Honey Street

October 31, 2011

We are now trapped west of the Crofton Locks as the closure has started. We still don’t know if we have chosen the right side to be on. We were moored at Milkhouse Water, near Pewsey, a very attractive place to be, but diabolical for internet coverage. So poor in fact that we gave up making any effort to log on. That couldn’t continue so we have moved on today.

Our plan was to take on water at Pewsey Wharf but another boat beat us to it. Alan dropped me off at the bridge and steamed on towards Wilcot. I walked back to Milkhouse Water to collect the car. We thought that we might be able to stop at Wilcot but Alan called as I pulled into the Co-op car park at Pewsey to say that he couldn’t get the boat near the bank and there was absolutely no coverage for phone, internet or TV. Apparently it took him ages to get the boat off the side as it was well aground and the water was thick with leaves. He was very irritated by a boater, moored nearby, who told him at great length how to deal with the situation, even how to point the rudder. Alan didn’t say that as he had travelled over 3000 miles in the past three years he had picked up a few techniques, but he did wonder if that particular boater ever travelled very far!

After doing the shopping I had a wonderful drive through the Vale of Pewsey to Honey Street where I parked and walked along the canal to meet Alan. The moorings are really full here, hence our regret at staying this side of Crofton. It looks as if the Kennet and Avoners have settled into their regular winter places. There are even two boats on the water point. One had passed me as I went to meet Alan and the other was already there with a hose sitting next to the boat but not connected to the tap. That was at 12.30. They are still there now (at 8.30) with no change despite the fact that there was a mooring empty next to them, which we took, and room for another boat in front of us. We will have to fill up before we move on so will have to ask them to move or moor up to them and cross their boats. It’s a degree of inconsiderateness re water points that we have never seen before. Maybe they think it’s OK because there isn’t actually a BW notice saying not to moor on the water point?

Today we did 5.57 Miles

Statistics so far:-

3042.84 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


Hammered Dolcimer

October 29, 2011

I promised to put up a picture of the Dulcimer player from the Crofton Steam fayre, unfortunately we have had very poor internet connection. So here it is better late than never.

Playing the hammered Dolcimer

Statistics so far:-

3037.27 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Warm and Cosy

October 27, 2011

I woke this morning with neck and back ache: too much sitting in the cold I suspect. Thank goodness it was the day we could fill up with diesel. We had to wait until the afternoon so walked into Pewsey for bread and treats. Marshalls Bakery is a very tempting place indeed. We bought a lovely cottage loaf and scones for today and an extra special lardy cake. That’s something I haven’t tried before but it seems to feature in the bakeries around here. I suspect from the little smidgeon that I tried that we will look like balls of lard if we eat too many of them so this had better be a one-off treat.

We had received a text message from the chap on Tipton and Scavenger, the diesel boats, that he would be back on board early afternoon so we set off back from Pewsey Wharf to Milkhouse Water at 2.00. It was with a great feeling of relief that we tied up and started taking on diesel but it was somewhat short lived as he had less diesel remaining than he estimated and well short of our requirements. 125 litres went in but we needed over 200. Much to our surprise though, after we had turned and moored, we managed to get the fire going without having to suck the fuel through. All went well for an hour or so (Alan was starting to say he felt too hot) and then I noticed it was nearly out. I climbed on the roof to get the extra long chimney out of the top box and Alan turned it up and breathed incantations and it seems OK for the time being. The diesel boat will be going on to Great Bedwyn, filling up somewhere on the way and then turning back to here. We may be able to last until he comes back or we may move along to Devizes earlier than we had planned. But for now at least we are warm!

Today we did 1.59 Miles

Statistics so far:-

3037.27 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


October 21, 2011

I had planned to catch a bus back from Wootton Rivers to Great Bedwyn to collect the car. After breakfast I walked up to the village and along to a bus service notice outside the pub. There didn’t appear to be a regular service but there was a number to call, so I did. Turns out that the service from Wootton Rivers to Great Bedwyn in our no doubt out of date Pearson no longer exists. We decided therefore to go on to Pewsey and make our way back from there.

There were many less boats at Pewsey than the last time we were there. It seems that many boats have crossed to the other side (of the Crofton Locks) before the closures. We had passed the diesel boats on the way and will return to take on much needed diesel tomorrow. Our first task was to pump out and I was relieved to find that both the card and the machine worked.

When we walked up to the station to get a train to Hungerford and then back to Great Bedwyn we found we would have to wait for over an hour so we went on into Pewsey and caught the bus to Marlborough. Unlike Alan I don’t yet have a bus pass and it cost £4 for the comparatively short journey. We had 30 minutes to wander up and down Marlborough’s High Street before catching the next bus onto Great Bedwyn. Despite its small population Marlborough boasts an amazing choice of very up market shops. I could spend a lot of money there (if I had it!)

Great Bedwyn moorings were very full, I guess with the people who have moved on from this side. It was a shame that we couldn’t stay over there longer. The car park by the canal is very convenient and we are finding it quite a nuisance having a car with us when we want to move on. There is only a pay and display car park at Pewsey Wharf and we have had to park on a small road over a mile’s walk away. Luckily Alan can walk again! By the time we got back to the boat The Waterfront pub was open and we decided to pop in and try the place out for the first time. The bar is upstairs above the bistro which was a surprise. The landlord was on his own watching a black and white war movie when we arrived, (it was only 5.30) but others came along while we were there and it was a great place for chat and an excellent keg beer from a Salisbury Plain brewery. It even got me off lager for once. We thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so we spent there: there is a quiz night on Sunday which sounds fun and I might have to go along to represent New Zealand at the World Cup Final breakfast in the morning. The landlord is a fanatical rugby fan it seems!

Today we did 4.3 Miles and 2 Locks

Statistics so far:-

3035.68 Miles, 2016 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels

Wootton Rivers

October 19, 2011

We woke to a very chilly morning. The diesel boat is not far ahead of us but not available for us to buy diesel until Friday. Because we are so low on fuel there is no point in trying to light the fire for the first time: the diesel would never get through to the front of the boat. We have always had to pump through the diesel when we first light the fire but this would be beyond miraculous. The thermals have come out and we use the Ebersbacher from time to time, though sparingly because we don’t want to run out of fuel altogether. Are we the only boaters to have lasted from March until now without lighting the fire? There were many boats with fires blazing right back in August.

I had to drive the car back to Great Bedwyn and found that the windscreen was covered in ice. On my walk back to Crofton I passed a lady boater who I have chatted to several times and she gave me the phone number for the diesel boat: we passed another boater further along who told me where the boat was at present, so at least we know that warmth is in sight!

We made a solitary ascent of the six Crofton Locks, across the summit and then down the first two Wootton Locks. I knew from my walk back from Great Bedwyn that there was no one else coming our way and there was no point in waiting for another boat to join us. There were several boats going the other way back to Great Bedwyn. A couple were hire boats but the others were making sure that they were through the Crofton Locks before they close for the winter stoppages on 30 October. I was surprised to see that there was a large winter mooring section in the first Crofton pound. It obviously wasn’t suitable for anyone wanting to stay on their boat and I wondered if the boats would end up sitting high and dry on the bottom.

For most of our journey the day was bright with the lovely clear light of a sunny Autumn day. It didn’t last however, the sky became ominously dark and we scurried to a mooring one lock short of the Wootton visitor moorings just as the rain started. I thought that I might walk along to check on the bus timetable but every time I looked out the rain started again and it was much nicer to stay inside, under a warming blanket!

Today we did 4.3 Miles, 8 Locks and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:-

3031.38 Miles, 2014 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 58 Tunnels


October 18, 2011

We had spent longer than intended at Great Bedwyn to allow Alan’s foot to recover. He had even had to be driven over the canal and railway bridges to the Cross Keys pub! It’s such a wonderful hub of the community. On Thursday there was a great group of villagers there having a drink before they went off to the back room to rehearse for an upcoming production of Allo Allo. The landlord seemed to be playing Rene.

We had intended to pump out before leaving Bedwyn but when we got to the pump out station we found a note on top from BW saying not to use it as it wasn’t accepting the cards. (A few locks up we met another couple who had used two days ago without problem so that was really annoying.) We should be able to make it to Pewsey, fingers (or should that be legs) crossed.

It wasn’t a long day and we went only as far as Crofton. Alan steered through the four locks and had been instructed not to move any more than was strictly necessary so as not to undo the recovery. Two boats passed us and there was no one else going west. It’s getting to the end of the season. When we were last up at Crofton for the steam fayre boats were breasting up all along the moorings, now there are only two other boats here and they seem to be deserted. There was a brisk wind blowing and since we’ve been moored up it’s as if we are at sea with waves slapping against the hull! I walked back to collect the car so I have had a good quota of exercise again. It’s going to be a bit more difficult moving the car on from now on as we will hopefully cover more miles and be further from transport services. For some mad reason we left the folding bike along with our two mountain bikes in the storage with all the house contents.

Today we did 1.82 Miles and 4 Locks

Statistics so far:-

3027.08 Miles, 2006 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 57 Tunnels

Caen Flight

October 17, 2011

Its been a very busy time looking for the right house. We have looked at more than 70 houses so far. The difficulty has been finding a house that we like with a decent sized garden, not on a main road. There have been houses that really weren’t us with superb gardens and wonderful views, and perfect houses with gardens that had been magnified in the photographs. Hopefully we now have a short list of good possibilities and a decision is imminent!

There have been some very long days of driving so we spent nearly three weeks in Great Bedwyn, no hardship at all really! We would have moved on earlier but Alan has had a recurrence of his Achilles heel problem, which started in his right foot and then moved to his previously unscathed left foot. It was greatly exacerbated by us spending a day working Paul, our friend with the little cruiser, up the Caen Flight. In retrospect, despite us having promised to help, Alan shouldn’t have done all the walking. However it did feel good to have the exercise after all the days spent sitting in the car.

We arrived at the foot of the flight of sixteen Caen Hill Locks just after 9.00. It was drizzly as it always seems to be for us at Caen. Paul said that he had let another boat go on as he was waiting for us. In fact it was an old working boat of irregular proportions: 72 feet long and 7ft 3 wide and therefore couldn’t share locks. In order to preserve the hull in its original state as a butty it was driven by a propeller fitted in the rudder which ran from a hydraulic pump powered by an electric generator in the bow. It was an interesting experience listening to the sound of the engine at the front, a bit like a VW of the waterways. The engine seemed to be used intermittently and the owner pulled it between most of the locks with his ropes. It took some time to get it in and manoeuvred clear of the bottom gates so they could be closed. In other words a very slow boat to be following and it probably lengthened our ascent considerably!

As Alan and I emptied and opened the first lock for Paul we spotted a hire boat coming up the last of the Foxhangers locks: they teamed up with us through the 22 locks to Devizes. There was a crew of six, two of whom were former narrowboat owners. We thought that we would be somewhat superfluous with all this crew and I went ahead to help the couple on the working boat, to speed things up. After six or seven locks the chap’s parents arrived to help them and I fell back with the cruiser and hire boat.

We needn’t have been worried about being surplus to requirements: in fact Alan and I ended up doing considerably more than our share of the work, Alan limping more and more as the day wore on. When we reached the top of the sixteen I walked back to the bottom, drove the car up to a parking place near Devizes Wharf and walked back down to meet Alan. I found him two locks from the top preparing a lock on his own (and feeling very disgruntled) while the hire boat crew ate their lunch. One of the ex narrowboaters, who seemed to be doing most of the work on their boat asked where we were going in “our” boat. We explained that in fact our boat was at Great Bedwyn and that we had just come over to give Paul a hand. We heard from Paul later that they went back to their boat and gave their crew a right bollocking about us doing all the work and not even having a boat there and they all came scrambling up looking embarrassed. By the time Paul moored up at Devizes Wharf it was two thirty and we were starving having not eaten since a very early breakfast.

We both enjoyed working locks again but Alan has been limping badly ever since and his foot has been very painful. Hopefully its now on the mend.

Statistics so far:-

3025.26 Miles, 2002 Locks, 190 Swing Bridges, 118 Lift Bridges, 57 Tunnels