It’s Only Taken Us Four Years. 3rd September

Beale Park to Fobney Lock, Kennet and Avon Canal

Our Thames licence ran out today so we had to take one of three options. Seriously get a move on and catch the tide at Teddington (18 hours cruising so not possible), wind and head back up stream to Oxford to hop onto the canal there (10 hours, so possible) or carry on down stream and hang a right at Reading (3 hours, the preferred option).

Blue blue blue

We pushed off at 9am the sky and river bright blue behind us.

Seven
Six

Ahead I managed to get pictures of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.

Five
Four

Each one unique, the one currently for sale the plainest.

Three
Two

Have to say I’d quite like one with towers and balconies, but the road and railway would still put me off. The fifth one along (Three) is really quite shy, the trees in front of it giving it good solid cover from the river.

One

At Whitchurch Lock we descended on our own a narrowboat arriving just a touch too late to join us. I bobbed below to get some alterations done to my model as we cruised towards Mapledurham Lock.

Daybreak

A hotel wide beam was coming up in the lock and we joined the queue to go down, the lock being on self service meant it filled slowly. In front of us was a rather beautiful Humber Keel, Daybreak. We’d passed them at Wallingford on Sunday, moored up with their mast upright and plenty of bunting about the place. Today her mast was horizontal with a long red ribbon dangling to the water.

Pristine
Made in Thorne

Mapledurham being just over 200 ft long meant we’d fit in the lock behind them. They may be wide, 15ft 6″ but only 61ft 6″ long. So once she was in the lock we followed, being joined by the narrowboat that had been following us. There were three crew on board Daybreak so one chap operated the lock as the chap at the helm adjusted the stern rope and kicked the tiller arm and throttle.

Following slowly into Caversham

It was with relief once the lock was empty to see a boat arrive wanting to come up, nobody would have to stay behind to close up.

They have to fit

Caversham Lock is that bit shorter. Would we fit with Daybreak? The lovely lady volunteer came to ask how long we were, ‘Sorry’ the lock’s only 110ft long, ten foot too short for the both of us. There were only a couple of feet spare width wise, the crew holding very fat fenders to keep the pristine paintwork away from the lock gates.

Fenders at he ready

They gently nudged their way in, tiller a touch that way, then corrected, then the other way.

The same procedure was repeated as they exited the lock, fenders moved along to where they were needed most as they inched their way out. Once the boat was clear there were high fives from the crew, no touching up required!

Our last button operated Thames lock for a while

Some fresh supplies were needed, but the last big enough space at Tescos was just being taken by a narrowboat, they kindly offered for us to breast up to them. A quick shop and some lunch before we both wanted to be on our way. Their shop and lunch were a touch quicker than ours, but as they headed off the moorings were empty, so we just pulled along to let them out. By the time we’d finished our break the moorings were filling up again.

New waters

Not far until we turned right. New water again. Under the numerous bridges and along to Blake’s Lock, our last EA lock for a while. A match stick lock which works in the opposite direction to those I’d worked further up the Thames. It was full with the top paddles open! No poles to help open and close the other gate, so we opted to only open one, there was plenty of room.

A match stick lock

We could have pulled in on the Jail Loop but wanted to get a touch further if we could today.

Back onto C&RT water

Ahead signs welcomed us to The Kennet and Avon Canal, back on C&RT water, along with telling us of a boat traffic light ahead. We’ve seen pictures and heard of this and at last we were here.

Just like a road crossing

Mick brought us in towards the button, just like those on a pedestrian crossing. I wondered if it would light up the WAIT, but we got a green straight away. A newish shopping and restaurant complex surrounded us, one tightish bend but the rest of the controlled length of canal seemed far wider than a lot of places we’ve been. Were the lights put in when the new complex was built? Was the cut narrowed? Well it’s actually a length of river, so the levels and flow can vary, so one way traffic stops the possibility of coming across a boat that can’t stop coming down with the flow.

Very flowery

Plenty of people to say hello to, the schools in the area can’t have gone back today.

Waiting for the lock to empty
Four paddles

We soon arrived at County Lock, all of 1ft of it. All four top paddles were open, were we following a serial paddle leaver?

Narrow houses

Now we were back onto the River Kennet, heading upstream. The houses totally different to those on the Thames. Here we’d need about four back gardens to have enough length to moor Oleanna, their width about 15ft wide, the houses the same.

Silenced by a lion

One rowdy woofer came and woofed at us. Stupid thing! Maybe it thinks it’s managed to see us off, works every time, so just keeps on woofing at boats. A bit further along there was another woofer who’d been fitted with a lion silencing device. It worked very well.

One big deep lock, we’ve got deeper to come!

Fobney Lock 105, a touch different from County Lock with it’s 8ft 7″ drop and much longer. Luckily we’d just passed a couple of hire boats so the lock was more or less in our favour. We roped up using the centre line and Mick loitered towards the back of the lock. On each new canal you wonder what will be different. Here we only had gate paddles, would the water go down the side of the lock, or diagonally to hold the boat into the side. Luckily it was the latter. We rose up and then looked for a mooring.

Paddle gear, the break lifts the opposite way to other canals

Past the line of boats there was still armco, we pulled in. Now where did I put that nappy pin?

Four years ago we’d intended to come this way, not having managed it on our first year afloat. But things kept making us head northwards, new boat builders to chose, then boat builders to meet, the end of a finger to be lost, if only we’d headed south instead of up the Trent!

It’s a canal Tilly, do you remember them?

6 locks, 12.46 miles, 1 right, 1 big bummed boat, 2ft 5″ to spare, 0 wine bought, 1 licence expiring, 1 button to press, 1 lion silencer, 2 windlasses, 2 nappy pins, 0 river bank to pounce from.

7 thoughts on “It’s Only Taken Us Four Years. 3rd September

  1. Dave (Scouts)

    Interesting to see what you make of the K&A. We did Honey street (bridge 124) to Great Bedwyn a couple of years ago and whilst it was pleasant, problems with locks and low water didn’t really sell it to us. Much prefer the Oxford.

    Shame you still aren’t on the thames, you might have seen these jokers from our local radio station (Lechlade to Henly in 2 days?) https://www.jackfm.co.uk/events/jacks-mooring-glory/

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  2. Carole Biggs

    Daybreak was featured in the series “Three Men in a Boat” with Griff Rhys Jones, Dara O’Briain & Rory McGrath. It is lovely inside. Well worth getting on dvd, we always watch it when we’re on the Thames

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    1. pipandmick Post author

      Thanks Carol, we watched it when we still lived in a house. There are photos of the interior on the website, lovely galley. Hope your trip back down the Thames was/is a good one, maybe we’ll get chance to meet next time.

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      1. Paul (from Waterway Routes)

        Unfortunately there aren’t any EA signs and many boaters don’t realise they are on EA waters. The “Welcome to the Kennet & Avon Canal” sign marks the start of CRT waters and, by implication, the end of EA waters. When you return the only indication that you are entering EA waters (and needing an EA licence) is seeing the blank back of the CRT sign which isn’t very helpful.

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  3. adrian2013

    Getting down my end of the network, hope the pounds stay full for you, and you have no nutters leaving paddles up! Looking forward to your tales along here.
    Cheers
    Ade

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