Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Avoncliff back to our winter base

The last few days of our trip are posted from home as the internet signal on this trip has been very poor.  It’s odd, because on our last trip we had a brilliant signal most nights – but at least we now know where the good spots are for next time. Having finally posted several days’ blogs on Friday night, I used up the rest of the laptop’s battery catching up with some of the other blogs instead of writing Friday's!  So here’s the rest …..
 Friday 1st November
The few remaining hire boats set off very early in the gloom and damp.  We made a leisurely start and pootled gently up to Bradford-on-Avon where we moored at the Tithe Barn for a morning’s sight-seeing.  Although there is an English Heritage sign outside, the Tithe Barn is free to enter! We were impressed with its size and the general state of preservation, but particularly with the skills of the 14th century craftsmen who built it.  This picture was taken from the towpath, as the other side has got workmen’s vans and orange fencing round part of it at the moment, which doesn’t look too good in a photo!
tithe barn 2
My camera’s flash doesn’t work, but luckily Dave’s does, so he took some pictures of the inside.
inside tithe barn 2
We looked around the little gift shops – pretty stuff, but nothing we wanted to buy – then went on down to the Saxon Church of St Laurence.
saxon church 3
inside saxon church 1We strolled up to the Lock Inn Cottage for some Fun with Dick and Jane, aka lunch!  As they indicate, portion control is not one of their strong points and I defy anyone still to be hungry after eating there!  We sat in the brightly painted boat and read the paper while waiting, but now most of the hire boats had gone back to base there was no action on the water.
fun with dick and jane 2
Well, after lunch we soon found out where all the hire boats were – at the top of the lock, all breasted up along the offside. Two narrow-boats were breasted up opposite on the water point, with the wide-beam trip boat front of them.  We crept slowly out into the narrow channel – just out of the picture on the left were the boats on the water-point, and ahead is another narrow-boat waiting for the services, pulled up next to a moored boat.  Bit of a squeeze!bit of a squeeze
Dave had to get us through a channel not entirely straight and only about the width of a narrow lock at the narrowest point, which he did without even the merest touch of another boat. The photo below makes it look much more straightforward than it was!
bit of a squeeze 2
After that it was a short and easy potter to the little spot we have used before, just short of Ladydown Bridge on the outskirts of Trowbridge. It was nearly dark as a day boat passed on its way back to Bradford, the occupants singing lustily, and they were followed even later by a private boat in the pitch dark. 
1 lock 3 miles.
Saturday 2nd November
We set off soon after 9, and after a short stop at Hilperton for the paper, we set off to try and get through all the locks before the forecast rain arrived.  No such luck.  The wind was getting up as we went through the swing bridges and the rain started as we went up the first lock.  At least there was a bit of a rainbow;
rainbow near semington
We paused for lunch below the Seend locks, and in spite of the wind and rain we carried on towards Sells Green. We had some good fortune with the swing bridges – will this hire boat hold the bridge open for us?
will they hold the bridge open for us
Yes they will!
yes they will
What a lovely young man, and it’s raining again too.
lovely chap at swing bridge
We were lucky at the next one too, and pulled up for the night a few hundred yards before the moorings at Sells Green – we were so concerned they would be full we opted to grab the first decent space we saw while the rain held off.  The weather really was horrible after that, with heavy rain and buffeting winds – although the wind was largely blowing from behind us, and the cratch cover was firmly zipped up, the wind was still howling through the vents on the bow doors.  Even so there were at least two firework parties going on in the area.  At least we’ve got a TV signal and I can watch Strictly by the fire!
7 locks, 6 swing bridges, 6 miles.
Sunday 3rd November
In spite of the wind last night the chinaman’s hat was still on the chimney – it blew off the night before but luckily stuck in the grass at the edge of the water.  It was cold enough this morning to need the Mikuni on – we tend not to leave the fire in overnight.  Dave spent the morning doing a few jobs while I went for a run and got the paper (getting very wet on the way back), before we walked up to the Three Magpies for a very nice Sunday lunch which we had luckily booked last night – it was very full.  Then we got wet again on the way back to the boat! but as soon as it had passed over and the wind abated somewhat we pulled pins and made for the marina. 
The wind got up again, making mooring rather difficult, but we got there in the end.  A very smart Dutch barge, Branta, has moved onto the next door pontoon – we have seen them a couple of times and admired their paintwork.
I only took one photo today – this was from our mooring at Sells Green.rainbow at sells green
We can hear more firework parties going on as the rain patters on the roof and we settle down for a cosy evening by the fire.
1 mile.
Monday 4th November
Sunshine and a beautiful, if windy, day.  A good day to be out on the boat but also for packing the car and getting home in the dry.  Dave managed to get the area between gunwales and rubbing strake touched up on the starboard side, as well as a couple of engine bay jobs.  The damaged chinaman’s hat disappeared during the night, presumably now at the bottom of the marina, so that’s another thing to buy, as well as a new car battery...... it's the second time is has failed, but luckily a friendly moorer offered a jump start from her car to get us going.
We haven’t winterised yet, as we hope to get the engine service done before winter and maybe get a few days’ cruising in if the weather is not too bad…..

Friday, 1 November 2013

Off we go again; autumn trip from Caen Hill marina

We have had no internet signal since we left, so here’s several days’ worth of blog posted on Friday 1st November…

Tuesday 29th October 2013 – Caen Hill marina to Seend

A delayed start to this trip.  We had been so alarmed by the dire storm warnings for Monday that we thought we had better stay home in case any of our trees came down.  In the event there was very little damage in our area, though the roads were covered in leaves and bits of branch.  We drove up to Caen Hill in bright sunshine and apart from the brisk wind blowing across the marina it was a beautiful day.

We discovered the heavy rain had caused water to pool on the pram cover and break two of the guys which was a shame as the water had been dumped on the mat outside the door.  But no matter – after a quick lunch we left the marina (not an easy job in the wind) and set off for Seend, stopping briefly at Sells Green to top up the water.  Though we had only gone a short distance, we had already picked up a large twiggy moustache on the bow.  When we reached the locks there were boats coming up and also a CRT Hydrographic Survey boat coming up behind us with 4 crew so the locks were easy peasy. We moored at the Barge and set about re-hanging all the curtains which we had taken home to wash.  Here is the survey boat passing us to go down the fourth lock; they carry on till it’s too dark then finish for the day.  As you can see dusk is creeping on and it’s only 4.30. 

hydrographic survey at seend

The woman in charge, CRT’s only surveyor apparently, had come down from Leeds.  They go around the system, and are currently surveying the K and A to find out where it needs dredging – though she couldn’t say when that would be!  We lit the fire and decided to stay in as the rain started again.

2 miles, 3 locks, 2 swing bridges and lovely sunshine.

Wednesday 30th October – Seend to Bradford-on-Avon

It was very cold first thing, but the sun was shining as we had breakfast.  The CRT survey team passed us before we left on their way to their boat below the lock, and that was the last we saw of them.  By the time we left soon after 9 we had already had to take the thermals off!  We had an excellent morning with brilliant sunshine, and company for the first two locks to boot. 

By the time we moored at Hilperton for lunch the cloud was over and the wind getting up.  Dave popped up to the shop for the paper and came back with a sack of recycled wood briquettes which we have started to use instead of coal.  There is sometimes a bit of sawdust on the floor but they are generally much cleaner to use and to burn than coal, and leave very little ash.  They provide plenty of heat too, but need topping up more often than coal.  The other advantage is that they are relatively cheap (4.99 for a sack) and obviously much lighter to carry!

There are some interesting craft amongst the liveaboards; very tall

tall boat near bradford

and with some interesting artwork!

interesting art work

There are a lot of hire boats out this week and many have Halloween decoration of various kinds.


We moored mid-afternoon above Bradford lock, midway between the road bridges, where it is nice and quiet, and straight away went down to the town.  We discovered the cake shop shortly before it closed and got some lovely half-price cakes, then strolled round the town admiring the buildings and dodging the traffic.  We walked into a little park to take a photo of the Avon bridge

bradford bridge

and crossed the river via the footbridge which was renamed to honour Bradford’s own Olympic gold medallist Ed McKeever;

plaque on footbridge over avon

soon afterwards we found his gold post-box and took the obligatory photo of that too.  I love how towns are so proud of their athletes.

ed mckeever gold post box

We walked back to the canal via the road bridge over the Avon, where my picture of the old lock-up on the bridge is too rubbish to publish, but here is a much better photo of the Bradford Gudgeon! (That’s the fish on the weather-vane above the lock-up, for those who don’t know Bradford-on-Avon).

the bradford gudgeon

We made a diversion past the station to rejoin the canal by the Tithe Barn – no photos as it was getting quite dark by this time.  As we approached the boat the rain started and continued on and off all evening.  We didn’t mind, we were cosy and warm inside!

7 miles, 4 locks, 4 swing bridges.

Thursday 31st October- - Bradford to Dundas and Avoncliff

We popped down to the town to get some milk and check out the market – some good food stalls but we didn’t really need anything this time.  We thought we’d get going straight away when we got back; we pulled in to wait as two hire boats came up the lock; approaching bradford lock

and with two more waiting below had no work to do for a change!  This is an unusual view for me – leaving a lock on the boat!

leaving bradford lock

There was a steady procession of hire boats this morning on their way back to Hilperton, Foxhanger and Bradford – it’s clearly been a good week for the hire companies.

The planned tree felling between bridges 174 and 175 at Limpley Stoke has begun.

felling at limpley stoke

We continued to Dundas, where we took on water and emptied a cassette, then turned and moored for lunch on one of the 24-hour spots at the end of the aqueduct.  Before we left we strolled up the Somersetshire Coal Canal to realise we could have had lunch at the cafe, then went down the steps for a look at the aqueduct from the river.

dave at dundas aqueduct

and from the other side, where Dave was looking at the masons’ marks.

dave admiring masons marks

The marks are fascinating – as Dave pointed out, they can mostly all be quickly chipped out with ordinary stone chisels.  Some nice lichen too where it hasn’t been cleaned off.

masons marks 1    masons marks 2

masons marks 3    masons marks 4

On the way back to Avoncliff, we saw some of the sculptures that have been made out of bike bits and other rubbish pulled out of the canal;

  sculpture 2

We moored just past the Cross Guns and walked down to look at the Avoncliff aqueduct while it was still light enough. 

avoncliff aqueduct

The river is flowing very fast, and it’s not surprising that the navigation below Bath locks has been closed for several days.

We were astonished to see two canoes turning above the weir – not only is the river high, but the light was beginning to go.  We didn’t catch them on camera though.

weir at avoncliff

We had a pleasant meal in the Cross Guns, with beer from the Box Steam Brewery 4 miles away.

7 miles, 1 lock.