Froxfield Bottom Lock to Crofton Top Lock
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.