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).
We pushed off at 9am the sky and river bright blue behind us.
Ahead I managed to get pictures of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.
Each one unique, the one currently for sale the plainest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
We could have pulled in on the Jail Loop but wanted to get a touch further if we could today.
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.
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.
Plenty of people to say hello to, the schools in the area can’t have gone back today.
We soon arrived at County Lock, all of 1ft of it. All four top paddles were open, were we following a serial paddle leaver?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.