Friday, 2 January 2015

Old Man's Beard And The Coming Of The King

I love aqueducts.  I learnt about them with astonishment at primary school - a bridge for water?! - and I've never lost that incredulity.  I remember drawing a picture which showed both the water running over the aqueduct and the river flowing beneath, and our teacher telling us that one day we would think we knew how to spell it because aqua is Latin for water, but actually, aqueduct is not spelt how you might expect.  Being an eight year old smartypants, I had already spelt it wrong and had to bracket it with a cross at the end and rewrite the whole word.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that when Dru announced that she was poised to move NB Eve from her current mooring at Bath to Bradford-on-Avon, I begged to come along for the ride, since it involves crossing the River Avon via both Dundas and Avoncliff aqueducts en route.  

So Dru said I could help as crew which was very kind as both she and I know that I am rubbish at doing anything remotely useful on the canal, but the fact that there are no locks and only a couple of swing bridges between the departure point and destination meant that I didn't have to do a lot more than just stand around holding a bit of rope and looking picturesque, so it wasn't really too much of a problem. 


Anyway, we were off not long after 8am, past Solsbury Hill ...


... and through Bathampton.  

The day was bright and warmish (well, in the sun it was) but a funny thing was happening with the colours, at times very vivid...
 ... and at others all but monochrome.  







Particularly striking were the cumulus clouds of Old Man's Beard, which gleamed as if they were backlit ... 



... and a heron which creaked across the canal to land in a field. 


We had a long wait to use the bowser at Claverton Pumping Station while a couple of boaters filled up their water tank with the speed of a dripping stalactite.  Dru did clever, agile things that were potentially uncomfortable ... 


... and (in case you think this is an idyllic way of life) emptied the poo canister.  I stood around a bit.  



Then, with a full water tank and  a warning toot to any boaters coming around the corner towards us, we were off across Dundas aqueduct.
Another heron, intent.  

And back across the Avon at Avoncliff.
 
By now we were shrammed, so it was into the Cross Guns for some mulled cider and half each of the one remaining mince pie on the premises. 

Is it my imagination, or is this an early Valentine?

I'd taken so many photos, I'd exhausted my camera battery, but no worries, I had another in my bag which I smugly slotted into place as we reached Bradford-on-Avon.  

' I can't believe you've never seen a kingfisher,' Dru said as she moored NB Eve in a spot with a decent phone signal. 'This is kingfisher central. You'd be lucky not to see one.'


But there were none, so I took a few photos of the 14th century tithe barn instead, with its magnificent cruck roof.  


And the earliest known proof of the existence of a Spirograph set. (Not sure if they are masons' marks or there for apotropaic reasons - if the latter, they didn't work because at this point my replacement battery died. Turns out it was uncharged. Boo.)  


We walked back to the Moggy which was parked further up the canal.  Dru suddenly stopped.  'Look on the side of the bridge,' she said. 

I peered through the dusk.  I didn't have my glasses with me and all I could see was a rusty stain.


'It's a kingfisher,' she said. And lo, it was. 

Camera batteries dead - both of them. I resolved to relish the sighting in real time instead (while fishing for my phone). 


It flew up to the bridge railings in a proverbial flash of electric blue ... 


... and then onto the bow of a narrowboat moored just the other side of the bridge ... 


... before turning its brilliant back on us in a tree on the opposite bank.


  I think 2015 is going to be a good year. 

Photos of me at Claverton Pumping Station and Warleigh Weir by Dru Marland. 



































3 comments:

  1. Great post! Love the photographs and the prose account too. :-)

    splitting the sky
    a kingfisher lifts a branch
    off the breeze

    Alan Summers
    Mainichi Shimbun (Japanese newspaper, November 2014)


    warm regards,

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely, Alan, thank you and a Happy New Year to you xx

    ReplyDelete