I don't always get a watery view, sometimes the hatch opens onto the tow-path and then I'm the one being inspected by every passing dog especially if it's sausages for tea.
I know it's autumn when we get the annual invasion of spiders, wasps and daddy long-legs. Carl has developed a new technique for dealing with these pesky varmints after I was terrorised by the spider that refused to leave. It should have been a straight forward evacuation of a medium-sized spider which parachuted from the ceiling and hung at eye level as I was passing. I've tried really hard to conquer my fear of spiders but I've not managed it yet. My voice goes up two octaves and I squeak out 'Carl – spider' and run away. Carl scooped up the dangling arachnid and tried to put it out of the hatch onto the grassy bank outside. The spider did not want to leave! It hung onto Carl and swung back inside and that's when I lost sight of it as I was running away to the other end of the boat. Carl told me it had gone under the fridge but I think he was fibbing because I'm sure it was that same spider that came looking for me later. It climbed onto my e-reader as I was settling down in bed to read the latest Jo Nesbo! After Carl had peeled himself off the ceiling ( yes, I did scream very loudly!) he ejected the spider and we stripped the bed in case there were any more creepy crawlies waiting to read a thriller. I'm so thankful that we don't have poisonous spiders in England. Carl catches them in a jam jar now and escorts them right out of the boat, just to be sure they've really gone.
It was a lovely sunny morning when we left Nantwich last Monday morning and we were swishing along, hoping to reach the 4 locks at Hurlestone before they got too busy. We rounded a bend to see a boat slewed sideways across the canal and a little knot of people trying to get a rope on a black and white horse that was chest-deep in the water. Canals are not very deep but the sides are steep and the horse was struggling to heave itself out of the water and onto dry land. Just when I thought the poor thing was going to give up altogether, it gave one last almighty scrabble with it's hooves and managed to get out. Phew! What a relief. It's nice to be part of the boating community, you can be sure of a helping hand if you're in trouble and that's becoming a rare thing in this modern world.
We made a return visit to Percy's when we moored overnight in Whitchurch. Some of you might remember we were here a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed the quirky atmosphere of this cross between a pub and a tea room. Carl and I sat in the theatre seats this time, opposite the giant stuffed moose head which hangs behind the bar (I told you it was quirky!) I opted for half a beetroot cider which was a lovely shade of raspberry in the glass but the flavour didn't lived up to the appearance, if I'm honest. The moose stared down at us glumly and Tricky settled under the table for a nice snooze – now what could possibly happen to spoil this pleasant interlude, I hear you ask. Have you ever been button-holed by one of those bar-room braggers who want to tell you about their life in the British Army when men were men and could run the London Marathon in 20 minutes? Well, I didn't mind that so much but when he started making insinuations about Mary, the landlady at the pub next door, my good will vanished and my cyanide lips itched to deliver a cutting remark. Carl saved him from a mauling by whisking me off to find the post office - no wonder that poor moose looked so glum!
'Shall we take this footpath back to the boat?' I said to Carl on the way home. It probably wasn't the best time to wander off – we'd been to Tescos for shopping and our rucksacks were quite heavy. The footpath took us through some houses and turned uphill across a field. In the distance, I caught a glimpse of the distinctive lift bridge which was just by our boat. It didn't look too far away but the footpath continued uphill which was slightly worrying. Tricky wasn't impressed by the 'short cut' and panted along behind us and after a while I began to think my internal compass had let me down. Through another field, still going uphill and finally, a left hand turn going downhill towards what I hoped was the field gate just by the boat – luckily for me, it was. I could tell Carl wasn't impressed and if I'm honest, it wasn't the best idea I've had. I put it down to the beetroot cider!
The Llangollen Canal is always busy at this time of year and meeting the first-time hirers along the way has been very entertaining. If you get to a lock and there are 3 people wandering about with windlasses but nothing is happening then you can be sure that they've just come out of a nearby marina for their first narrow-boat holiday. I met a lovely family from California this morning, they come over every year and hire a narrow-boat as a way of enjoying our British Weather. I thought of them as I watched Countryfile tonight – the jet stream has dipped down bringing in low pressure with as much weather as you want. Wind, rain, thunder – oh and some sunny intervals if we're lucky! I hope they have a lovely holiday whatever the weather.
That's all from me for now - have a lovely week everyone, I'll write again soon with more Hedgerow Jottings
The Floating Chandlers