A cuppa in bed with yesterdays paper with a pretty good view out of the window, bliss.
Once up, breakfasted and enough layers on I popped down to have a look at the Tithe Barn. Both it’s doors were wide open inviting the light and myself inside.
The amount of timber in there and the number of joints! Very impressive. The roof beams have been analysed and the timber dates from 1334 to 1379. In the 1950’s major work was carried out to preserve the building by the Ministry of Works, now English Heritage.
Time to get moving, I’ve a panto to get to.
As I’d just pushed the bow out a chap walked by with a windlass, a hire boat heading back to Foxhangers, we could team up with them to do the lock. A day boat was just coming down so our two boats came into the prepared lock. A gongoozler was concerned that someone’s shoes were getting wet in the bow of the hire boat, I indicated to Mick that they should nudge back as they were right up against the cil. The paddles were raised and we were on our way up.
More boats waited to come down and one chap asked, ‘Is there a reason this paddle hasn’t been lifted all the way?’ This was said in either an I don’t understand manor or that I was a woman so therefore didn’t know what I was doing! I pointed out that there was no more paddle to lift to which he just said ‘Oh!’
Mick had stocked up yesterday, but one or two things were still needed. This was luckily remembered before we left the lock, so I hopped off and walked up to Sainsburys picked up what was wanted and returned to the canal at the next bridge where Mick had pulled in just behind NB Sanity at Last, who we’d shared locks with on the other side of the summit over a month ago.
Onwards to Hilperton where we pulled in to top up the diesel tank, we only needed about 30 litres but at 72p it wasn’t to be missed. A couple more bags of coal and we were on our way again.
I’d brought home some pasties so 30 minutes on gas mark 4 and they were nicely heated through for a lunch break at the bottom of Semington Locks. As you can see Mick’s pasty was far bigger than mine!
As I walked between the bottom and top lock there was a chap trying with all his might to prise his boat off the bottom. Blimey it was on a list, the only thing to do was add more water to the pound, a boat was about to come down so hopefully that would help. With the lock emptying the chap used his gang plank to try to shift his boat. In the end he managed to back it off with large clouds of black smoke coming from his engine. As he moved off you could see that his boat had quite a list to it anyway, he pulled in on the offside before the lock, breasting up to another boat, presumably fully afloat.
From here I walked on ahead to open the next three swing bridges, the weather was lovely, a great day to be back boating again, even if my legs were starting to complain.
The visitor moorings below Seend Locks were empty so we pulled in, hoping someone might come down before the morning to empty the bottom lock. Tilly headed off into the undergrowth and we put a roast chicken in the oven. What a lovely Sunday.
3 locks, 7.15 miles, 4 swing bridges, 2 traditional pasties, 500grams prunes, 1 box oat cakes, 27 litres, 40kg excel, 1 roast chicken with all the works, 1 pooped Pip.
Torrential rain woke me at 3am hammering on the roof trying to get in. I checked all the windows were closed and climbed back into bed. By 3:30 the outside world had calmed down so sleeping could continue.
No alarm clock, we had a lie in and enjoyed a cuppa and the Saturday newspaper in bed. It’s been a while.
A quick tidy and brush up, another load of washing and we were ready.
Two giggling 52 year old teenagers walked down the side of the boat. I knew exactly who they were.
Charlotte and Rachael two of my old school friends from York. Charlotte is a teacher and lives in Bristol and Rachael runs a plant nursery near Malvern. These two ladies were Goths back in the 80’s. They wore black head to toe and had spiky hair, where as I wore all red and occasionally crimped my hair.
They had a good look round Oleanna and met Tilly, although she’d rather have gone out! Then we headed to Wetherspoons for some lunch and a drink. There was lots to catch up on, poor Mick coped very well.
I last saw Charlotte at my 40.5 birthday party. We used to keep in touch until we moved onto the boat, then Charlotte moved house several times around Bristol and we lost touch. I luckily found her on Whatsap a couple of weeks ago. Rachael on the other hand I hadn’t seen since we left school. She went off to train as a Stage Manager, performed in a circus act and lived on a coach in Sheffield for a while. She then worked at Askam Bryan, an agricultural college near York, and now designs gardens for people.
Several life times have passed, we caught up on gossip of friends all across the globe. It was a very lovely afternoon with them. We hope to all meet up again when we reach Birmingham at the beginning of next year.
There was still enough daylight to go for a walk and help wear off the lunchtime drinking. So Mick and I decided to walk round the harbour to see what else there was to see.
By the 1760’s Bristol had become such a popular port for cargo ships it was struggling to accommodate all the ships. In 1765 the idea of a floating none tidal harbour was put forward by engineer John Smeaton. But no progress was made until 1790 and by 1802 William Jessop was engaged to come up a scheme. He put together various ideas from earlier proposals.
The River Avon was dammed at Rownham and at the bottom of Totterdown Hill, near Temple Meads, impounding all the water of the Avon and Frome between these points. A weir at Netham controlled the level of the Harbour water, channelling water along a Feeder Canal and allowing excess to spill back into the tidal river Avon. A half tide basin was constructed with locks to the river and the harbour.
We walked down to the River Avon past Junction Lock, Cumberland Basin (the half tide basin) to Entrance Lock which takes vessels down onto the tidal river.
Standing between the lock and the weir we could look down the valley towards the River Severn, Clifton Suspension Bridge sitting high above everything. Lines of coloured houses brightened up the greying skies.
A pool under the Plimsole Swing Bridge was playing host to teams playing Canoe Polo, highly energetic and wet.
At Underfall Yard there is a museum where models demonstrate how the level of the floating harbour is kept constant and how they scour out the silt that collects. Notice boards around the harbour warn you of days and times that this process takes place.
Plenty of boats are moored up, some with all the services and other with little other than a ladder to gain access to your boat. Past the Harbour Masters building and along the south side of the harbour.
A clock tower on a 1920’s building glowed in the late sunshine against the bright blue sky. Down the side of the building at the end of an alleyway an alarm box had been put to artistic purpose.
Banksy in 2014 painted his version of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earing. This is called the Girl with a Pierced Ear. The spatters and dribbles make this piece, we did wonder if the central heating flue had been added after the girl was painted or before.
Signs of the Bristol Old Vic Scenic Workshop and Aardman Animation. Theatre and Wallace and Gromit close neighbours.
We’d considered visiting the SS Great Britain, now it was too late in the day and the £17 entrance fee put us off. Instead we looked at the stern through the fence for free, not quite the same as going round, but considerably cheaper!
From here railway lines criss and cross what was the docks.
Four electric cranes still stand at the waters edge, the only remainers of the 40 that had existed in the 1950s. What a different place this would have been 70 years ago. No museums cafes and bars then.
We crossed back over to the north bank on Prince Street Bridge then over Peros Bridge and towards Millenium Square. Here cascading water sculptures reminded us of Sheffield station.
The biggest mirror ball gave me opportunities to take our photos before we looked at the electric generating tree. Below this you can charge your phone whilst enjoying the aroma of the rosemary bushes as a statue of Cary Grant watches you. Millenium Parade brought us back to the boat for some play time with Tilly.
The cruiser that had been moored near us had left, so we decided to give the other boat left on the moorings a bit more space. We pushed over to the next pontoon, which was one of the wobbliest I’ve ever tried walking on, more like a fairground ride than somewhere safe to tie up to. The wind blew Oleanna away as I clung onto the centre line, Mick waiting for me to pass it back to tie us up. I stayed put trying to keep my balance until we were tied up, reducing the number of sides I could fall off to one.
0 locks, 0 miles, 2 old friends, 2 much to catch up on, 3 burgers, 1 quinoa salad, 1 portion of halloumi fries, 1 Punk IPA, 1 Swift 1, 1 wine, 1 coffee, 5 mile walk, 4 cranes, £17!! 1 tide out, 1 more day without friends, 1 boat almost blown away, 40ft of wobbliest wobblyness.
Before we set off I rinsed down the gunnel, today looked like the weather would be good, so if there happened to be a suitable mooring in Bath then I’d be one step ahead. Tilly got fresh litter and we emptied the yellow water, then we were ready to cruise. Straight across the aqueduct.
Out from the shade of the trees and into the bight sunshine. It’s a shame that the walls on the aqueduct are so high as it restricts your view down the valley. A few photographers were milling about, was there a steam train due?
We turned right and continued on our way towards Bath. The views across the valley stunning with bright blue sky, that cyclist yesterday had been right, it is the best bit. At Millbrook Swingbridge there is a little hut where you can buy jams, eggs, apples and tomatoes. We don’t eat that much jam so I refrained from any purchase, but I’ll see what’s available on the way back.
A hire boat had just come through Bathampton Swing Bridge and closed it behind them, we could see there was another following it. Their crew got off and cross to open the bridge so we waited to see if we’d be waved through, we were and continued on our way.
The canal starts now to become more urban, but in a very stony way. More and more Bath stone. We paused at Bathampton Bridge to dispose of rubbish, discovering there was glass recycling here meant another trip to the boat. Then we were on our way again.
By 11:45 we approached the first stretch of 48hr moorings. There were a couple of gaps so we chose the one nearest the city. We pulled in then checked our surroundings. A wall bordered the towpath, over it a 25ft drop to the railway. Tilly would have no difficulty getting onto the wall, but we felt that the buddleia bushes would tempt her to climb them. If she fell, there would be noway she’d be able to climb back up. Health and Safety verdict, NO shore leave today, we’d see what places were like further on.
Tilly being locked in meant we’d be able to go out exploring instead. A walk down the canal had us walk through two short tunnels each reminiscent in shape of the Macclesfield Canal bridges. Beckford Road and Cleveland House Tunnels, each has a head carved on them. A lady and man trying to look at each other round a slight bend and through a couple of footbridges. The next stretch of towpath is under major work. The bank is being reinforced with armco, back filled , then the raised towpath will be improved with a 6ft wide path.
We walked down the locks, several hire boats negotiating their way with the help of some volunteers and one lock was having a fresh coat of paint. A group had made themselves comfy on the grass by a lock, with chairs and an ice cream each.
Where was the chilled medication? It was in a hut a little further on, so we treated our selves to a salted caramel each which we enjoyed on our walk to the river.
Bath Weir is only as Bath could make it, curved steps with the water flowing over in ordered lines. Above the lock a trip boat takes you up to Bathampton, we watched as one of them winded in what space there was between the wall and weir, good job there wasn’t much fresh on the river today.
Meandering around the streets we came across the New Theatre Royal, I’ve not been but my shows have. Street signs painted or carved into the walls worn with time. A chap sat in a doorway asked if we were from Canada, Ontario in particular. Mick stopped to chat, I walked on, both of us seeing an opportunist wanting a hefty tip. He soon realised he wouldn’t be getting anything from two Brits who live on a boat.
We walked up through the Georgian Garden and onto Georgian Avenue, then on up to The Royal Crescent. I was last here in 1975 at the age of 8.
I remembered the crescent, the uniformity and going into a house that was laid out how it would have been in Georgian times. The only thing is I’d remembered it being at the other end of the crescent from where it is today.
What a gorgeous day to take the view in. Neither of us felt the need to pay to go round No 1, we just walked from one end to the other. Each terraced house almost identical. One had a cream door, one a pale yellow door, another scaffolding (which spoilt the curve somewhat) and another had a very bushy beard. If this is the only sight seeing we get to do in Bath that is fine.
I don’t need to relive the chicken in a basket and my Dad getting covered in pigeon poo.
Sydney Gardens gave us a break from the traffic at standstill around the city. Ornate bridges stretching across the railway brought us back to the boat. We were back in time for me to do a bit more prepping on the gunnels, but after yesterdays exertions with the starboard side my body rebelled, preferring to sit down instead.
0 locks, 2 swing bridges, 4.44 miles, 25ft to sure death, 0 shore leave, 2nd space available, 5 miles walked, 1 tub, 1 cone, 30 terraced houses, 1kg porridge, 1 brick house, 1 git gap pulled back into and removed, 4 turkey schnitzels , 1 too many, 4 aching limbs, 1 blue ikea bag packed, 7 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
There is a footpath that takes you below the aqueduct, giving you a good view of it.
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.
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.
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.
Mick was up and off early this morning to catch numerous trains north. Tilly and I stayed in bed for a while longer, until the local ducks decided to clean the water line of Oleanna for us!
A work day for me. After breakfast I walked up the towpath to Sainsburys for a top up shop to keep us going to get to Bath. Mick wouldn’t be back until late so the biggest decision was what to eat tonight. I returned with some sad gits salmon which I’d have with some pasta, but I managed to forget to get some milk.
As I worked through a few alterations on my Houdini model several hire boats were returned to the hire base opposite. A very smelly black smoking narrowboat was reversed back to the pump out then all went quiet. The day was grey and occasionally drizzly, Tilly wound herself up into a circle on her day bed and slept away all the morning and quite a chunk of the afternoon leaving me in peace.
I woke my sour dough starter up, giving it a feed so that I could make some pizza dough for tomorrow. Finished off some sausages in a butty and made a 1:8.5 version of the water torture cabinet for Houdini. This is so that I can put my mobile phone inside it to represent a TV screen, so that we can try out an effect before the real one gets built.
All the hire bases had sent out the next batch of boats and they all seemed to be arriving at the lock here at the same time. The Americans we’d encountered at Foxhangers slowly approached taking ten minutes to pass us and then breasted up with the boat infront of us. At one time it looked like two of their crew, who were trying to hold their boat against the other, were about to do the splits and end up in the cut. Someone came to their aid and ropes were used instead of humans.
Stumpy was coping fairly well after it’s knock the other day. It’s amazing how much you rest your hand on your little finger as you draw and paint things. Once I’d completed building the cabinet I decided to give my fingers a rest and go out for an explore.
I walked down the canal past the lock where at 5pm three volunteers were trying to sort out the masses of hire boats still arriving. Two breasted up on the services mooring and two on the lock landing with two just leaving the lock below. I think the volunteers were hoping to make their exit, but were checking if everyone was alright before doing so.
A wiggle around various buildings to get back onto the towpath. Shh! don’t tell Tilly, but down here would have been very good for her. No road, a park not of the car variety, trees, walls, and a 14th Century Tithe Barn to explore. Because I’d left it so late the Tithe Barn which was part of Barton Grange Farm was all locked up, but from out side it is quite a building, possibly the largest and finest example of a medieval barn in England.
I walked across the park, checked both ways on the railway line and headed up an alleyway, Barton Orchard an old packhorse way which ran from the farm to Bath. Here there are weavers dwellings with workrooms at the top, No 3 was the clothiers house and below the road you can hear Ladywell spring. In the 17th Century Bradford on Avon had it’s most successful period in the textile industry, many of the properties date from this time.
All made from Bath stone, Jurassic Limestone there is not a single brick in view. Houses were built up the steep hill with narrow alleyways connecting each level. Each big house doing it’s best to better the last.
During the Industrial Revolution the textile workers moved to purpose built mills by the river where they harnessed the power from water and steam to power the looms. Thirty mills prospered along the river until the 19th Century when the centre of the English woolen industry moved to Yorkshire. The last mill here closed in 1905.
I had a wander around, alleyways appealing would lead me to another road and more stone buildings. Very dark clouds had been hanging over the town since I left Oleanna and finally they decided to dump their rain. A dash into a Co-op for the milk I’d forgotten got me out of the worst of it.
There was plenty more to explore, but my model was calling me in from the rain. Back at the lock two boats had just gone down and another two hire boats were arriving above, crew looking a touch like rabbits in headlights, their first lock.
I toyed with helping, but didn’t want to get any wetter and I still had more work to do. The last two boats came by at around 7pm, the last one pulling up on the services mooring, leaving the lock till morning.
Mick came home after I’d enjoyed my salmon and pasta, I finally finished painting my giant model cabinet just before 10pm. A good days work and exploring whilst Mick spent hours on trains.
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 loaf of bread, 1 forgotten 2 pints milk, 5 cables not 6, 1 new proscenium, 1:8.5 cabinet, 1 feline assistant checking things over, 14 hire boats, 2 splits, 1 bruised stumpy, 6 trains, 1 sad gits salmon steak, 1 very bored cat, 1 box of paints, 3 head but bites, 1 tithe barn, 1 wealthy town, 0 bricks.
We started off with just fleeces on, but progressed to waterproof jackets followed by trousers. Today was one of those damp days where if you don’t look it sneaks up on you and really soaks you. Luckily we looked.
Mick took the rubbish for a walk down the towpath to the services in the pub car park. He omitted to inform me of a chilled medication emporium there, it did look closed as we passed.
The Long Pound clings to it’s contour through the countryside. Some of the time we had what might have been views on a sunny day. But today with low drizzly cloud the views were somewhat faded. Pickled Hill still stood out, one of the Wiltshire mounds that surrounded us, along with a glimpse of Alton Barnes White Horse on Milk Hill. This is one of eight white horses in Wiltshire and was cut in 1812. Hopefully on our way back the weather will be better.
As we approached Wilcot Wide, Mick said that this was the K&A equivalent to Tixall Wide. But it left us wanting, no views and posts to stop you from winding. A few boats were moored here with their back ends sticking out in the search for deeper water.
Then Lady’s Bridge designed by John Rennie in 1808 to placate the land owner who really didn’t want the canal passing through their land. It is very fancy with balustrading and decorated panels of swags and wiggly bits.
Honey Street then appeared out of the drizzle. We wondered where the hire company normally keep all their widebeam boats. All were out today. There was space outside The Barge Inn to moor, but it was too soon to stop for the day, our aim was to cover as much of the long pound as possible, so on we went.
Another couple of miles to All Cannings. The moorings had one space which looked a touch short for us, but we tried. We’d have just fitted if we’d been rude and nudged a short boat along off the last ring. But Oleanna’s bow was overlapping the boat in front who’s resident woofer acknowledged our presence with a woof, then he stuck his head out past a curtain to check on us. To him we were doing no harm, but to us the space was just that bit too short, even on a canal renowned for lack of moorings. So we pushed off again and I made us a cuppa and lunch to have on the go.
I’d just brought everything up onto deck as Mick slowed us down for a swing bridge. The bolt holding the bridge needed a windlass to loosen it, so all our lunch had to be moved to gain access to the locker beneath and a windlass.
Maybe today Mick has finally mastered Tick Over, not one complaint, just friendly waves from the dark interiors of boats as we passed. As you approach any road bridge lines of boats are tide up on long lines through the reeds to the banks. We’ve noticed a lot boats using their centre lines as well as bow and stern, this may feel like you are more secure (three ropes instead of two) but it has the effect of rocking your boat more as others pass.
Another swing bridge and we soon arrived at Horton Bridge where there is a water point and 24hr moorings below a pub. We’d had enough by now and were quite happy to leave the last few miles towards Devizes until tomorrow.
Quite a different outside they’d tied up today. A steep hill with some friendly cover then at the top of it, well… What a great place, lots to climb on, slide down, good high viewing platforms. I liked it lots. But the best bit was what Tom called a Dutch Barge all the way from Dutch outside. This boat had a very wide cat walk, I could quite happily have a relaxed snooze on one of those. Then it also had a solid pram cover. Fantastic views from the top of it and plenty of space inside to watch the outside go by. Tom wasn’t too pleased with me having a good look round, they say I’m not allowed on other peoples boats as the other people might decide to move the outside taking me with them. I’d be quite happy if that happened on one of these. Tom said if I can find the money then they would consider one, so I’m going to start hunting for money instead of friends.
0 locks, 9.55 miles, 2 swing bridges, 5 friendly waves, 3rd mooring lucky, 2 damp boaters, 1 soggy horse, 0 Tixall, 1 stove lit, 1/8.5 water torture cabinet drawn, 1 phone about to drown, 1 cat with aspirations of grandeur.
Our Thames licence ran out today so we had to take one of three options. Seriously get a move on and catch the tide at Teddington (18 hours cruising so not possible), wind and head back up stream to Oxford to hop onto the canal there (10 hours, so possible) or carry on down stream and hang a right at Reading (3 hours, the preferred option).
We pushed off at 9am the sky and river bright blue behind us.
Ahead I managed to get pictures of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.
Each one unique, the one currently for sale the plainest.
Have to say I’d quite like one with towers and balconies, but the road and railway would still put me off. The fifth one along (Three) is really quite shy, the trees in front of it giving it good solid cover from the river.
At Whitchurch Lock we descended on our own a narrowboat arriving just a touch too late to join us. I bobbed below to get some alterations done to my model as we cruised towards Mapledurham Lock.
A hotel wide beam was coming up in the lock and we joined the queue to go down, the lock being on self service meant it filled slowly. In front of us was a rather beautiful Humber Keel, Daybreak. We’d passed them at Wallingford on Sunday, moored up with their mast upright and plenty of bunting about the place. Today her mast was horizontal with a long red ribbon dangling to the water.
Mapledurham being just over 200 ft long meant we’d fit in the lock behind them. They may be wide, 15ft 6″ but only 61ft 6″ long. So once she was in the lock we followed, being joined by the narrowboat that had been following us. There were three crew on board Daybreak so one chap operated the lock as the chap at the helm adjusted the stern rope and kicked the tiller arm and throttle.
It was with relief once the lock was empty to see a boat arrive wanting to come up, nobody would have to stay behind to close up.
Caversham Lock is that bit shorter. Would we fit with Daybreak? The lovely lady volunteer came to ask how long we were, ‘Sorry’ the lock’s only 110ft long, ten foot too short for the both of us. There were only a couple of feet spare width wise, the crew holding very fat fenders to keep the pristine paintwork away from the lock gates.
They gently nudged their way in, tiller a touch that way, then corrected, then the other way.
The same procedure was repeated as they exited the lock, fenders moved along to where they were needed most as they inched their way out. Once the boat was clear there were high fives from the crew, no touching up required!
Some fresh supplies were needed, but the last big enough space at Tescos was just being taken by a narrowboat, they kindly offered for us to breast up to them. A quick shop and some lunch before we both wanted to be on our way. Their shop and lunch were a touch quicker than ours, but as they headed off the moorings were empty, so we just pulled along to let them out. By the time we’d finished our break the moorings were filling up again.
Not far until we turned right. New water again. Under the numerous bridges and along to Blake’s Lock, our last EA lock for a while. A match stick lock which works in the opposite direction to those I’d worked further up the Thames. It was full with the top paddles open! No poles to help open and close the other gate, so we opted to only open one, there was plenty of room.
We could have pulled in on the Jail Loop but wanted to get a touch further if we could today.
Ahead signs welcomed us to The Kennet and Avon Canal, back on C&RT water, along with telling us of a boat traffic light ahead. We’ve seen pictures and heard of this and at last we were here.
Mick brought us in towards the button, just like those on a pedestrian crossing. I wondered if it would light up the WAIT, but we got a green straight away. A newish shopping and restaurant complex surrounded us, one tightish bend but the rest of the controlled length of canal seemed far wider than a lot of places we’ve been. Were the lights put in when the new complex was built? Was the cut narrowed? Well it’s actually a length of river, so the levels and flow can vary, so one way traffic stops the possibility of coming across a boat that can’t stop coming down with the flow.
Plenty of people to say hello to, the schools in the area can’t have gone back today.
We soon arrived at County Lock, all of 1ft of it. All four top paddles were open, were we following a serial paddle leaver?
Now we were back onto the River Kennet, heading upstream. The houses totally different to those on the Thames. Here we’d need about four back gardens to have enough length to moor Oleanna, their width about 15ft wide, the houses the same.
One rowdy woofer came and woofed at us. Stupid thing! Maybe it thinks it’s managed to see us off, works every time, so just keeps on woofing at boats. A bit further along there was another woofer who’d been fitted with a lion silencing device. It worked very well.
Fobney Lock 105, a touch different from County Lock with it’s 8ft 7″ drop and much longer. Luckily we’d just passed a couple of hire boats so the lock was more or less in our favour. We roped up using the centre line and Mick loitered towards the back of the lock. On each new canal you wonder what will be different. Here we only had gate paddles, would the water go down the side of the lock, or diagonally to hold the boat into the side. Luckily it was the latter. We rose up and then looked for a mooring.
Past the line of boats there was still armco, we pulled in. Now where did I put that nappy pin?
Four years ago we’d intended to come this way, not having managed it on our first year afloat. But things kept making us head northwards, new boat builders to chose, then boat builders to meet, the end of a finger to be lost, if only we’d headed south instead of up the Trent!
6 locks, 12.46 miles, 1 right, 1 big bummed boat, 2ft 5″ to spare, 0 wine bought, 1 licence expiring, 1 button to press, 1 lion silencer, 2 windlasses, 2 nappy pins, 0 river bank to pounce from.