Day 19: Thursday 15th July: “There’s no such thing as the wrong sort of weather…”
From Great Barford to Bedford (Priory Marina)
Distance travelled: 6.92 miles
It had been our intention to lie alongside the meadow at Great Barford and gently tend our boat, an illusion shattered on arrival yesterday by the lack of any form of official mooring space – and by the wild and whipping winds this morning. The need to fill the water tank remained. Investigations of the under floor, the deck and the gas lockers did not provide more than about 140 feet of hose, not enough to stretch back to our water tank. And then, mid-morning, some of the “St Neot’s Armada” departed and enough of a gap appeared to allow us to nudge in and fill up. Thus replenished further action was called for: a drive for the centre archway of the Great Barford bridge, even though it is marked as No Access. Boater word recommends that course as the turn otherwise into the main stream after the bridge is too sharp for a longer boat. So off we set, into high and gusting winds, heading west for Bedford.
Often high trees protected us from the worst of the wind. At Willington Lock, a very familiar view since it is a regular stroll past Danish Camp, the weir looked less fierce than usual, but the lock when empty was an enormous abyss. “Look out for the kingfishers,” insisted the downcoming boaters, “Five we saw yesterday on this stretch.” (The same one five times, I wondered…) Soon Danish Camp appeared, sheltered, benign. Activity on the waterfront: a familiar face. Readily Roy, proprietor, took our line and attached us fore and aft to his wide beam boat The Artful Dodger. Our arrival gave a certain amount of entertainment to the terrace customers – and we were pleased to moor up at a favourite venue for lunch.
More confident now that the deep cutting of the river would offer protection from the wind off we set again – and the first of three extremely heavy and prolonged rain showers started. Clad in the waterproof over-trousers, waterproof jacket and winter peaked cap (with chinstrap) I struggled to retain my lookout post. No sign of the five kingfishers, just five million lashing raindrops. We squeezed past two fallen trees and on into the newly renovated vast Castle Mill Lock. Help was at hand, painters painting white lines around the lock chamber. The water, very unusually, is released into the centre of the lock: down one side of the boat surged foamy river stuff, down the other a milky substance (the watered down wet paint!). Then came glimpses of familiar Bedford landmarks, to the north a wireless aerial and the Home Store near Tesco; to the south the two Cardington airship sheds. We crept closer to the town, but could see nothing of it. Again another downpour at Cardington Lock; cover was taken under the back steel hatch. Wet ropes assume lives of their own, and ours were saturated and fatigued like their owners. On exit from the lock, now only a mile from the day’s destination my mind and hands pined for my winter waterproof mitts. With waterlogged and wrinkly fingers we turned into Priory Marina, and after instructions various found an appropriate pontoon mooring place. Relief! A quarter of a mile and one lock to go and then the final destination will have been reached!
The title is a trite saying completed by “only the wrong sort of clothes.” Today’s experience taught us that having certain clothing on board is worse than useless if there’s no time to don it!
On the domestic front, again wonderful daughter has been in the right part of the country at the right time and by way of a fine meal at Priory Beefeater we have been reunited with a car, have viewed the River Festival site along the Embankment and Russell Park, checked our mail at home (7 misaddressed letters dropped back in a postbox) and returned to the marina ready for tomorrow’s hopefully less challenging day…