Horton Bridge to Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock 44
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.