It's been a surprisingly eventful and somewhat shocking day.
But first, we came up to the boat last night. Adrian had meetings near Heathrow all day, and came to Television Centre in the evening. We got away at the end of my shift at about 10pm. The roadworks on the M1 were more tedious than usual, because a a couple of sections had lane closures. We arrived at the marina at just after midnight, and Briar Rose was very cold. We lit the fire, and also plugged in an oil filled radiator we'd brought up (we were on shore power, so why not?) It'll stay on the boat on a thermostat for the winter, to try to keep the boat frost free. Even so, the bed was very cold.
By this morning, the boat was really quite warm, and Thursday's storm had well and truly past. It was lovely and sunny, and quite calm. We had porridge for breakfast, then readied the boat for the off. We reversed off the pontoon at 9.30, and turned right out of the marina. Once we were under way, Adrian went inside to get some work done, while I was happy to steer. It was cold, but I was wrapped up well.
As we approached Newbold Tunnel -- a stretch we've done numerous times before -- I was busy watching a raptor of some type circling above the cutting, when I also noticed something floating near the tunnel portal. After an incident several years ago as we came through Birmingham on a hire boat, when we got a sports holdall round the prop, I always keep an eye on anything in the water, and try to keep a wide berth. As I passed, though, I realised that what I was looking at was a man's body, floating face down in the water.
I sounded the horn to let Adrian know that I needed help, and as soon as we were through the tunnel he phoned 999 and reported the body to the police. They took lots of details and said they'd be there within ten minutes. And they were. We were still tying up on the Newbold visitor moorings when two police officers walked down the towpath to find out where the body was. I directed them to the far end of the tunnel, and they asked us to stay where we were. While we were waiting, Adrian went to post a birthday card, and found that considerable reinforcements had arrived: a second police car, a paramedics car, an ambulance, and a community support officer.
We been there the best part of an hour when a police officer came along and took all our details. He said they were waiting for a team to recover the body, and that they suspected it was someone who'd been living rough in the area. He said the likelihood was that we wouldn't need to do anything else, although the coroner might need a statement, and we could carry on. They've issued a news release.
As we were about to leave, a Willow Wren training boat came along, so I told them the canal was closed and the wouldn't be able to go through the tunnel. They got lots of practice reversing! We set off again, and the Willow Wren let us pass, as the winding hole was still some way off.
At Rugby, we passed Derwent6, instantly identifiable because Del was on the gunwales cleaning the brasses. We had a quick chat as we passed.
At Hillmorton Locks, Adrian came out to steer while I worked the locks. The first was two-thirds full, the second had about eight inches of water in it, and the third had just a couple of inches. There's still only one of each pair of locks in operation, as the summer water-saving measures are still in force. The boat yard above the bottom lock much be delighted, as they've completely colonised the lock moorings. I can't help thinking that with the winter level of traffic, BW would be better off opening all the locks -- with two side by side, there's surely a good chance that you'll find one in your favour.
It had clouded over somewhat, so we decided to carry on to a bit of piling Adrian used once when single handing Debdale. Just past the Old Royal Oak, I waved at a cyclist on the tow path, then had a moment of recognition -- at exactly the same time he did. It was Paul from Waterway Routes, checking out the North Oxford for the latest of his online maps. I threw the boat into reverse so we could have a quick chat. He then headed off, trying to get to Rugby station before the rain.
We tied up on the short stretch of piling just before Bridge 75 at just before 2pm, had a late lunch, and called it a day. Shortly afterwards, there was a downpour, then the sun came out again. I started cooking a chili for dinner, which has been sitting on top of the Squirrel stove ever since. There's been a lovely sunset, making a great show from the cratch. It's quite clear now, so we could be in for a cold night.
7 miles, 3 locks.