I omitted to say that on Friday, as we went past the Cunning Man and on through Burghfield Lock, that we came across a group of about 30 volunteers being supervised by more mature expert volunteers. They were new graduate recruits at a local company sent on a team building exercise. I hope the company hired them for their intellect rather than their practical abilities, though they were probably handicapped because there were undoubtedly more of them than there were jobs or tools for. A small handful (one girl stood out as working more than the rest combined) were energetically painting the lock (they should go far), three or four were half-heartedly hacking at undergrowth, or at least moving it here and there, a couple were looking appraisingly at swathes of brambles and then delicately snipping off an inch or two with their secateurs, one was carefully scraping a thin line of dirt from between the decking on the bridge with a large shovel, another brushing gently at the moss on a randomly chosen section of railing mid bridge. The rest were wandering around, all attired in bright visibility vests, presumably in case a narrow boat ran them over. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I am in any way exaggerating!
Today’s journey took us on to Newbury, a favourite stop for us. We dawdled through the swing bridge / Woolhampton Lock combo with absolutely no effect from the current which is usually very brisk. As we entered Heale’s Lock a hire boat came up behind us and pulled into the mooring. We waved them in to join us, delighted to have a boat to ascend with. They finally understood that the lock could take two boats. There seemed to be three young couples aboard. One of the guys said to Alan as they came in “Oh you want us to join you so you have less work to do”. Well, they were nice enough but Alan still did far more than half the work of operating the locks. They were close clones of the volunteers. When they stopped off at Thatcham leaving us with five locks to tackle solo on to Newbury it was a bit of a relief.
On paper it hadn’t looked like a very long day but we ended up travelling from 9.30 until 3.30, when we had a late lunch. We had thought that we might make it to Kintbury. No way: we had had enough. We did very much enjoy our walk around Newbury. It’s a lovely town centre, all the shops one might need (or that I might need as there is a T K Maxx) but it still feels pleasantly small town. The town centre is divided in two by the canal and river and there is a market square, pedestrianized streets and the church of St Nicholas with a gorgeous four-spired tower. It was a Saturday night so we stopped well back from the town by the Newbury Boat Company marina, but we were still woken by someone banging on the boat at 1.00 a.m. Alan looked out and says that the drinkers going home were well equipped with torches! Maybe naughty boy scouts.
Today we did 6.32 Miles, 9 Locks and 5 Swing Bridges
Statistics so far:-
3010.33 Miles, 1981 Locks, 187 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 57 Tunnels