Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Curious cows

Everyone (well, Andrew from Granny Buttons and Nic from Silhouette) seems to be posting pictures of curious cows, so here's my contribution.

This was on the Oxford Canal, south of Banbury. I don't think it was the boats they were curious about. They probably thought the grass was greener on the other side of the bridge.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Watford Locks

We have a week on Debdale booked for the end of October, and my parents are going to join me for a few days. I thought we might go up through Braunston, onto the Leicester Line, up the Watford Locks and see how far we get, before turning back.

So I wanted to check the opening times for the Watford Locks. First stop was Waterscape (which seems to have a brash new look), where I downloaded the boater's guide to the GU Leicester Line. The guides are pretty good, because they're constantly updated with the latest stoppages and so on.

The first thing I noticed was that they'd managed to get the name of Watford Locks wrong. They must think they're in Ireland or something.

The next thing was that the only opening times given were from the 1 to 30 October, followed by a stoppage from 5 November, for dredging of the side ponds. Now, if we go that way we'll be going up Watford on 30 October, and coming back down on 31. But what's going on from 30 October to 4 November?

I phoned to find out. It took BW a couple of hours to come up with the answer, but (if you're interested) it's that the locks are open as usual, but there's no lock keeper on duty so you have to make sure yourself that there's no-one already in the staircase before starting.

I think I'll check with the lockie on the day we go up, just to make sure.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Swimming snake

One of the great things about the canals is the wildlife. During the September trip, I was delighted by the antics of a kingfisher which darted backwards and forwards in front of the boat a dozen times at Aynho, and I enjoyed watching a huge swan using the canal as a runway. It took a good hundred yards to get off the water, only to change its mind and land again almost immediately.

Then there was the snake. It was at a lock (I can't be sure which one, but the photo was taken two hours before one of Debdale moored up in the centre of Banbury, so I'd guess it was Slat Mill Lock). I'd crossed the top gate to open the offside paddle, when I saw the snake coming across the gate. He was probably eighteen inches or so in length. As the walkway didn't reach the side, he went into the water, found it impossible to get up the vertical stonework, and disappeared for a few moments. Once I'd opened the top gate, I saw the snake again, swimming down the lock. I was a bit worried about it getting crushed by the boat, but efforts to fish him out the water failed.

The strength of his swimming became clear when I opened the paddles to empty the lock. He didn't like the whirlpools created, but was able to hold himself away from them. Finally, it disappeared just as the lock emptied, through a gap in the gate.

I've just got round to researching what kind of snake it was. He had quite distictive markings just behind the head, so I'm certain he (or she) was a grass snake. I don't remember seeing one before, which perhaps isn't surprising because they're apparently very shy and are rarely spotted in passing.