Froxfield Bottom Lock to Wire Lock 76
Another morning with no cuppa in bed, another morning putting on waterproofs, another morning feeling to see which pair of shoes are the driest, another damp soggy day. At least it wasn’t as windy as yesterday had been.
All the locks ahead of us were empty some requesting to be left so, others maybe leaked over night or were we following someone down? It didn’t matter we were at least back on schedule which necessitates a four hour cruise each day.
At Cobbler’s Lock our third of the day a chap busied himself outside the cottage. He’d been chopping logs, inside a big screen TV showed a marathon somewhere. A paddle at the bottom end needed dropping before the chamber could be filled, the pound below looked to be a couple of feet down from it’s normal mark, the bywash ran into it. We’ve certainly seen worse levels in the past.
Mick had a look, the chap from the cottage had a look, he’d never seen it so low! No lift for me to the next lock, I’d be walking so that Mick didn’t have to bring Oleanna into the side and risk getting grounded.
In she went and the water drained out as usual. I opened a bottom gate, but Oleanna was going nowhere. She’d developed a jaunty list at the bottom of the lock, she was sat on something and wasn’t going anywhere fast. Only one thing for it to try to flush her off whatever it was. I lifted a paddle above hoping the surge of water would help push her free and give Mick chance to move her a touch to be able to get out the lock. This worked after a while and she moved over to the other side of the lock. Next thing was to get her over the bottom cill, more water was needed. A couple of minutes and she was free, into the next pound.
Mick kept her central and slowly made his way to Marsh Lock another that has to be left empty. The bottom gates were open as were their want. so A top paddle was cracked open to hold them closed as I walked back to the top to fill the lock. Mick brought Oleanna in to meet the top gates, hoping that here she would stay afloat as the lock filled. Off to a slight angle and she grounded, it took a bit to get her off all the time the level dropping to fill the lock.
Once level I opened a gate, the bow came over the cill it was time to open the swing bridge that sits over the lock. This was also easier said than done. The big bolt was already undone but it wouldn’t shift. I crossed over and tried starting it from the other side, it moved thank goodness. Oleanna came into the lock now with a decent amount of water underneath her, we were free of the troublesome pound.
Oleanna dropped down to the next level, a pair of walkers swung the bridge back for us now that Mick’s head was low enough in the chamber. Onwards to the next swing bridge that was also too stiff to move at first, but I got it going in the end.
There was a space on the 24hr visitor mooring. Here I’d identified as a good spot for gunnel painting. We were facing the right way with starboard side to the towpath, but the constant rain put paid to any intention of getting the paint out.
The couple from the boat in front made sure we knew where Tescos was as they emptied their ash into the hedgerow, good job it was raining! They’d also had difficulty the other day when they came down and had managed to get their rear button stuck between the top gates as the lock emptied! The chap was pleased that he’d secured a mooring below the lock that they could move onto on Monday. Good for him but that meant another 48hrs on the 24hr mooring, but it did mean they only had one more chance to sink their boat!
A stock up on fresh items in town and a pork pie for Mick’s lunch from the nice butchers. We were still soggy so decided to carry on to where we hoped to moor for the day before having lunch, it was still early.
We’d just missed going down Hungerford Lock with a hire boat so had to reset it and as we were opening the bottom gates another boat appeared behind us wanting to come down. The service mooring was occupied so we carried on without topping up the tank, we could do that tomorrow.
Towards Dun Mill Lock we could see we were being followed by the hire boat, their bow wave visible before them. The lady waved to attract our attention as I crossed over to open the other gate for them. Mick hopped off to hold Oleanna into the side making room for them, they still pulled into the lock landing to drop the lady off and then proceeded to crash into the lock approach.
Yesterday they had been caught out by a lock towards the summit being locked ‘early’ at 3pm so they were in a rush now to get back to Aldermaston for Monday morning and they’d just found out that the canal in Newbury would close at 4pm today for an event. A shame the hire base didn’t seem to have mentioned to them about the locks up to the summit being locked at 3pm and there was no chance they’d make Newbury before 4pm.
We shared two locks with them and then parted company as there was space below Wire Lock for us. Here the railway line is on the off side meaning Tilly could have an explore.
During the afternoon I finished my new bridge and luckily found time to make a new chair. This has now been put inside a box to keep it way from the feline assistants jaws!
With the constant rain of the last couple of days we have started to think of contingency plans should the Thames go onto Red boards and us not be able to make it to Oxford in time for me to go to work in Chipping Norton. Trains from Reading, but then the Kennet may go into flood too. Mick asked on the local facebook group for local knowledge. The first few answers suggested all the things we already do, like keeping an eye on levels and getting C&RT notices. Then at last a couple of people gave us useful information and not just about getting through Woolhampton lock and swing bridge.
If the rain keeps coming Mick may be left further upstream than Reading. But for now we’ll carry on as planned, getting wet every day.
7 locks, 5.01 miles, 2 obstinate swing bridges, 1 lumpy lock, 2 ft down, 72 hrs, 24 hrs, 1 newspaper, 1 joint of pork for 10! 1 pork pie, 0 card, 1 new bridge, 1 new super poisonous chair, 2 soggy days in a row, 2 soggy boaters, 1 muddy cat.