Whilst I’ve been away working life of course has continued on Oleanna. Last week Mick had a couple of trips to London. His first excursion was to Ealing, where he grew up. He said it was so that he could go to Morrisons for some peanut butter (their’s is made purely from peanuts and is our favourite) but he also had a look round. The ABC (Old Empire) has been demolished, the front facade left in place, now covered for protection whilst a new development is going on behind. Here there is planned to be 200 new homes an eight screen cinema, shops and restaurants. link
He also had a trip over to east London to pick up our post, returning with three shoe boxes. Once the contents were removed Tilly tried the slipper box out for size. Quite a nice fit, I am reserving judgement though until I’ve tried the other two out.
Last weekend Mick headed up to Liverpool for a night to celebrate John’s (his brother-in-law) 70th birthday.
There were drinks over looking the Mersey from Panoramic 34 followed by a meal at Radison Blu Hotel.
Then a trip on the Mersey Ferry which was followed by drinks at The Philharmonic where Mick would have taken photos of the toilets but they were in use.
Then an evening at The Philharmonic Hall where the choir numbering 150 were accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra playing British Classics, Britten, Vaughan Williams and some Elgar. A very good evening was had by all.
In the morning there was a tour of the Williamson Tunnels. Joseph Williamson was an eccentric, who in the early 19th Century refused to give money to the poor but instead employed them to dig holes and tunnels for no known purpose. The tunnels had been filled in with Victorian rubbish which volunteers have cleared out and cleaned up. The extent of the tunnels is unknown.
On Monday morning the level of the Oxford Canal had dropped since I’d returned home, the small weir by Isis Lock not overflowing as much, perhaps levels were starting to lower. But by Tuesday the water was on it’s way back up. Mick headed down to Isis Lock to fill with water and do some washing, there is a tap there for the permanent moorers and sitting in the lock you can access it, lets face it nobody would be coming up off the river! The sixth brick below the lock was showing.
On Thursday morning the levels were looking a touch higher, the canal overflowing the lock gates into the river too. Oleanna was rising on the canal and with the amount of rain over the last few days Mick preferred to stay on Oleanna for the evening rather than heading out to Chippy for Press Night. Being on board, should the levels rise anymore he’d be able to do something about it. There was already a plan to nudge up to the hire boats opposite should the mill stream top the towpath. Being tied up to them would mean Oleanna wouldn’t be able to end up sitting on the towpath.
Mick had a chat with a fellow from the Environment Agency, the level of the canal was caused by run off in Oxford and not from the river. So the canal should start to lower once the rain stopped. The river would need quite a lot more water to come over the towpath as the whole of Port Meadow was currently being filled with water, a useful flood plain.
During the day someone opened the paddles at both ends of Isis Lock to help drain off the excess as the weirs couldn’t keep up with the amount of water. So when Mick came to meet me at midnight he had a windlass in hand to lower a paddle.
Two weeks ago there had been a blue boat moored near Isis Lock on the canal, the following day it had disappeared. A walk over Osney Bridge to get one of our bikes serviced and Mick found the boat. Somehow they had got down the river, were facing upstream and had just managed to tie to the end of the railings there. Maybe they’d headed that way backwards as the flow along East Street at the moment is very strong. I’m so so glad Mick made the move when he did to get off the Thames.
1 lock gone into but not descended, 1 reverse, 2 moorings close together, 1 trip to Liverpool, 2 trips to London, 1 ferry, 0 panto, 1 cat not that impressed, 6 bricks, 2 paddles up, 1 big step up, £91 bike service.
On Sunday Mick helped me with all my things to Avoncliff Station.
I had quite a lot and a quick change at Westbury Station so he decided to come with me that far to help get me onto the next train. After another change I got a taxi to Admirals Hard where I caught the Cremyll Ferry across to the Rame Peninsula. Only an eight minute crossing but just long enough for those of us sat outside to get sprayed by the waves.
Lou was there to pick me up, we dropped my work things off at the workshop where Ade was busy and then she gave me a lift down to the village of Kingsand. With keys to my flat I made myself comfortable, stocked up on some things to eat and drink from the shop, possibly getting ripped off and then went for an explore. This was likely to be the only time I’d get in daylight to look round.
Kingsand and Cawsand are twin villages in Cornwall, however until 1844 Kingsand was in Devon and Cawsand Cornwall. A house still marks the boundary, about 100 ft away from my flat.
Several small beaches link the houses together, all very characterful, smugglers hiding in the corner of your eye. Narrow roads with no parking make for a tranquil place, well until the tide comes in! It did however feel as though nobody actually lives there, it’s just for the tourists now.
My flat was about as long as Oleanna but wider. Have to say that our bathroom layout is better designed despite being half the size. Everything was very comfortable, but the kitchen lacked a few basics that would have made cooking a touch more flavoursome.
Monday morning I was picked up from outside one of the pubs and was at work for 8.30. First thing was to lay out the back drop. Normally this would have been stretched on a frame, but as my design needed me to be able to draw lots of circles we laid it out on the floor. By 10am I’d primed the cloth and gained a couple of blisters in the process. Ade and Lou’s workshop has been having a new roof fitted, the central ridge still needed replacing and in parts it was open to the sky. So as the day progressed and the weather outside became damp, buckets were deployed around the place.
By the end of the day just about every bit of set that was ready had been primed and my backdrop was marked out. A pencil and string being my compass, I could have done with Frank’s trammel heads (ends of a compass that you can attach to a length of wood), but I managed in the end.
Tuesday and I started to lay blocks of colour onto the backdrop. Three shades of blue paint, a straight edge and a steady hand were needed. Occasionally a helping paw would appear, Bo and Shine two collies spend their days over seeing what happens in the workshop and hoping to be able to gain access to the bins from next door.
The workshop is next door to CornishPod, winner of the World Pasty Championship in 2016. The smells wafting through from them were too much for me, on Monday I’d put in an order for a couple of gluten free pasties. Fresh and warm I enjoyed one for my lunch, keeping the second one for Wednesday. The day was wet again, water flooded in through a hole that had been made for new electrics, a blocked drain was found and sorted by the landlord.
Wednesday thankfully a dry day but water had seeped under the wooden floor where my cloth was pinned out , it had crept up between the sheets and was creating quite a stain. In parts the cloth was wetter than when I’d first painted it. Action was taken and we relaid it on sheets of plastic, a fan heater deployed to drive off the worst of the moisture and I concentrated on painting the portals. The roofers were back in for the day, covering up sections of the ridge.
Each morning I woke to wonderful sunrises, some from Tellytubbies,
others more moody and grown up. Not a bad view to have from your bedroom window. The local sea swimmers would all walk down for their morning dip shortly after dawn. They’d bob away in the swell as the tide came in, Kingsand only seems to have high tide!
Thursday was the start of the next storm. We hoped the worst would miss us. The team grew by two, Ade’s nephew Frank and a scenic artist Debs. Debs had come to paint another set they have been building for The Drum in Plymouth. Nothing quite so time consuming as my backdrop and portals, just lots of washes and rust. Lu and Frank lent a hand where needed, basing things in for me and painting black for Debs. As the day progressed the winds got stronger and stronger, necessitating brushing more bits of decaying roof off my backdrop.
By the time I got back to my flat the tide was being aided by the wind. On other evenings towards high tide the waves had been making it onto the road outside my front door, but the direction of the wind having changed and the tides not being so high the waves just crashed against my bedroom wall instead. Their bumping giving the sofa a slight nudge. I hoped I’d be able to get some sleep, but thankfully things calmed down and I managed to get some shut eye.
Friday, Debs and I were left to it in the workshop, the others on apple duty back at the house. Ade and Lou have around 250 apple trees from which they press apple juice. This years crop has been plentiful, so whilst painting brushes were working hard at the workshop, Lou and Frank picked up the latest windfalls and Ade worked his way through the first of 40 crates of apples.
By the end of the day the other set was finished and Panto had a completed backdrop and two portals. Plenty more for me to do, but at least the main aim of the week was completed. I celebrated by having a halloumi and roasted pepper pasty for lunch, very tasty it was too.
Saturday my last day. A quick tidy up of the flat before I got a lift up to the workshop to see what I could achieve before heading home. I made a good start on two large flats, but I’d hoped to get them almost completed but the paint just wasn’t drying quickly enough. There was also the matter of packing paint and mixing colours so Lou can carry on basing things in,hopefully saving me hours of work.
The last job was to mix a huge vat of grey. I hate mixing grey, you think you’ve nearly reached the right shade, just a bit more black, a bit more, a bit more, maybe just a touch more. Damn! Now a bit more white!!
The other set was loaded onto a wagon. The pieces I’d finished were stacked away and the backdrop was hung to help it continue drying. The water stain is fading but I doubt it will go completely.
Back in my civvies it was time to head for the train. A lift down to the ferry which was just coming in, then an awaiting cab to the station. I had 4 minutes to get to the right platform, my luggage a touch lighter as my brushes will go to Chipping Norton with the set. Two trains and I arrived back in Bradford on Avon where Mick was there to meet me.
A hard weeks work in the company of the lovely Lou and Ade in such a wonderful setting. It’s just a shame I never really got to see the village at low tide in day light.
Meanwhile back on Oleanna.
Mick and Tilly have not been idle. On Sunday afternoon Mick moved the boat a little towards Bradford joining the local boats. On Monday he took the toilet to bits. We have a Separett Villa, the urine gets separated into a tank under the floor from which we can pump it out into another container for disposal. Gradually when rinsing through the system I have noticed it taking longer and longer for the water to drain to the tank, so I’d raised a chitty with the maintenance department.
It was quite sometime ago that Finesse showed us how everything had gone together but Mick managed quite easily to remove the toilet and then the floor above the tank. From the separator one pipe leads to another which then does two 90 degree turns to enter the underfloor tank. Here was where the blockage was gradually getting worse and when Mick poured vinegar into the top it stayed put, the pipe finally having blocked.
With some drain unblocking cabley thing and more vinegar he eventually managed to shift the blockage. No need to cross our legs, we can go to the loo again. But maybe we need to add more vinegar to the bottle we spray the separator with, or even add it neat every now and again, or maybe we should just drink it so that the pipe doesn’t block again.
On Tuesday morning I made a request that Tom should move the outside. This outside was okay, but another would be better, so he moved it to a Mrs Tilly stamp award winning mooring, Dundas. Here I busied myself outside, returning to check on Tom only to find he’d lost his legs! I found them for him down in the big box at the back of Oleanna. It was quite soggy down there so Tom was trying to get rid of all the Aunty freeze that had leaked there a month or so ago. He was very careful to keep me away from this Aunty, apparently it can be deadly to cats.
Thursday they filled with water winded and headed back towards Avoncliff. All the sink U bends and shower traps were given a good clean and then on Friday they moved up to Bradford and managed to get a spot on the 48hr moorings below the lock. Here was good, plenty to keep me occupied, but then Tom decided to nudge the outside a touch. This touch to the outside meant there were far more woofers, in fact a constant stream of them. It really wasn’t worth stepping off the boat!
0 locks, 7.24 miles by boat, 5 different moorings, 1 calcified lump added to the yellow water tank, 10 litres anti-freeze, 2 winds, 5 trains, 2 taxis, 2 ferries, 13 lifts, 2 pretty villages, 0 beach to be seen, 6m plus high tide, £51!!! 2nd shop at the co-op, 1 flat almost on the beach, 1 thumping sea, 4 bottles wine, 1 bottle oil and some garlic required, 58 hours, 1 fat knee, 1 pastie powered painter, 1 back cloth, 2 portals complete, 1 well used straight edge, 2 woofer assistants, 1 slightly blue ball, all three crew back on board, 1 purring cat.
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.
Walcot Visitor Moorings to Sydney Wharf Bridge 188
The moorings in Bath are either 24hrs or 48hrs, very little space to moor for 14 days anywhere other than down on the river. We needed another couple of days, so our current mooring wouldn’t cover us, we needed to move. Yesterday we’d walked down the locks and didn’t really want to start on them today, they’d take too long. So after breakfast we chanced moving to the 48hr moorings just before them that had been filled with hirers.
At least one boat had come past us, we just hoped that they hadn’t been early risers and ascended the locks this morning. In front of the first of the two short tunnels was a pair of C&RT workboats, breasted up. From where we were it looked like the two widebeams were taking up all the width of the cut, but a chap walked towards us and waved us through. He was waiting for a delivery of stone for the towpath works ahead. Lucky we weren’t a widebeam and managed to squeeze past.
First glance at the moorings wasn’t hopeful, even the water point was occupied. But then as we neared there was one space and it was long enough, Phew!
With model and sketch book in my bag we walked down towards the station, pausing at M&S to get a sandwich. I then waved Mick goodbye and climbed on a train to Newport, South Wales. I had glimpses of the river on the way to Bristol and then the train dipped down into a tunnel to cross the River Severn.
I had a wait at Newport station as I’d caught an earlier train than planned, but it gave me time to look at the curvy station before Dan arrived. Dan is the writer and actor for A Regular Little Houdini and today we’d arranged a production meeting with Fez the videographer. Sadly Josh the director couldn’t join us today as his shooting schedule for Emmerdale is all out the window since a young actor was sacked.
Dan arrived in his old camper van and he identified me by my blue Ikea bag containing the model. Three hours were spent discussing the show in depth. We maybe could have saved an hour of this if Fez had read the script before the meeting. There were long discussions regarding the water torture cabinet and my large model proved to be most useful.
Dan had planned on doing a reading of the play for us, but Fez had another meeting. So until he was free again Dan and I headed down to the River Usk and Newport Transporter Bridge where a large portion of the play is based.
I’ve spent days trying to fathom out just what parts of the bridge look like and now I was able to see first hand. £1.50 one way or £2 return, the camper van could go for free, but we decided to leave it behind, leaving the bridge uncluttered. We handed over our coins like excited kids.
With the blue skies around us, wrought iron benches down each side and the control pergola it felt like we were at the seaside. I took so many photos, now able to see how the structure held together.
Four large hinges on the stone bases anchor the legs. High above us a large dolly slides back and forth above the Usk with the platform that we stood on suspended by cables below. These are held firm by big blue doughnuts a detail I’ll use in the model.
The two chaps on the bridge were very chatty and after our return journey one of them offered to take photos from the pergola for me. From there he could get better detail of the structure and he also took a few of inside the control room.
What a wonderful elegant bridge, 113 years old. One of only six still operational world wide.
The tide had gone out leaving the mud banks below very visible. The valleys eroded by the receding water needed photos taking and the old wharves rotten and broken with the obligatory shopping trolley were fascinating. Plenty of material for me to use.
We caught up with Fez at the university and Dan did a reading for us. I liked the play when I first read it and now with Dan’s voice and an authentic Newport accent it’s even better.
It had been a long day, but very worth while, especially to be able to go on the bridge.
Meanwhile back in Bath. Tilly had some shore leave, the railway is further away from the canal now and Mick managed to force the freezer drawer open. Since we defrosted it months ago, something had happened which meant the drawer had stuck, but with some persuasion using the mallet he got it moving again. Just a shame the drawer is still not coming out all the way, I really want my freezer back working before winter arrives.
0 locks, 0.5 miles, 2 trains, 1 camper, 3 hour meeting, 1 pear and beetroot salad, 1 flying bridge, 4 legs, 1 pin to hold it steady, 2 minutes there, 2 minutes back, 50 minutes each half, 1 very good play, 1 more in the pipe line, 2 adjustments, 1 freezer openable, 4 hours shore leave, 40 ft of mud, 1 happy writer/actor, 1 very good day.
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.