We set off on our descent of the Caen Flight at 8.45, expecting to get down to the bottom around 2.30. In fact we tied up at the bottom of the Caen Hill sixteen at 12.00 exactly, thanks to two guardian angels, in the guise of Kennet and Avon volunteers Roger and Dave.
We had worked our way steadily down the Devizes six and as we came out of the fourth lock two figures in fluorescent yellow vests and life jackets approached. We thought that they were on routine maintenance so it was a wonderful surprise when they asked if we would like them to assist us down the flight. They are both boat owners, Roger in a shared boat on the Grand Union, and Dave in a local boat, and they spend each Monday volunteering on the flight. What we hadn’t realised is that each of the sixteen locks that make up the main flight must be left empty with a bottom paddle up at the end of the day, otherwise the BW maintenance yard and the road are flooded. Each lock has a side pond but no by wash and it seems that these ponds can overflow. Because we were the only boat travelling the flight today we would have had to lower the paddle and fill each lock, a slow process. Instead Dave and Roger took it in turn to fill and open the top gates of the following lock while the other and Alan worked the boat through. I had the easy job of steering and making tea. Alan had steered the six town locks and we would normally have switched over again after I had finished my quota but he was so enjoying the craic that he stayed on land. So greatest thanks to Roger and Dave for their help and company on a wet and otherwise grey Monday!
We had thought that we might go on through the Foxhanger seven locks after lunch but the rain increased and we already faced a fairly long walk back to get the car. So we retraced our steps and brought the car down to the bottom of the flight.
There was a second surprise today when we spotted two very new ducklings at the second lock. Lucy Mangan had chosen a picture of two very unseasonal ducklings as her unsettling animal picture of the week in Saturday’s Guardian. Well these ducklings were much smaller, maybe on their first or second day on the water. We wonder if they will survive if the weather gets colder: Alan saw the body of another tiny duckling in one of the locks, presumably one of their siblings.
A less pleasant occurrence was a very heavy diesel slick that started below the duckling pound (thankfully) and lasted through several locks. We suspect that it originated from one of the boats moored in the third pound below the Devizes Wharf. The diesel was like a heavy sludge and the smell was dreadful.
Today we did 1.66 Miles and 22 Locks
Statistics so far:-