For the first few days of our self-imposed “staycation”, we have been knocking around the house, or wandering into town for one thing or another. Today we decided to actually do something “holiday worthy”. After getting up and getting the chores out of the way this morning we looked at the weather forecast, and figured a walk along the river might be a good idea.
You see, there’s a pub about 3 miles along the river from the town we live – a pub that can only be reached on foot, or by boat – called “The Bounty”. I’ve heard about it repeatedly over the years I have lived here, but never visited it. I wasn’t entirely sure how accurate half the stories are about the place – some of them mentioned an old landlord with a hook for a hand. Turns out that was true – there was a photo of him alongside the bar. I’ll get back to that though.
We set off about an hour before lunchtime, and massively over-prepared. Given the unpredictable nature of the weather recently, I had a backpack filled with waterproofs for everybody, and a couple of fleeces. I also had binoculars, a first aid kit, and the swiss army knife that usually lives in the depths of my work bag (you would be surprised how often co-workers have asked to borrow it over the years). We didn’t need any of it – which I suppose is a good thing.
The binoculars came in handy after a couple of miles, when my other half noticed a tall bird in the distance watching us. It was a heron. As we approached and aimed cameras at it, it took to the air, appearing for all the world like a ragged overcoat flapping along the edge of the fields.
Another half a mile on, and we met a herd of cows. At first I thought we might have to pick our way through them, but they obviously saw the younger children approaching (or rather HEARD the younger children approaching), and slowly moved away from our path. A couple of calves got left behind, and we were upon them before they realised – stumbling to their feet and staring at us in the curious way calves do before sprinting off to join the rest of the herd. I noticed one of the mothers hanging back to keep an eye on them.
Another half a mile brought the old railway bridge I have crossed countless times on trains into view, and after crossing it, our destination – “The Bounty”. A pub that can only be reached by foot, or by boat. I’m tempted to draw parallels with the Cantina Bar at Mos Eisley, but that wouldn’t be fair.
I couldn’t help smiling – The Bounty was a perfect recreation of many of the pubs I remember from my childhood. Festooned with photos of patrons over the years, souvenirs from all over the world, flags of the world, and all sorts of nautical memorabilia. I almost expected to find the man in the photo alongside the bar with a hook for a hand serving, but instead ordered drinks from a disinterested student who had to put his phone down to pour our drinks.
We sat outside in the sunshine, drank rather a lot, and then ate ourselves to a standstill on a variety of burgers, and various other stodgy food that seems like a great idea when you’ve just walked for an hour and a half to the pub.
The journey home was an altogether quieter afair until we hit the first incline of the day – climbing over “Winter Hill”, which borders the town. After answering endless ridiculous questions from the children about “which way to go next” – answered countless times with “whichever way the sign says!”, we descended back towards the famous bridge over the river Thames, and Higginson Park.
I counted up my remaining cash on the half-mile walk through the corn-fields back towards the park. Just enough to buy everybody an ice-cream – so that’s exactly what we did. While other families sat out on picnic rugs in the sunshine, we trudged towards the ice cream van in walking boots, with backpacks on our back, and then sat on a bench in the shade to eat them. We somehow all managed to fit on ONE bench, and then giggled hilariously about the thought of trying to get up again – and maybe wrenching the bench from the ground and having to walk home in a line with the bench still attached.
We did manage to extracate ourselves (thankfully), and picked our way through the back streets of town towards home in pretty good humor – all except for one of the children, who somehow decided that our choice of route was not to her liking. We did our best to ignore her mini meltdown.
Today was a good day. A day spent together for the first time in ages. A day of simple pleasures – walking along the river, looking at wildlife, laughing about idiots posing on the river in plastic cruising boats with Radar (why!?), and admiring traditional paintwork on some of the canal boats we saw.
We must do it all again soon.