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  • clivenmel

April 21st

Normal 0 false false false /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} To say that I am weary would be an understatement � if you want the truth I am absolutely ker-nackered!!!!   We were up bright and early this morning, but not early enough as we heard another boat going past us, heading for the top of the lock flight around 8.15am � some people are just too enthusiastic!  However we had a good breakfast then I prepared some sandwiches ready for lunch as I knew there wouldn�t be time to stop and make anything.  Then we were off!   We actually set off at 09.45am � I walked down to the first lock (No 50) and set it and it wasn�t long before Clive was guiding Lady Arwen into the lock and we were well and truly committed � no turning back now, the only way was down!   Three locks down and I noticed, as I was opening the front paddles, two guys walking down the towpath, then one of them sauntered over to the boat and started chatting to Clive and the next thing they were shaking hands and Clive was grinning from ear to ear � who on Earth is that I thought to myself?  Clive was waving to me and pointing at this guy so I walked back to see who it was � I was stunned to see Martin Dent, one of our fellow folkies from the Red Lion Folk Club at Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire!  It turns out he and a friend are on holiday in the area and they had stopped off in Devizes because there was a folk club on last night � we missed it!  He was telling us that he had been at the Red Lion on Friday night and they had actually been talking about us and our adventure but of course at that point Martin had no idea that he would bump into us!  Martin is also known as "The Unicorn Man" because he delivers the local folk magazine, The Unicorn, to the various folk clubs in the area.  So we had quite a giggle when he fetched one from his car and presented it to Clive -  our very own personal delivery!  It really is quite amazing how you can bump into someone you know in the most unexpected places. We said goodbye to Martin and continued on our descent of the Caen Hill Flight.  The flight is divided in to three parts � at the top there are seven individual locks, then there is a massive flight of sixteen locks all very close together and finally another six individual locks at the bottom.  We soon reached the top of the 16 and looked down � what a daunting sight! However it had to be done!  We had hoped to pair up with another boat going down the flight in order to halve the work but the crew of the only other boat going down didn�t want to share locks as evidently they once got jammed in a lock with another boat, which put them off so now they will only go on their own!  However, we soon got into a rhythm though and managed to enjoy the descent to a certain extent, the views were spectacular.  Clive did get off the boat when he could in order to help me with some of the paddles and gates, some of which were extremely stiff and heavy.  I had found that the easiest way to handle the locks was to do them in twos or threes � in other words I would open the rear paddles and leave the lock emptying, then pop down to the next lock and open the paddles on the front gates so that the lock would fill and be ready for Clive to cruise straight into, sometimes I would even nip down to the next one and open those paddles too.  It is a very efficient use of the time but it also means I am walking twice as far!!!   At one of the locks I noticed a sign saying � �Swan on nest, please keep dogs on a lead� so I had a look around and sure enough there she was! So will should be seeing cygnets before long, as well as ducklings.  Talking of ducklings � Clive had just exited one of the locks when a mother duck and her brood shot straight into the lock and they wouldn�t come out!  I couldn�t shut the gates because otherwise they would be trapped in the lock, the mother may be able to fly out but of course the ducklings couldn�t.  Fortunately there were loads of people walking up and down the towpath spectating and one family assured me that they would try and shoo her out and close the gates once she had taken herself and her brood to safety!   By the time we reached the bottom of the 16 locks I was feeling rather jaded but looking back up the flight felt quite a sense of achievement. However we still had another six individual locks to go before the end!  I continued with the same plan as above, walking down to the next lock, opening the paddles then walking back to the previous lock to open the gates so that Clive could leave the lock � it is quite tiring, but definitely saves time.    At last we went through the very last lock, no 22 � phew!  We cruised for about another half hour and finally arrived at Sells Green at around 4.45pm � just seven hours since we set off this morning!  The first thing we did was pull in and fill up with water and luckily there was just one vacant mooring immediately after the water point which we managed to squeeze into.  Then we walked 200 yards to the pub � The Three Magpies � for a very well deserved pint!   When we got back to the boat Clive very kindly cooked the dinner � pork chops, new potatoes and a green salad � lovely � and it tasted even better because I didn�t have to cook it!   Clive�s ankles are a bit stiff as of course he has been stood up all day, I too am a bit stiff and sore � in fact just about everything aches apart from my head, but never mind its all part of the adventure.  We will have a week or so to rest and recuperate before we return this way and go back up the flight again � oh joy!!

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