On Saturday I set sail for northern climates. I filled up with water and pottered about until I was ready to go, but my crew hadn’t arrived. Nick had decided to bicycle down from the North and meet me in Thrupp for the return journey by boat. It turned out he was a bit delayed so I decided to meet him along they way and pulled the pins.
Just as I approached Shipton Lift Bridge a couple asked me how far I was going ‘probably as far as the bridge’ said I. They disappeared off into the field with their dog. I moored up and decided I would have a go at using a Banbury Pole. I am not terribly keen on the Banbury pole, but as Shipton lift bridge has a handle on the towpath side of the bridge I thought I would give it a go.
I couldn’t lift the bridge. Fail. Rethink.
No problem thought I. I decided to do the usual – take the bow up to the bridge, get off on the off side, open the bridge, lock it down, get back on the boat go through the bridge, get off the boat, unlock it…
As I approached I noticed the side had been trimmed heavily and was delighted to see that access was easier. As I leapt onto the side I noticed the trimmings hadn’t been removed and were all thorns. ouch. I lay my long front rope out on the land (there was nothing to tie it to) and went to lift the bridge.
The bridge plate that covers the weights had been undone and clearly some weights had been removed as the bridge was really rather heavy. When BW installed the rings to hook the bridge up they put them in the wrong place. This means that when the beam is down you can’t see the ring and you have to lean over and under to secure it. I scrabbled around and managed to get the chain secured. I reoriented myself in an upright position just to see that the bow rope was now in the water. I knelt down to reach it and couldn’t. Fail. More thorns in side/legs/hands. I grabbed a branch to encourage the rope to the bank but that had thorns to so I gave up. Fail.
I stood to survey the scene as my boat rapidly drifted backwards with Boots looking at me as if to say ‘this is not funny’. I let the bridge down (which took a while as the ring is in the wrong place which makes it harder) and walked over the bridge whilst wondering what I was going to do.
As I strolled along Boots’ stare got more and more intense. Fortunately the boat started to drift at an angle and I was able to leap on from the bank further along the canal. I took the boat back to the bridge just in time for the couple to return from the field. I did explain that my comment was rather tongue in cheek and I did want to go further, but my friend would no doubt arrive and give me a hand. We chatted for a while and then they offered to do the bridge. It took the two of them to open it and I was very grateful! As I went under the bridge Nick came into view on his bicycle.
Nick missed the scene by 5 minutes – he would have roared with laughter to have seen my boat in the middle of the cut with me chuckling on the towpath - hands on hips scratching my head wondering what on earth I was going to do!