It’s really not our favourite canal, although some stretches are beautiful. The bit we liked most was between Devizes and Hungerford, but mostly we got fed up with the poor moorings, and the locks and swing bridges which are so often just too close to each other to get the tea made – and drunk – without it getting cold!
I woke before 6 to hear the rain beating down, and didn’t get up. It was pouring when we got up too, but eased off a little as we left at 8.30. The plan was to get down to Reading today as we originally intended, just that we would have to get to Theale first which we had meant to do yesterday. Froud’s Bridge is a nice little marina, but we weren’t sorry to be on our way at last. We were moored on one of the pontoons to the right of the picture.
The exit is onto the river as it flows down to a weir, and it was flowing fairly fast;
We cruised down to the lock in the rain, to find it being turned by a group of Guides who were going up to Newbury. It was their first canal trip and they were quick learners in spite of the rain which was hammering down! As they left, a novice crew from the hire base came up to be shown how to operate a lock, and they kindly did a lot of the work for us, and then opened the lift bridge for us too, so although it took a little longer than usual it was very easy for us.
The level of tuition seemed to be very good, with another staff member giving the steerer instruction as they came through the bridge, and the crew had also seen a video the afternoon before. At Tyle Mill we saw our first cygnets of the season.
Meg has quickly settled into boat life again, taking up her favourite position as soon as the rain had stopped! It’s a shame that a still photo can’t show her little nose whiffling as she enjoyed all the new smells!
We stopped at Theale for an early lunch, and were on our way again by 1. We soon caught up with a hire boat, with whom we shared the locks until Southcot. There were a lot of grey-lag geese this afternoon, and we could just see a gosling with the adults, though it was half-hidden in the grass!
The weirs this afternoon were pulling very strongly and at one the widebeam approaching us had a nasty shock as he suddenly started going sideways! But fortunately gave it enough welly to avoid a collision, as we we being carried along too quickly to do much about it at that point. As we entered Fobney, another boat joined us with what looked like a small branch caught on the bow. It floated off as they came to a halt, and as Dave got the hook to haul it out it turned out to be about 15 feet long and with multiple branches. It was heavy and unwieldy and it took both of us to haul it out and across the towpath – no pictures as the camera was on the boat, but this is what it did to my trousers!
The flow was quite strong as we came round the bends to County Lock. The weir here was the scene of a grounding a little while ago – apparently the water level was right up over the weir, the boater thought ‘why bother with the lock?’ and ended up losing the skeg as he tried to cruise over the weir. Somehow he avoided sinking. This is how it looked today -
We swept through the traffic light section, and past hordes of shoppers doing a bit of gongoozling on the side. Out onto the Thames at last where we turned upstream and got the prime mooring for Tesco as the rain came down once more. The rain cleared at last and it was a lovely evening.
13 locks, 12 and a half miles.