The S L O W Boat To Dundas. 17th September

Bradford Lock to Dundas Aqueduct

Chilly start. My gloves had to be found from the depths of the back cupboard before we pushed off. The hire boat that had moored on the water point last night was still there, a lady looked nervously at everyone who came past, they’d already been breasted up to once.

Busy above the lock this morning

A C&RT work boat winded above the lock and picked up loads of volunteers, they were having a day litter picking. Have to say the last few days the canal has been decidedly clean, very few floating plastic bottles. Maybe their pick up plastic campaign is working, or maybe it’s the volunteers going out on days like today.

Sculpture hanging from a tree

At the lock two American gents stood and watched as I filled the 11 ft deep lock then offered to open a gate for me. They were on a boat and had walked down to to see what was what. They were helpful and even offered to lower one of the low geared paddles for me, ‘It doesn’t seem to be doing anything’ ‘It is, just slowly.’

As I left a C&RT volunteer was arriving, windlass in hand, they could get more instruction from him. This was our 100th lock of the month and the only one for today. All we had to do now was pootle and look at the scenery around us. Plenty of moored boats again. Most boats on the visitor moorings were hire boats, everyone else was clinging to the banks where they could.

Rotting away in the cut

A wooden boat was wrapped in plastic, trying to keep the water out from it’s rotting hull. Two large solar panels powered a bilge pump that looked like it worked hard. Alongside on the towpath orange net fencing had been put up either side of the path and possessions filled the grass. On one side it looked like the chap had a workshop set up, possibly working on the boat, bet he’s been there longer than 14 days.

Look there’s Pete

On we pootled behind a couple of hire boats, a Sally boat in front of an ABC. The ABC kept slowing down and just before the right hand bend onto Avoncliff aqueduct they both pulled over. The reason for this was a bright green wide beam coming round the bend full of C&RT volunteers. Standing in the bow was Pete who’d helped us down Caen Hill, there was time to say hello as they passed.

The railway and Avoncliff Station
A nice looking pub, they do Gluten free fish and chips in cider batter.

Once the hire boats had gone round the bend we followed finding a water point not on our Waterway Routes map, something to report to Paul. We pulled in and checked it worked, which it did so we filled up the tank. This gave us the opportunity to have a look at Avoncliff Aqueduct on foot. Here there is a small gathering of buildings, one a nice looking pub the Cross Guns. The aqueduct spans over the River Avon then another arch over the railway line with access down to each platform at Avoncliff Station. When trains stop here only one door opens as it’s such a small station.

Crossing Avoncliff Aqueduct

Once the tank was topped up we rounded the bend onto the aqueduct, the sun warming now we were out of the trees. A cyclist asked if we’d been this way before, then said it was the best bit of the canal.

Going into reverse to achieve their speed

We soon caught up with the Sally hire boat, a young couple who last night had looked petrified above Bradford Lock. The chap was at the helm and concentrating very hard, looking down each side of the boat in turn, checking his rudder, throttle, concentrating. Hang on, where was the ABC boat? It had vanished, nowhere to be seen and it had been between us and the Sally boat.

They were going so slowly, we wondered if he’d be able to slow down anymore to pass moored boats. Yes he could, blimey! No wash from them, hardly a ripple from the prop. We did our best not to sit on his tail and reverse became our friend. It took us an hour and a half to cover the next two and a half miles, nice as the scenery was we’d rather have been going a touch faster.

Could this be our chance?

A long wide bend required a couple of beeps from his horn to warm oncoming boats of his arrival, in half an hour! Moored boats, narrow sections meant we couldn’t get past. Then a bridge hole and an inflatable coming the other way meant the Sally boat slowed even more. After it there was a gap, our chance. Mick moved in closer, the chap was almost standing in our well deck, but this gave us the opportunity to ask if we could come past. If only the inflatable would get out the b***dy way!

A funny little boat with a great view

As soon as they were clear we pounced! Well just engaged the engine and we cruised past with ease. Of course now we didn’t have much further to go anyway, but at least we’d get there this week.

Bye bye Sally Boat

Round the final bend to Dundas Aqueduct and the first mooring was free, this side being away from the railway we pulled in, it would be far more suitable for Tilly here. Sometime later the Sally boat beeped it’s horn and we knew they’d go past in another ten minutes

Suitable! It is great!! Big trees to climb, some friendly cover, a grassy bank down to the river to run around in and some big wall thing to climb. All of it just a couple of paces away. I was given six hours, but then when I came back to check on them the doors were closed behind me.

It’s all very well Tilly being allowed out to explore once we’ve finished moving the outside, but we wanted an explore too. So we nabbed our chance after we’d had lunch. She was allowed back out later.

Dundas Aqueduct

Dundas Aqueduct was built in 1810 and designed by John Rennie. It was the first canal structure to be made a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1951. Named after Charles Dundas the first chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company, it stands where the canal crosses the River Avon and meets the Somerset Coal Canal.

The narrow entrance to the Somerset Coal Canal

There is now only a short length of the Coal Canal in water. The narrow entrance behind a lift bridge cuts through someones garden now. We had a pleasant walk down to Brassknocker Basin where the canal now terminates. Plenty of moored boats, a cafe and an information centre. The crew from the Sally boat were enjoying a well earned burger in the sunshine.

4 inches long, an Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar (we think)

There is a footpath that takes you below the aqueduct, giving you a good view of it.

The north side, not quite so pretty

At one time GWR made repairs to the structure with blue bricks, some of these are still visible on the Western most arch. But when the canal was reopened much of the brickwork was replaced with Bath stone, back to how it should be. The south face shone in the sunshine, the northern face darker and more patchworked. You can see numerous stone mason marks in the blocks and even some 1815 carved graffiti.

Quite fancy up there

Back at Oleanna the lowish hard edge made me think of gunnels. I set too with a scrapper, some sandpaper on the port side, followed by a rinse down and then fertan where it was needed. There was quite a lot needed, I don’t think this side has been painted since we were on the Llangollen! At least it will all be ready for some primer, then paint when the next suitable mooring shows itself. I had had the intention to sand everything back and do a very nice job, but time is running out. There’s only so much time before I head off to work on Panto and the days that are suitable for painting are getting fewer. So a touch up will have to do, it doesn’t have to look pretty.

W Warren 1815 Bridge graffiti

1 lock, 100 this month, 4.12 miles, 1 aqueduct crossed by boat, 1 aqueduct crossed by foot,1.5 mph, 1 exceedingly slow boat, 6 4.5 hours, 1 coal canal, 1 big pizza, 2 sore knees, 1 gunnel prepped, 0 towpath on the right side again for ages, 1 rust converted Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 1 cat man handled, 1 white paw washed by human hand.

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