START: 0900. Off to The Boat Inn (Under renovation) to walk down Stockton Flight to Long Itchington where SONFLOWER awaited us. No problem here. We met a Canal and River Trust volunteer lock-keeper who was happily received by a boater in the locks. "Great to see you", she said to him. I assumed he was the helpful sort who would be helping people through the flight. We arrived at the boat and had a very nice conversation with the owner of historic boat nb Mercury, built by Harland and Wolfe in 1935 with a National Engine. She was walking her dog. As we arrived at the boat two dog walkers allowed their dog to poop on the tow-path next to our boat. "Pick that up, please!, I asked. "Haven't got a bag" came the reply. "I have!", I said, diving into the cratch and getting a bunch of dog poo bags. "Have some for later", The Best Mate said as she passed him the bags "we haven't got a dog." To give them their due, they did wait for the bag and not give us some mouthful of abuse. But why do people walk their dogs without taking a bag with them?
Off to the locks. Here SONFLOWER rises in Long Itchington (bottom) Lock:
So the start of the flight. All was well as we filled the first two. We then crossed with a young couple and had a good road for a couple more. We met three men carrying windlasses down the flight. One suggested that we waited for a boat coming up but he was looking at the boat that had just passed going down! Easy mistake. A lock further on we spotted a boat coming down. It was our friends Gail and Andrew Spolton who were returning nb Emmaus to the Shroppie. Not a lot of time to chat in the pound between locks is there?
We then had a good road for the next two locks. Only two to go I said to the Best Mate. Three she corrected. "Oh, I said." I looked up and the next lock was spilling water from its bottom gate. "I'll have to empty that one" I said and walked ahead as the lock SONFLOWER was in was filling. I whisked the paddle open and set off beck down the flight. There was a crash as I turned and I looked at the gates. Nothing seemed amiss. So I walked on down. Sonflower came up and we went on. As I opened the lock above I noticed a boat was leaving the top lock. "Oh, I didn't see you" I said. "That was set for us!" The shore crew said. "The gate was open on our favour, that was our lock! You stole it!". "I am sorry", I said. "I don't think I have done that before". I cannot remember opening a lock with the top gate open. The crash that I heard was the top gate closing when the bottom paddle was opened!. Oops:a big mistake. After some more apologies I think I was forgiven. It is hard to believe that I could not have seen the open gate!
Here SONFLOWER rises in Stockton Top Lock. Another flight successfully navigated. No further sign of the volunteer helpful lock keeper. What the three men were going to do with their windlasses was not revealed either. And I have learned to look at both ends of the lock!
With Boat Inn, Stockton closed, we had lunch at The Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton.
FINISH 1145am. 1 mile, 2½ furlongs and 10 locks 2.1/2 hours
2 hours ago