Saturday, 30 June 2007

Sunshine & blue sky.

7 locks, 1½ miles, Now moored at lock 28.
457 locks, 584 miles, 17 Tunnels, 26 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

This morning was overcast with showers but as the day wore on the conditions improved. Our NZ guests, Brian and Mavis arrived as planned so as soon as they were organised we set off for the Caen flight. When Brian heard that we were going to do the Caen flight he contacted us as the flight was an ambition of his. He may wish that he hadn’t volunteered after we reach the top.
The sunshine was great beating down on our backs but the wind was starting to become very gusty making entry into the locks very tricky.
With an extra 2 crew members as well as Derek & Christina on Kalimera we made good time through the locks. We had planned on only doing the first 7 locks today which puts us at the foot of the flight ready for an early start, weather permitting tomorrow morning.
We were in luck as the 24 hour moorings at the bottom of the flight were all available so we are now all set for the morning.

Friday, 29 June 2007

BW fix it men.

3 locks, 1 mile, 2 swing bridges. Now moored at Sells Green.
450 locks, 582½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 26 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

At about 8.30 this morning the BW dredger went by on its way to lock 17 for the advertised stoppage and repair. There was a couple of boat moored opposite us outside the pub and when they finally surfaced this morning at about 9.30 we asked them if they were moving on and were they aware of the stoppage at lock 17.
They quickly de camped in an effort to beat the deadline which they did with only minutes to spare.
Once in the lock the BW men had a fish around with the dredge bucket to try and locate what was jamming the gate. They found nothing but must have moved what ever it was as the gate now opens perfectly. The next job was to remove the bucket so they could use the boom to support the gate while they removed the top collar and concreted in some new mounting. Initially the weight of the gate kept pushing the BW boat backwards until the hydraulic arms keeping the boat stable locked onto an under water ledge.

Once the weight had been taken off the collar they could then remove the old bolts holding the collar in place. The bolts had worked loose to such an extent that 2 of them pulled out by hand. By the time we left the moorings they were in the process of reseating new bolts ready to be concreted in place.
Our journey to Sells Green was uneventful and on arrival there were plenty of moorings available. Once we were moored and settled for the day it was time for me to check the water in the batteries and check everything in the engine hole.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Rain, rain go away.

4 locks, 7 miles 4 swing bridges. Now moored at Lock 18
447 locks, 581½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 24 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Again we started the morning with heavily overcast skies and a stiff breeze to help us on our way. We stopped at Hilperton marina to buy a few things from their chandlery and had only planned on travelling as far as Semington.
Unfortunately with the presence of more hire boats there were no moorings available. We opted to carry on to Seend and go through lock 17 where there is a stoppage on Thursday due to something jamming a lower gate. On arrival we were met by the same scenario, only one mooring so we grabbed that and breasted up to see if other moorings became available later in the afternoon.
Eventually a live aboard, who had probably overstayed his welcome reversed back down through the lock and moored below the lock leaving a space for us.
Even so we are moored over some of the facilities which are not publicized in any of the publications we have.
The weather forecast for the rest of the week is not good which doesn’t bode well for our trip between Hungerford and Reading with all the river Kennet weirs. We are lead to believe that the yellow boards have gone up on the Thames as well so we really need a week of fine weather for things to settle down again.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Deer oh dear.

1 lock, 9 miles 2 swing bridges. Now moored at Bradford Wharf
443 locks, 574½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 20 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

This morning was still heavily overcast but dry as we set off. Our first stop was for water at Dundas wharf because the crew on both boats had done lots of washing along the way. We had just started to water up when the skies opened up and gave us a good soaking. By the time we had filled both boats the rain stopped but we still had to keep our waterproofs on due to water coming off the overhanging trees.
Not long after casting off we found a drowned deer floating in the canal which couldn’t have been there long as there was no carcasses floating around when we passed through the same area last week. It was not long after, that I spotted something moving on the offside bank which turned out to be a live deer having a drink. He slowly turned around and melted away into the under growth. All I saw was its black ears, little antlers and fawn rump.
After doing a swing bridge, Derek on Kalimera was the lead boat and he came up against a boat that had broken its moorings and had drifted right across the canal. Derek pushed it back against the towpath, and then secured it best he could but it appears that the mooring pins had not been put in very deep and with the strong wind had pulled out.
Our misfortune came when 2 hire boats approached from the opposite direction close to a moored wide beam (Ex Thames wide beam cruiser). The cruiser was very loosely moored and swinging out quite a way from the bank. Being a fiberglass hull I did not want to get too close to it. There was no way that 2 boats could pass alongside this boat with out hitting something so we were forced into the trees and had to stop until the other 2 boats had passed.

We found 2 suitable moorings upon arrival at Bradford wharf and then paid Sainsbury’s a visit.
While closing the boat up for the night I was approached by what seemed to be a stranger; however it turned out to be Adrian Hanham who has contacted us by email on several occasions with useful info about the area. Thanks again Adrian, it’s nice to put a face to a name. Have a good holiday.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

We missed it.

Still moored at Darlington Wharf.
442 locks, 565½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 18 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Well the weather forecast for this morning was right, heavy rain which started very early this morning. By lunch time it had died away to occasional showers. This evening there is no rain but strong winds but the barometer is rising so we will resume our journey tomorrow morning if alls well.
After watching the TV news tonight and seeing all the flooding which is not that far from where we are, we consider ourselves very lucky to have missed the eye of the storm. We can only commiserate with the people who have been forced out of their homes by flooding.
Flood warnings are coming in thick and fast from and luckily none of them affect us so far.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Time to move.

4 locks, 1 mile. Now moored at Darlington Wharf.
442 locks, 565½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 18 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

With light intermittent rain we wandered off into town to visit the Sally Lunn shop and museum and wandered down some of the narrow side streets to see what other treasures we might find. The age and architecture of the city is remarkable and unimaginable to think who may have trod along the cobbled road in centuries past.

As tomorrows weather forecast is not looking good we decided to make a move this afternoon for our return journey. We went down through Bath top and Pulteney locks winded in the very wide pound below and went straight back up through the locks much to the disdain of a hire boat who had to wait his turn.

We then only travelled a short distance through Cleveland house tunnel to the 72 hour moorings at Darlington wharf. If the weather forecast is correct and we get heavy rain tomorrow we will sit it out here for the day and resume our travels on Tuesday when the weather is supposed to improve.

After reading Granny Buttons Weblog tonight we seem to have made a wise decision considering the weather forecast not to venture down the Avon to Bristol.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

GWR Swindon.

Still moored at Bath top lock.
438 locks, 564½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 18 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Today we ventured off the water to Swindon via First Great Western (Railway) We left Bath at 10.05 and were in Swindon 30 minutes later. After a 15 minute walk we arrived at our destination, STEAM the museum of the Great Western Railway. The museum is in part of what used to be the biggest railway workshops in the world. Other buildings on the site are used by other businesses and one section is just the outer façade facing onto the mainline held up by steel frames. What was a workshop is now a car park.

Before Isambard Kingdom Brunel chose Swindon as his central location for the GWR (1841) Swindon was a mere village of 2500 people. By 1935 the population was 65000 and at its peak the workshops were employing 14000 personnel and covered a massive 320 something acres of land. Everything from building and repairing loco’s, carriages and goods rolling stock to office furniture and station equipment were made there. They even had there own clockmakers workshop which made and repaired anything from a station masters pocket watch to the station foyer clocks because train timetables had to be met.

The Swindon railway village as it became known was built to plans and designs done by draughtsman employed by the GWR. The blueprints are on display in the museum and the Village Museum now has one of the railway houses open to the public to show how well off the workers were considered to be in those early days. The house was considered to be part of the workers salary and whoa betide any worker not pulling his weight. For being 20 minutes late to work could cost a worker the loss of half a day’s pay and persistent tardiness could lose him the roof over his head.
The GWR not only provided housing but schools, hospital with its own medical staff and the mechanics institute hall (1855) which was to become the cultural centre of the town with a theatre, library and meeting rooms. Sadly this building is dilapidated and vandalized but there are moves afoot to restore it. In 1847 the GW Medical Fund was set up to provide a doctor for the site which was paid for the company and the workers on a 50/50 split. The fund grew to become a cradle to grave benefit with the fund having its own building which included 2 swimming pools and a Turkish bath.
When the works closed for 2 weeks in July everybody went on holiday by train supplied by the company. These trains were boarded in the works sidings, not at the station as there were as many as 23 different trains to transport up to 25,000 people to places such as Barry Island, Weymouth, Exeter or Weston Super Mare. There was no such thing as holiday pay in those days so workers had to save for it during the year. Some could only afford to go away for a day or 2.
The displays in the museum have all been restored and with assistance from Madam Tussauds, many dioramas have been set up depicting life in the works.

Video displays in various sections tell stories as told by ex workers on various aspects of the impact the workshops had on their lives.
One of the most recent acquisitions is a carriage from Queen Victoria’s royal train. The carriage was found on a cliff top caravan park in Wales being used as a holiday carriage. Luckily it had a roof built over the top of it which must have helped to keep it in reasonable condition. The outside has been repainted in original colours and the inside will be restored as funds become available.
All in all it was well worth the visit and for any GWR or railway buffs I would recommend they put it on the visiting wish list.

When we got back to the boat I was greeted with the news that a live steam train had passed through Bath this morning. It turned out to be the Southern Railway express loco “Lord Nelson” which only returned to active duty last year after an 8 year overhaul by volunteers at the now closed Eastleigh railway workshops where it was originally built. I no sooner was given this info when I heard a train whistle. I climbed onto a vantage point just in time to see it pull out of the station and snort past us up the gradient on its return journey.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

New tree genus found on K and A.

0 Locks, 4½ Miles. Now moored at Bath top lock.
438 locks, 564½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 18 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Dundas Aqueduct turned up the best fish caught so far in a large Bream. We did see another fish cruising around this morning which was either a Pike or a Trout but he wasn’t interested in my spinner.
After some heavy overnight rain the towpath was awash with puddles. We wanted to move down to the water point on the wharf but had to wait for a queue of hire boats to finish using the pump out facilities.
Eventually we got watered up and got under way for Bath. This stretch of canal has moored boats along its entire length so travel was very slow today. As well as half built, derelict and unlicensed boats there were plenty of alternative life style boats with artists, wood carvers and dress makers working from their boats.
This is where we spotted the new genus of tree growing alongside the canal. I wonder if the people at Kew Gardens are aware of its presence.

Now we have seen a teapot tree in New Zealand but never a Cycle tree.

We found some 72 hour moorings at Sydney Gardens but chose to carry on to the top lock where we hoped to find moorings which are closer to town.
We passed through the Cleveland house tunnel which has the magnificent Cleveland house built over it. This was the headquarters of the K and A canal company and it is rumoured that there was a trap door in the tunnel roof through which office staff and bargees could exchange paperwork.

We also passed under 2 ornate iron bridges built in 1800. We were in luck as there were only 2 moorings available just above the top lock. After mooring we had a quick scout around and found that another boat on the moorings had a citation from the powers to be for overstaying the time limit, tut tut. It will be interesting to see if the boat gets moved or not over the week-end.

After lunch we went for a walk along the canal where we passed the chimney at Abbey View lock which was part of the original back pumping system. We were trying to get to where we were led to believe was a Sainsbury’s supermarket. Well the Pearson’s book has got it a trifle wrong in that it is no where near the canal but closer to the river Avon at Green Park. In fact it is built on the site of the old Somerset and Dorset Green Park railway station which ran from Bath to Bournemouth. The actual entrance way and booking hall are still in tact as is the platform canopy which is now an open air market and shopping centre.

While on the subject of the Somerset and Dorset railway I forgot to mention that the Radstock arm of the Somerset Coal canal was never a success and was converted to a tramway to link to the main canal and eventually was taken over by the S and D railway as part of the line to Bournemouth.

After getting a few essentials we walked back a different route which took us through the old Roman baths district, past the Abbey and out towards Pulteney Bridge and the famous weir on the river which is upstream from where the K and A joins the Avon. We found the Sally Lunn shop and museum which we will visit over the weekend and then down past the District court house, under the railway viaduct and on up the hill past the local allotments to come out within 100 yards of where the boat is moored. Not bad considering we had no map or GPS to guide us.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Summer Solstice.

1 Lock, 3½ Miles. Now moored at Dundas Aqueduct.
438 locks, 560 miles, 17 Tunnels, 18 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

As we were only on 24 hour moorings we thought that we would water up as the tap was directly in front of us and move closer to Bath. Even though we only travelled a short distance it took quite a while due to the presence of endless lines of moored boats.
The first aquaduct we came to was the Avoncliff Aqueduct which has a 90 deg turn on to and off the aqueduct. Due to trees and walls the helmsman is blind as to whether there are any boats approaching or not so it pays to sound the horn.
Successfully over that we entered a beautiful stretch of canal passing through a heavily wooded area which on a hot day would make ideal shaded moorings. No worry about that today though as we are still under overcast skies with occasional showers.
When we arrived at the Dundas Aqueduct there were two 24 hour moorings available on the approach side of the aqueduct and Dundas wharf which we moored up to smartly.

This photo was taken of the aqueduct from the edge of the river avon below.

After lunch we went for a walk across the aqueduct which carries the canal about 40 feet above the Avon River and the West Country railway line. The entrance to the Somerset Coal canal has a new lift bridge across it which leads to the Dundas wharf. Back across the lift bridge we then walked along the towpath of the Somerset Coal canal to the basin where redevelopment has taken place with a café, cycle hire and small museum. There is supposed to be a boat yard but the only evidence we saw were hire canoes, dinghies and small runabouts.

At the end of the canal is what used to be a tunnel under the road which now has doors across it and appears to be in use as a wet dock? There are calor gas tanks and 44 gallon drums of what could be used engine oil stored next to the tunnel which is probably to service the 40 or so boats moored along both sides of the canal. We could have taken Gypsy Rover down the canal but with boats moored on both sides you would be lucky to get 2 boats past each other so we can say we have been there, done that on foot.

Calling all dogs, this makes interesting reading. Narrowboaters will recognise the frustration of the writer. (to read it click on the photo)

Thursday, 21 June 2007


0 Locks, 5 Miles, 1 swing bridge. Now moored at Bradford-on-Avon Wharf.
437 locks, 556½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 18 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

The overnight storm that was predicted certainly missed this area and there was only an overcast sky when we set off this morning.
The only thing worthy of note was the new housing development at Hilperton Marsh built around the marina which looked very smart.
When we arrived at Bradford as they call it around here we found the 48 hour moorings which we thought we might have trouble with as they are only clay bank along the towpath. We have generally found that there is a lack of depth on this type of mooring. Just around the corner is the 24 hour moorings with wharf edging and mooring rings. Luckily there were 2 spots available just right for the both of us.
After lunch we wandered into the old town and what a quaint place it is. Narrow roads and footpaths were the first thing to greet us with traffic passing within inches.

Buildings dating back to the 15th and 16th century and the old town hall which collapsed in 1826 where the stocks, pillory and whipping post were to be found plus the market place. The site is marked by a plaque on an adjoining building.
Yesterday we received an email from Adrian Hanham who works in Semington and has a boat at Hilperton marina. He very kindly gave us a lot of info about what to expect and see between Semington and Bath. Very useful info it is, so thanks for that Adrian.

The old derelict buildings around here are enumerable and at least one old mill building has been converted to retirement apartments with another covered in scaffolding and plastic sheeting under going some sort of restoration. It would be a shame if these buildings were to be demolished but some of them appear to have been empty for a very long time.

Other buildings of note were the Holy Trinity church hall circa 1500 and the Saxon church of St Laurence which is known to have been in existence in 1120 but is thought to date back to AD 709. The church was restored throughout the 1800’s and is still used to this day with a ladies flower roster prominently displayed on the notice board. The Holy Trinity church circa 1120 is just across the road.
As you stand by the railway station, which is as it was in Great Western days, and look up the hill the buildings seem to have been built higgledy piggledy all over the place as they are all at different levels.
Even the canal wharf area is very much alive with 2 pubs and 3 café’s or coffee bars. The town can only be described as a tourist Mecca well worth visiting.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Things falling from the sky.

7 Locks, 3½ Miles, 4 swing bridges Now moored at Semington.
437 locks, 551½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 17 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

The order of the day was for a not too strenuous short trip to Semington. It was just as well that we were not in any hurry because we got stuck behind a hire boat whose crew was a bunch of complete novices. We tried to impart some knowledge to them at the first lock but at the second lock they were still making the same mistakes so we just hung back and let them get on with it. With more boats travelling in the opposite direction than we had struck before meant a few more delays as the locks were generally set against us.
While sitting at one lock we saw a military aircraft (a Hercules I think) fly very low over farm land and make a parachute supply drop. The load was suspended under 2 huge parachutes which presumably landed safely and on target. Never a dull moment around here I can assure you.
The run into Bath from here is easy with only a couple of locks and about 10 miles. We have
decided against going to Bristol as it entails going onto the tidal Avon and as there has been a lot of rain and more forecast for the next week we cannot afford to risk getting stuck in Bristol by flooding. Heavy rain is hammering down on the roof as I write this blog with distant rumblings of thunder.
Just below where we are moored is the bricked up entrance to the Wilts & Berks canal Beyond the wall is a garden and what was up until 10 years ago an abattoir. Walking along the road which follows the course of the canal you can still see remnants of the canal and the disused Great Western railway branch line to Devizes.

The canal which ran 51 miles to Abingdon was an early victim to railway competition lasting only 60 years from 1810 to 1870. Efforts were made to keep the canal open until 1906 but these measures failed and it was abandoned in 1914. It was a slow canal due to having 45 locks but there is talk of restoring it making it a ring with the K and A and the river Thames which will be good news when it comes to fruition. We wish them every success.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

What a team.

29 Locks, 3½ Miles, Now moored at Sells Green.
430 locks, 548 miles, 17 Tunnels, 13 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

After a relaxing week-end Monday morning we were all primed up and ready to go so at 7am we set off with the objective of arriving at lock 44, the top of the flight at 8am when BW unlock them. This we achieved with ease only to find that we were not first in the queue. At 8.06am we entered lock 44 and we exited lock 29 at the foot of the flight at 10.26am, 2 hours and 20 minutes which we thought was a good effort.

As there are moorings available here we stopped for half an hour for a cuppa and a snack before the doing the final 7 locks to Sells Green. Just after noon we moored up at the Sells Green water point, 4½ hours actual travelling time which we all considered a bloody good effort.
After lunch and a rest we wandered into the village to get the lay of the land and visit the Devizes Caravan and Camping motor camp site next to the canal. We introduced ourselves to the duty manager at the camp and were given the freedom of the camp to have a look around. The camp fees were of interest in that they have adults, children and concessionaries with low, mid, and high seasons. For club members the fees are cheaper than what we would expect to pay in NZ on a dollar for pound scenario but for non members having to pay a £5 site fee it worked about the same price.

The camp was officially opened in 1999 and was an excellent site with very good facilities. We wandered around the camp and spoke to a couple of the campers before returning to the boat.
While chatting with Derek and Christina on the stern deck of Kalimera a hire boat went past with a family from Papakura NZ on board plus about 5 other hire boats crewed by Canadians. The place is over run with colonials.
This evening I managed to do some fishing resulting in 4 Bream, the biggest being about 2lb in weight. I was quite pleased with the result only to be out done by another fisherman by the bridge who hauled in an 11lb Carp.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Historic Devizes.

Still moored at Devizes
401 locks, 544½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 13 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

This morning we went into town to get last minute provisions as we plan to be away early tomorrow morning to get through the flight early.
After lunch we went back to the museum but were unable to gain entry due to the place having been burgled early last evening. The cheeky ratbags had kicked in an upstairs door basically in broad daylight. They don’t appear to have stolen anything but caused plenty of damage.
This is the second break-in in a month. The trust had improved security after the first burglary but obviously not enough.
Dot decided to return to the boat to do some baking and get tonight’s roast pork in the oven as that will take a couple of hours to roast.

I wandered off into town for a photo shoot and because of the age of the town there was plenty to photograph. If you stand by the war memorial in the centre of town and turn around a full 360 degrees you will see so many different architectural styles, Tudor, Regency, Edwardian to name a few, without taking a step. Do the locals appreciate it all? I very much doubt it.

The beautiful old 12th century church of St Johns is absolutely amazing on the outside but the inside is being renovated due to a fire so I was unable to go inside. The town did have a castle that dated back to 1080 which is how the town got its name. This was rebuilt numerous times over the centuries but no longer exists. The town also boasts another 12th century church, St Mary’s.

Snuff Street, how quaint, doesn’t leave much to the imagination and yes it was where snuff was made. The houses in the street must have very low ceilings as the upstairs windows look as if they are at floor level. Over the centuries the town has changed from being an agricultural based town to textile manufacturing, brewing and the tobacco trade. These days the Wadworth brewery seems to dominate the town’s skyline.
The arrival of the canal in 1810 linked Devizes with London and Bristol docks and later, in 1857 the railway linked it with the rest of the country. Unfortunately the town lost its railway connection in 1966 thanks to Dr Beeching
While thinking about the canal I feel I must say something about the moorings in the wharf area. Since we have been here we have noted the various boats on the 48 and 72 hour moorings and it has become obvious that several boats have overstayed their welcome but has anybody from BW been along to collect the overstayer’s fee of £25 per day, I doubt it. BW are missing out on potential revenue here and helping to give everybody a fair crack at the available moorings. More mooring wardens or lengths men and fewer pen pushers in the admin depts. is what are required all over the country, not just here.

Wadworth's Brewery in the market square

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Quiet week-end.

Still moored at Devizes
401 locks, 544½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 13 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

After a laid back start to the day we wandered into town to check out a chandlery, a fishing tackle shop and a local market. On the way into town we had a look at the Kennet & Avon Trust museum and shop on the wharf opposite where we are moored. We will go back tomorrow for a more in depth visit.
Devizes is an old town and even the modern supermarkets are tastefully placed in old buildings.

After lunch we wandered along the towpath to have a look at the locks ahead of us and see what lay in store. Even though the weather was overcast the view from the top of the lock flight was very impressive.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

History Lesson.

0 Locks 12½ Miles 2 Swing bridges. Now moored at Devizes Wharf
401 locks, 544½ miles, 17 Tunnels, 13 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Today was just an easy cruising day. The only worry was the weather. Ominous black clouds started to gather not long after we set off and again we heard distant thunder which luckily amounted to nothing. We did however get one good pour of rain which gave us a bit of a soaking but we pushed on.
At one point the canal became very narrow with high reeds on both banks which gave us a feeling of the “African Queen” exploring the head waters of the Nile.
As there were no locks today Dot decide
d to make use of the extra power and did a wash and run the vacuum cleaner around.
Along the way we passed through a very wide stretch of waterway naturally called Wide Water which in 1793 was owned by Lady Susannah Wroughton who objected to the canal cutting through her land. To appease her she was paid £500 and a very ornate bridge across the canal was built.

We also saw the terraced fields on Pickled hill which is a relic of Celtic and medieval cultivation.
Passing through Honey Street we could see the carved white horse on the distant hillside of Alton Barnes. A contractor was originally paid to carve the horse in the chalk hillside in 1812 but he took the money and ran so the horse was not completed for some time.

Arriving in Devizes we were treated to some very tidy and ornate gardens running down to the waterside. Luckily we arrived in time to get two of the last three 72 hour moorings available between bridges 140 and 141.
This evening we met Fiona and John from n/b Epiphany which is moored at present in the Devizes marina. We spent a very pleasant hour or so chatting about narrowboats, the cut and our many internet narrowboat friends. Nice to be able to put faces to another boat.

John and Fiona of Narrowboat Epiphany

Friday, 15 June 2007

The summit.

14 Locks 8½ Miles 1 Tunnel. Now moored at Pewsey
401 locks, 532 miles, 17 Tunnels, 11 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

We stand corrected by Fiona on N/b Epiphany about our subject title yesterday concerning Devonshire Tea and Cornish Tea and the difference between them.
I must apologize that we had Cornish teas as the jam was placed on the scones before the Cornish clotted cream. Sorry about that Fiona and thanks for correcting us. We look forward to meeting you in the next couple of days.
We decided on an early start today so that we could get watered up on the other side of the bridge from where we were moored.

Once underway we settled into a pattern which saw us making good time. The best part of this canal we have found so far is from lock 60 by the Crofton pumping station up to the Bruce tunnel. Brilliant moorings and well kept towpath and waterway. Unfortunately at lock 60 we had to ring BW and report a broken paddle gear. Dot was trying to raise the paddle to empty the lock after we had exited it and couldn’t move it. I went back to give her a hand and when I exerted a bit of extra pressure a die cast joint in the mechanism snapped. The positive side of it all was the lock was still operational.

Crofton Pumping Station

Also along this stretch of canal was the remnant of the old Midland and South Western railway which had a line to Southampton and alongside that was all that was left of an old Great Western railway branch line. On the other side of the tunnel however the scene returned to normal with trees down in the water and the towpath being generally over grown. A contractor had been along and cut the grass along the towpath but that was all. The grass between the bank edge and the towpath was tall and dense.

Railway abutments behind N/b Kalimera and N/b Gypsy Rover

The only bit of excitement today was being buzzed by 2 RAF helicopter gunships and a scout helicopter. One of the gunship’s circled us several times and came down very low. I just hope the weapons he was carrying were only practice rockets or whatever.
We are now on what is the 2 mile stretch of the summit of this canal which is supplied with water from Wilton Water reservoir via the Crofton pumping station. The reservoir is fed by natural springs. We had planned on mooring up at Burbage wharf or between bridges 111 and 112 but the only moorings available were taken or too shallow to get the boat into. We got caught by a few showers of rain while trying to moor up but by the time we reached bridge 112 we decided that Pewsey wharf wasn’t that far so we pushed on.
There was only 1 mooring available at Pewsey which was again too shallow for us but Kalimera got in quite easily so we are now breasted up to them again.
Three boats behind us is another NZ couple on Kiwi Cruiser 2 from Taupo NZ.
This is the second time they have been over here on a narrow boat. The first time they came over here they bought a boat and stayed for 6 months before selling the boat to return to NZ. On this visit they bought another boat and will be returning to NZ in October.

Devonshire Teas.

10 Locks 5 Miles 2 Swing bridges. Now moored at Great Bedwyn
387 locks, 523½ miles, 16 Tunnels, 11 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

On Wednesday 13th Dot and I went into town for a look around to see what the market had to offer and see what the rest of town was like. There were the usual antique shops and an antique market where numerous dealers had cubicles with their wares on display. We saw plenty of things of interest but cannot justify spending the money on non essentials. One shop that caught our eye was a shop displaying ladies clothing and skin care preparations and emblazoned across the shop window was the proprietors name with “Gunsmith” written underneath. We had to go in and investigate this but sure enough in a room at the back of the shop was a gunsmith selling rifles, shotguns and ammunition. This was not the end of it though as through an archway there was another room full of Fly fishing gear and a selection of about 50 different flies to attract the Trout or Grayling. A really strange shop.
When we returned to the boat we found the Trusts trip boat being loaded with 40 elderly people for their monthly boat trip. They alternate their journeys by going East one month and West the next. Next task was to make morning tea, scones, raspberry jam and Cornish clotted cream, delicious.
An interesting sort of day was ahead of us on our journey even though we didn’t know it when we started. Warm and overcast conditions prevailed with a faint rumble of thunder in the distance not long after we set off. Luckily this amounted to nothing.

At the swing bridge I got off the boat to give the crew a hand to open the bridge as it was proving difficult to move. When I walked back to the boat I nearly stood on a water rat. It was sitting in the entrance to its hole and appeared to have blood on its face and was looking a bit sorry for itself. When I walked away it came out of its hole and lay on the grass in the sun. I got Dot to take a photo to have a better look at it.

As we approached lock 65 there were 2 boats ready to exit the lock which was very handy. However as they passed us they said that they had been stuck in the lock for an hour due to a jammed paddle. They told us which paddle NOT to use and they would contact BW to get it fixed. Needless to say it seemed to take an age for the lock to fill. Eventually we were on our way again and as we neared the 48 hour moorings I spotted a space big enough for us but nothing for Kalimera so I moored up and got them to breast up against us. Just as we moored up the heavens opened and we got the promised rain which only lasted about half an hour.
An hour or so later the boat in front of us left and as we thought the crew on Kalimera might be having an afternoon nap we decided to untie them and pull them forward into the vacated space. Unfortunately our plan to surprise them with a change of venue was foiled and they twigged that something was going on.
After our bit of skull duggery with Kalimera we took off into the village to see what surprises lay in store. Other than a couple of thatched cottages and a church dating back to 1066 there was nothing special or unusual to be seen.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Under way again.

11 Locks 9 Miles 1 Swing bridge. Now moored above Hungerford wharf
377 locks, 518½ miles, 16 Tunnels, 9 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

With both boats now having a full crew again after the week-end it was time to pull the pins and head off to new territory. Firstly though, we had to wish Derek (Kalimera) a happy 64th birthday.
Christina also had some gifts for us in the way of 2 pots of Cornish clotted cream, yummie. Dot will have to make some scones later on.
Passing through the township of Newbury was very nice especially by the park, a lovely location.
We have been travelling through farmland and forests which looked to me like deer country and we were not disappointed with a Roe deer and 2 fawns.

They were quite a way off but I still managed to get a few pictures on maximum zoom. Not only was the scenery improving but also the locks although the crew may not agree about the winding mechanisms.

We have actually passed a couple of narrowboats on the move so we are not the only boats on the canal and one boatman commented "I know that boat". We soon realised why, as he is based at Pyrford Basin on the River Wey where 'Gypsy Rover' spent the last 3 summers.
Initially our destination for the day was going to be Kintbury where we watered and dumped rubbish. Unfortunately there were many willow tree's that had not finished shedding their seed pods and within a very short space of time both boats were absolutely smothered in the white fluffy catkins which impeded any chance of washing or painting the boats. The railway line was also only 50 or so feet away which would make sleeping difficult. After lunch the general consensus of opinion was to move on and find more suitable moorings.

Due to the shallow banks along the towpath side of the canal we were unsuccessful in finding moorings until we reached Hungerford wharf.

Here the old Granary building is now apartments and the wharf was also occupied by a family of builders who were here for 112 years. Part of their duties was also to maintain the canal from Wootton Rivers to Reading. The wharf also served an iron works, brewery as well as a thriving watercress business plus the local farmers.
As we neared Hungerford we were running parallel with the river Kennet with its clear fast flowing water. The river boasts trout, grayling and possibly salmon. I wouldn't mind dangling a line in those waters but a large sign on the river bank makes it quite clear that it's members only, no if's or buts'. Miserable beggars, I hope their hooks fall off.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

More painting.

Still moored above Greenham lock.
366 locks, 509½ miles, 16 Tunnels, 8 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

The day started overcast and warm. Initially the weather forecast was for rain later in the day but I pressed on with some masking ready for painting.
Later in the morning the forecast changed so I got the paint out and pressed on. The only problem here is that the towpath is in good condition and many people use it walking or cycling stirring up dust which settles on the boat. Luckily what I have done looks good but I will wait until we have a grassier less dusty towpath before doing any more.
I did manage to find time to do a bit of fishing, with reasonable results, several roach, a chub and a bream. Not too bad as I was only using bread for bait which comes off the hook fairly easily.
Since we entered the K and A we have noticed a distinct lack of boat movements which is surprising as we thought that this canal was supposedly a popular destination with boaters. Still it suits us having the canal to ourselves.

Tomorrow we are off again....hoorah.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Sunday lay in.

Still moored above Greenham lock.
366 locks, 509½ miles, 16 Tunnels, 8 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

As we had a long day yesterday we were in no hurry to get up this morning even though we had been woken at 4am by some drunken revellers singing their heads off walking along the towpath.
I eventually got around to finishing off a few odd jobs and then went for a walk into town to have a look around. It has been such a glorious day and everybody was out making the most of the sunshine.

Newbury 24 hour moorings in the town centre

This afternoon we got a surprise email from the USA requesting permission to use Dots picture of the farrier shoeing a horse at the Trooping the Colour (published in yesterday's blog). They even supplied links to their blog and publication and The publisher thought the picture would be quite humorous to her readers.
It’s amazing who is reading our blog and the reasons why.

The Corn Exchange building in Newbury Market Place.

We are having one more layover day tomorrow before we get moving again on Tuesday.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Ready for top coat.

Moored above Greenham lock.
366 locks, 509½ miles, 16 Tunnels, 8 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Yesterday was a busy day with sanding and priming the other half of the roof but by 11am it was too hot to carry on. Later in the afternoon I managed to sand all the primer using wet and dry emery paper, dry paper would not touch it as it was still soft with the heat.
After an early tea the sun was off the boat and the temperature was still warm enough to paint so I got stuck in before the damp night appeared. I finished painting about 9pm and the whole roof looked good. Hence no blog last night.
This morning I found that there had been overnight dew which has caused a slight bloom in places but nothing to worry about as it is only undercoat. The stupid thing is that most of the bloom is on the part where I started painting not the last area done.

Today was a rest day for me and Dot went to London to see Tracey and watch the dress rehearsal for Trooping the colour. Unfortunately she was disappointed due to a misunderstanding they didn’t get to see it from the stands, only from the road side.
Then to top it all off her train from London was delayed an hour due to police having to deal with an armed offender somewhere along the track. It turned out to be a very long hard day for her being on her feet for most of the time.
Dot spotted an unusual sight at the dress rehearsal of the Trooping of the Colour. A Farrier was on hand and had to shoe at least two horses during the ceremony so who gets put on a charge for

Click on the photo to enlarge it and you will see the Farrier putting a new shoe on the horse.
The Guard remained seated on the horse the whole time.

Wellington monument seen in Green Park adjoining Buckingham Palace

Three guesses "What is it?" A giant perambulator?