It should have been the first day back to school for the boys, but looking at their school calendar it was listed as being a teacher training day. Quite why they need an extra day after a week of no kids I don't get, but there you go!
What to do though, a look out of the window and as it wasn't torrential rain we thought a picnic might be nice. We'd take the kit to cook burgers etc at Gardham Lock and paddle there in the canoe. The first time we'd have managed it this year with Ali being so ill. So a gathering of food and kit and off we went.
The overcast weather meant that we had plenty of space to park, though I do get a little wound up by the number of people who use the area to empty their dogs! I must move on quickly before I go into full rant mode. With Jus Chillin on the water and everyone comfy we set off.
We had a nice breeze to help us along, and while overcast the paddling was very pleasant. The flowers are in bloom nicely now with Flag Iris and Water Lilies in abundance. We heard a Cuckoo again in roughly the same place that we heard it two years ago, which was also the last time we heard it. We don't seem to get them at home now. We also passed a Horse Chestnut late in bloom, but with dark pink, almost red blossom which was nice.
It's only a few miles to the lock where we have our picnics, but we had rumbly tummies by the time we arrived.
With Jus Chillin tied up to the landing stage for the bigger boats, we crossed over the lock by the swing bridge that spans the lock and must have caused problems for the occasional unwary pleasure boater. The water level of the downstream pound was very high, it must have been up by six feet or so. Back in B.C. (before children) or W.I.H.H. (When I Had Hair) we used to climb down this lock after dropping the canoe down on lines at bow and stern.
We set up our picnic area with tarp and brolly to keep the rain away and Ali got a brew on and some nibbles out while I gathered some firewood to burn some burgers with.
While I foraged some firewood I spotted some Hemlock, so a 'we don't touch these, boys', talk followed. It's lovely countryside here, with proper meadows.
Fuel gathered, fire lit, a cuppa and those snacks while waiting for the fire to burn to embers and then on with the burgers.
Ali heated hot dogs on the Dr Zarkov Stove as I finished off the burgers. A hearty picnic followed with more drinks all round and then Ali took the boys off to play Pooh Sticks under the bridge over the spillway between upper and lower pounds. I started to tidy things away which turned into a group effort as the rest of the family tired of Pooh Sticks and returned to help. With everything packed away a look back to check we'd left nothing and other than the compressed grass and had observed a 'leave no trace' policy.
Back to the landing stage for a quick photo before everyone piled in.
Charlie was great and asked to paddle bow with Mum taking his place to sit with Will, he paddled hard all the way back, which was really nice, as he often paddles well, but usually takes numerous breaks. Anyone who's taken children of any age will be familiar with the next picture. Will was chuffed with the patterns he could make in the water.
It'll be a little while before he's paddling like Charlie, but he's on the way.
With Ali as passenger, she could spend more time looking about and pointing out the wildlife to the boys, it also meant she could mess about with my camera and test it's supposed waterproofness.
As usual, we arrived back at the car all too quickly, but all agreed it had been better than a school day.
Till next time then.