After a restless night for everyone other than the Midshipman, we woke early to enjoy a delightful sunrise and very chilly temperatures. So cold in fact that we ate breakfast in our coats (for those of you with a good fascination we had Eggs Washington™, which is like Eggs Benedict only even nicer, and has become something of a canal barge tradition), and we could see our own breath as we sat there.
Midshipman Jerry and I went for our regular morning exercise, but rather than use the plank to get off the boat we both rather energetically leapt for glory. Fortunately we both made it without dipping a single toe in the water.
The Captain, who has decided to become an Amazon Pirate for this journey (google Swallows and Amazons if the reference means nothing) put on her red hat and pirate attitude. Avast me hearties!
We elected to continue heading south, to get as far along as possible, so that we can say once we’ve finished this holiday that we’ve covered as much of the Monmouthshire to Brecon canal as it is possible for anyone to do.
The weather turned from chilly to sunny pretty quickly and the journey down was straight and without any real incident, for the most part. There were, of course, the occasional squirrels to deal with (the Midshipman would like to report that it was another successful day of zero squirrel intruders on the boat!), one or two tree branches in the water to knock out of the way, and some pleasant views to take in as we wended our way towards the edge of Cwmbran.
We moored up at Pontymoile Marina and walked down to Five Locks, a distance of around 2 miles. The Midshipman was on duty the whole time, there were plenty of new and exciting smells to inspect, and one or two new dog friends to say hello to (all friendly and welcoming, just like their human owners).
The sunshine kept up as we walked and by the time we made it to Five Locks (they’ve named the area after the five old canal locks that still remain there today, the lock gates replaced with concrete equivalents as the canal has long since fallen into disrepair). It’s odd seeing a once thriving canal now frozen in time as a concrete memorial. Sad, in a way.
But we didn’t hang around for long, we had a lot of water to pass under the hull before the end of the day, so we marched back, hopped on the boat, and backed it up to an appropriately sized winding hole, as our boat was unfortunately just a little to big to turn around at the marina.
It was whilst we were turning around that I spotted something very unusual in the water – a large, domestic gold fish. I know you’ll think I’m crazy, and even more so because I don’t have a photo go back it up, but I promise you it was there. It looked quite happy.
We ate lunch on the move (homemade quiche washed down with cider), and made our way, up, up, up the canal passing the place we picked the boat up from yesterday and powering on farther north. It’s amazing how much distance you can travel when there are no locks to slow you down, and no people pootling along on the water getting in your way.
Our luck ran out shortly after this, though, when we came across a troupe of youngsters having a canoeing lesson. For some reason they had spread their canoes across the entire breadth of the canal, and had to quickly (and very noisily) scramble around to move out of our way. It sounded like they were having a good time, even if they didn’t really know what they were doing (one of the canoes capsized after we trundled through – not because of us, I should add).
Shortly after that we had another interesting encounter, when a man was attempting to moor his boat in front of us, single-handedly. He made a huge leap from his boat to the shore, then spent several minutes desperately holding onto his bow line whilst the boat was still in gear! This basically meant he didn’t stand a chance of mooring the boat up. Before we could do anything to assist, he has waded back out into the canal, soaking up to his thighs, and scrambled gracelessly back on his boat. He smiled and waved at us as though nothing unusual had happened, all the while the powerful wash from his propeller was pushing us onto the other side of the canal.
A quick bit of pole action put us back on course and we made our way onwards, the last I saw of One Man and His Boat he was wading through the sticky muddy canal water back to shore, trying to figure out what to do as he had tied one end of his boat to the land and the other end wasn’t quite behaving as he’d hoped.
We decided to travel just far enough away from any other boats and moored up in a beautiful stretch of idyllic Welsh countryside. We know it’s going to be cold again tonight, but we will be tucked up and ready for it.