Fueled by Ginger Buns. 13th September

Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock to Lower Foxhangers Lock

The secret gate

The locks were being unlocked as we had breakfast. We’d no intention of being the first down the flight, but got ourselves ready should another narrowboat arrive that we could share with. According to Frankie volunteers would be about today, so we waited for signs of them. I soon realised I’d made a mistake whilst getting dressed this morning and changed from a C&RT blue to Environment Agency Blue t shirt.

Beautiful morning for it

A chap from the cruiser walked down to set the top lock for them, they were wide so no sharing with them. Where are our friends on days like this, Bridget and Storm, Clare and Graeme, Alison and Laura, Aileen and Mike! It looked like we’d be making the big descent on our own. Oh well.

Pete lending a hand

Mick walked down as there were signs of Volunteers, three on duty this morning. There were two wide beams who’d already been offered assistance, but they’d do what they could for us too. If one of them set the lock ahead after the cruiser had gone through that would be just fine. The cruiser headed down and by the time we’d rolled back the covers they were a couple of locks ahead of us.

NB Wishbone heading upwards

Oleanna was sat in the sun, but the top few locks were very much in the shade as I filled the top chamber for us. The off side gates on the top lock are very close to the fence, the bottom one so tight I couldn’t squeeze past, so I did an undignified scramble along the floor only to be shown up by a volunteer using a secret gate in the fence!

Nearly out of the shade

The volunteers had split up, Lez went down with the cruiser. Mike/Mick went down to help with a narrowboat coming up the flight and Pete came to help us down. The lock below would fill as we entered the lock above and we made steady progress down the flight.

What a view

There are 29 locks in all at Caen Hill, yesterday we did the first 6, today we’d complete them. The next 16 locks are designated as a scheduled monument. If you’ve ever seen photos of a flight of locks it’s likely to have been Caen Hill one of the seven wonders of the waterways.

Taken from C&RT website

The pounds in between each lock aren’t very long but stretch out to the side. None of them have bywashes, so if the pound fills enough water flows over the top of the upper gates and fills the lock. Once that is full the water backs up and the top couple of pounds can flood the surrounding area, the C&RT workshop being one of them.

Out in the sun

The flight was John Rennie’s solution to climb the steep hill and it was the last section of the 87 mile canal to be opened in 1810. The last commercial cargo was transported up the flight in 1948 and the flight was the last stretch to be restored in 1990. The lock gates are all metal and the paddle gear varies from being low geared to clunking stiffness.

Tilly watching as we dropped down the flight

After three locks we waited for the narrowboat coming up so that we could swap chambers. This was NB Wishbone that we’d last seen in Abingdon a few weeks ago. There was time to chat to Alistair and his wife as their lock finished filling. Hope the rest of your cruise back up the Oxford is a good one.

Next!

Pete and I carried on downhill, a hired wide beam gradually coming uphill to meet us with plenty of crew. The pound between us was a touch low so we held back and let them ascend.

Mick with Mike/Mick

The rest of the flight was ours, straight down gradually catching up with Les and the cruiser who had inexperienced crew on board. Mick/Mike came and joined us locking down hill making a very efficient team.

Les joining the team

With a couple of locks left in the flight we offered ginger buns around but there were no takers, oh well more for us.

Here’s one with the chaps. Thank you!

The chaps suggested I walk ahead to the next lock after the flight so that I could get THE photo of Oleanna at the bottom. Apparently nobody takes the photo with the volunteers in, so I took two one with and one without. Thank you all, you made the flight easy.

THE photo

The cruiser had pulled over for a well earned break, managing to plonk themselves slap bang in the middle of the available space, they did offer to nudge up should we want to stop too!

Refueling for the next seven on our own

With encouragement from the Lockies we decided to continue on down the next 7 locks to Foxhangers. The general consensus was that the cruiser would hold us up and there was still plenty of energy left in our tanks. A ginger bun and a swig or two of water at the next lock would keep us going.

Further down the flight

The next seven locks are further apart so I resisted setting the one ahead, most were in our favour anyway, just needing a touch of topping up. We passed one widebeam coming uphill on their fortnightly move.

Yet another lock
Yet more gates to push

The 48hr mooring at the bottom of the locks had enough space for us so we pulled in opposite the Foxhangers Hire fleet, all their engines running, charging the batteries for the days hirers. Tilly was allowed out and the oven lit ready to bake well deserved sausage rolls.

A picture just for Steve

They were tasty but my pastry is far better than shop bought.

Waiting for the last lock to fill
Down the final lock

We’d entered Lock 44 at 9:39am and exited Lock 22 at 1pm.

What! The chicken and cheese treats have run out!

The afternoon was spent with the cricket on. Several boats came down the locks and a few headed up. I prepared a paint order for Puss in Boots and Tilly explored the old railway bridge just by our mooring. Just about all the hire boats headed out, one stayed put for the night and two returned back to base a night early. I think we will sleep well tonight.

Lower Foxhangers Lock 22

23 locks, 1.52 miles, 4 miles walked, 2nd down, 3 volunteers, 3 boats passed, 4 hrs 21 minutes, 188ft 10”, 2 ginger buns, 12 sausage rolls, 8 hire boats out, 1 paint order, 1 test match looking up, 1 pooped cat.

Flight Preparation. 12th September

Horton Bridge to Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock 44

Mondrian inspired

We allowed ourselves tea in bed this morning as we’d not got far to go. Tilly’s Dutch Barge on closer inspection this morning was a touch rusty and in need of some TLC, but maybe she prefers boats worn in and a touch more organic than shiney.

As we had breakfast we ran the washing machine, then topped up the tank from the tap that was within hose distance, a second load ready to go in. Pushing off a little before 11am we had a few more miles to tick off before arriving at Devizes.

We’ll be waiting for a while

Through Brickham Bridge our path was blocked, a digger was passing fresh tarmac from a skip boat onto the towpath where a new path is being laid. We hovered and eventually someone spotted us. The skip boat was nudged around by the digger and when it came to rest in front of him we were waved through. The next stretch has also had posts and coir sausages added to protect the bank, behind is filled with chunky aggregate,presumably this will end up with a covering of earth and then grass.

Bank protection

Two and a half miles and we’d reached Devizes Wharf, here we pulled onto the 72 hr mooring, quite a bit of space available. A top up shopping trip was needed so we walked into town and found Sainsburys. Packs of three leeks thwarted my shopping list, I only wanted one! I’d spotted signs for the market so we headed that way.

Tools
Buttons

A covered market with something for everyone, a second hand tool shop for Mick and a crafty shop for me. Here I was reminded that I was in need of six buttons for the cardigan I’ve been knitting. Nothing suitable at the market, but a shop nearer the wharf came up trumps.

You can’t keep the boy away from pies!
Nice market square

Through the other side we came out to the Market Place which was filled with stalls today. In days long gone such markets would be full of fruit and veg stalls, some flowers, hardware and a big pants stall. Now you have to hunt through the designer clocks(!) and Vape stalls. When you do get a veg stall they tend to be selling bowls of things, admittedly cheaply, but half of the contents would go off before we got to use them. One stall had leeks, ‘3 for a Pound’. I only wanted one, ’50p then’.

The home of 6X

If we had more time it would be nice to have a good wander around Devizes, but our schedule has to be kept to as we’ve now Mickle’s funeral to add into the mix. Back at the boat we had lunch and decided to get the first six locks done today, rather than adding them to the sixteen locks minimum tomorrow. Mick did a recky on his bike to check on mooring before we committed to them, there was space.

Tardis

Pushing off we passed a short boat with a great back door, luckily Tilly didn’t notice the cat flap in it. A lady on another boat asked if we used to moor at Fradley, no but we did moor next to them about six weeks ago on the River Wey.

Top of the Caen Hill Locks

We knew we were following the trip boat from the wharf, but a hire boat had been coming up, so we hoped that not all the locks would be against us. The top one needed topping up, but then most needed filling on our way down.

Low top gates

The top gates are different, low with an angled section before the horizontal that you can walk across. My legs don’t feel long enough so luckily there are footbridges at the bottoms of each lock to walk round. The bottom gate paddles are geared. At first it seemed that those on the port side were a touch stiffer to work but your arm didn’t have to become a windmill to lift and close them. By the fourth lock I wanted to check my theory.

Half way down the six

The bridge across the lock however was a road bridge and quite a walk round. Below I could see that the trip boat was coming back up, crew at the lock below. But they were all taking their time so we filled Manifold Lock, by the time the back gates were closed a crew member had come up to set the lock so she got what I thought would be the geared paddle. She had quite a bit of difficulty lifting it, but got there on the end, my theory out of the window.

Waiting for the lock to fill

Mick exited the lock as the trip boat headed towards him across the pound. He had to make his presence felt by bipping the horn, twice. The gates were pushed back open for us.

Last pound before the main flight

An hour and twenty minutes later we were pulling up in the pound above the main flight, a cruiser with a German Shepherd who didn’t like cats. A quick look round and I could see a C&RT quadbike at the next lock. There are signs further up asking to keep dogs on leads because of the quadbikes. This along with a pack of dogs in a garden meant Tilly would be staying in for the rest of the day.

So not fare!

As I broke the news to Tilly, I could hear Mick chatting away outside to someone who at first I thought was American. Then the penny dropped as Mick called me to the stern, not American but Italian! I knew who this was before I’d even seen her. Frankie from NB White Swan.

Frankie on her quadbike coming up the flight

Frankie is currently a seasonal relief Lock Keeper on the Devizes flight. She was working the late shift today, 4pm till lock up time at 8pm and had spotted us coming down the locks on her way into work. When she got to the top of the flight on her quad bike she came to say hello. Think she’d been hoping we’d be going down today. It was great to actually meet her to talk to, rather than the wave we got last winter when she passed us on the South Oxford.

Tomorrows work

I’d been hoping to get a touch of work done today, but it was a touch too late and there were far more important things to do. Have a look at the flight from the top and Baking! Ginger buns to eat on our way down the flight for extra energy and sausage rolls as a reward when we reach the bottom.

Fuel for tomorrow

6 locks, 3.42 miles, 1 new towpath, 1 box wine, 2 pints milk, 1 pack gf pastry, 6 gf sausages, 6 blue shell buttons, 1 pork pie, 1 trip boat, 6 locks out of the way, 4 low geared paddles, 1 fat cruiser, 3 swans, 1 Frankie, 1 quad bike, 0 shore leave, 1 bored mardy cat, 10 sticky ginger buns, 16 sausage rolls, 1 near mistaken identity, 2 boaters ready for the morning.

The Long Damp Pound. 11th September

Pewsey Wharf to Horton Bridge 134

We started off with just fleeces on, but progressed to waterproof jackets followed by trousers. Today was one of those damp days where if you don’t look it sneaks up on you and really soaks you. Luckily we looked.

EMPORIUM!!!!!

Mick took the rubbish for a walk down the towpath to the services in the pub car park. He omitted to inform me of a chilled medication emporium there, it did look closed as we passed.

Pickled Hill

The Long Pound clings to it’s contour through the countryside. Some of the time we had what might have been views on a sunny day. But today with low drizzly cloud the views were somewhat faded. Pickled Hill still stood out, one of the Wiltshire mounds that surrounded us, along with a glimpse of Alton Barnes White Horse on Milk Hill. This is one of eight white horses in Wiltshire and was cut in 1812. Hopefully on our way back the weather will be better.

One of eight

As we approached Wilcot Wide, Mick said that this was the K&A equivalent to Tixall Wide. But it left us wanting, no views and posts to stop you from winding. A few boats were moored here with their back ends sticking out in the search for deeper water.

Lady’s Bridge fancier than your average accomodation bridges

Then Lady’s Bridge designed by John Rennie in 1808 to placate the land owner who really didn’t want the canal passing through their land. It is very fancy with balustrading and decorated panels of swags and wiggly bits.

Honey Street then appeared out of the drizzle. We wondered where the hire company normally keep all their widebeam boats. All were out today. There was space outside The Barge Inn to moor, but it was too soon to stop for the day, our aim was to cover as much of the long pound as possible, so on we went.

Pretty terraced garden

Another couple of miles to All Cannings. The moorings had one space which looked a touch short for us, but we tried. We’d have just fitted if we’d been rude and nudged a short boat along off the last ring. But Oleanna’s bow was overlapping the boat in front who’s resident woofer acknowledged our presence with a woof, then he stuck his head out past a curtain to check on us. To him we were doing no harm, but to us the space was just that bit too short, even on a canal renowned for lack of moorings. So we pushed off again and I made us a cuppa and lunch to have on the go.

I’d just brought everything up onto deck as Mick slowed us down for a swing bridge. The bolt holding the bridge needed a windlass to loosen it, so all our lunch had to be moved to gain access to the locker beneath and a windlass.

Swing

Maybe today Mick has finally mastered Tick Over, not one complaint, just friendly waves from the dark interiors of boats as we passed. As you approach any road bridge lines of boats are tide up on long lines through the reeds to the banks. We’ve noticed a lot boats using their centre lines as well as bow and stern, this may feel like you are more secure (three ropes instead of two) but it has the effect of rocking your boat more as others pass.

Another swing bridge and we soon arrived at Horton Bridge where there is a water point and 24hr moorings below a pub. We’d had enough by now and were quite happy to leave the last few miles towards Devizes until tomorrow.

Is this a house or a giant spider waiting to pounce over the fence?

Quite a different outside they’d tied up today. A steep hill with some friendly cover then at the top of it, well… What a great place, lots to climb on, slide down, good high viewing platforms. I liked it lots. But the best bit was what Tom called a Dutch Barge all the way from Dutch outside. This boat had a very wide cat walk, I could quite happily have a relaxed snooze on one of those. Then it also had a solid pram cover. Fantastic views from the top of it and plenty of space inside to watch the outside go by. Tom wasn’t too pleased with me having a good look round, they say I’m not allowed on other peoples boats as the other people might decide to move the outside taking me with them. I’d be quite happy if that happened on one of these. Tom said if I can find the money then they would consider one, so I’m going to start hunting for money instead of friends.

0 locks, 9.55 miles, 2 swing bridges, 5 friendly waves, 3rd mooring lucky, 2 damp boaters, 1 soggy horse, 0 Tixall, 1 stove lit, 1/8.5 water torture cabinet drawn, 1 phone about to drown, 1 cat with aspirations of grandeur.

Across The Top. 10th September

Crofton Top Lock to Pewsey Wharf

The view across the top

The Lockie arrived to unlock the top lock as we were making ready to push off this morning. C&RT say that the locks will be opened by 10am, this morning the chap informed us that they were all open and it was 9am. The pumping station pound was full and he’d wondered why nobody was moored there.

Warp factor twelve, dilithium crystals working hard

We didn’t want to hang around, we were moored in a winding hole after all. The summit pound stretches about 2 miles, mostly along a cutting which dips under the surface at Bruce Tunnel, named after the land owner Thomas Brudenell-Bruce.

Burbage Wharf

He insisted on it being built, not wanting a cutting across his land. Whilst in the tunnel the railway line crosses from one side of the canal to the other and trees now separate the two, their roots almost acting as a wall.

First of many many downhill locks to come

Now we were on to down hill locks. As we finished lowering to the next level the crew from the first uphill boat arrived meaning I could leave the gates for them.

Pretty house

As the second lock emptied there was time to admire the large house next to it along with it’s wheelie bins!

Swapping locks

At Brimslade Lock another boat approached, the lady on her bike said she’d call the boats behind to let them know we were coming, so as not to drain the lock when they’d finished. The message got through and the gates were waiting wide open for us.

Walking down to Wooton Rivers Lock I passed a chap painting his cabin side, the boat had all the signs of a coal boat, but no sign writing. When I reached the lock and was about to call Mick in case we wanted anything I noticed that he was stopping anyway, pulling alongside them.

Coal boat, soon to be burgandy and blue

Karen and Ed have had the boat for a year. When they bought it it was called William, they’ve been trading under that name until recently. Bored of hearing about the previous owners they want to make the boat theirs, hence the repaint and it will soon be sign written with it’s new name Frederick, after their Pug . Ed topped our diesel tank up, cheaper than we’d paid on the Thames. They were still waiting for their coal delivery so we held off buying supplies, maybe on the way back from Bristol.

The lock had been sat waiting for us for a while and a chap on a bike suggested we should leave the bottom gates for him. I imagined he was waiting below, but no we passed him about a mile away only just getting ready to push out. A wide beam hire boat beat him to the lock anyway, so the badly leaking top gates would stop emptying the pound above.

The bow still to be painted

Soon we passed NB White Swan, the boat of an Instagram acquaintance. Frankie has recently repainted her gunnels, we were going to have a competition as to who’s were the best. So far she is winning as I’ve not started on ours, good job she was out at work. We waved anyway to Ghost and Shadow her two cats most probably having their morning snoozes.

Quite a collection to clear for low bridges

So far all had been friendly. But then the atmosphere changed. A line of moored boats ahead, Mick slowed to tick over. The first boat had a genny running inside with the back doors closed. I was a touch worried for anyone inside and was about to shout out to check they were alive and had not gassed themselves when swearing came from inside. Followed by stomping, then expletives and suggesting we should ‘F**g SLOW DOWN!’ His boat was moving due to slack ropes. Mick took umberance and suggested he should tighten his ropes. A lady had just got off her boat nearby with a face like thunder (possibly her natural demeanour). Mick asked her opinion, ‘That’s too fast for Tick Over’ was her reply. Sorry but it is our tick over.

From here on wards it felt like word had been passed along. Our smiles nods and waves either being ignored or reluctantly returned. They’re a friendly bunch along here!

This is now what is known as The Long Pound. At just over 15 miles it is quite long. We pushed on to Pewsey ahead of our schedule and slotted into the last space on the visitor moorings. Five hours for Tilly and lunch at a reasonable time for us.

Pretty

After lunch I gave the grabrail and stern deck rust patches a first coat of primer, hoping that Tilly was otherwise engaged for long enough for it to dry. Then as I was in job mode I found my linen thread. Ran a couple of lengths through a candle to give it a layer of wax and mended where some of the stitching had come loose on the cratch. Not the prettiest of stitching but it’s hard to be dainty when using pliers to pull your needle through several layers of canvas and zip. That’s one job off the to do list.

4 locks all downhill, 6.17 miles, 2 shoes still sopping wet, 501 yards of tunnel, 1 way traffic, 74 litres diesel, 1 bag kindling, 1 telling off, 1st coat primer, 2 zips mended, 1 friend rescued, 2 boaters who can’t get their heads round when and where we will be where and when!

Avoiding The Lock In. 9th September

Froxfield Bottom Lock to Crofton Top Lock

Starting to head up in the rain

On the forecast last night it looked like we’d have a dry day, the rain passing further north, but as we had breakfast it started. Not torrential rain, just steady drizzle with the odd dry patch and the odd heavy patch. Our schedule meant we couldn’t sit still for the day, we can’t get behind, getting ahead would be good.

As we started to work our way uphill a slight hint of phone signal alerted us that there was some news from home. News we’d been expecting to hear, news that either arrives early in the morning or when signal is poor. At each lock we’d both check our phones, no reception, no internet.

Lock 67

Then as we reached Little Bedwin Lock 67 a glimmer of internet brought a facebook message confirming the news. An old friend of ours in York had passed away this morning, Mickle had had a stroke a few months ago and had been recovering from it, but last week his health had taken a nose dive, it was only a matter of time. This morning had been that time.

A nice name

Lock 67 on the K&A will now be the lock where we heard the news. A lock or two higher up, Mick managed to make contact with York.

A new stern rope

We paused at Bedwyn Wharf to empty the yellow water, dispose of rubbish, fill up the water tank and clean out Tilly’s pooh box. If they let me out more often the I wouldn’t need a box! On we went only four more locks to our chosen mooring for the day.

Plenty of people to faff

By now my feet were soaked from walking through the long grass at locks. A few boats came towards us, a wide beam from the Bruces Trust faffed on leaving the lock ahead of us, the last of the day. We could hear shouts of ‘Don’t tie up!’ to which we followed with just get on your bloomin boat!

Does anybody know what these things are?
They were on a couple of the bridges

As they eventually passed us the chap at the helm said the next pound was quite low, this was where we were wanting to moor for the day. Different peoples lows mean different things, so we’d wait to see for ourselves.

Banks of mud on the off side weren’t a good sign. The pound was at least 18 inches down if not two foot. The 48hr moorings were empty for a very good reason, you couldn’t get to them!

That does look a touch low

Sadly I missed the photo opportunity of the day. As Mick churned up the bottom of the pound, Crofton Pumping Station was in the background, a GWR train sped round the curved track above the cut. A perfect composition but sadly my camera was tucked away keeping dry!

Here’s the pumping station
Here’s Oleanna, just a shame the train went too quickly

This stretch up to the summit has certain locks that are locked overnight to help conserve water. Where we’d planned to moor today was between two stretches that come 3pm would be locked. There were another six locks ahead of us to get to the end of the next stretch that would be locked at 3pm, an hour and a quarter away. A rule of thumb suggests a lock takes quarter of an hour as does a mile. With just over a mile and six locks that equated to an hour and three quarters, would we get locked in?! The C&RT stoppages list was checked again, could we moor at the top on the summit, because we certainly wouldn’t make it over the top by 3!

Starting to list as they passed

Up ahead we could see a boat coming down. Normally we’d leave the gates open for them at the lock we were vacating, but with the bottom gates leaking like a sieve I decided to close the top gates, hoping that would save more water in the long run. They’d been hoping to moor in the pound also. As our two boats passed in the middle both leaned over, only just enough water to keep them both afloat.

It was now a long time since breakfast and lunch was overdue, no choice but to keep going to the top.

Piggy

Each of these locks is to be left empty, a sign low down on the flight suggested that they have no bywash, so water coming down hill will fill the lock, once this is full it will then flood the area around it, so leaving the bottom paddles up means the water drains into the next pound and carries on down the flight. This was good for us in one respect, the locks (apart from one) were set in our favour. But with both bottom gates open it meant I would have to walk round to close the off side gates.

The one thing I don’t like about the K&A locks is their top gates. They have a styrup to help you climb onto the gate to cross over. But these still leave you a very big step up which is too big for my legs. Why they don’t have a little angled metal step will be down to history, but it’s bloomin annoying! I adopted sitting on the beam and hauling myself up, but my knees don’t like this either. Mick ended up climbing ladders, both of us in serious need of food by now, but time was slipping away.

A chain and padlock waiting to be used

We were making good time, but no way would we make it to the top before 3pm, lock up time. Mick suggested mooring on one of the lock landings, but I wanted to get to the top and if needs be moor on that lock landing. On we carried reaching the penultimate lock at 3pm, no sign of a blue clad person locking the gates bang on 3.

The top lock

There was no chain on the top gates when we got in the final lock. In fact Mick had just pulled out from the lock and was pulling in to moor when a C&RT chap cycled up to the lock. I lifted the bottom paddles and the chap stood and waggled the gates until they settled in a more sealed way, letting as little water through as possible. I said we’d not been able to moor lower down, to which he was surprised that the pumping station pound was low again.

Gates locked, we’d made it

3:25. Raining again, we didn’t care that we were mooring in a winding hole, there wouldn’t be much passing traffic as the lock both ends of the summit were now locked. Fat fenders kept us away from the overhang and Tilly headed off for an explore. Kettle on, time for lunch.

We rounded the day off with a roast chicken and raising a glass of wine (should have been cider) to Mickle.

15 locks, 6 more than planned, 5.16 miles, 1 new rope, 1 Legend, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 0 rubbish, 1 summit reached, 4pm lunch, 2 hours, 2 pooped boaters, 2 swimming pool shoes, 2 soaked legs, 2 wrinkled feet, 1 alarm set for the morning.

Locking Partners. 8th September

Photos have been added to yesterdays post now that the internet is playing.

Vicarage Bridge to Froxfield Bottom Lock 70

Steamy

A beautiful steamy morning, as soon as I opened up the hatch the local ducks flocked over for the bread I was so obviously going to give them! Mick did have a slice of toast he was willing to feed these poor starving birds, so they were lucky.

Quick they’ve opened their hatch!

First boat past, THE Red boat as we were having breakfast. Strange we didn’t feel the urge to rush to join them at the first lock!

NB Sanity were just pulling off as we were about to start rolling back the covers, Mick said we’d be ten minutes behind them.

Beautiful morning

The sun had burnt away the steam and blue skies surrounded us, what a lovely morning to be cruising. The bottom gates on Brunsden Lock were just closing as we approached, we’d most probably not been seen. I hopped off and went to help, Charles and Karen would wait at the next lock for us.

First lock partners

Just as I was about to close the bottom gates behind Oleanna there was a boat approaching, so we waited, the crew were walking ahead. A hire boat with experienced crew who kindly offered to close up the lock and let us catch up.

NB Sanity was on the lock landing, the bottom gates were open, but nobody was to be seen. Charles and Karen had vanished! In fact they were above the lock trying to sort out a C&RT workboat that had come adrift blocking the canal. The front pin was still in but the stern was possibly hanging onto the end of the blue rope in the water. We know one boat had already been through this morning, had they just pushed past, had they reported it, or had they caused it?!

Oo, that’s going to be in the way

With a boat hook and mallet we managed to pull it back in, the spike was on the end of the rope and was well and truly bashed back into the ground. Charles reported it to C&RT, a van turned up as we were disappearing out of view.

Second Locking partner of the day

Another lock shared with NB Sanity and we both pulled in at Hungerford. A handy lowish hard edge was noted at the two day moorings, a possible good spot to do gunnels, the one day moorings opposite very over grown. We’d decided that as it was such a lovely day a barbecue was in order this evening, not a roast, so supplies were needed.

Hungerford

What a pretty place Hungerford is. I’ve been once twenty years ago to visit a company who imported fake plants. This was for the premiere production of House and Garden at the SJT. I seem to remember driving there and back in a day from Scarborough on my own in a hire car. No time to look around then.

Supplies were stowed and we were on our way again, leaving Charles and Karen behind. Up Hungerford lock, noting the hard low edge above the lock, another possible for gunnels. A swing bridge and then we were back out into the countryside. Hills and plenty of greenery made for a good view.

Hungerford Marsh Lock with swing bridge across the middle

Half a mile on was Hungerford Marsh Lock. Over the lock is a swing bridge, it’s high enough to get your boat in when coming uphill, but before starting to fill the lock it needs swinging out of the way. Once up and out the bridge was swung back into position and a paddle lifted to empty it. I could see a day boat following us in the distance, so left the lock how it should be, hoping they would follow suit.

Swung out of the way

Cobblers Lock, what a good name. Washing hung to dry on the fence outside the cottage which looks like it’s had a few problems staying vertical in the past.

Cobblers

Then on to Picketsfield Lock where there was a cruiser going up. The lady asked if she could share the next lock with us, trusting that we wouldn’t squash her new (to her) home. A hire boat came down telling tales of empty pounds nearer the summit yesterday, by the time we were ready to go up the lock we’d been joined by the hire boat again. It was the second time today that I told them another boat was waiting for us at the next lock.

Third and final locking partner of the day

Sure enough the lady was there hanging onto her cruiser and dog, Mick carefully slide Oleanna in next to her, we roped up and let the water in. The next pound though short was our chosen mooring for the day, there was enough space for us, phew! We pulled in and tucked up to a narrowboat leaving space should another boat arrive.

Freedom

This mooring meant I could get at the port side grab rail. A bubble of rust had appeared below the centre line cleat that needed dealing with before it encroached into the cabin side blue and a couple of other rusty spots have been pointed out to me by my good fellow. Scraper, sandpaper and Fertan at the ready  I worked my way along. Not three patches, but eight needed attention.

Stop it before it gets to the blue!

Loose paint was scraped away, each spot sanded back. Should I do the whole grabrail? Would I have enough paint? I doubted it. So I decided to mask off areas  around each spot, rub back the paint and then applied some Fertan. For now I’ll touch the spots up, some paint can be ordered to match what I was given at Finesse in February and then next spring I’ll repaint all the grab rails.

More rusty patches to sort

Several large spots of rust had also appeared on the stern deck, so these were prepared ready for Fertan after our barbecue. Mick had to pull himself away from the cricket to get the coals lit and when Tilly returned just as we were about to start cooking she was bundled inside, none of that staying out till midnight today!

TRAINS!

Our mooring was quiet, our neighbour had been off on his bike and returned as the bats started to swoop. Now when I say quiet I mean next to no footfall and between the GWR trains hurtling past only 80 foot away it was very peaceful. The Fertan was applied with the aid of a torch.

8 locks, 5.43 miles, 2 swing bridges, 3 lock partners, 1 chicken already out of date, 4 cobblets, 2 pork steaks, 4 veg kebabs, 0 internet, 0 phone, 4 hours shore leave, 1 curfew rigidly stuck to, 2 many patches of rust, 1 small urn retained by the Aussies.

THE Red Boat. 7th September

Photos now added.

Greenham Lock to Vicarage Bridge 76

Lighthouse in the midle of Newbury

Saturday, a newspaper to get and some fresh food, so after breakfast we walked back to Tescos and stocked up. With everything stowed we made ready to push off. An ABC hire boat came past with a large crew on board, Mick enquired as to if they were heading for the next lock, either the chap answering didn’t now or he didn’t understand the question, I think they were from Norway. Not much further on they pulled into a space, that answered our question.

An interesting looking place

We decided this morning that we’ll have a look round Newbury on our way back and get some miles ticked off towards Bristol today. Just as well as fairly soon after we’d pushed off I got confirmation of a production meeting and a run through of A Regular Little Houdini in Newport which would be timed with me being close to Bristol. Dan the actor/director gave me the thumbs up for my white card model, I just have to hear back from Josh (the director) now and see if there are any adjustments needed.

Cloughs just like on the Leeds Liverpool, didn’t notice them until we were up

Newbury Lock had eager Mums and sons ready to help with the gates and grey haired boys stood hoping they’d get chance with the top gates. Jenny Maxwell had been right the locks are now not so fierce, ground paddles not gate paddles.

West Mills Swing Bridge

A bit further along was West Mills Swing Bridge, the only one of the day. As I walked up a couple were crossing it, the lady saying ‘They must go under the bridge otherwise they’d be stranded!’ Such comments always make me smile. I pulled the key of power out of my pocket and slotted it into the keyhole, turned it clockwise, pressed the open button and waited. Barriers down, wedge removed then the bridge started slowly, very slowly, very very very slowly to turn. Blimey it felt like a whole life time before it had opened enough for Oleanna. By the time it had closed Mick most probably would have made it to Bristol without me!

Guyers Lock lay ahead, the stern of a boat visible on the lock landing below. Marvelous lock partners. I zoomed in with the camera, it was a red boat, would it be the red boat that late yesterday afternoon had given us a very big bump? The chap at the helm not apologising! It sure was.

Is it? It is!

Did we want to share the lock with them? We’d made a point of them hitting us yesterday, so they were bound to remember us as we did them. But there was nowhere for us to go without making an even bigger point by refusing to share the lock. So we pulled in alongside them, an atmosphere could be felt. Eventually the silence was broken and I chatted away with the chap working the lock and some civil words exchanged at the helm.

Once up the gates proved problematic to close. The chap from the red boat jumped onto his boat saying the gate was stuck, so he was just going to leave it! I then couldn’t close mine, but we certainly wouldn’t leave the gates for the next person to come along. Mick hopped off and we both pulled and tugged at each gate to get them out of the recesses. Eventually we got them moving and closed.

A34 Newbury Bypass Bridge

When we saw a chance to pull in before the next lock we decided on an early lunch, letting the red boat get ahead. We took our time and were just about ready when another boat came past. The next two locks were shared with the crew of NB Pippin who were out for the weekend, it being someones thirtieth birthday tomorrow. Much more conscientious locking partners than the red boat had been. But they stopped for lunch, possibly to let us get ahead!

There they are again

Above Dreweat’s Lock there was the red boat again. Technically not on the lock landing but between it and the lock. They had stopped for lunch with some friends and had a table and chairs out on the towpath. A third black mark, we won’t be sharing with them further up the way!

Who you looking at!

Across in a field two Roe Deer were chomping away at the lush green grass. They stayed for a while but eventually sought safety of a wood as we passed by.

What’s going on here?

Just below Kintbury Lock there was a widebeam pushing off. A dog walker suggested staying where we were as the boat would go right across the cut and then head onto it’s mooring on the off side. It pushed out then a rope was thrown to the bank where it was attached to a horse. They weren’t mooring up for the day, but just setting out, so we waited hopefully out of their way and waved at all the passengers.

Steering away
Horse

Up the last lock and ahead the moorings looked busy, but a boat (possibly NB Harold) pulled out leaving an Oleanna sized space which we very quickly filled. Cat Health and Safety Committee convened, the railway line was deemed to be too close to our mooring and no visible barrier so no shore leave today for Tilly. She did her very best to charm me into opening the doors, you try explaining to a serial killer why you are not letting them out!

Mick got chatting to the boat behind, Charles and Karen on NB Sanity At Last. They are also heading to Bristol and suggested pairing up to do Cain Hill. As we chatted away it sounds as though they take things a lot slower than us. We have a schedule to keep up to so no loitering for too long in one place. But we’ll see what happens.

Pleeeaase let me go out!!

Despite buying fresh supplies this morning we decided to eat out and headed across the bridge, up the hill into Kintbury to find The Blue Ball. The butchers looked interesting, apparently they do very good sausage rolls (not a patch on my GF ones) sadly they will be closed tomorrow but we may visit on our way back.

The Blue Ball only had a few options for me, the usual steak and gammon. I did consider trying out how gluten would now affect me as there was a Steak and Kidney Pudding on the menu. But I opted for the steak, I’ve had better but the chips were good. Mick had liver and bacon which was very nice indeed.

8 locks, 6.12 miles, 1 swing bridge, 0 held up, 1 set of stubborn gates, 1 red boat, 3 strikes, 1 much nicer boat, 1 horse, 2 deer, 2 plans for Christmas! 2 new boater friends, 1 steak, 1 liver and bacon, O shore leave, 2 horrid selfish boaters!

Sideways thumb for TV, due to loss of reception when ever a train passed.