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Returning to Whitchurch

The last incident-filled day of an incident-filled holiday

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View Life in the Slow Lane - Canal Barging with Lyn and Chris 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The farmer came along this morning (before I was up) and scooped up the calf in the bucket of his tractor and took it away along with the mother. Glad to know it was still OK.

Today is our last full day on the canals - we have to hand over the boat by 9:00 tomorrow morning - so we want to make the most of it by trying to get through all the locks today and moor somewhere within easy reach of the marina so that we don't have to travel too far tomorrow.

We get as far as Baddeley No 2 lock before things start to go wrong. Now that my ankle is a little better, Lyn and I are taking it in turns to open the locks, and this one is mine. I soon notice something is very wrong. The lock gate doesn't open more than a couple of feet; it appears something is jammed under the water line, preventing it from moving. Taking a closer look, I see that the whole mechanism is broken; the cogs having come away from the wheel.

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We try pushing and shoving, poking around with a pole, manipulating and jabbing, but to no avail. The lock is well and truly jammed.

Not being able to find the telephone number for the Canal and River Trust, David phones the marina where we got the boat from. Explaining that the lock is jammed and broken, he asks them to pass the information on to the right people for assistance.

As we wait for someone to turn up and rescue us, the queue of boats waiting to enter through the lock grows rapidly.

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The receptionist at the marina obviously does not speak the same language as David (and the rest of us) does, as his conversation was translated as “The boat has broken down in the lock” to their maintenance guys, who sends an engineer out. Doh. He takes a look at the problem, agrees with us that it is definitely best left to the experts as tampering with it is most likely to make it worse; and promptly calls the Canal and River Trust for us.

In every crowd there is always someone who thinks they know better than everyone else, trying to take over the situation. This time is no different. In fact we have two. One who is all mouth (little man syndrome), giving it all the talk, suggestions, criticism and sarcasm; but is not willing to get his hands dirty to actually do something. Then there is the wannabe sergeant-major. Marching up to the lock with some “authority”, this chap starts trying to free it. Not listening to our claims of “We've tried that”, he goes through every motion we have already attempted. To no avail of course. Then he starts fiddling with the cogs themselves, and instead of fixing it, he messes it up completely, losing the lot down into the machinery. Good one!

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Eventually the maintenance guys from the trust arrive, and asses the situation. They use a pitch fork to try and free the blockage under water, but that doesn't seem to work either. Mr sergeant-major looks on as if to supervise them. Pratt.

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If everyone had just left it well alone, this would have been an easy job for the men, but as it now stands, they have to try and fish the missing cogs out of the insides of the machinery. Not an easy task. The crow bar does not reach, and it takes many, many attempts with a rope to try and hook it around the top of the cogs to bring it up above ground again.

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Not being one to hold back, I ask Mr Sergeant-Major what happened (as if I didn't know), and then suggest that “That's why it is usually better to leave these things to the experts rather than fiddling with it ourselves when we don't know what we are doing and then make it worse” He is not amused and walks off in a huff. Good.

The experts of course, manage to get the missing part back into its rightful place, but the mechanism is still broken.

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However, it does not affect the ability to open the lock gate, and soon we can start getting the boats through, one by one while the men decommission the one paddle.

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As the men are working, a number of boaters and their dogs have gathered to watch what is going on. Bruno decides he wants to play with another dog on the opposite side of the canal, and starts to cross the small “bridge” over the lock (basically just two planks of wood on the lock gates). The other dog has the same idea, and they meet in the middle. Bruno is the first to back off and tries to turn around. Large dog + narrow plank = one wet dog!

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Bruno is no worse off for his little swim, and soon dries off as we make our way – somewhat delayed – along the canal towards Whitchurch.

The rest of the day is totally uneventful, and consists of watching the birds along the bank...

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... or just enjoying the scenery.

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We make it through all the locks with plenty of time to spare, and moor up in our intended place just as a light rain sets in. No chairs on the bank tonight; drinking (and eating) inside instead. We have had a fabulous holiday with great company, beautiful scenery and a few “interesting” incidents.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:01 Archived in England

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It certainly was a brilliant holiday. Looking forward to the next.?

by Lyn Gowler

A great account of the boating activities over another great week on the British Waterways! With thanks to all who participated.......

by David

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