Thursday 26th September
A wet night but a dry start, though very grey and dull. We made a quick trip to the cake shop and Tesco, where we got some rubber gloves with this exciting promise –
“Marigold transforms the dullest chore into one with a sense of purpose, pride and deep satisfaction. We call it the Marigold cleaning glow”.
Well, who knew? I am looking forward to cleaning the loo now!
We set off up Hungerford Lock meeting the only boat we saw till after 2 – they had seen us moving from the 48-hour spot by the green and were leaving their 24-hour mooring above the lock to grab it while it was free. The next thing was the swing bridge by the church – we heard the ringers practising last night as we came back from the pub. They were good - their practice of a minor method was lovely. This is more complex than the name ‘minor’ might sound – this link will tell you more if you are interested http://www.charmborough.org/ringing.htm or you can always visit a tower on practice night (the ringing you hear on a week night is usually a practice session) and most bands will be delighted to show you the ropes!!
At Hungerford Marsh lock, with the swing bridge across it, we met Kennedy, who was having a short break from looking after his sick girlfriend. We had a great chat as we worked the lock before he went back to her and on we went. As we neared Cobbler’s lock a light drizzle started. The lock cottage is a sad sight, though with great potential for someone. What is it about empty properties that invites louts to chuck stones? At least the graffiti was only marker pen.
The drizzle wasn’t too heavy, though enough for us to get out the brilliant Nicholson Protector which the previous owner of Chuffed had had made – there is one for Pearson’s too, though we don’t use that for navigation.
The locks were relentless in the murk and drizzle. The K and A was starting to win us over yesterday, with the lovely stretch from Newbury to Hungerford, but now we weren’t so sure! Except for the locks that had to be left empty they were all against us. There is a fair bit of work being carried out at some of the locks on sluices and brickwork, so we had help at a couple of locks from CRT guys. This lovely pair insisted on doing the top gates for us as the mini digger lifting sacks of sand was a health and safety risk for boaters, and the water was a bit shallow where they were working so both gates had to be opened for us to leave.
Here is the work they were actually doing - ;
There was nowhere to moor for lunch till we got to Great Bedwyn – after 2 by the time we got there, but a wild mooring on the overgrown and saturated banks did not appeal! We opened the side hatch as the sun was struggling to break through, and were eating as we heard the grunting and growling of a swan outside. Expecting to hear a series of taps as it tried to attract our attention, we were astonished to hear a violent splashing and the head appeared inside the hatch -
it was furiously treading water trying to get its head inside and was so aggressive that we could barely get past it into the galley! You can see the water that dripped from its beak as it lunged in. Dave managed to chuck a bit of bread out to distract them and shut the hatch so we could finish our meal in peace. They went off then, but as we moved up to the lock after lunch Dave reports that they shot out from behind another boat and gave chase.
Only three locks this afternoon. We thought one was very slow to fill but it is not surprising when the bottom gates leak this badly – and the lock was only half full!
There were at 7 or 8 boats on the move this afternoon – two Bruce Trust widebeams, a couple of private boats with dire warnings about Crofton moorings being full, then luckily a hire boat which had left Crofton, so we were able to get the last space. It’s a steaming weekend, which explains the congestion. Dave immediately got to work on finishing fitting the fender eyelet we lost on the Soar;
There were two steam rollers at the water point area above the lock – they are here for the weekend. We will have to decide now whether to stick to our schedule or stop for another day! The Morse control now seems to be behaving itself so that’s one thing out of the way. Dave has also finished fitting new lights in the saloon so we can see properly to read.
14 locks, 2 swing bridges, 6 miles