Froudes Bridge to Greenham Lock
Todays goal was Thatcham, further if we could. As we had breakfast it rained, but only gently, not enough to be an excuse, so we pushed off at just gone 9am.
Ahead major works were happening. Two big diggers one each side of the canal, there was a very big hole on the towpath side and lots going on. The chaps halted what they were doing as we approached.
Then one digger gave a skip boat a great big shove, pushing it and a chap on board across the cut. A tug then biffed it over some more to where the other digger could claw it in towards the bank.
We’d passed a length of blue rope hanging down from a tree approaching the works, and just past them there was another with an A4 sheet attached warning boaters.
We soon reached Woolhampton and heeded all the instructions in our guides and those from other boaters. Here there is a swing bridge, The Rowbarge (a nice pub, although too early to stop today), the river then comes in from the left just below Old Woolhampton Lock. The river can cause quite strong currents and the advice is not to stop between the swing bridge and lock. So heading upstream you should have the lock set in your favour and open, if heading down stream you shouldn’t leave the lock until the swing bridge is open.
The lock was empty, I opened the gate and walked back, the flow from the river hardly noticeable. Key of power and the bridge swung open, letting Mick through and only holding four up, bit disappointing really. The current was a touch stronger than it looked but Mick made into the lock fine and was sat waiting for me.
As we filled the lock a lady walked up the hill towards us, windlass in hand, boat down in between the bridge and the lock, good job the flow wasn’t stronger. They were in a narrowboat so we said we’d wait for them at the next lock, they were aiming for further than us today and sharing some locks would be good.
A swing bridge was next, this one with a lock on it. I think the manual one yesterday most probably had the same locking mechanism on it as I noticed the nut welded onto the bridge, the chain and shackle must have been out of sight. I left the bolt loose, so the boat following us wouldn’t need a windlass to loosen it and on we carried to Heales Lock which was empty and waiting.
NB Harold with Maddy and Simon soon arrived and we filled the lock. They were having a few days helping to move a friends boat back from summer cruising to it’s mooring further down the K&A. They quite often hire boats with friends and are planning on doing the Four Counties next year.
The lock took forever to fill the last foot and it took both Mick and myself on one gate to ease one side open to level things out. As we left another boat appeared below. The crew standing by their boat, it took them sometime to realise nobody was going to empty the lock for them.
The locks are spaced out fairly evenly about a mile apart, enough to keep wondering if you could make a cuppa, but not far enough to drink one too. A couple more locks and we reached Thatcham. This is where our plan was to stop for the day, Maddy and Simon wanted to pause for lunch. Last night we’d checked for stoppages on the K&A and noticed that the 48hr moorings here were suspended. So on to the next lock.
Monkey Marsh Lock, is the other turf sided lock. This one was rebuilt in 1990 to it’s original form. Plenty more ladders and a railing to keep people from falling down the turf banks into the lock. Both boats came into the very long lock and we filled it up, all the time the level slowly rising. The ladders and walkways proved useful as Maddy had made a cuppa which could be passed over to her once the boats had risen far enough.
Our next aim was to reach Newbury two more swing bridges and another four locks further on. We’d stay to close up a lock whilst Maddy went on ahead to open a swing bridge or get picked up. Mick would stop Oleanna in the throat of the lock and help with gates then we both could step back on board. Simon preferred to pull over to a lock landing, sometimes Maddy would be there other times he’d miss it and plan to pick her up elsewhere. Plans are good things, but lets just say they didn’t always work out for Simon and NB Harold.
Below Ham Lock we were all in need of food and it was starting to rain. As NB Harold waited for the lock to empty, somehow their stern rope fell off the back and neatly wrapped itself around their prop. A nice tight rope going down into the water. No need to turn the engine off, it had stalled. Simon tried to pull the rope up, but no chance. The centre line was passed up and Harold was pulled to one side as Simon undid the weedhatch and investigated. The rope was wrapped around the prop at least six times. Mick had a routle on Oleanna and arrived with our incredible sharp rope knife. Only one thing for it, cut the rope off. With this done both boats were soon in the lock, although NB Harold seemed to have a touch of difficulty with reverse.
At Greenham Lock we waved Maddy and Simon goodbye as they headed to the boat yard to fill and empty as necessary and hopefully buy a new rope. We tagged onto the end of a line of moored boats. A late lunch well deserved, some shore leave for Tilly. A shopping trip was put on hold by a downpour mid afternoon, so we made do with a recipe I adapted from the internet for chicken and squash couscous, swapping couscous for quinoa and adding a few chilly flakes instead of harrisa paste. It was quite tasty.
The stove was lit and we cosily sat and watched the first episode of Scarborough the new BBC sitcom. It wasn’t the funniest thing on TV, but we got to see Scarborough at it’s sunny best. We wondered how many days they had to wait for the sun to set without sea fret for the final shot.
9 locks, 8 shared, 7.53 miles, 5 swing bridges, 4 held up, 2nd turf sided, 2 diggers, 1 very short stern rope, 1 renamed pub, 1 renamed salon, 3pm lunch, 1 down pour, 2 fingers crossed, 1 folder of model photos sent, 1 sunny Scarbados.