Saturday 7th, Sunday 8th and Monday 9th September
Up early and met the people from the boat on the bottom lock landing as we were having another look at the top gates but they had a train to catch, and luckily were able to turn so went off to try and moor on the short un-overgrown stretch on the way back to Garston. You can see from the picture that the gap was enough to prevent the lock emptying;
As they turned, a boat arrived on a mission to get to Newbury as quickly as possible, so they attacked the blockage with hook and pole as we prepared to leave for the swing bridge. They managed to shift it as C&RT arrived, so I kept the swing bridge open for them while Dave moored at the Theale visitor moorings (which had looked full when he checked last night). A boat had arrived to go down, so I walked back to find it had got down OK and the C&RT guys had removed a chunk of rock which didn’t look big enough to have been the problem – they spent a while raking around but concluded that whatever it was had been swept or knocked out of the way by the passage of the 2 boats. When I apologised for wasting their time they were very encouraging and said they were really glad we had called in and should keep doing so for anything that needs attention.
On we went after a cup of tea, pairing up with ‘Rune’ for Sulhamstead Lock, and they kindly waved us through the next swing bridge. We had hoped to top up the water at Tyle Mill but the service moorings were full; Rune were desperate for water though, so they breasted up to us to wait while I went to set the lock, which was against us. As another boat arrived and another was about to leave the water point, we let them both go through and emptied a cassette while we waited –unfortunately one of the valves started to leak and I ended up having to rinse my foot as well as the cassette! Yuk!
Away at last, holding up a little traffic at the swing bridge, through the easy Ufton swing bridge and the fierce Towney Lock. Here is Dave watching from the bridge while the lock filled;
and coming into the lock – it’s very large and the paddles very violent so it took ages to fill.
We stopped for lunch below Padworth swing bridge, then had trouble getting off again because of the wind. We are finding the K&A a bit of a trial! and it gets worse! Anyway, we had a pleasant passage up through Padworth lock, with friendly strollers and well-behaved children eager to find out how things worked as the sun shone.
At Aldermaston Wharf we were lucky to arrive at the lift bridge before the hirers left – yes, it was changeover day and 3 were almost ready to leave! Through the bridge, holding up the traffic – lots of it, due to Froud’s Lane being closed for works on the railway bridge - and moored at the lock landing while I went up to turn it. Annoyingly, both top gates were open – I closed one, nipping round quickly in case it swung open again, only to find the other gate was completely immovable. Even with Dave helping we were only able to shift it slightly, so back I went to warn the hirers and get some more muscle. The first boat (one of the time-shares) prepared to go through the bridge and join us, while I went to ask the hire base staff for any tips – none, apart from the usual ‘open it and try again’. The two waiting hire boats had no idea there was a lock straight after the bridge and at first didn’t understand while they were being asked to wait, but a couple of the men came up to help. In the end it took 6 of us to get the gate closed and we could feel it dragging across the bottom of the canal. A widebeam had passed us as we were having lunch so we wondered if they had clouted the gate on their way out – they certainly hadn’t closed up after them!
The hire base guy went off to warn the hirers only to use one top gate and to report it to C&RT, and eventually on we went. We were very relieved to find a mooring on the towpath on the way to the marina just before the rain began. Quite a day.
4 and a half miles; 5 locks; 6 lift/swing bridges
Up early on Sunday as Dave had to catch a train to fetch the car from Fenny Compton. I went up to the marina to find out where they wanted us to moor, then back to the services at the lock with some rubbish. C&RT had arrived at the wharf but I didn’t hang about – instead I went for a run to have a look at Woolhampton bridge and lock.
Dave was back by lunchtime and we went straight into the marina and once more managed to moor before the rain began. We did some cleaning and put some stuff in the car before going off to the Rowbarge at Woolhampton for a lovely meal.
On Monday morning it was cold enough for a quick burst of the Mikuni – well we needed hot water anyway. After cleaning and packing we were away before lunchtime, finding ourselves held up briefly at Aldermaston!
You know bad things tend to come in threes? Well after our troubles at Sheffield Lock, then Aldermaston Lock (the leaking cassette didn’t count) we had an unscheduled long view of Stonehenge, courtesy of a lorry fire and an inaccurate traffic report ….. so here is Stonehenge from the top of the hill -
getting closer ….
closer still …
and here it is as we crawl by – note the steady hand as we weren’t moving at the time!
Home now for a few weeks - a replacement cassette valve to order as well as all the other jobs! Let’s hope the K&A is in a better mood when we get back!