Saturday, 25 June 2016

A tumble in Devizes. Then Caen Hill.

The time finally came to say cheerio to All Cannings. Our time was up and the weather had finally cleared. Well, it was dry! Having finally shaken off the railway, on our final evening, in the quiet, a nightingale was in full voice. So beautiful.

Our sort of plan was to move through the lock free pound to Devizes. Only three swing bridges barred our way. Whilst it was dry, it was not that warm. Still, we could be moored up by late morning couldn't we?

Erm, nope. We got behind the slowest boat on the whole system. Whilst we are not in a rush, they were travelling at a speed that was less than our tick over. The two elderly (say's he!) ladies on board were also height challenged and on a boat that had so much stuff on the roof, that they could only see ahead by zig zagging the boat along the cut. This of course slowed them even more! Reminded me of a Spitfire manoeuvring for take off, but slowly.

Eventually. We came to a swing bridge. They, in their own sweet time opened it and beckoned us through. Thank the lord. Finally, we made progress.

The canal here abouts is somewhat overgrown in places, with few places to stop. The number of liveaboards is growing exponentially as we continue west, but not too bad at this point. As we approached Devizes, the water seemed to change, with a definite algael bloom on the surface, like a green scum...

There are a great variety of boats along the K&A

As we entered the town's environs, trotting along the towpath was a muntjac deer! (too quick for the camera), they have become almost a pest in places.

Anyway, under the two bridges and into the moorings above the first lock. We watered up, then found a slot beyond the winding hole. We planned a couple of days stay. The launderette beckoned. Whilst we have a washing machine aboard, it's drying that has this year been the problem. Not enough consistent sunshine. So two wash loads completed Tuesday and another two Wednesday. So we really did tumble in Devizes!

On Tuesday evening, it was nice to meet up with an old work colleague, Chris Burley. Can it be nearly ten years since he retired? We had a good chat in the pub, accompanied with a meal for balance. Chris has promised to come and give us a hand up the flight on our return, other commitments permitting .

So, it's the flight next. Twenty nine broad locks in total. Makes Hatton a walk in the park. Hope we can find company, if not it's going to be a hard day!

As luck would have it, as we readied just before 0800, a boat began to prepare the first lock. Ali walked on whilst I slowly made my way forward. We were sorted! N.B Penny Less invited us to join them on the journey down. Another cloudy but humid day, but we were soon in the swing.

Some fantastic views as we descend.

After tackling the first six locks before the flight proper, we has weighed each other's methodology up and we were completely compatible. Both Ali and Martine worked in harmony, as did I and Malcolm. Don't get me wrong, this is a hard slog, especially as there was a widebeam in front of us so the locks were against us, but when each works together, it does make it a pleasure.

There was a steady flow of boats ascending, but not too busy. Very soon we were in the groove, poetry in motion.

At 1205 hrs we began the descent of the last lock and then after 3/4 of a mile, we moored up at Sells Green. A quick shower and the four of us made for the Three Magpies, for a well deserved drink and a meal.

So a major hurdle successfully tackled, without drama.  29 broad locks in just over four hours is good going.
Following a boat down the flight, when the volunteers came on they went to 
help them as we were catching them up

Passing NB Rosie, whom we met on the Thames on their return from Bristol

the view from about half way down

some of the locks you have to exit one by one 

others together is fine

Passing a widebeam

at the bottom of the main flight, 7 to go!

Looking back

we were impressed with this

The next morning we arose surprisingly free of aches and pains. The plan was to tackle the remaining seven locks that drop down to Semmington, then moor up. Once again, we were in company with Martine and Malcolm from NB Penny Less. The lock procedure resumed as did tackling the swing bridges, most of which are in good order.

For once, our timing was out. Whilst our companions managed to get bank side just past the fully occupied visitor moorings, we struggled to get anywhere near the bank. However, just through the next swing bridge we got in and battened down. The rain arrived in torrents, almost monsoonal. Luckily, by early evening, it stopped. So we were able to meet up with Malcolm and Martine at the Somerset Arms.  I had far too much to drink!!!

He really did, and getting him back onboard was shall we say interesting!

one of the downpours

Saturday is one of the busy hire boat change over days. We planned to moor up by lunch time. Only a few swing bridges so an easy, stress free cruise. Well it was until we had dieseled up at Hilperton! Leaving our erstwhile companions to meet up with family, we got behind a hire boat. And I thought the two ladies a few days ago were slow! This one stopped every time a boat approached and when he eventually got moving, our tickover was too fast. We spent the next few miles mainly in neutral!

Luckily, they stopped short of Bradford on Avon. We arrived to find mooring spaces free! Almost unheard of here. So hopped in just before the services and lock. It was sunny when we arrived, but that did not last. The rain, thunder and lightening made for an interesting afternoon and evening. Pity the poor people having collected their hire boat, travelling in that! The spaces left soon filled.

An interesting few days, next towards Bath and Bristol.

I asked John where he took this - he said last night in the pub, he didn't 
he took it the other day in a different pub!

19 miles, 36 broad locks, 9 swing bridges.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Up, under and Down.

Finally, we have completed the ascent from the Thames . All down hill now to hopefully. Bristol. River and tides permitting.

Since last posting, we made our way back down four locks to Great Bedwyn, which was a lot quieter. After spinning around and watering up, we reversed onto the visitor moorings. 48 hours allowed here, so going to plan. The weather has remained ok, if a bit showery. Bedwyn itself is a pleasant little village, but has now lost its bakery. The building looks set for redevelopment. However, the post office come shop now sells a range of bakery items and does a mean sandwich.

The survival of the railway station here is a mixed blessing I think. Especially in relation to car parking. Cars are abandoned by commutets throughout the village. As I walked to the station across the car park behind the water point(CRT owned?) ,a chap pulled in then reversed back almost colliding with me! Then he walked to the station. Wouldn't mind, but I was wearing a bright red coat!

Anyway, we caught the train to Oxford. £15 return, so good value. When done, after raiding M&S, we journeyed back with the clouds building. Luckily, we were back on the boat before the heavens opened. A torrential downpour. We did think about moving on, but the weather finished any thought of that.

We are getting used to short hops to our desired mooring spots, so the next day , back up four locks to Crofton. We must be getting used to the trains now, as we hardly noticed them.

Then finally, we completed the Crofton flight and onto the summit pound. The longest lock free pound for a good while and then through Bruce tunnel, which is only 500yds or so and very high ceilinged and dry! Not a drip was felt.  This is one way passage, probably, due in no small part to the wide beam hire boats that frequent this area.

Down a few locks and by lunch time we were in Wootton Rivers. There was one space left and we managed to squeeze in. This is a 24 hour mooring, which suits us. It is actually also a water point, so we expect visitors breasting up to get water! That said, there has been since we arrived on the K&A, very little traffic  mooring thus far has not been an issue.

As we begin to descend to the rather more populated Western end, we will see if ease of mooring persists...

Sunday dawned a tad cloudy. The forecast for later in the day and for Monday, was not looking too good. With this in mind, we decided to press on, but moor up early before the onset of rain.

We watered up on our mooring, then set the rather deep  Wootton Rivers bottom lock in our favour. Our last lock before we hit Caen Hill. Once down, we were into the long lock free pound which ends in Devizes. The banks here are more reminiscent of a river than a Canal , lush and verdant. This also makes wild mooring a tad tricky. In places, even the trees and bushes are somewhat overgrown, but being a wide canal and so quiet, not a problem thus far.

At Pewsey we emptied the cassette, and were pleased to see that since our last visit, the visitor moorings have been repaired. They were falling into the canal then. 

That done, we wended our way through the rolling and rather beautiful countryside. I know not why, but Honey street has never appealed to us. There was even space to moor, but we moved on. The White Horse was now in view as we travelled on west.

By lunch time, it was clouding up. Reaching the visitor moorings at All Cannings, we spotted a space and hopped in. This was a good move. Ali had looked up the local pub, The Kings Arms. Good reviews, with lunch served until 2pm. Off we trotted, forgetting in our haste that it was father's day! But they had room, and we enjoyed a fantastic meal. Well recommended if you are in the area.

By the time we settled back on the boat, the promised rain arrived. We may well sit tight tomorrow if as forecast, it persists.

(It was correct! So sitting it out...)

15 miles, 18 locks, 1 swing bridge & Bruce Tunnel (502 yards long)

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

We be boggered, almost!

Since our last post, we have continued slowly west in glorious sunshine. This really is a very beautiful canal, or is it a river with canalised sections?

Whatever, it is sure lacking on the facility front! Now we have, without becoming too anal, three toilet cassettes . We were fast approaching starting the third when we got to Newbury. We are trying to set a slow pace, but sometimes, needs must.

We managed to find a brilliant mooring just short of the town and settled in for a day or two. We really enjoy this place, all the better shops are represented, even a John Lewis and a M&S. So over a couple of days, we selectively shopped, stocked up and felt good.

Apart from the bog! Well sorted that eventually by stopping for fuel, and making use of their facilities. The relief was palpable!

This really is a very civilised area. When in Thatcham, several girls walked past to enjoy a BBQ at the lock. The next morning, there was no trace of their visit. They enjoyed, then cleared up when finished. Wish some boaters were as consciousness.  The river is becoming more benign as well and even  Newbury lock was a doddle, for once!

Heading for the town lock

The weather has smiled on us of late. It has been rather hot. We have tried to take it uber easy, averaging perhaps five locks per day. But sometimes, with nowhere to moor, you just have to plough on and even do eight locks!!!

As a reward, we moored up in Kintbury, had our second shower of the day after washing off the dust from the boat , then went to the pub. I enjoyed my meal, although Ali's was a tad over done! Beer prices are certainly on the up now! Bloody southerners, why do you tolerate it?

So we were moored in Kintbury, next to a water point, a spit from an Elsan point and more especially a pub. Bliss...

A wrens nest hidden in the trunk

The water was so clear and lots of fish, not that they ate 
enough of the weed on the bottom of the boat

Then the weather turned. Nothing drastic. Still warm enough, but with the hint of rain. We have had a few showers, but seem to have missed the downpours. The nature of this weather means that it can be very localised. We have heard the thunder, but thankfully, the associated downpours seem to have just missed us whilst travelling. Not that we have gone far.

Really?? Missed the downpours - short memory me thinks - Ali

After leaving Kintbury, we made the short hop to Hungerford to linger for the weekend. Luckily, whilst it was busy below the lock, the visitor moorings above were empty, so we hopped in. A rather nice town. It holds for me though, memory of the tragedy in the mid 80's, which caused the drastic amendment of Firearms legislation. Caused the Police service a lot of work, but highlighted just how lax the procedure had become.

  Lock with a swing bridge over the middle, its a footpath and is well used!

First flowering water lilies

It remains though, a very pleasant place, very middle England and none the worse for that. We enjoyed a rather nice Sunday lunch at a hostelry north of the bridge, plus a drink or three.

But time soon arrived to say farewell, and passing through the swing bridge next to the splendid church, we continued west. We are still ascending and the locks remain hard work, alone, but at least ground paddles are the norm and we can loosely follow the GU pattern. The initial plan was to stop at Great Bedwyn. But it was full. So after using the services, we carried on up the locks to Crofton. By this time, the drizzle had arrived. But joy, the pound was empty, so we moored with ease and then visited the excellent cafe at the pumping station. We enjoyed probably the best sandwich of the year. Not cheap though.

This is a lovely spot. A lake and stream one side, the pumping station cradling the hill on the other. But...the railway line hugs the canal here, even more so than over the rest of the route. It can be noisy at times. Brilliant moorings though.
the train!

Today we have spun around. We need to be in Bedwyn tomorrow, in order to find a mooring to catch a train the following day, so it's proximity does have some advantages.

 Also, checked the engine, as we had a squeak! Turned out the bolts holding on one of the alternators had worked loose. Methinks they had not been fully tightened at the last service. But partly my fault for lack of diligence. Hopefully, all is now well, since tightening up. At least the squeak has gone!

Total distance is 18 miles, 27 locks and 5 moveable bridges.