Home + About me + E-mail me + Trips index + Canal game

Kennet and Avon, spring 1999

turf-sided lock
Turf-sided lock

A 1-week trip from Reading Marine at Aldermaston, exploring part of the restored Kennet and Avon Canal. Total 59 miles and 90 locks.

Reading Marine is the only UK hire company I have come across that allows a bicycle to be taken aboard a narrowboat, one small one. We took a folding bike, but even that was awkward as it can't stay on the roof under some bridges and it almost filled the small front deck. But it's worth it.

Diary extracts:

Sat 1999-05-08
All packed into the Synergie, including the folding bike, and to Aldermaston Wharf and onto Caen Hill. Met the rest of the crew there. Start off at 15h45, stop just beyond Woolhampton lock at 17h30. Shared the locks with another Reading Marine boat, with a man with a cigar, his wife who fell in, and a rather reluctant-looking daughter. Today 2l, 2sb, 2.5mi and 1.75h. Curry on boat, then a visit to the Row Barge by the lock. Boat is around max length for the canal, about 68ft. I drove, touching the side coming into Woolhampton lock with the current from the river joining. Boat's engine is BMC type, hull cooled. Gas boiler to radiators, engine water heating. From front: two bunks, bog, double, double, bog, kitchen, seating converting to double. Electric fridge. Cellphone 12V point. Comfortable enough, but not the best turned out boat.
Sun 1999-05-09
Warm all day, with quite a bit of sunshine. Start 09h30, after a walk back along the towpath with the dog. AM, me cycling on the bank the whole time, towpath is a bit rough in parts for cycling. Stop at White House pub for lunch, own mooring on off side, useful as there's very little good mooring. Pub is by br 29, and stop 13h00 to 14h30. Roast lunch. PM through locks, until moor 17h00 before lock 81, in a suitable place to meet the other crew members tomorrow. Very few other boats, and none passed after we moored. Followed a small noddy boat with a youngish couple (she with very long hair and nose rings) who had just bought it and said it was now their home, though they had little experience so far. The boat's supposed to make hot water from the engine, but it doesn't seem to work. Locks are quite variable, one turf-sided today, some scallop-sided, and several had only gate paddles at the top which require great care with our long boat. One bridge so low that we've moved the bike down from the roof, and put it, folded, on the front deck. Today 12l, 5sb, 9.5mi, 6h.
Mon 1999-05-10
Sunshine and heavy showers. Walk first, measuring the delay from start of audible warning to train arriving at the level crossing: 2m45s. The last two crew members and the second dog arrive about 09h30 after hitting lots of traffic. I went back to the boatyard with one of them in her car, left it there, back in a taxi. Underway at 11h, stopping at Kintbury above the lock at 13h. Water here for 15m, then to Dundas Arms for lunch. Re-start 14h45, and potter on to Hungerford, by town bridge, nice mooring on off side very close to town. Moor at 16h45. Walk into town (it's quite small). One dog installed at one end of the boat, and one at the other. Boatyard recommends that we fix the hot water problem by using the gas boiler with the rads switched off, the man says it's too cold for the engine to get up to temperature. We think it's a failed thermostat in the engine. Today 7l, 6mi in 4h.
Tue 1999-05-11
Sunshine and wind. Bike excursion first thing, then a walk in the nature reserve. Call out the boatyard to fix the hot water. There was no engine thermostat, there is now a 72degC thermostat, and we have hot water. Start 1000, stop 1340 at Great Bedwyn, eating on boat. Re-start 1500, and moor at Wootton Rivers above lock 51 at 1850. Eve to Royal Oak in the village. Today 23l 2sb 11mi 7.5h.
Wed 1999-05-12
Canal at Wootton Rivers being done up, with new water points (not working yet), turfed banks, and a pumping station to back pump around the four locks back to the summit. Started at 0810, through the lock, then turning between brs 111 and 112, at 0850, while the others breakfasted. Arrived at Crofton pumping station at 1230, after 15 mins watering above the last lock (59). Lunch on boat, then to visit the beam engines, not in steam today, but big and impressive. Lots of wooden stages around so you got close to all of the bits. Re-start 1430, stopping between locks 68 and 69 at 1700. Good sheet-piled mooring, but we realised afterwards that it's a winding point. But so few boats about, and very few 68ft like ours, so I doubt it'll matter. Weather warm, some sunshine, some showers, some wind. Today 19l, 11.25mi, 6.75h.
Thu 1999-05-13
Awake to find we're on a slope, the pound has dropped 10cm at least overnight. Lengthened lines and pushed it afloat again, though later a BW man was around and brought the level up again. Bike into Froxfield before start at 0900. Little glimpses of sun and some heavy rain. At one of the locks, a film crew was making an advert for a Danish beer, with lights, a camera on a boom, and the lock decorated with extra foliage and the bridge with false cracks. When we arrived the sun went in, so they let us through. They had smoke generators as well. At one point, the director asked for more white on the beer; they were mixing the head in a pan and adding it to whatever represented the beer. Lunch at the Dundas Arms again, mooring at 1230 above lock 41. Food here excellent both times, simple but well done; today it was boiled ham hock in a mustard sauce, it melted in the mouth. An elderly pair at the next table talking loudly in county accents about going to Venice gave us a giggle. Horse-drawn boat outing left from here at lunchtime, filled by an East Kent coach outing. The skipper was looking out when we arrived, and asked us to take the bike off the roof as it might catch the towrope as he handed over the line of moored boats. Water first, then re-start at 1430, mostly in rain, to moor at Newbury above br 32 at 1730. Back in the river section there's quite a current with the rain, and we need to develop stern-first landings when going with the current. Last few locks today with a short boat from the same yard with a couple and a dog. Eve to the Lock, Stock and Barrel, canalside Fullers pub; still raining. Today 16l, 2sb, 10.75m, 6.5h.
Fri 1999-05-14
Lots more rain overnight. Trip into Newbury aborted because of the rain, except me in waterproofs for some more bread. Spikes stayed put against the current and boat still alongside, to my relief this morning. Start 0930, me steering on the rivery bits through Newbury, and on to the bridge after the turf-sided lock. Moor 1215. Lunch in the Swan hotel, just across the railway. The level-crossing was closed, and we got rained on again. Under way again at 1345, At lock 93 we met another Reading Marine boat, with a man from the boatyard and a crew of three being trained for a safety certificate; the pound below this lock had been very, very low, and he was draining our pound into this one to turn his boat. Went down together to lock 94, where he and his crew did the swingbridge, so we could get through the side stream where the river comes back in without having to stop. 15min delay here while he finished refilling the level (later a BW man appeared and set off to fix the level above lock 93). Also did the last lock (95) together, then had to wait 30 mins for the big swingbridge (barred 1630 to 1730). The two boats roped together and turned as a unit before the bridge, then backed through the bridge and finally moored at the boatyard at 1800. Passed another Reading Marine boat stuck with a rope round the prop. Today 11l, 7sb, 9mi, 6.25h. Total 90l, 18sb, 60mi, 38.75h. Eve on boat.
Sat 1999-05-15
All loaded up and away at 09h. Holiday recedes into memory. A good one. It's always interesting to bring people together to see what happens, and this time there were no explosions. Six out of seven could be trusted with basic boating, all worked, all joined in. The canal was interesting, scenic, in a safe and pleasant environment, and provided plenty of interest and activity. Perhaps a bit more variety in working might have been better, with barely a mile stretch without a lock or a swingbridge there was not much time for ancillary activities such as photography or reading. Also, this crew had far too little enthusiasm for ethanol, and its procurement in pubs.
	Day Date    Hours Miles Locks SB morn aft  Water
	Sat 990508  1.25  2.25  2     2  -    N     -
	Sun 990509  6     9.25  12    5  C    D     _
	Mon 990510  4     5.5   7     -  C+N  K     Kintbury
	Tue 990511  7.5   10.75 23    2  N    C     -
	Wed 990512  6.5   10.25 19    -  N+D  B     Crofton
	Thu 990513  6.25  11.75 16    2  K    C     Kintbury
	Fri 990514  6.25  8.75  11    7  N    D+N+K -
	Sat 990515  -     -     -     -  -    -     -
	Totals      37.75 58.5  90    18 

	Day Lunch                  Evening
	Sat -                      Woolhampton "Row Barge"
	Sun Newbury "White House"  Marsh Benham, on boat
	Mon Kintbury "Dundas Arms" Hungerford, on boat
	Tue Great Bedwyn, on boat  Wootton Rivers "Royal Oak"
	Wed Crofton, on boat       Froxfield, on boat
	Thu Kintbury "Dundas Arms" Newbury "Lock Stock and Barrel"
	Fri Thatcham "Swan Hotel"  Boatyard, on boat
	Sat -                      -

©nib 2003-03-22..2003-03-22

Home + About me + E-mail me + Trips index + Canal game