Bradford upon Avon

September 24, 2008

Another long day, to get me to a train station so that I can get home ready for the off in the morning for a journey up to a Nottinghamshire power station.

We started off with another three boats and we somehow ended up in front with, I was going to say this old couple and the husband’s mother but this might be construed as ageist anyway they lasted three locks and needed to stop for coffee, how wise. We unfortunately couldn’t do this as I had a pressing engagement with a railway station.

We past through some interesting places which we have earmarked for our return journey. We are now moored up at Bradford upon Avon surrounded by new age hippies with dogs and I do mean a lot of dogs.

Bradford upon Avon looks like somewhere out of Europe, well from the distance. Close up, the town is in need of a bypass, the traffic builds up as the streets narrow across the Avon and the pavements all but disappear, this is only first impressions as I made my way to the train station.

I have used my senior rail card again and I am now back home panicking about whether I have the right equipment for tomorrow. Frances is back at the boat spending a first night alone.

Today we did 10.33 miles 8 locks 6 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
212.73 Miles, 148 Locks, 22 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 3 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Woman Over Board

September 23, 2008

Well to say today was strenuous would be to understate the reality of a long and tiring day. We got up early and did some work while waiting for a boat to come along with us by about 10 there was no sign of any one in either direction so we moved into the first lock and hoped that there would be someone waiting seven locks in at the summit of the Caen flight, there wasn’t so we had to progress on our own.

Caen Lock Flight

Caen Lock Flight

We took turns to either set the locks or steer the boat, as usual we both wanted to do the locks. To begin with it wasn’t too bad as the locks were all in our favour but as we descended, the locks were empty and had to be set twice for us to move through. We did meet three boats going the other way but it made no difference with the locks they were emptying in about the time it took us to go through one lock.
We eventually got to the bottom of the Caen flight.

Frances at the bottom of the flight, Yes!

Frances at the bottom of the flight, Yes!

We then had a further six locks to do and believe you me we were very pleased when we got to the last lock, we were suffering from serious lock fatigue, anyone who has done this will know what I mean. Not only were there plentiful of locks but the sluice gate mechanisms were stiff in need of oil, stubborn and cantankerous, or was that me? Some of the locks at the top of the flight were so leaky it required herculean strength to open them, good old Frances.

There are moorings after the last lock and that is where we decided to stay we were going no further. So while I was closing the lock gates Frances set off to moor up, unfortunately when I go there the boat had drifted a couple of metres from the bank. Now Frances as we all know is very good at a lot of things but I am afraid rope throwing is not one of them, the rope trajectory is invariably downwards. So she needed to skirt along the gunwales to retrieve the rope and unfortunately we had put up the fenders and she trod on one with the predictable consequence portrayed by the title. So yet again she was heaved unceremoniously by the seat of her pants out of the canal. This is the second time this year she has had to be retrieved in such a manner, any betting man would have put their money on it being me but no, touches head, I have not had that pleasure as yet.

Today we did 2.38 miles 29 locks 2 Swing Bridges and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:
202.4 Miles, 140 Locks, 16 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 3 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Devizes

September 22, 2008

Ok from now on we will wait until someone can share a lock with us. We had arranged the night before to go along with NB “Victoria Jane” and were we glad we did, not only did we have pleasant company along the way but also the locks just flew by and before we knew where we were we had finished with all of the locks for the day.

The bread was a big success so we will have to buy more of that flour. It sustained us throughout the day as we decided to push on to Devizes, it was the only way that I could get to a train station to get off to work on Wednesday.

It was a cinematic day today, we had a bit of African Queen and the Duel. First of all there are long stretches of the pound leading to Devices with overgrown reeds with very narrow channels just wide enough for a single narrow boat. We were Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn as we made our way through the undergrowth. I cannot post a picture today as the connection is oh so slow.

We had been following what appeared to be an erratic narrow boat when they decided to moor up, they said to Frances as we went past that they had had enough. Just ahead of them was a small day boat going at about half a snails pace, I am not exaggerating, I think that the bridge we were going under was travelling faster. As there was a swing bridge coming up Frances went ahead on foot and called out to the boat to let us past. No problem it pulled over and we went past. Picture if you will the large truck from Spielberg’s Duel: at every bend this little day boat would loom menacing as it advanced towards us. This went on for several miles but after the second swing bridge and a brief chat with the very civil lone women helmsman of the boat who had been told “to go very slowly past moored boats”, I realised that it had all been in my mind.

We are poised above the Caen locks, all 29 of them, ready for the descent in the morning.

Today we did 19.41 miles 10 locks 2 Swing Bridges and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:
202.4 Miles, 140 Locks, 16 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 3 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Crofton

September 21, 2008

Bit of a lazy boating day today, that was not our original intention as we were intending to go as far as Wooten Rivers. We started the day with a walk into Great Bedwyn for the morning papers, this quaint row of houses is just next to the canal bridge.

Thatched Cottages

Thatched Cottages

We stopped at Crofton for lunch and ended up doing a long circular walk through Wilton and on to this Windmill.

Windmill

Windmill

It is a fully working mill and we bought some flour for my bread making, I will make the morning loaf with it.

We returned to the canal and to the pumping station at Crafton. The chimney had been reduced in size in the fifties and unfortunately there was no longer enough draw to use the steam boilers which were then replaced with diesel. The chimney was rebuilt in 1970 and the steam engines returned to their former glory.

Crofton Steam Pump Chimney

Crofton Steam Pump Chimney

Steam boiler

Steam boiler

We returned to the boat and were just about to set off when a boat came up through the lock going in our direction. Unfortunately they were going no further today but they were going to Pewsey tomorrow, so we decided that we would wait until tomorrow and share the locks with them.

Today we did 1.97 miles 4 locks 0 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
182.99 Miles, 130 Locks, 14 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Great Bedwyn

September 20, 2008

This is just great, I can honestly say that we are loving it. We did some food shopping in Hungerford which is when I think about it appropriately named. We had breakfast at the Tutti Pole, where we should have been served according to our guide by a bevy of attentive and comely waitresses, excuse me but we had one gangly male and a waitress that was on the abundant side of comely but we had a very nice breakfast never the less.

The canal just gets better and better and the countryside around these parts is magical, I couldn’t resist taking a photo looking back from the boat and the camera does not do justice to the scene.

Kennet Canal

Kennet Canal

Although we did two swing bridges today one of them was in combination with a lock, we have never come across this before and I wonder if there are other examples around the country? Frances tells me we have and it was at Fenny Stratford, the reason that this escaped my mind was that the lock there only has a one foot drop.

Lock with Swing bridge

Lock with Swing bridge

We came across a water snake the other day, but today I had the camera at hand and was able to capture the creature swimming about as I came out of the lock.

Water snake

Water snake

People that look into narrow boats or watch boats going through locks are know as gongoozlers, not sure where the name comes from but I did come across this group of gongooselers

Gongooselers

Gongooselers

Today we did 4.73 miles 10 locks 2 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
181.02 Miles, 126 Locks, 14 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Hungerford

September 19, 2008

Pleasant two hour journey this morning, I had to get to Hungerford to meet up with a colleague from work. A long day of work, well for me at any rate. We set off at about 8:30 and I just had time to have a shower before the meeting.

Very beautiful countryside we are travelling through can’t imagine how it is once we get past Devizes when it is supposed to be even better.

Tonight we went to the Down Gate which came highly recommended by the Pearson’s canal companion, much like last nights hostelry. There was absolutely no comparison the Down Gate scores a GRPS of 1.0 and that might be me being generous due to the very friendly landlord. For the same price as last night we got food that was worlds apart, we must get back to Kintbury at the earliest opportunity.

From first appearances Hungerford does not have anything like the attraction of Newbury, for a start the A338 runs through the middle of the town and from a boaters perspective this is a race track best avoided.

Hungerford

Hungerford

Although there are some tranquil views looking away from the road, this is about 100 metres from the previous picture.

River Kennet at Hungerford

River Kennet at Hungerford

Frances did manage to get in some comfort retail therapy however she does interpret this as saving my bacon as it is her birthday in a week or two, date yet to be confirmed, only joking. So I don’t need to buy a pressie, she says.

Today we did 3.19 miles 3 locks 0 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
176.29 Miles, 116 Locks, 12 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Kintbury

September 18, 2008

What a wonderful trip through some of the nicest scenery we have seen so far on this trip. And here is some evidence that we are on the move.

Lazy Days along the Canal

Lazy Days along the Canal

Yesterday I went back to Croxley for work as did Frances, she had to be at a meeting early and left around 7, I thought that I would make the most of my senior card and left after 9, with a saving of £34. As we arrived back late we decided to go out and eat, we found a great pub “Old Wagon and Horses” that served well kept beer, they also did Thai food but we were not in the mood so after a couple of pints we went to Café Uno. Now I know these are a chain but the food was very good scoring a GRPS of 3.

The train line almost joins the canal and river over some of the sections we came through today. I watched a chain gang of 8 shovelling the ballast back onto the track, when a train approached they moved off and one of them waved this huge chequered flag that looked a bit like the winning flag from a formula one race so that the train driver could see that they had registered his presence. I am particularly interested in this activity as we are looking at rail monitoring for work.

As we came along we came across a horse drawn passenger barge, we never got close enough while they were going along, but caught up with them taking the harness off.

Horse Drawn Barge

Horse Drawn Barge

I have not mentioned the Pill Boxes all along the Kennet and Avon from Reading, this was a line of defence conjured up during WW2, there is a lot of them and this is a typical example.

Pill Box - Last line of defence

Pill Box - Last line of defence

The local pub, Dundas Arms had a good write up in the guide so we thought that we would sample the ale, we had one of the best beers I have had in a long time Adnams bitter it was near the bottom of the barrel and tasted very fruity and full bodied. Anyway we were tempted into having a meal and boy were we glad we made that decision. The food was unbelievably good and scores a record breaking GRPS 4.0, I am not joking if you are in this area try this food.

Today we did 6.08 miles 8 locks 1 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
173.10 Miles, 113 Locks, 12 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Public transport

September 16, 2008

I joined the commuters into London this morning; I had a work meeting in the centre of London it took less than an hour to get into Paddington. Unfortunately afterwards I missed my intended return train by one minute due to an earlier signal failure on the underground, or was it a butterfly flapping its wings on some distant continent.

We were going to go over to Bath at the weekend to see some friends, we would be leaving from Hungerford, so this evening we thought we would find out about the trains. Forget it! There is no direct train between the two stations and the last train leaves at 8pm, also no return trains on Sunday so we can’t even stay over. The buses were two infrequent and the journey times too long. The national coach goes via Heathrow and takes five and a half hours. Its 40 miles by road but it might as well be in a different country as far as weekend public travel is concerned. Is it any wonder that the roads are so crowded? I detect that the honeymoon period may be over as far as public transport and myself are concerned.

Today we did 0 miles 0 locks 0 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
162.86 Miles, 105 Locks, 11 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Boat Balancing

September 15, 2008

As I said a couple of days ago the water tank was nearly empty and the consequence of this is a high bow and a low stern. A further consequence is we cannot turn on the bubble stove. The bubble stove is a diesel fire that is fed from the fuel tank that is located at the stern, when the water tank empties we cannot use the fire. Strictly speaking we should have a separate tank feeding the fire. This is not normally a problem if we have both the water tank and fuel tank more than half full.

We have found something we don’t like about Newbury, the taste of the drinking water. It has an awful chemically taste and now we have almost 200 gallons of the stuff, Frances bought two large still waters from Sainsbury’s for us to use for our tea.

So we filled up with water and diesel and pumped out, so the boat is nice and balanced. Whilst we were doing this we got chatting to the chap that runs Greenham Warf and I asked him what he had to do when the new legislation on Diesel Tax comes into effect in November. He says that he has made up a form and the purchaser has to sign a declaration as to the proportion of fuel used for propulsion and heating against the name and number of the boat. Have you ever heard anything so daft? Where do the government get their ideas from?
The default ratio I believe is 60:40 according to the blog from NB No Problem. I have been keeping a record and we are about 70:30, i.e. 70% propulsion the 30% is for heating water and charging batteries. Of course when the cold weather comes in and we start to move less, (some would say how could you move any less) this ratio will change.

We went off for another bike ride today, we are obviously fair weather riders, still it is good that we have had a break from all of that wet stuff.

Today we did 0 miles 0 locks 0 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
162.86 Miles, 105 Locks, 11 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator


Another day in Newbury

September 14, 2008

I forgot, well truthfully I ran out of time yesterday to include a picture of a turf lock. There are only two remaining on the Kennet and Avon and this is one. Its called Monkey Marsh lock.

Monkey march lock

Monkey march lock

We love Newbury, the traffic free centre is so pleasant to walk around after the race track of Thatcham. Well they do have buses going through which tend to sneak up on you.

This is a view of the bridge going over the canal.

Newbury Town Centre

Newbury Town Centre

St Nicolas’ church is a spectacular structure which was rebuilt in the 1520’s, it has an unusual tower in that one of the four corners, sorry I don’t know what they are called and neither does the resident expert, is larger than the other three. I am not sure what that means either, any historian out there that can furnish us with information?

St Nicolas' Church

St Nicolas' Church

They had an open day at the town hall and we met the mayor and one of the town councillors all done up in their regalia for the open day. We aren’t sure what the Town Council does, it seems that everything practical is done by the Borough Council “down there” but that’s councils for you.

Ceremonial Officials

Ceremonial Officials

The market square and Canal Bridge did remind us of our trips to Tuscany towns in Italy, or is this taking our imagination too far?

The local corn exchange now does theatre and gigs, but don’t they all.

The Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange

We finished the day off with a bike ride down the Kennet. We are enjoying this.

Today we did 0 miles 0 locks 0 Swing Bridges

Statistics so far:
162.86 Miles, 105 Locks, 11 Swing Bridges, 1 Lift Bridge, 2 Tunnels. 3 batteries!! 1 Alternator