Back at the caravan I put the dogs' beds outside so they could enjoy the sun while I had a leisurely breakfast and decided what to do with my day. Another cycle ride was on the cards, but in the opposite direction to the day before - but first I had to top up my drink supply, so after washing up and tidying round the caravan I went over to the site shop for some cans of Coke. On the way back I got chatting to a man who said he had a boat moored on the canal just off the marina entrance - it turned out that he lives in my home town, and during the conversation it came to light that his younger son was in the same year as my son at primary school, and the man himself had been heavily involved with the school pantomime productions that I had also had a hand in. What a small world! As soon as he told me his name I remembered him, but I hadn't recognised him because he was now sporting a thick black beard which he hadn't had thirty years previously. He invited me to call at his boat for a brew and a chat later on, and after saying I would go when I got back from my cycle ride I returned to the caravan to collect my bike, the dogs, and anything else I needed.
Cycling along on the opposite side of the canal to the caravan site I was quite surprised at how many boats were moored up along the bank from the marina entrance - there must have been about twenty moored nose to tail in a long line, mainly canal and river cruisers but also a couple of narrowboats. There is no towpath on that side of the canal so the boat owners must have had to stay on their boats until they moved on somewhere else.
The scenery along the canal heading north proved to be just as nice as heading south on the previous day and I ambled slowly along drinking it all in. The gravel towpath gradually gave way to grass - to my left, and over the hedge, a patchwork of green fields spread as far as the eye could see, and to my right the blossom-covered branches of the hawthorn trees hung over the water. Through gaps in the trees I could see fields of cattle and beyond those, right in the distance, the hills of the Trough Of Bowland.
A bit further on the hawthorn trees gave way to a low hedge, which in turn gave way to an open field - and that's where I spotted a heron standing on one leg. At first I thought it was a fake, maybe put there to scare off other birds for some reason, but then it moved - it was quite a distance from where I was standing, but using my camera zoom I managed to get a photo before it took off and disappeared over the trees.
I thought that was as good a time as any to take a breather, so I poured some water out for the dogs and opened a can of Coke for myself. There was no-one else around at all just then, not even a passing boat, so the only sounds were the birds in the trees and a dog barking on a distant farm - sitting on a low stone wall at the side of the towpath I felt like I had the whole countryside to myself. It was soon time to move on though, and I cycled through open countryside for quite a distance before I came to civilisation - rounding a bend in the canal I saw up ahead a long row of low white buildings - when I got closer these turned out to be very modern and new-looking holiday homes. They looked very attractive with their white painted wooden balconies and their platforms built out over the water. Many of them had plants and flower tubs decorating the platforms and some had boats moored alongside.
Further on still I passed through more open countryside - a couple of boats were coming slowly towards me, the bow of the first one disturbing the glass-like stillness of the water and leaving opaque ripples in its wake. And just as on the previous day their occupants shouted hello and waved as they went past.
Round the next bend, and on my left, I came across a small and attractive-looking caravan and camp site - there was a wooden gate leading from the site out onto the towpath, and it struck me that if ever there was an ideal location for a camp site then this had to be it. I made a mental note that one day soon I would have a weekend there - but so far I have never found out what the place is called. Just up ahead was a stone bridge with a bench seat nearby - that would serve nicely as my turn-around point. The bench was occupied by a lady with a little terrier dog sitting underneath - I propped my bike up against the fence, fished another can of Coke out of my bag, and sat chatting while the three dogs all made friends, then once I'd finished my drink and given the dogs some water I set off back to base. And just like the day before, the return journey didn't seem to take as long as the outward one.
Back at the caravan I wheeled my bike into the awning, made something to eat and relaxed with a magazine for an hour or so before going to see Tony, the man I had been talking to that morning. His boat was on a permanent mooring with a small decked area on the bank where there was a table and chairs and a few pots of brightly coloured flowers - Tony was sitting there enjoying a cigarette when I arrived but he welcomed me and the dogs on board the boat and put the kettle on for a brew, then showed me round. It was a nice boat though a little cluttered - typical of a man on his own. He had told me earlier that Eileen, his wife, had lost interest in the boat over the years and didn't go there as much, which obviously explained the lack of a woman's touch about it. The seating in the rear cabin was very comfortable though, and with mugs of coffee and a packet of biscuits we settled down for a good chin-wag. It was great to catch up on old times, people we new and the pantomimes we had done - we even managed to recite some lines from one of the scripts. Before I knew it a couple of hours had flown by and it was time for me to feed the dogs, so reluctantly I got back onto dry land and returned to the caravan for the rest of the evening. Tony had said he was on the boat most weekends and bank holidays and I was welcome to pop in any time I was staying on the site - I had enjoyed our chin-wag very much, so that really gave me something to look forward to for another time.