Category Archives: Narrowboat Life

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.

Across The Top. 10th September

Crofton Top Lock to Pewsey Wharf

The view across the top

The Lockie arrived to unlock the top lock as we were making ready to push off this morning. C&RT say that the locks will be opened by 10am, this morning the chap informed us that they were all open and it was 9am. The pumping station pound was full and he’d wondered why nobody was moored there.

Warp factor twelve, dilithium crystals working hard

We didn’t want to hang around, we were moored in a winding hole after all. The summit pound stretches about 2 miles, mostly along a cutting which dips under the surface at Bruce Tunnel, named after the land owner Thomas Brudenell-Bruce.

Burbage Wharf

He insisted on it being built, not wanting a cutting across his land. Whilst in the tunnel the railway line crosses from one side of the canal to the other and trees now separate the two, their roots almost acting as a wall.

First of many many downhill locks to come

Now we were on to down hill locks. As we finished lowering to the next level the crew from the first uphill boat arrived meaning I could leave the gates for them.

Pretty house

As the second lock emptied there was time to admire the large house next to it along with it’s wheelie bins!

Swapping locks

At Brimslade Lock another boat approached, the lady on her bike said she’d call the boats behind to let them know we were coming, so as not to drain the lock when they’d finished. The message got through and the gates were waiting wide open for us.

Walking down to Wooton Rivers Lock I passed a chap painting his cabin side, the boat had all the signs of a coal boat, but no sign writing. When I reached the lock and was about to call Mick in case we wanted anything I noticed that he was stopping anyway, pulling alongside them.

Coal boat, soon to be burgandy and blue

Karen and Ed have had the boat for a year. When they bought it it was called William, they’ve been trading under that name until recently. Bored of hearing about the previous owners they want to make the boat theirs, hence the repaint and it will soon be sign written with it’s new name Frederick, after their Pug . Ed topped our diesel tank up, cheaper than we’d paid on the Thames. They were still waiting for their coal delivery so we held off buying supplies, maybe on the way back from Bristol.

The lock had been sat waiting for us for a while and a chap on a bike suggested we should leave the bottom gates for him. I imagined he was waiting below, but no we passed him about a mile away only just getting ready to push out. A wide beam hire boat beat him to the lock anyway, so the badly leaking top gates would stop emptying the pound above.

The bow still to be painted

Soon we passed NB White Swan, the boat of an Instagram acquaintance. Frankie has recently repainted her gunnels, we were going to have a competition as to who’s were the best. So far she is winning as I’ve not started on ours, good job she was out at work. We waved anyway to Ghost and Shadow her two cats most probably having their morning snoozes.

Quite a collection to clear for low bridges

So far all had been friendly. But then the atmosphere changed. A line of moored boats ahead, Mick slowed to tick over. The first boat had a genny running inside with the back doors closed. I was a touch worried for anyone inside and was about to shout out to check they were alive and had not gassed themselves when swearing came from inside. Followed by stomping, then expletives and suggesting we should ‘F**g SLOW DOWN!’ His boat was moving due to slack ropes. Mick took umberance and suggested he should tighten his ropes. A lady had just got off her boat nearby with a face like thunder (possibly her natural demeanour). Mick asked her opinion, ‘That’s too fast for Tick Over’ was her reply. Sorry but it is our tick over.

From here on wards it felt like word had been passed along. Our smiles nods and waves either being ignored or reluctantly returned. They’re a friendly bunch along here!

This is now what is known as The Long Pound. At just over 15 miles it is quite long. We pushed on to Pewsey ahead of our schedule and slotted into the last space on the visitor moorings. Five hours for Tilly and lunch at a reasonable time for us.

Pretty

After lunch I gave the grabrail and stern deck rust patches a first coat of primer, hoping that Tilly was otherwise engaged for long enough for it to dry. Then as I was in job mode I found my linen thread. Ran a couple of lengths through a candle to give it a layer of wax and mended where some of the stitching had come loose on the cratch. Not the prettiest of stitching but it’s hard to be dainty when using pliers to pull your needle through several layers of canvas and zip. That’s one job off the to do list.

4 locks all downhill, 6.17 miles, 2 shoes still sopping wet, 501 yards of tunnel, 1 way traffic, 74 litres diesel, 1 bag kindling, 1 telling off, 1st coat primer, 2 zips mended, 1 friend rescued, 2 boaters who can’t get their heads round when and where we will be where and when!

Avoiding The Lock In. 9th September

Froxfield Bottom Lock to Crofton Top Lock

Starting to head up in the rain

On the forecast last night it looked like we’d have a dry day, the rain passing further north, but as we had breakfast it started. Not torrential rain, just steady drizzle with the odd dry patch and the odd heavy patch. Our schedule meant we couldn’t sit still for the day, we can’t get behind, getting ahead would be good.

As we started to work our way uphill a slight hint of phone signal alerted us that there was some news from home. News we’d been expecting to hear, news that either arrives early in the morning or when signal is poor. At each lock we’d both check our phones, no reception, no internet.

Lock 67

Then as we reached Little Bedwin Lock 67 a glimmer of internet brought a facebook message confirming the news. An old friend of ours in York had passed away this morning, Mickle had had a stroke a few months ago and had been recovering from it, but last week his health had taken a nose dive, it was only a matter of time. This morning had been that time.

A nice name

Lock 67 on the K&A will now be the lock where we heard the news. A lock or two higher up, Mick managed to make contact with York.

A new stern rope

We paused at Bedwyn Wharf to empty the yellow water, dispose of rubbish, fill up the water tank and clean out Tilly’s pooh box. If they let me out more often the I wouldn’t need a box! On we went only four more locks to our chosen mooring for the day.

Plenty of people to faff

By now my feet were soaked from walking through the long grass at locks. A few boats came towards us, a wide beam from the Bruces Trust faffed on leaving the lock ahead of us, the last of the day. We could hear shouts of ‘Don’t tie up!’ to which we followed with just get on your bloomin boat!

Does anybody know what these things are?
They were on a couple of the bridges

As they eventually passed us the chap at the helm said the next pound was quite low, this was where we were wanting to moor for the day. Different peoples lows mean different things, so we’d wait to see for ourselves.

Banks of mud on the off side weren’t a good sign. The pound was at least 18 inches down if not two foot. The 48hr moorings were empty for a very good reason, you couldn’t get to them!

That does look a touch low

Sadly I missed the photo opportunity of the day. As Mick churned up the bottom of the pound, Crofton Pumping Station was in the background, a GWR train sped round the curved track above the cut. A perfect composition but sadly my camera was tucked away keeping dry!

Here’s the pumping station
Here’s Oleanna, just a shame the train went too quickly

This stretch up to the summit has certain locks that are locked overnight to help conserve water. Where we’d planned to moor today was between two stretches that come 3pm would be locked. There were another six locks ahead of us to get to the end of the next stretch that would be locked at 3pm, an hour and a quarter away. A rule of thumb suggests a lock takes quarter of an hour as does a mile. With just over a mile and six locks that equated to an hour and three quarters, would we get locked in?! The C&RT stoppages list was checked again, could we moor at the top on the summit, because we certainly wouldn’t make it over the top by 3!

Starting to list as they passed

Up ahead we could see a boat coming down. Normally we’d leave the gates open for them at the lock we were vacating, but with the bottom gates leaking like a sieve I decided to close the top gates, hoping that would save more water in the long run. They’d been hoping to moor in the pound also. As our two boats passed in the middle both leaned over, only just enough water to keep them both afloat.

It was now a long time since breakfast and lunch was overdue, no choice but to keep going to the top.

Piggy

Each of these locks is to be left empty, a sign low down on the flight suggested that they have no bywash, so water coming down hill will fill the lock, once this is full it will then flood the area around it, so leaving the bottom paddles up means the water drains into the next pound and carries on down the flight. This was good for us in one respect, the locks (apart from one) were set in our favour. But with both bottom gates open it meant I would have to walk round to close the off side gates.

The one thing I don’t like about the K&A locks is their top gates. They have a styrup to help you climb onto the gate to cross over. But these still leave you a very big step up which is too big for my legs. Why they don’t have a little angled metal step will be down to history, but it’s bloomin annoying! I adopted sitting on the beam and hauling myself up, but my knees don’t like this either. Mick ended up climbing ladders, both of us in serious need of food by now, but time was slipping away.

A chain and padlock waiting to be used

We were making good time, but no way would we make it to the top before 3pm, lock up time. Mick suggested mooring on one of the lock landings, but I wanted to get to the top and if needs be moor on that lock landing. On we carried reaching the penultimate lock at 3pm, no sign of a blue clad person locking the gates bang on 3.

The top lock

There was no chain on the top gates when we got in the final lock. In fact Mick had just pulled out from the lock and was pulling in to moor when a C&RT chap cycled up to the lock. I lifted the bottom paddles and the chap stood and waggled the gates until they settled in a more sealed way, letting as little water through as possible. I said we’d not been able to moor lower down, to which he was surprised that the pumping station pound was low again.

Gates locked, we’d made it

3:25. Raining again, we didn’t care that we were mooring in a winding hole, there wouldn’t be much passing traffic as the lock both ends of the summit were now locked. Fat fenders kept us away from the overhang and Tilly headed off for an explore. Kettle on, time for lunch.

We rounded the day off with a roast chicken and raising a glass of wine (should have been cider) to Mickle.

15 locks, 6 more than planned, 5.16 miles, 1 new rope, 1 Legend, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 0 rubbish, 1 summit reached, 4pm lunch, 2 hours, 2 pooped boaters, 2 swimming pool shoes, 2 soaked legs, 2 wrinkled feet, 1 alarm set for the morning.

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.