Category Archives: Kennet and Avon Canal

Terraced Houses, Bath Style. 18th September

Dundas Aqueduct to Walcot Visitor Moorings

Sun

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.

Dundas 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?

Fresh Produce for sale

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.

An interesting 1hr mooring not long enough for a very long boat

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.

Cat Health and Safety
says NO

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.

Cleveland House Tunnel

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.

Relaxing by the locks

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.

That’s much better

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

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.

I’ve not been inside, maybe one day
Bricks!!!

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.

The Royal Crescent

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.

My Dad’s photo of somewhere in Bath
My photo

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.

Yellow door
Green beard

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.

Chicken in a basket, now those were the days!

I don’t need to relive the chicken in a basket and my Dad getting covered in pigeon poo.

Over the railway

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.

Same holiday, in Wells. A rare photo of the Leckenby’s all together. Andrew, Me with Fincks on my knee, Mum and Dad.

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.

The S L O W Boat To Dundas. 17th September

Bradford Lock to Dundas Aqueduct

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.

Busy above the lock this morning

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.

Sculpture hanging from a tree

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.

Rotting away in the cut

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.

Look there’s Pete

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.

The railway and Avoncliff Station
A nice looking pub, they do Gluten free fish and chips in cider batter.

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.

Crossing Avoncliff Aqueduct

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.

Going into reverse to achieve their speed

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.

Could this be our chance?

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!

A funny little boat with a great view

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.

Bye bye Sally Boat

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

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.

The narrow entrance to 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.

4 inches long, an Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar (we think)

There is a footpath that takes you below the aqueduct, giving you a good view of it.

The north side, not quite so pretty

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.

Quite fancy up there

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.

W Warren 1815 Bridge graffiti

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.

Not A Brick In Sight. 16th September

Bradford on Avon

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.

Tilly checking things through and giving me notes on my model

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.

My phone built into a large scale model

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.

They’d soon be doing the splits

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.

Busy at the lock, another two were waiting further back

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.

Tithe Barn

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.

Trains
Bradford on Avon Station

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.

Teasel House

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.

Work rooms at the top

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.

Whats up there?
or down there?

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.

Very posh

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.

Catholic Church

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.

The Shambles

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.

Is he on the phone?

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.

Just In The Nick Of Time. 15th September

Semington Aquaduct to Bradford Lock

Sunbathing

The music stopped at a reasonable hour last night, no need to walk up the towpath and ask politely so we got a good nights sleep. We were ready to push off a little after 9am hoping that we’d manage to get a mooring at either Bradford upon Avon or Avoncliff today.

Boats

The water was busy, predominantly hire boats, we’ve now started to see boats from hire bases further west and quite a few day boats about the place too. The going was slow, so many moored boats, would it be like this now all the way to Bath and beyond?

Colourful
Invisible
Hamster puffed out cheeks

One swing bridge kept me occupied for a short while, than it was back to looking at all the boats. Big fat ones, little tiny ones, some with the world piled on their roof, other their world piled on the towpath.

Cheap

At Hilperton we noted the diesel price as it is the lowest we’ve seen for some time, we’ll be stopping to top up there on the way back.

Not an appealing mooring

A stretch of 2 day moorings had new signs but nobody was moored there, maybe because it’s not deep enough! Gravel visibly shallowing the water in places.

Something’s wrong, where are all the moored boats?

Coming into Bradford we were following a widebeam. They were obviously looking for a mooring and had tried one place with no luck, so were reversing back towards us to try another spot. With someone on the bank to try to pull them in they flung ropes ashore. We passed as they were seeing if their gang plank would reach up the steep bank. Looking back after a few minutes they obviously hadn’t got far enough into the side and were now following us.

Does anyone know what these posts are for? Not a visitors mooring.

Fingers crossed for a 48hr mooring we rounded the bend towards Bradford Lock. A space, quick! We pulled in, not getting quite to the edge. It looked like there might be another gap a few boats ahead so I walked up to pace it out to see if we’d fit. Yes! We moved along and slotted in, the space we’d just left very soon filled by a hire boat.

Bradford Lock

A quick cat health and safety check of the area discovered a car park just behind the trees next to our mooring. That was instantly a no, sorry Tilly. The area was so busy with numerous people out enjoying the warm sunny weather there was no chance Tilly would like it anyway. A wide beam at the pumpout were wondering where to moor, they’d seen our space and had been hoping for it, instead they would have to most probably clamber through undergrowth and up a bank further out of town. It appeared that if we’d been five minutes later we’d not have got a space.

This is what nightmares are made of

A tidy up and a sweep through followed by showers, we were expecting visitors. Anne (one of my sister-out-laws) and Alasdair arrived for a cuppa and a chat. They were down from Scotland on a spot of baby sitting and we just so happen to have coincided with them being in the area. We then hopped in their car and were whisked away to Corsham where Sam and Duncan (Mick’s nephew) live with their children Tilly and Thomas. They used to live nearer Devizes and we’d hoped to have some child slave labour to help at the locks, but we’d managed okay without.

Mick, Anne, Sam, Alasdaire, Duncan

We arrived before bedtime so had chance to spend a little time with Tilly and Thomas, doing magic painting and being slightly disturbed by a baby doll that moves it’s lips, limbs and eyes, freaky! Then we had a very pleasant evening chatting away and enjoyed a very yummy fish and squash curry pie that Duncan had made. They may come and visit us on our way back if the timing is suitable.

Yum

0 locks, 4.97 miles, 1 swing bridge, 1 bruised stumpy, 1 clean boat, 1 bored Tilly, 1 sister-out-law, 2 little people, 2 not so little people, 100, 1,000,000, 1 freaky doll, 1 rainbow, 1 yummy fish pie.

Carrying On Down. 14th September

Lower Foxhangers Lock to Semington Aquaduct

No day off today, onwards and more locks and swing bridges.

The hire base woke up early. Holiday makers returning the boats and emptying their possessions back into their cars. I wonder how many of them got hooked like we did to end up moving aboard? The staff started to shunt the boats round so that they’d all face Bath and the cleaners moved in getting everything spic and span for today’s holiday makers.

Being followed

Once the way ahead was clear we pushed off and rounded the bend. A hire boat was moored up a little further on and the American chap out the back enquired if we were doing 4mph. ‘No we’re in tick over because we’re passing moored boats.’ Yesterday he’d been more interested in the position of the centre rope than listening to the instructions he was being given having just picked the boat up. A short distance on and we could see we were being followed, was it that hire boat and would I be giving locking lessons today?

Scott’s Wharf Bridge

We paused for water at Scotts Wharf Bridge. As the tank filled I walked to the campsite next door to see if their shop had Saturday newspapers. The cupboard that was the shop and office had some papers on the desk. I enquired if they were the only ones they had. To which the lady became overly protective about them ‘They’ve been ordered for people!’, almost snatching them away. No problem there the top paper would have no news in it anyway!

Swing bridge held together with a ratchet strap
one of those stirrups

Swing Bridges again followed by the five Seend Locks. We were following what turned out to be a couple of boats and passed several coming up. There seemed to be an equal mix of hireboaters and owners, at least I didn’t have to clamber over top gates again.

Plenty of crew to work the bridge

We arrived at a swing bridge just after a day boat had pulled in on the other side, nobody seemed to be interested in opening the bridge so I hopped off, unlocked it and pushed it open. All the passengers were alighting the day boat each with a drink in their hands, one chap came over to help, suggesting I should jump back on. I enquired if they were coming through, already knowing what the answer was, no he’d shut up. How helpful of him!

No intention of moving from the bridge landing

Shifting their boat off the landing would have been far more helpful! Mick informed the Captain (identified by his hat) that they shouldn’t moor there, they were in the way. But nobody took any notice.

Keep right

Approaching Semington Top Lock there is an aquaduct over the A350, here a traffic island splits the canal in two. Two boats were just vacating the lock one being NB Dover.

Concrete blocks and broken away bricks

We worked our way down the top lock. Here the walls below the lock have been bulging and only one boat can enter or leave the lock at one time. We encountered several of these today, but this one must have had it really bad. The walls had their bricks removed and large concrete blocks had been revealed. Was this the solution? If so the numerous notices on the lock gates were no longer needed. There is still quite a bit of work to do no matter.

Oleanna entered Semington Bottom Lock, the last for today, and I started to lift a bottom paddle. This was a low geared one, so I stood winding and winding it up. I’m not sure what happened but my windlass came off the spindle. No spinning through the air luckily, but my hands continued in the direction they expected to be going in bringing the handle of my windlass down with force onto my right hand against the lock beam. To be precise it came down on the end of my shortened little finger, stumpy.

We won’t go that way then

This to say the least HURT! Expletives, tears as the stumpy end of my little finger shouted out for all to hear. Mick however thought I was just turning away from the low geared paddle, making a joke of it. I could wiggle the last joint on my finger so as far as I could tell nothing was broken, but then when I lost the end of my finger I could wiggle stumpy. After several deep breaths I wound the paddles up to their full extent emptying the lock.

The visitor moorings were full, but luckily the bank was reasonable and we managed to pull in and moor up. Tilly was allowed out for five hours.

Another sunny day

Stumpy continued to hurt. No sanding back the primer for another coat, no starting bits of model, no knitting, no nothing, just listening to cricket, the loud music from a boat up the way and taking pain killers. I changed the computer mouse to be left handed and pottered on the laptop for a while then managed to cook dinner whilst Oleanna kept listing due to a ledge! Hopefully by morning things will have improved and the music will have stopped! Fingers, what I have left of them, crossed.

7 locks, 4.41 miles, 5 swing bridges, 0 newspaper, 1 full water tank, 1 annoying day boat, 1 traffic island, 1 blocked off canal, 1 slip, 0.75 of bruised little finger, 5 repetitions of Hotel California, 313-8.

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.