We’ll Let You Know On Monday. 14th June

Double Bridge Visitor Moorings to The End to King John’s Castle Moorings

Rain! What’s new! As we had breakfast and Tilly explored for a while NB Olive came past, brolly up sheltering them from the rain. We put on our waterproofs, hoped for a lull in the rain, which came and made ready to push off perfectly timed with the next downpour!


Today we’d see more sky, fewer trees blocking it from view. When the sun is shining through the canopy the canal is magical, natures own break up gobo. But when it’s rainy and dark the trees feel a bit claustrophobic and the potential for rain to drip heavily on your roof guaranteed to keep you awake at night.

As we pootled along the Hampshire pound Mick got a phone call. ‘Yes that’s me’ ‘Oh Blimey!’ ‘If we were to turn round now would that….’ What was the conversation about?

It was someone from the Basingstoke Canal Authority, there was a problem at Lock 27. On Monday they would lower or drain a pound to investigate what the problem is. It may be a reasonably quick fix, or it could be something more substantial, a new lock gate could take 6 weeks to make and fit! Oh Blimey!!! When Mick had suggested turning round now and heading that way it was in the hope that maybe we’d get assisted passage past the lock before the investigation, but that was sort of ignored. ‘We’ll let you know on Monday.’

Water coming into the canal

We passed a paddleboarder, a group of canoes. We discussed our options. What options did we actually have, but to wait until Monday. If we were to be stuck, we’ll get to know the area well, explore further afield. Things we’d planned on doing elsewhere we could access by train, just a shame not to get there by boat. Maybe we’re about to relive NB Legend’s visit to the canal, hopefully not or as long though! Although that would be handy for an appointment in this part of the world in October! Maybe we should head back to Frimley Green and see if there’s an opportunity to go through the troubled lock at short notice, our booking not for a few more days? What will be will be, it’s just where to be when we find out.

A Kingfisher stood still on a branch as we passed, today I had my camera just about ready. Then a pair flitted about ahead of us.

Hello to you too!

The song of Woodpeckers, one flew across to a tree by Barley Mow Bridge. My camera tucked away from the rain. A fledgling was being fed by a parent, what an opportunity to have missed!

Some pretty houses with well tended gardens. A group of ducks loitering outside someone’s back door for some tasty morsels. Instructions to proceed at Tick Over, some banks saved from erosion. Plenty of big trees that at some stage have fallen to block the navigation.

Approaching Colt Hill Bridge we saw the Authoritys trip boats, a hire boat base, NB Bramble having passed us in the last couple of days. A chap stood on the stern of the trip boat John Pinkerton said ‘You’re not from these parts are you!’ Then a short distance further on a smaller trip boat with jolly waving folk inside. ‘You’re the second boat we’ve seen today!’ That would have been NB Olive.

North Warnborough Lift Bridge, a possible mooring for the day. A boat was moored at the end of the bridge landing, was that the mooring on our maps, or could we get away with mooring on the posts? NB Olive was guaranteed to be on the last mooring before the end of the canal ahead, maybe we’d return. I hopped off, read the instructions on the bridge. The barriers, drop down and were manual. Pulling out the pin and lowering them, then with the key of power turned I could press the lift button, holding up four walkers in the process. A cable was wound in, lifting the bridge.

Someone heading for an explore

Sure enough there was NB Olive, a ginger cat spotted on the towpath. The side hatch open and Josh appeared another cat in his arms. Had we heard about the lock? He’d been thinking about our friends on NB Legend and how bad luck also follows them around.

This is the end

Not much further was the end of the navigation, no big sign, just a few buoys strung along after the winding hole. We winded and then pulled in behind NB Olive, a second cat spotted on the towpath, Sorry Tilly! They most probably wouldn’t mind sharing with you, but the feeling would not be mutual. We’ve reached this years destination! From now on we’ll be northbound, that’s if we can get down the locks!

Greywell Tunnel

In the afternoon we walked along the towpath to have a look at Greywell Tunnel. It was built between 1788 and 1792 and is/was 1230 yards long. With no towpath boats had to be legged through the tunnel, an information board suggests it would have taken up to 6 hours! The tunnel collapsed in 1932, there were no attempts to revive it as commercial trade on to Basingstoke had already ceased. Canoeists could still get through until the 1950’s when the blockage became total, possibly a quarter of the length of the tunnel blocked.

Chalk springs in the tunnel provide much of the water for the canal, shafts were drilled into the tunnel sides of chalk to encourage water to percolate into the canal. The tunnel is now home to many bats, during the winter months it is home to the second largest hibernating population of Natterer’s bat in Europe. We didn’t see any.

We now followed the paths over the top to see if we could find the western portal. We crossed a field of cows, who were very interested in us before heading down a path through woodland which eventually brought us to the disused entrance. A bit of a scramble down to the caged off entrance, the brick archway just visible, all very dark inside.

A wonderful tree with signpost beneath it

We’d considered walking further along the disused canal, but the towpath looked in bad shape so we headed back to the cow field where we followed a sign to a bridleway which would return us to the canal further along. This did mean wading our way through a field of broad beans, those in pods not big enough to be eaten.

The castle now and how it would have been

A walk up to the castle, King John’s Castle. The ruins are all flint today, but at one time they would have been dressed in stone. King John had a castle built here between 1207-14, it was built as a stronghold but mainly used as a shooting lodge, there is still a deer park around Odiham. In 1215 the English Barons persuaded King Philip of France to pressure John into creating fairer land and taxation laws. Under duress King John rode from Odiham Castle to Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta, however little changed and Louis (son of King Philip) and the French army invaded England.

After the French siege King Henry III had the castle repaired. In 1236 he gave the castle to his sister Eleanor of Pembrokeshire, she married a French noble Simon de Montfort, he was invested as the 6th Earl of Leicester and they transformed the castle into their home. Simon died in the battle of Evesham and Eleanor was exiled to France.

A little drafty inside

Seven years later Edward I came to the throne and made improvements to the castle. There was some toing and froing, the castle passed down to son then son, Edward III granting the castle to his queen Philippa of Hainault.

Chats with Josh and his Mum regarding everyone’s plans for the next few days. They were in need of a pumpout so would head to Galleon Wharf in the morning, Tilly would then be able to have some shore leave. We were still in two minds whether to head back to Frimley Lodge Park so as to be close to the lock flight should there be an opportunity to go through if a longer closure was needed. Should we curtail our time at this end of the canal, or carry on as planned?

Having a sit down on a handy tree bench

During the afternoon we checked on tide times on the Tidal Thames for our planned date. Thames Lock at Brentford would need booking in advance. The day we wanted was not available, we opted for the day before, checked the times and then rang Teddington Lock to see what time they suggested penning down. Brentford was booked for late afternoon, but Teddington was suggesting we leave late morning, the passage only takes around an hour. We’re fairly sure the Teddington Lock Keeper was out by a few hours.

Now we just have to wait to see what happens on Monday.

0 locks, 5.8 miles, 1 wind, 6 cats at the castle, 2 tunnel portals, 1 squeeze through broad beans, 1 miffed Tilly that we hadn’t got there first, 1 problematic lock, 1 finale of The Responder.