Four Inches Down. 17th June

Eelsmoor Bridge to Mytchett Visitor Centre

Sad git crumpets with toppings

Thankfully the speeding drivers and whatever else was going on at the end of the runway either stopped or didn’t bother us past midnight, so we got a reasonable nights sleep. Tilly was allowed shore leave whilst we had breakfast, however as soon as planes started to take off she ran back indoors, Those big BIG birds are far noisier than crows!

The gates at the side of the runway were open today and security staff manned the two bridges across the canal. Preparations for the Farnborough Air Show, fencing already up and a big marquee could be seen about half a mile up the side of the runway. We watched from the viewing benches just behind the friendly cover, a plane taking off just about every half hour and plenty of jets sat on the tarmac.

Farnborough Airport

It was nice to be able to zoom in on some of the buildings around the airport and the tower as Andrew my brother had been involved in their design when he worked for 3DReid and Bblurr. His architectural projects now more domestic, loft rooms, house extensions and a garage and utility room for Kath Mick’s sister. I have warned her that they might end up with a helipad on the roof!

Squeezing under the last bridge

Once we’d watched a few planes taking off it was time to move on. A mile and a half further on was the last of the low bridges. On our way up the canal it had felt as if there was masses of room above Oleanna. Now with the horns back in place would we still have space at Farnborough Road Bridge? The bridge fairly obviously is on a slant from side to side, Mick slowed us down and aimed for the higher side. At first there was loads of room, but that was gradually diminishing. The underside of the bridge gradually getting lower and lower. Was Oleanna’s smile about to be knocked off the roof? Would I be able to push Oleanna down to keep us away from the bridge. We inched through with just enough above the horns! Phew!!!!

NB Olive pulling in above the lock

NB Olive had been seen behind, gaining on us gradually as we made our way to Ash Lock. However above the lock they pulled in at the water point/mooring, they’d be stopping there for the day, a good cat mooring. They’d not heard anything from the Basingstoke Canal Authority, neither had we.

Going down

So we descended the lock on our own, back down to the Surrey pound. Immediately we noticed the difference, just about straight away Oleanna grounded. It took some time and wiggling to get off the bottom and start to make our way slowly back towards Mytchett. Waterway Routes suggested this should take us an hour, we knew it would be longer and sure enough it took nearly two with one trip down the weed hatch. Mick didn’t think it was worth another visit, which he could have done within five minutes.

Blue skies matching the railings

Over the aqueduct, past the big lakes, sun in the sky and plenty of time to enjoy it. On our way up the canal a hire boat had enquired where The Swan pub was, today we found out, right next to Heathvale Bridge.

After looking at the swan on the pub roof the bridge was worth looking at. A pill box on both sides of the west bank. Had the bridge been here when it was built? Was there access to both sides under the bridge? A bridge appeared here sometime between 1906 and 1919, possibly to gain access to the shooting ranges to the east of the canal which were very audible today.

Mychett Lake

We considered pulling in at Mychett Lake, but decided to keep on going to reach our destination for the day even if the embankment looked like it might be a suitable place for Tilly to explore.

The Patrol Boat was busy scouping weed out of the canal, just about as fast as we were picking it up. They followed us to the Visitor Centre, space for two boats today. The volunteers on the patrol boat had picked up a big bit of fencing along with lots of weed. Apparently the Surrey pound has been dropped by four inches to help relieve the pressure on the embankment by Mychett Lake where a leak has been discovered, a costly job to mend. Another four inches of depth would make this pound a lot easier to cruise.

Busy chaps on the patrol boat

Chloe rang us from the BCA. The rangers had inspected the lock today, they think it is possible for boats to pass with assisted passage. However the final word would be given tomorrow by an engineer. The patrol boat had been down to the top of the locks today, two boats waiting patiently for the verdict of broken lock 27, a boat having biffed a gate.

A very late lunch was followed by a scrub down of the starboard side of Oleanna. A serious scrub with hot water and suds is still required, but at least it’s a start. Tilly assisted at times but then got distracted by a crow.

Weedhatch view

Crows are canny birds. It allowed her to stalk it, keeping 6ft away all the time. A little hop to somewhere else to keep her at a distance. I then realised what it was doing. It was gradually making it’s way to the side of the canal, a couple of cat pounces with feathers in Tilly’s eyes would distract her from the possibility of missing the crow but landing in the water. I split them up for safetys sake.

Chris the Lock Keeper stopped to say hello from the towpath. When asked about the broken lock he said that he’d not seen the damage himself, but it was hoped that with a bit of reinforcement and someone manning the lock they’d be able to get us and the other boats down. This seemed quite optimistic.

Harry not a crow

The picnic benches were a nice place to sit out and do some weaving of yarn ends to a pair of socks. There are a lot of ends on last weeks pair and may take some time. Mike the other Lock Keeper came past heading to the elsan. His verdict on the lock gate was a touch more pessimistic. He’d been at the next lock when the incident happened. Today a report would have been written after the inspection. Then an assessment of how long a repair is likely to take and therefore how much income the Authority would loose with the canal being closed. This would all go to the insurance company of boater who hit the gate.

All we can do is wait for the engineers verdict which will hopefully be in tomorrow.

1 lock, 6 miles, 0.5 of that very very slowly, 1 following boat, 1 limbo, 2 hours shore leave (which improved), 4 trains an hour, 4 planes an hour, 1 picnic bench, 4 inches down, 1 official line, 1 more day to wait for verdict.