We were cycling in Nantwich, Cheshire on a misty morning last week, about to get onto the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal. It was busy - Easter holidays and boats were on the move. This one was about to pass below us as we watched from the Marsh Lane Bridge.
We were beginning to think of coffee, maybe stopping at the Basin End (renamed Nantwich Harbour or some such) where there's a small café, or going back along Welsh Row into town. But suddenly before us was a boat that made us pull up sharp and lay down our bikes on the grass beside the path.
My word, just the ticket! In we climbed, lifting the protective polythene over the entrance (this being an unreliable climate) and going down the steps into the long cabin of the narrow boat. It was warm and cosy, and someone was in the galley at the end.
That's the galley at the end - it's all dark in the photo, but Ray was in there starting the coffee.
Here's the boat in the other direction.
We had one of those conversations you usually have in Ireland where you find lots of people you know in common. Ray spent years coming to Ireland fishing with his mates, staying up around Lough Ree to fish the Inny, Dromod and Rooskey, or in Abbeyshrule on the Royal Canal where my friend grew up. Ray knew my friend's uncle (of course), and many of the places we've spent days on Winter Solstice.
You can see more about this boat and its restoration on the Tea Junction website. An interesting story.
After our coffee and conversation we cycled up to the next bridge.
Then the one after that and onto the road where the traffic was completely mad. Much nicer to be on a bike, or even better on a boat on the canal.