Category Archives: Cats

Fueled by Ginger Buns. 13th September

Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock to Lower Foxhangers Lock

The secret gate

The locks were being unlocked as we had breakfast. We’d no intention of being the first down the flight, but got ourselves ready should another narrowboat arrive that we could share with. According to Frankie volunteers would be about today, so we waited for signs of them. I soon realised I’d made a mistake whilst getting dressed this morning and changed from a C&RT blue to Environment Agency Blue t shirt.

Beautiful morning for it

A chap from the cruiser walked down to set the top lock for them, they were wide so no sharing with them. Where are our friends on days like this, Bridget and Storm, Clare and Graeme, Alison and Laura, Aileen and Mike! It looked like we’d be making the big descent on our own. Oh well.

Pete lending a hand

Mick walked down as there were signs of Volunteers, three on duty this morning. There were two wide beams who’d already been offered assistance, but they’d do what they could for us too. If one of them set the lock ahead after the cruiser had gone through that would be just fine. The cruiser headed down and by the time we’d rolled back the covers they were a couple of locks ahead of us.

NB Wishbone heading upwards

Oleanna was sat in the sun, but the top few locks were very much in the shade as I filled the top chamber for us. The off side gates on the top lock are very close to the fence, the bottom one so tight I couldn’t squeeze past, so I did an undignified scramble along the floor only to be shown up by a volunteer using a secret gate in the fence!

Nearly out of the shade

The volunteers had split up, Lez went down with the cruiser. Mike/Mick went down to help with a narrowboat coming up the flight and Pete came to help us down. The lock below would fill as we entered the lock above and we made steady progress down the flight.

What a view

There are 29 locks in all at Caen Hill, yesterday we did the first 6, today we’d complete them. The next 16 locks are designated as a scheduled monument. If you’ve ever seen photos of a flight of locks it’s likely to have been Caen Hill one of the seven wonders of the waterways.

Taken from C&RT website

The pounds in between each lock aren’t very long but stretch out to the side. None of them have bywashes, so if the pound fills enough water flows over the top of the upper gates and fills the lock. Once that is full the water backs up and the top couple of pounds can flood the surrounding area, the C&RT workshop being one of them.

Out in the sun

The flight was John Rennie’s solution to climb the steep hill and it was the last section of the 87 mile canal to be opened in 1810. The last commercial cargo was transported up the flight in 1948 and the flight was the last stretch to be restored in 1990. The lock gates are all metal and the paddle gear varies from being low geared to clunking stiffness.

Tilly watching as we dropped down the flight

After three locks we waited for the narrowboat coming up so that we could swap chambers. This was NB Wishbone that we’d last seen in Abingdon a few weeks ago. There was time to chat to Alistair and his wife as their lock finished filling. Hope the rest of your cruise back up the Oxford is a good one.

Next!

Pete and I carried on downhill, a hired wide beam gradually coming uphill to meet us with plenty of crew. The pound between us was a touch low so we held back and let them ascend.

Mick with Mike/Mick

The rest of the flight was ours, straight down gradually catching up with Les and the cruiser who had inexperienced crew on board. Mick/Mike came and joined us locking down hill making a very efficient team.

Les joining the team

With a couple of locks left in the flight we offered ginger buns around but there were no takers, oh well more for us.

Here’s one with the chaps. Thank you!

The chaps suggested I walk ahead to the next lock after the flight so that I could get THE photo of Oleanna at the bottom. Apparently nobody takes the photo with the volunteers in, so I took two one with and one without. Thank you all, you made the flight easy.

THE photo

The cruiser had pulled over for a well earned break, managing to plonk themselves slap bang in the middle of the available space, they did offer to nudge up should we want to stop too!

Refueling for the next seven on our own

With encouragement from the Lockies we decided to continue on down the next 7 locks to Foxhangers. The general consensus was that the cruiser would hold us up and there was still plenty of energy left in our tanks. A ginger bun and a swig or two of water at the next lock would keep us going.

Further down the flight

The next seven locks are further apart so I resisted setting the one ahead, most were in our favour anyway, just needing a touch of topping up. We passed one widebeam coming uphill on their fortnightly move.

Yet another lock
Yet more gates to push

The 48hr mooring at the bottom of the locks had enough space for us so we pulled in opposite the Foxhangers Hire fleet, all their engines running, charging the batteries for the days hirers. Tilly was allowed out and the oven lit ready to bake well deserved sausage rolls.

A picture just for Steve

They were tasty but my pastry is far better than shop bought.

Waiting for the last lock to fill
Down the final lock

We’d entered Lock 44 at 9:39am and exited Lock 22 at 1pm.

What! The chicken and cheese treats have run out!

The afternoon was spent with the cricket on. Several boats came down the locks and a few headed up. I prepared a paint order for Puss in Boots and Tilly explored the old railway bridge just by our mooring. Just about all the hire boats headed out, one stayed put for the night and two returned back to base a night early. I think we will sleep well tonight.

Lower Foxhangers Lock 22

23 locks, 1.52 miles, 4 miles walked, 2nd down, 3 volunteers, 3 boats passed, 4 hrs 21 minutes, 188ft 10”, 2 ginger buns, 12 sausage rolls, 8 hire boats out, 1 paint order, 1 test match looking up, 1 pooped cat.

Flight Preparation. 12th September

Horton Bridge to Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock 44

Mondrian inspired

We allowed ourselves tea in bed this morning as we’d not got far to go. Tilly’s Dutch Barge on closer inspection this morning was a touch rusty and in need of some TLC, but maybe she prefers boats worn in and a touch more organic than shiney.

As we had breakfast we ran the washing machine, then topped up the tank from the tap that was within hose distance, a second load ready to go in. Pushing off a little before 11am we had a few more miles to tick off before arriving at Devizes.

We’ll be waiting for a while

Through Brickham Bridge our path was blocked, a digger was passing fresh tarmac from a skip boat onto the towpath where a new path is being laid. We hovered and eventually someone spotted us. The skip boat was nudged around by the digger and when it came to rest in front of him we were waved through. The next stretch has also had posts and coir sausages added to protect the bank, behind is filled with chunky aggregate,presumably this will end up with a covering of earth and then grass.

Bank protection

Two and a half miles and we’d reached Devizes Wharf, here we pulled onto the 72 hr mooring, quite a bit of space available. A top up shopping trip was needed so we walked into town and found Sainsburys. Packs of three leeks thwarted my shopping list, I only wanted one! I’d spotted signs for the market so we headed that way.

Tools
Buttons

A covered market with something for everyone, a second hand tool shop for Mick and a crafty shop for me. Here I was reminded that I was in need of six buttons for the cardigan I’ve been knitting. Nothing suitable at the market, but a shop nearer the wharf came up trumps.

You can’t keep the boy away from pies!
Nice market square

Through the other side we came out to the Market Place which was filled with stalls today. In days long gone such markets would be full of fruit and veg stalls, some flowers, hardware and a big pants stall. Now you have to hunt through the designer clocks(!) and Vape stalls. When you do get a veg stall they tend to be selling bowls of things, admittedly cheaply, but half of the contents would go off before we got to use them. One stall had leeks, ‘3 for a Pound’. I only wanted one, ’50p then’.

The home of 6X

If we had more time it would be nice to have a good wander around Devizes, but our schedule has to be kept to as we’ve now Mickle’s funeral to add into the mix. Back at the boat we had lunch and decided to get the first six locks done today, rather than adding them to the sixteen locks minimum tomorrow. Mick did a recky on his bike to check on mooring before we committed to them, there was space.

Tardis

Pushing off we passed a short boat with a great back door, luckily Tilly didn’t notice the cat flap in it. A lady on another boat asked if we used to moor at Fradley, no but we did moor next to them about six weeks ago on the River Wey.

Top of the Caen Hill Locks

We knew we were following the trip boat from the wharf, but a hire boat had been coming up, so we hoped that not all the locks would be against us. The top one needed topping up, but then most needed filling on our way down.

Low top gates

The top gates are different, low with an angled section before the horizontal that you can walk across. My legs don’t feel long enough so luckily there are footbridges at the bottoms of each lock to walk round. The bottom gate paddles are geared. At first it seemed that those on the port side were a touch stiffer to work but your arm didn’t have to become a windmill to lift and close them. By the fourth lock I wanted to check my theory.

Half way down the six

The bridge across the lock however was a road bridge and quite a walk round. Below I could see that the trip boat was coming back up, crew at the lock below. But they were all taking their time so we filled Manifold Lock, by the time the back gates were closed a crew member had come up to set the lock so she got what I thought would be the geared paddle. She had quite a bit of difficulty lifting it, but got there on the end, my theory out of the window.

Waiting for the lock to fill

Mick exited the lock as the trip boat headed towards him across the pound. He had to make his presence felt by bipping the horn, twice. The gates were pushed back open for us.

Last pound before the main flight

An hour and twenty minutes later we were pulling up in the pound above the main flight, a cruiser with a German Shepherd who didn’t like cats. A quick look round and I could see a C&RT quadbike at the next lock. There are signs further up asking to keep dogs on leads because of the quadbikes. This along with a pack of dogs in a garden meant Tilly would be staying in for the rest of the day.

So not fare!

As I broke the news to Tilly, I could hear Mick chatting away outside to someone who at first I thought was American. Then the penny dropped as Mick called me to the stern, not American but Italian! I knew who this was before I’d even seen her. Frankie from NB White Swan.

Frankie on her quadbike coming up the flight

Frankie is currently a seasonal relief Lock Keeper on the Devizes flight. She was working the late shift today, 4pm till lock up time at 8pm and had spotted us coming down the locks on her way into work. When she got to the top of the flight on her quad bike she came to say hello. Think she’d been hoping we’d be going down today. It was great to actually meet her to talk to, rather than the wave we got last winter when she passed us on the South Oxford.

Tomorrows work

I’d been hoping to get a touch of work done today, but it was a touch too late and there were far more important things to do. Have a look at the flight from the top and Baking! Ginger buns to eat on our way down the flight for extra energy and sausage rolls as a reward when we reach the bottom.

Fuel for tomorrow

6 locks, 3.42 miles, 1 new towpath, 1 box wine, 2 pints milk, 1 pack gf pastry, 6 gf sausages, 6 blue shell buttons, 1 pork pie, 1 trip boat, 6 locks out of the way, 4 low geared paddles, 1 fat cruiser, 3 swans, 1 Frankie, 1 quad bike, 0 shore leave, 1 bored mardy cat, 10 sticky ginger buns, 16 sausage rolls, 1 near mistaken identity, 2 boaters ready for the morning.

The Long Damp Pound. 11th September

Pewsey Wharf to Horton Bridge 134

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.

EMPORIUM!!!!!

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.

Pickled Hill

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.

One of eight

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.

Lady’s Bridge fancier than your average accomodation bridges

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.

Pretty terraced garden

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.

Swing

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.

Is this a house or a giant spider waiting to pounce over the fence?

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.

Locking Partners. 8th September

Photos have been added to yesterdays post now that the internet is playing.

Vicarage Bridge to Froxfield Bottom Lock 70

Steamy

A beautiful steamy morning, as soon as I opened up the hatch the local ducks flocked over for the bread I was so obviously going to give them! Mick did have a slice of toast he was willing to feed these poor starving birds, so they were lucky.

Quick they’ve opened their hatch!

First boat past, THE Red boat as we were having breakfast. Strange we didn’t feel the urge to rush to join them at the first lock!

NB Sanity were just pulling off as we were about to start rolling back the covers, Mick said we’d be ten minutes behind them.

Beautiful morning

The sun had burnt away the steam and blue skies surrounded us, what a lovely morning to be cruising. The bottom gates on Brunsden Lock were just closing as we approached, we’d most probably not been seen. I hopped off and went to help, Charles and Karen would wait at the next lock for us.

First lock partners

Just as I was about to close the bottom gates behind Oleanna there was a boat approaching, so we waited, the crew were walking ahead. A hire boat with experienced crew who kindly offered to close up the lock and let us catch up.

NB Sanity was on the lock landing, the bottom gates were open, but nobody was to be seen. Charles and Karen had vanished! In fact they were above the lock trying to sort out a C&RT workboat that had come adrift blocking the canal. The front pin was still in but the stern was possibly hanging onto the end of the blue rope in the water. We know one boat had already been through this morning, had they just pushed past, had they reported it, or had they caused it?!

Oo, that’s going to be in the way

With a boat hook and mallet we managed to pull it back in, the spike was on the end of the rope and was well and truly bashed back into the ground. Charles reported it to C&RT, a van turned up as we were disappearing out of view.

Second Locking partner of the day

Another lock shared with NB Sanity and we both pulled in at Hungerford. A handy lowish hard edge was noted at the two day moorings, a possible good spot to do gunnels, the one day moorings opposite very over grown. We’d decided that as it was such a lovely day a barbecue was in order this evening, not a roast, so supplies were needed.

Hungerford

What a pretty place Hungerford is. I’ve been once twenty years ago to visit a company who imported fake plants. This was for the premiere production of House and Garden at the SJT. I seem to remember driving there and back in a day from Scarborough on my own in a hire car. No time to look around then.

Supplies were stowed and we were on our way again, leaving Charles and Karen behind. Up Hungerford lock, noting the hard low edge above the lock, another possible for gunnels. A swing bridge and then we were back out into the countryside. Hills and plenty of greenery made for a good view.

Hungerford Marsh Lock with swing bridge across the middle

Half a mile on was Hungerford Marsh Lock. Over the lock is a swing bridge, it’s high enough to get your boat in when coming uphill, but before starting to fill the lock it needs swinging out of the way. Once up and out the bridge was swung back into position and a paddle lifted to empty it. I could see a day boat following us in the distance, so left the lock how it should be, hoping they would follow suit.

Swung out of the way

Cobblers Lock, what a good name. Washing hung to dry on the fence outside the cottage which looks like it’s had a few problems staying vertical in the past.

Cobblers

Then on to Picketsfield Lock where there was a cruiser going up. The lady asked if she could share the next lock with us, trusting that we wouldn’t squash her new (to her) home. A hire boat came down telling tales of empty pounds nearer the summit yesterday, by the time we were ready to go up the lock we’d been joined by the hire boat again. It was the second time today that I told them another boat was waiting for us at the next lock.

Third and final locking partner of the day

Sure enough the lady was there hanging onto her cruiser and dog, Mick carefully slide Oleanna in next to her, we roped up and let the water in. The next pound though short was our chosen mooring for the day, there was enough space for us, phew! We pulled in and tucked up to a narrowboat leaving space should another boat arrive.

Freedom

This mooring meant I could get at the port side grab rail. A bubble of rust had appeared below the centre line cleat that needed dealing with before it encroached into the cabin side blue and a couple of other rusty spots have been pointed out to me by my good fellow. Scraper, sandpaper and Fertan at the ready  I worked my way along. Not three patches, but eight needed attention.

Stop it before it gets to the blue!

Loose paint was scraped away, each spot sanded back. Should I do the whole grabrail? Would I have enough paint? I doubted it. So I decided to mask off areas  around each spot, rub back the paint and then applied some Fertan. For now I’ll touch the spots up, some paint can be ordered to match what I was given at Finesse in February and then next spring I’ll repaint all the grab rails.

More rusty patches to sort

Several large spots of rust had also appeared on the stern deck, so these were prepared ready for Fertan after our barbecue. Mick had to pull himself away from the cricket to get the coals lit and when Tilly returned just as we were about to start cooking she was bundled inside, none of that staying out till midnight today!

TRAINS!

Our mooring was quiet, our neighbour had been off on his bike and returned as the bats started to swoop. Now when I say quiet I mean next to no footfall and between the GWR trains hurtling past only 80 foot away it was very peaceful. The Fertan was applied with the aid of a torch.

8 locks, 5.43 miles, 2 swing bridges, 3 lock partners, 1 chicken already out of date, 4 cobblets, 2 pork steaks, 4 veg kebabs, 0 internet, 0 phone, 4 hours shore leave, 1 curfew rigidly stuck to, 2 many patches of rust, 1 small urn retained by the Aussies.

THE Red Boat. 7th September

Photos now added.

Greenham Lock to Vicarage Bridge 76

Lighthouse in the midle of Newbury

Saturday, a newspaper to get and some fresh food, so after breakfast we walked back to Tescos and stocked up. With everything stowed we made ready to push off. An ABC hire boat came past with a large crew on board, Mick enquired as to if they were heading for the next lock, either the chap answering didn’t now or he didn’t understand the question, I think they were from Norway. Not much further on they pulled into a space, that answered our question.

An interesting looking place

We decided this morning that we’ll have a look round Newbury on our way back and get some miles ticked off towards Bristol today. Just as well as fairly soon after we’d pushed off I got confirmation of a production meeting and a run through of A Regular Little Houdini in Newport which would be timed with me being close to Bristol. Dan the actor/director gave me the thumbs up for my white card model, I just have to hear back from Josh (the director) now and see if there are any adjustments needed.

Cloughs just like on the Leeds Liverpool, didn’t notice them until we were up

Newbury Lock had eager Mums and sons ready to help with the gates and grey haired boys stood hoping they’d get chance with the top gates. Jenny Maxwell had been right the locks are now not so fierce, ground paddles not gate paddles.

West Mills Swing Bridge

A bit further along was West Mills Swing Bridge, the only one of the day. As I walked up a couple were crossing it, the lady saying ‘They must go under the bridge otherwise they’d be stranded!’ Such comments always make me smile. I pulled the key of power out of my pocket and slotted it into the keyhole, turned it clockwise, pressed the open button and waited. Barriers down, wedge removed then the bridge started slowly, very slowly, very very very slowly to turn. Blimey it felt like a whole life time before it had opened enough for Oleanna. By the time it had closed Mick most probably would have made it to Bristol without me!

Guyers Lock lay ahead, the stern of a boat visible on the lock landing below. Marvelous lock partners. I zoomed in with the camera, it was a red boat, would it be the red boat that late yesterday afternoon had given us a very big bump? The chap at the helm not apologising! It sure was.

Is it? It is!

Did we want to share the lock with them? We’d made a point of them hitting us yesterday, so they were bound to remember us as we did them. But there was nowhere for us to go without making an even bigger point by refusing to share the lock. So we pulled in alongside them, an atmosphere could be felt. Eventually the silence was broken and I chatted away with the chap working the lock and some civil words exchanged at the helm.

Once up the gates proved problematic to close. The chap from the red boat jumped onto his boat saying the gate was stuck, so he was just going to leave it! I then couldn’t close mine, but we certainly wouldn’t leave the gates for the next person to come along. Mick hopped off and we both pulled and tugged at each gate to get them out of the recesses. Eventually we got them moving and closed.

A34 Newbury Bypass Bridge

When we saw a chance to pull in before the next lock we decided on an early lunch, letting the red boat get ahead. We took our time and were just about ready when another boat came past. The next two locks were shared with the crew of NB Pippin who were out for the weekend, it being someones thirtieth birthday tomorrow. Much more conscientious locking partners than the red boat had been. But they stopped for lunch, possibly to let us get ahead!

There they are again

Above Dreweat’s Lock there was the red boat again. Technically not on the lock landing but between it and the lock. They had stopped for lunch with some friends and had a table and chairs out on the towpath. A third black mark, we won’t be sharing with them further up the way!

Who you looking at!

Across in a field two Roe Deer were chomping away at the lush green grass. They stayed for a while but eventually sought safety of a wood as we passed by.

What’s going on here?

Just below Kintbury Lock there was a widebeam pushing off. A dog walker suggested staying where we were as the boat would go right across the cut and then head onto it’s mooring on the off side. It pushed out then a rope was thrown to the bank where it was attached to a horse. They weren’t mooring up for the day, but just setting out, so we waited hopefully out of their way and waved at all the passengers.

Steering away
Horse

Up the last lock and ahead the moorings looked busy, but a boat (possibly NB Harold) pulled out leaving an Oleanna sized space which we very quickly filled. Cat Health and Safety Committee convened, the railway line was deemed to be too close to our mooring and no visible barrier so no shore leave today for Tilly. She did her very best to charm me into opening the doors, you try explaining to a serial killer why you are not letting them out!

Mick got chatting to the boat behind, Charles and Karen on NB Sanity At Last. They are also heading to Bristol and suggested pairing up to do Cain Hill. As we chatted away it sounds as though they take things a lot slower than us. We have a schedule to keep up to so no loitering for too long in one place. But we’ll see what happens.

Pleeeaase let me go out!!

Despite buying fresh supplies this morning we decided to eat out and headed across the bridge, up the hill into Kintbury to find The Blue Ball. The butchers looked interesting, apparently they do very good sausage rolls (not a patch on my GF ones) sadly they will be closed tomorrow but we may visit on our way back.

The Blue Ball only had a few options for me, the usual steak and gammon. I did consider trying out how gluten would now affect me as there was a Steak and Kidney Pudding on the menu. But I opted for the steak, I’ve had better but the chips were good. Mick had liver and bacon which was very nice indeed.

8 locks, 6.12 miles, 1 swing bridge, 0 held up, 1 set of stubborn gates, 1 red boat, 3 strikes, 1 much nicer boat, 1 horse, 2 deer, 2 plans for Christmas! 2 new boater friends, 1 steak, 1 liver and bacon, O shore leave, 2 horrid selfish boaters!

Sideways thumb for TV, due to loss of reception when ever a train passed.

Teaming Uphill. 6th September

Froudes Bridge to Greenham Lock

Black Cat

Todays goal was Thatcham, further if we could. As we had breakfast it rained, but only gently, not enough to be an excuse, so we pushed off at just gone 9am.

A serious digger

Ahead major works were happening. Two big diggers one each side of the canal, there was a very big hole on the towpath side and lots going on. The chaps halted what they were doing as we approached.

Then one digger gave a skip boat a great big shove, pushing it and a chap on board across the cut. A tug then biffed it over some more to where the other digger could claw it in towards the bank.

Caution

We’d passed a length of blue rope hanging down from a tree approaching the works, and just past them there was another with an A4 sheet attached warning boaters.

Swing Bridge
Lock and the river coming in from the left

We soon reached Woolhampton and heeded all the instructions in our guides and those from other boaters. Here there is a swing bridge, The Rowbarge (a nice pub, although too early to stop today), the river then comes in from the left just below Old Woolhampton Lock. The river can cause quite strong currents and the advice is not to stop between the swing bridge and lock. So heading upstream you should have the lock set in your favour and open, if heading down stream you shouldn’t leave the lock until the swing bridge is open.

Must remember the radios when heading down stream

The lock was empty, I opened the gate and walked back, the flow from the river hardly noticeable. Key of power and the bridge swung open, letting Mick through and only holding four up, bit disappointing really. The current was a touch stronger than it looked but Mick made into the lock fine and was sat waiting for me.

As we filled the lock a lady walked up the hill towards us, windlass in hand, boat down in between the bridge and the lock, good job the flow wasn’t stronger. They were in a narrowboat so we said we’d wait for them at the next lock, they were aiming for further than us today and sharing some locks would be good.

High tech lock

A swing bridge was next, this one with a lock on it. I think the manual one yesterday most probably had the same locking mechanism on it as I noticed the nut welded onto the bridge, the chain and shackle must have been out of sight. I left the bolt loose, so the boat following us wouldn’t need a windlass to loosen it and on we carried to Heales Lock which was empty and waiting.

Lock side art

NB Harold with Maddy and Simon soon arrived and we filled the lock. They were having a few days helping to move a friends boat back from summer cruising to it’s mooring further down the K&A. They quite often hire boats with friends and are planning on doing the Four Counties next year.

Time to put my feet up waiting for the last foot to fill

The lock took forever to fill the last foot and it took both Mick and myself on one gate to ease one side open to level things out. As we left another boat appeared below. The crew standing by their boat, it took them sometime to realise nobody was going to empty the lock for them.

A volunteer boat getting a new lick of paint

The locks are spaced out fairly evenly about a mile apart, enough to keep wondering if you could make a cuppa, but not far enough to drink one too. A couple more locks and we reached Thatcham. This is where our plan was to stop for the day, Maddy and Simon wanted to pause for lunch. Last night we’d checked for stoppages on the K&A and noticed that the 48hr moorings here were suspended. So on to the next lock.

Monkey Marsh Lock

Monkey Marsh Lock, is the other turf sided lock. This one was rebuilt in 1990 to it’s original form. Plenty more ladders and a railing to keep people from falling down the turf banks into the lock. Both boats came into the very long lock and we filled it up, all the time the level slowly rising. The ladders and walkways proved useful as Maddy had made a cuppa which could be passed over to her once the boats had risen far enough.

I hadn’t noticed the extra L

Our next aim was to reach Newbury two more swing bridges and another four locks further on. We’d stay to close up a lock whilst Maddy went on ahead to open a swing bridge or get picked up. Mick would stop Oleanna in the throat of the lock and help with gates then we both could step back on board. Simon preferred to pull over to a lock landing, sometimes Maddy would be there other times he’d miss it and plan to pick her up elsewhere. Plans are good things, but lets just say they didn’t always work out for Simon and NB Harold.

Nearly there

Below Ham Lock we were all in need of food and it was starting to rain. As NB Harold waited for the lock to empty, somehow their stern rope fell off the back and neatly wrapped itself around their prop. A nice tight rope going down into the water. No need to turn the engine off, it had stalled. Simon tried to pull the rope up, but no chance. The centre line was passed up and Harold was pulled to one side as Simon undid the weedhatch and investigated. The rope was wrapped around the prop at least six times. Mick had a routle on Oleanna and arrived with our incredible sharp rope knife. Only one thing for it, cut the rope off. With this done both boats were soon in the lock, although NB Harold seemed to have a touch of difficulty with reverse.

At Greenham Lock we waved Maddy and Simon goodbye as they headed to the boat yard to fill and empty as necessary and hopefully buy a new rope. We tagged onto the end of a line of moored boats. A late lunch well deserved, some shore leave for Tilly. A shopping trip was put on hold by a downpour mid afternoon, so we made do with a recipe I adapted from the internet for chicken and squash couscous, swapping couscous for quinoa and adding a few chilly flakes instead of harrisa paste. It was quite tasty.

Too much rain even for Tilly

The stove was lit and we cosily sat and watched the first episode of Scarborough the new BBC sitcom. It wasn’t the funniest thing on TV, but we got to see Scarborough at it’s sunny best. We wondered how many days they had to wait for the sun to set without sea fret for the final shot.

9 locks, 8 shared, 7.53 miles, 5 swing bridges, 4 held up, 2nd turf sided, 2 diggers, 1 very short stern rope, 1 renamed pub, 1 renamed salon, 3pm lunch, 1 down pour, 2 fingers crossed, 1 folder of model photos sent, 1 sunny Scarbados.

Jumpers And Fleeces. 5th September

Theale Swing Bridge to Froudes Bridge 29

Autumn is starting to show itself. This morning I considered knitting myself some fingerless gloves as it was chilly inside. Out side there was need for coats as well as jumpers to start the day.

Helpful sign

Do not open these gate paddles until the lock is half full. Newish blue signs on Sulhampstead Lock. Well if you followed these instructions you’d be waiting a lifetime as the only paddles to fill the lock are on the gate. At other locks the more sensible signs tell you to raise paddles with care, keeping an eye out for jets of water and turbulence.

That is a lot of water!

The water certainly rushes into these old turf sided locks. Not locks you want to drift forward in with your front doors open!

Manual swing bridge

A selection of bridges today. A totally manual one with no lock, the others operated with the key of power. I had varying success in holding vehicles up. First six cars, then only a bike at Ufton Swing Bridge.

Three boats through with one key of power

Here I spotted a boat coming the other way so we waved them through first, he said another boat was following, they appeared just as Mick brought Oleanna through so I kept it open for them, all the time a patient cyclist waited. Normally I’d have been concerned at waiting motorists, but here the road was closed. A police sign and a police car sat by the next railway bridge. Apparently this is where PC Andrew Harper was killed a couple of weeks ago.

A top up of water at Tyle Mill, back to slow taps

We rose up to Aldermaston. Here there are four hour moorings, or you can pay to stay overnight next to the hire base. This is where NB Waiouru was brought to be fitted out after Tom and Jan managed to get their boat out of the hands of their first builder. Today a couple of marquees filled the yard, making a suitable space to paint in, voices could be heard from within. Out on the water a very short boat was having work done, the size of it’s solar panel was almost bigger than itself.

Aldermaston Lift Bridge

I walked up to the lock to open a bottom gate and then back to Aldermaston Lift Bridge. Key of power turned, I waited for a gap in traffic then pressed the first button. This set sirens and flashing lights into operation. Then with the barriers down I pressed the lift bridge button. One press was all that was needed, up it went. Lines of traffic now building up in both directions. As soon as Oleanna was through I held the close button to finish the process.

Another crinkle cut lock

Now it’s all very well there being traffic lights to aid the traffic flow across such bridges, but it doesn’t half make it hard to count how many you’ve held up! Twenty two one way and ten or maybe more the other. Were the last few cars just arriving and managing to get through with the others? I did my best to count on the way to the lock.

Which one is correct?

Aldermaston Lock is 7ft 4 deep and the cill is visible when the lock is empty. But when full which is the correct marker on the side of the lock?

This is where our route planner had us stopping for the day. There was nowhere obvious to stop so we continued. The railway, which will be our shadow for sometime, came close and then drifted away, a low edge with a couple of boats moored and some space. We tried pulling in. I managed to hop off, but the back end wasn’t coming in. I hopped back on again, we’d carry on, so I took a comfort break and bobbed to the loo.

As it says

Outside I could hear a lady suggesting to Mick that it was a touch deeper by her boat the one in front. She was quite insistent that he tried again, she held the centre line as he brought Oleanna a few inches closer. We were mooring with our new neighbour. We chatted away, her lercher dog being watched all the time by Tilly from the window. A parting comment from the lady was that she’d named her boat after the book she wrote ‘The Black Cat’. Of course this was checked out and a familiar name popped onto the computer screen. Edgar Allen Poe, but also Jenny Maxwell. Jenny makes many comments on Facebook groups and is a member of Cats on the cut. She very sadly lost her cat Murphy earlier in the year, he was run over.

Our first gang plank mooring, it won’t be the last

Along the K&A there has been a spate of break ins. Jenny is putting together a campaign to help boaters deter such acts. If you are on the K&A and hear five short blasts from a boat horn, join in, hopefully others will join in too. If the button for your horn is outside airhorns are now available from chandlers along the canal, so you can have one by your bed. Houses in areas which have been targeted will have letters put through their doors to inform them and Jenny is hoping to get the police on board with it too.

Quite good trees

We settled down for an afternoon listening to the cricket, some model making for me and some climbing trees and friend finding for Tilly. She managed to stay out past curfew, but popped out from the friendly cover at just gone 7.

Three Dans

5 locks, 4.39 miles, 4 swing bridges, 1 lift bridge, 42 held up, 1 blocked elsan, 1 full water tank, 1 black cat, 5 hours, 3 Dans, 1 cyc, 10 sleepers.