Idling into St Ives

Tuesday 10th August: Godmanchester to St Ives
6.5 miles, 3 locks
 Cygnet Award
During our watery meanderings we have espied many swans, some obviously rearing families. Some of the offspring have been a fair size, a few quite small. Most make high pitched squealy noises and most parent swans are doing a wonderful job of protecting their young. One swan, however, is to be mentioned, but not as an award winner.   He (somehow I think it was a he) presumptuously attempted to snatch a sandwich from my hand while we were moored at Great Barford, still on the outward journey. It was probably that same swan which tried to drown the duck at Great Barford during our BBQ cruise about 16 days later.  But the Cygnet Award must go to the parents of the largest brood.  This undoubtedly goes to the Cardington Lock swan family, two parents and eleven (yes, 11, verified by independent witnesses) grey cygnets, all flourishing well.  Runner-up goes to the swans below Hemingford Lock, two parents and nine (9) cygnets.
Departure this morning was a little later than usual; the mooring position which yesterday mid-afternoon seemed so idyllic, sunshine, gentle breezes, shade under the trees, happy laughter from the three water-polo playing boys nearby took on a less pleasurable tone by late afternoon, when the youth of Godmanchester, boys and girls, gathered just the other side of the lockside fencing. Screeches and shouts, rough play and rowdiness began to make us nervous of forsaking Cleddau to walk to our supper in Godmanchester. We were somewhat reassured by no sign of bottles or cans and by the apparently functioning close-circuit TVs high on a pole beside the lock chamber. Our return at dusk revealed no damage done.  But raindrops, whether direct from the sky or from the overhanging tree descending onto the steel hatch near your head as you pass into lighter slumber is not quite so delightful!  It was a wet start – and the sky continued to leak abruptly and unexpectedly throughout the morning.
At about 10am I was making a smooth and flawless entry (yes, it was a good one!) under the guillotine gate at Houghton Lock when I became aware of one spectator, accompanied by one small dog. Ken leapt off, mid-rope in hand – and then gasped “Simon, it is Simon, isn’t it?”  And so it was, Simon, Simon the Navigator, who all those years ago* “volunteered” to be crew for Ken when Cleddau, still then the unmarked Sir William Pennyman, was brought from Sawley to Evesham. The vast Hemingford Meadow is his local dog-walking patch. So on board he came, the terrier too, who sniffed and snuffled his way from end to end of the boat, bemused by such a collection of new smells. Kettle on, coffee made, the lock still to empty. There Simon was, going down again, in a boat that he did recognise but realised was somewhat different from his previous acquaintance.
A plan: “You moor, I’ll cook, I’ll collect, you call a taxi later.” So tonight we’ll be eating out again, Thai food, apparently, in Houghton village, just below Wyton, location of the original friendship.
We cruised on, with just one more lock before St Ives, past the chocolate-box pretty Hemmingford villages. A short boating day it was, but time to browse along the back streets of St Ives and to peer into the Norris Museum (displays feature Charles 1 in Huntingdonshire and fen skating.) Tomorrow we’ll be bound for Ely, to get back on plan…
* April 1994; a photo of Simon at Sawley appears in Book 1 of The Meanderings of Cleddau (photo book on board). One sister and brother-in-law may recall meeting this crew member on their arrival at Evesham…?

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