Sunday 6 October 2013

A sunny day at Caen Hill

After some early mist the sun came up and it was a glorious autumn day.  We decided to go for a walk, get the paper and some milk and go to the pub – it didn’t quite work out that way but we still had a good walk!
We started by walking to Seend via the footpaths from Martinsdale bridge.  The footpaths were not well signposted and half the stiles were broken or non-existent, and when we got to Seend we found a notice warning that the path was going to be extinguished, so it’s not surprising that the landowners have not maintained the stiles recently.  Seend has some beautiful houses, but the shop closes at 10.30 on a Sunday…..  We walked back to the canal down Rusty Lane to the swing bridge, which you can see in the centre of this photo.  The views were lovely.
rusty lane swing bridge from afar
As luck would have it, a boat was just turning at the winding hole so we had the chance for a chat and to discover the existence of the Spar at the top of the Caen Hill flight.  So off we strode!
It was nearly lunchtime by the time we got to the top of the locks, so after a visit to the Spar we relaxed in the sunshine with the papers, a cup of tea and bacon baps in the cafe.  We walked back via the grassy slope that runs down the far side of the side pounds and got a different perspective on the flight.  Near the top -
side pound near the top
and near the bottom.
side pound near the bottom
There were some late-flying butterflies – we saw this red admiral, a comma, some skippers and several dragonflies.
red admiral
The rose-hips were magnificent. 
rose hips
After more tea and some cake we set to work cleaning the outside of the boat.  Luckily there is no boat next to us so we could wash both sides of the boat by pulling across to the other pontoon.  The Spar shop had meat from a local supplier, so it was roast beef this evening (sadly no Yorkshire pud as I forgot we had run out of eggs).
Tomorrow Dave's off to Froud's Bridge marina to collect the car, then we're off home for a couple of weeks.

Into Caen Hill marina after another RCR callout

Saturday 5th October

A dry day at last and still very mild.  We pootled gently up the 4 remaining locks as a succession of hot-air balloons drifted up from the Bristol direction.  Ordinary balloons;

balloon 1

a posh one;

posh balloon

a jazzy one;

jazzy balloon

and a patriotic one.

patriotic balloon

We arrived at Foxhanger 24-hour moorings for an early lunch and to await RCR again.  The Morse control had started jamming - the first time while still in forward gear in a lock – but luckily this time RCR were quite quick.  There were two of them – one had broken his wrists in an accident and he had to give his companion, who is nearly at the end of his training, the necessary instructions.  It turned out that the Morse control had lost its ball-bearings and a spring.  They also offered an opinion on the noise we are getting from the prop shaft, suggesting the engine is slightly misaligned – we will have to find out which boatyards west of Devizes people recommend to get this fixed.  Any suggestions?

We have booked into Caen Hill marina for the winter.  The facilities look good (though there is no workshop) and there are restrictions on the work you can carry out in the marina, but we have had good reports from a few boaters.

There was a beautiful sunset this evening – and it’s getting colder.

Sunset over the marina 1

4 locks, 2 swing bridges, 2 miles.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Hilperton to Seend and a better day

Friday 4th October

There was a violent thunderstorm overnight and lots of heavy rain, but it has cleared away the mist and low cloud at last.  Still enough cloud for some drizzle though, so we stopped at Hilperton for a while for a cup of tea after a quick trip to the shop.

There was an efficient three-boat shuffle at the first swing bridge, with us only have to close up.  There is some very imaginative artwork on the canals -


Is this owner a fan of the mayor of London or does Boris have a hobby we don’t know about?


We stopped for lunch at the 24-hour spot below Semington Bridge and I went up for a look at the old junction with the Wilts and Berks canal.  There are a couple of interpretation boards; the one at the junction is about the canal’s history and the other one, by the mooring, has an photo of the Duchess of Cornwall symbolically lifting a turf – in 2010 - where they (optimistically?) expect the new entrance to be, as the old course has been partially built over.  The plan is to restore it as far as Melksham I think, but it looks as though there is rather a lot of money to be raised first.  There is even a marina proposed at the new junction.  Here is Chuffed passing the old junction;


We moored at Seend between the two bottom locks as we expected it to be quieter than opposite the pub – true, but as if the moorings weren't overgrown enough there were 6 lots of dog poo to be cleared first! 

After a relaxing cup of tea in the intermittent sunshine I went off to pick blackberries while Dave started cleaning and re-affixing the tiles behind the galley sink, as they have been loose for some time.  We walked up to the Barge, nabbed a window table and enjoyed our beer as we watched several hire boats coming down the locks as the light rapidly faded.  It was nearly dark when a Sally Boat arrived and took the last space right outside.  Lots of entertainment before an excellent meal.

3 locks, 4 swing bridges, 5 miles

Thursday 3 October 2013

Grumble grumble

We made a very slow start this morning.  You know how annoying it is when boats go past too fast?  Well, an Alvechurch hire boat crept past so slowly as we prepared to leave that we barely noticed they were there!  Very good.  Anyway, we gave them 5 minutes before we left, but although we were creeping along too, what with all the moored boats round Bath, we soon found ourselves behind them.  Time to take a photo of the so-called visitor moorings outside Bathampton – a bit of phone-shake unfortunately as my camera battery is on charge.

socalled visitor mooring bathamptonWe stopped at Bathampton to take on water at the new-design water-point – a good flow and less leakage than the usual sort.  Looks more like Doctor Who’s K9 than a water point though!

new water point design

While we filled up, we watched an approaching widebeam wait for the super-slow hire-boat to inch past it, and as he came by he said there were 5 other hire-boats in front of it. It looks as though we have made a poor choice of day to be going in this direction!

We passed this odd sculpture, which we saw the other day;  on it is written ‘ceci n’est pas un canoe’ in the same cursive script as on the famous painting ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ by Magritte.

ceci nest pas un canoe

We thought it must be, or represent, the pointy end of a racing eight.  I couldn’t find anything on the internet about it anyway.

Once more the weather is so overcast and misty that we can see very little of the countryside.  We were waved past a widebeam, but he was then so close behind that when I opened the Millbrook swing bridge before Dundas aqueduct I really had to wave him through as well.  I closed up only to see him come to a halt as a single-hander towing a nearly full-length narrowboat came round the bend.  I didn’t really have much choice – back I went to open the bridge again as the rain started.

We needed to empty cassettes so were quite keen to stop at Dundas services – unfortunately they were occupied, and we foolishly opted not to moor up and wait.  As the rain got heavier and more persistent we thought we’d keep going past Avoncliff and stop at Bradford Tithe Barn moorings for the night – another wrong decision, as it was lunchtime and they were full too.  So we went up the lock with a hire boat that was already waiting, with a delightful couple enjoying their first canal holiday in spite of the weather.  And his job?  He drives tugs on the Panama Canal!  We  pulled in at the service station, where the unit is so prone to blockage you are asked to empty the cassette a third at a time, flushing between each third.  The cistern is slow to fill, and we had two cassettes to empty.  And one started to leak.  At least the rain had stopped!

Eventually we got going again and finally moored up before Hilperton on the nice little spot we were at the other day.  We finally had lunch after 3.  To cheer ourselves up, Dave watched Spurs beat some foreign team and I went for a run.  Much better afterwards!

The Kennet and Avon really hasn’t shown us her best side this trip.  Apart from the bit before Hungerford, and the Caen Hill flight which was great in spite of the breakdown, we have found the moorings poor and the miles of moored boats very tedious.  There have been no views to speak of this side of Devizes because of the weather and the overgrown banks. We had been looking forward to visiting Bradford-on-Avon but with our poor choice of timing missed out on that too!  Never mind, better luck next time.  Grumble over.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

A day in Bath

We decided, having heard the weather forecast, to leave Bristol for a future trip so as soon as a couple of Alvechurch hire boats had gone down to the locks we turned round and took the first free mooring above the Sydney tunnel.  Here we have just come through the first tunnel with its ornate stonework;

emerging from the tunnel and towards the pretty iron footbridges.

pretty sydney gardens footbridge

It’s a much better spot here.  We did some chores and had an early lunch.  We brought a load of tomatoes from home to ripen, and I roasted a batch last night and made them into soup this morning – delicious.  While it was cooking Dave got his camera and we watched a heron quietly fishing on the other side of the canal.  It seemed to be picking flies off the surface of the water and got a couple of small fish too.  Not this time though -

coming up no fish

He was close to one of the bike sculptures you see along the canal – after Dave took this shot he decided to tidy himself up but he’s quite dishevelled here!

heron with bike sculpture

A bit later a kingfisher appeared, took a quick plunge and nabbed a fish, but flew off before Dave could get his camera.

After lunch we walked down the locks and into the city via Pulteney Weir. Half-way down the locks is this interesting sundial, though sadly no sun to tell the time;

sundial by bath locks

As we crossed Pulteney Bridge the heavens opened so we dived into the Victoria Art Gallery as the rain hammered on the roof.  We spent a very pleasant hour in there before strolling round the city, past the Abbey Church as the umbrellas came out (Dave’s picture again).

abbey church by dave

We walked up to the Royal Crescent and took a few photos.  Dave of Deb;

royal crescent deb

and Deb of Dave.

royal crescent dave

We were quite disappointed with it – the curve is elegant and beautiful of course, but some of the houses have been cleaned and others have quite bad staining on the stones so the effect is very patchy.  The more we looked at it the more we realised the windows are all different too – some are plain glass and others have small panes.  We wonder what the city planners say when people want to change their windows?royal crescent

We thought the Circus was more impressive, even in the rain.  As we walked back we caught up with Tony from Kyakatina who drives one of the tour buses a couple of days a week when he is not doing his day job.  Before we went back to the boat we stopped for tea and cake in the little cafe on Pulteney bridge above the weir.  A bit basic but what a view!

pulteney weir from cafe

(Note the raindrops on the window!)  There is a trip boat above the weir too – just out of sight is the Pulteney Radial Gate, which was constructed in 1972 as part of the Bath flood defence scheme, though they now think a weir will do the job

trip boat above pulteney weir

We shouldn’t have lingered over our tea.  While we were in Waitrose the rain started and it poured all the way back to the boat.  We passed a hire boat entering the Deep Lock going up – two crew off the boat with no waterproofs and one driver unable to get her waterproof either.  Poor things – at least I had a brolly and Dave a waterproof, though we still got soaked.  We put the Mikuni on to dry our wet clothes on the radiators and decided to eat on the boat instead of trekking back down to town.

No locks, no swing bridges, half a mile by boat and lots more on foot.

To Bath

Tuesday 1st October

There was a lot of rain overnight and the day was gloomy and overcast.  We left our delightful mooring

mooring at trowbridge

and made our way to Bradford, where a volunteer helped us down the lock.  There were plenty of spaces at the Tithe Barn moorings, where we hope to stop on the return journey, but we didn’t stop and carried on towards Dundas where we planned a lunch stop.  Deb is pleased to report that she got Chuffed round the Avoncliff aqueduct smoothly and with no bumps against the banks!  We understand that the scenery is lovely round here, but the cloud base is so low that we can’t see much! As we went through the area towards Limpley Stoke we passed CRT volunteers scrub-bashing in preparation for the tree fellers later in the year.  Some of the trees look very precarious. Some good wood for someone later in the year I would think.

scrub bashing 1

scrub bashing 2

After going through a thick cloud of bonfire smoke


we moored at Dundas aqueduct for lunch.  The autumn colours are showing on the Virginia creepers;

red creeper at dundas

The visibility was good enough to see the Avon from the aqueduct;

the avon from dundas aqueduct

Not a narrowboat in sight but still 3 forms of transport;

3 forms of transport

Even though it was only 3 o’clock, the long moorings above Bath were full – too many Alvechurch hire boats, we’ll have to avoid Tuesdays in future!  We had to moor in the rough area north of the locks and the hire base as the moorings closer to the locks were also full.  The towpath is not in the best of condition.  We were soon joined by a hire boat who we helped to moor up and showed them how to position their pins.  They only had 3 pins which doesn’t seem enough to me.

1 lock, 2 swing bridges, 11 and a bit miles.