Sunday, 13 August 2017

Down Caen Hill and now heading for Bath

At our last posting we were moored in Devizes.  Well we spent two days there chiefly because we wanted to do the tour round Wadworth's Brewery, so we did not actually go down the Caen Hill Locks until Thursday.

One of the impressive features of the Brewery (apart from the beers we sampled on a tutored tasting) was the sign shop where most of the Wadworth pub signs are hand painted.  This one was finished by Prince Charles who apparently painted the fourth horse's hoof from the right.

Here is the sign shop with a rather unflattering picture of Lucy, our very enthusiastic and effective guide, on the right and Helen laughing on the left.


This is the grist mill (for cracking the grains of barley to make grist) manufactured in Leeds in 1938 and still in use.  Apparently the firm that made it was a victim of its own success as its machines were so reliable they never needed replacing.
And here is a vat of Harvester beer being fermented.















So last Thursday we set off down the famous Caen Hill flight of locks, going down the initial 6 and then the straight run of 16 locks to moor at the bottom.

Here is Leo just approaching the top lock at Devizes.

And this is the top lock of the main flight, next to the cafe.  At this point a wide view opens out of the plain down below the locks.  Though we were on our own in the locks we had the benefit of an accomplished volunteer, Gill, who helped us all the way down and then stayed for well earned tea and biscuits.

Caen Hill is quite a tourist attraction so you need to be prepared for being the centre of attention.

 As you come out of each lock the view ahead is amazing.

Here is Leo at the bottom of the straight flight of 16 locks.

Seen from next to the boat, this is the classic view up the locks.  Designed by John Rennie the flight is straight as an arrow up the hill.



















The locks don't end here as there are another 7 below where we spent the night.  We came down these on Friday and met our friends Pete and Sylvie who have a broadbeam boat near the bottom of these locks.  They treated us to lunch onboard their boat which was very welcome and totally unexpected.  We then carried on to Seend where another five locks drop towards Bradford on Avon.

This is Violanthe which is Pete and Sylvie's boat.  It is 'a narrow boat and a half ' wide so very roomy inside and even has a bathroom with a bath!!

The K&A has somewhat of a reputation for 'crusty' boats and this was a fine example of a residential boater with the contents of the loft and the garage on its roof.
At Seend we moored in the pound with the Barge Inn.  This is a fine pub but unfortunately that pound leaks quite a lot and was down about 18 inches by morning.  Once a boat came through the lock below we were no longer floating. Mud and rocks were visible on the sides of the canal.  So we pushed off and had breakfast while moored in the lock!!

Coming into Trowbridge an aqueduct crosses the A350.

And at the bottom of the pair of locks at Semington we passed where the Wilts and Berks canal once turned off the K&A.  Perhaps it will again be navigable one day.

At Hilperton we stopped as arranged at 'The Boatyard' run by Spencer and Victoria to have our fuel polished.  This cleans the tank and the fuel and we have had this done with a view to the passage on the tidal Severn that we are planning.  Our fuel was not in fact very dirty and this jam jar shows the small amount of muck at the bottom from the filtration process.

As well as doing this we were able get all the boat items on our shopping list at their chandlery and they sell the cheapest diesel on the canal.  So well worth patronising.


From Hilperton we had a slow journey into Bradford on Avon following a pair of boats, Ferrous pulling Susan.  Still boating is not for those in a hurry and it was a nice day.









We had a good look round Bradford yesterday afternoon.  It is similar to Bath with terraces of golden stone and an attractive riverside too.  Today (Sunday) we welcomed our son David and his girlfriend Ash on board for a short cruise to Avoncliff.

Bradford on Avon has a single lock which is one of the deepest on the canal at over 10 feet.  This is another tourist place so lots of people were watching from the road bridge as we came out of the lock.

The canal from Bradford to Bath is on a level shelf high above the River Avon and crosses the river and the railway on a couple of wonderful aqueducts.  This is the first one at Avoncliff.

This is the view from the top of Leo crossing the aqueduct looking towards the east.

Beyond the river crossing the canal crosses an aqueduct over the railway.  There is a sharp right turn onto the aqueducts and a sharp left turn to come off them.  The blue boat is waiting for us to come off the aqueducts so that it can cross.

It was a fine afternoon so we enjoyed a salad lunch on the bank watching other boats making a mess of the sharp turn.  David and Ash are between Ian and Helen at the table from Leo.

Here is John Rennie's fine architecture of the Avoncliff Aqueduct.

After David and Ash had left us we had a drink in the garden of the pub, the Cross Guns, sitting right down on the banks of the River Avon.  You can see the tables and brollies on the right of the river.

As you come off the aqueduct there is a pillbox left over from the Second World War.  Some humourist has put a couple of beer bottles in the gunsight so that it looks as if someone has binoculars trained on passing boaters.

















This is a pleasant spot to spend the night so we haven't moved on to Bath as we had intended.  Still, tomorrow is another day.  From here it is on to Bath and then Bristol before we tackle the tidal Avon and Severn if the weather is kind to us.  Fingers are tightly crossed because unless the wind is force 3 or less we won't be going.  We'll see.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

In Devizes ready for the Caen Hill Locks

It has been over a week since our last posting.  How remiss of me.  I was going to do it last night but we were out in the wilds without internet access.  Last posting we were moored at Aldermaston.  So on Monday we set off towards Newbury.

Along the way we met Rob on his boat Jango.  Sadly Jango was misbehaving with the engine racing intermittently.  So we tried towing him for a bit.  Fortunately Rob turned his engine on when we came to slow down and stop or he might have run into us!

Here we are with Jango in Monkey Marsh Lock, another of the turf locks on this canal.

On Monday night we found some nice moorings on the offside at Widmead Lock and walked round the nature reserve on the north side of the canal.  On Tuesday we continued into Newbury.  This picture is of the canal going through the centre of Newbury.

As you cruise towards the lock in the town the River Kennet comes at you from the right.  Often this can be difficult but it was no problem this time as the river wasn't flowing too fast.  We moored above the lock and looked round the town.

This is the Cloth Hall which is 15th century and is now the town museum.  When we came this way four years ago it was being renovated, but this time we had a good look round.  Its material is well presented and interesting.  There is even a cafe where we had a drink.

Having a boat called Leo we often spot lions.  These four were at the foot of Queen Victoria in Victoria Park, though originally they were in the Market Place.










Our second day in Newbury was one of mostly pouring rain and the afternoon was spent researching the propect of crossing from Bristol up to Sharpness on the tidal Avon and Severn.  We hope that we will be able to do this.  Much depends on the wind and the tides when we get there.  Thursday was a much nicer day but pretty windy.  We cruised on to Kintbury, a delightful little village between Newbury and Hungerford.

Much better weather as you can see and we shared locks with Nick and Jeff on Telemachus, a rather fine looking Steve Hudson boat.

A horse boat does trips from Kintbury and we met it along the canal.  Normally you pass boats by sticking to the right hand side of the canal, but clearly you have to make an exception for the horse boat!

And here is the engine pulling a boatload of tourists.
We liked this memorial in Kintbury Church to a well loved servant.


This fine house had a lovely garden stretching down to the canal.














On Friday we carried on into Hungerford and had lunch in the Rafters cafe in the top of the antiques and curios arcade in the High Street.  An excellent all-day breakfast for £7.95 with local sausages and bacon. We then had a look round this attractive town.


Hungerford Church has a clapper stile at one entrance.  The gate looks like this when it is closed.  To open it you push down on the right of the top rail ......

..... and this is what happens.  You then step over the low bit.  When you let go, the heavy bits of timber on the left then pull the cross pieces horizontal.  Very ingenious!!










From Hungerford the climbing gets steeper and the locks more frequent.  Saturday took us to Great Bedwyn.

Hungerford Marsh Lock has the novelty of a swing bridge over the top.  It could be embarrassing if you were to lift the boat in the lock without first swinging the bridge.

And here is Leo up in the lock with the bridge swung back.

From our mooring at Great Bedwyn we walked up the hill to Chisbury Hill Fort.  This is hard to find being hidden in the trees at the top of the hill.  This view is the one the Iron Age folk would have had to the east.









Last Sunday our son, David, decided he would cycle to meet us as we set off up the final 10 locks to the summit of the K&A at 450 feet above sea level.
 The panorama above shows lock 60 at Crofton with the Crofton pumping engine to the right.  The steam powered beam engine pumped water from the reservoir by the lock up to the summit level of the canal.  Now it is usually replaced by an electric pump.  Each boat crossing the summit lets down 200,000 gallons of water - so lots of pumping required.

This shows us, on our own, going up the Crofton flight.

And David found us at the locks.  He is sporting his Leeds Uni cycling gear.  After he had replenished his energy levels with peanut butter sandwiches, he gave us a hand with the locks.

The water level on the summit was very low and it was a slow job getting across.  The Bruce tunnel is only 500 yards long but was the first tunnel we had seen since London.

After Helen had cooked a meal to build David up for his return cycle ride (40 miles to us and 35 miles back), we looked round Wootton Rivers where we were moored, two locks from the bottom of the four coming off the summit on the west side.

Wootton Rivers is a very pretty village with mainly thatched houses.  The church has one clock face with letters rather than numbers.  Can you work out what it says?

Here's an idea of what the village looks like.  The Royal Oak is on the right and, after a walk up the hill, the footpath we were following came through the back yard of the pub.  So of course we had to drop in for what proved to be a delicious pint (and Helen had a good cider too).

We liked these ducks made out of thatch on top of Clare Cottage in the village.













Because of low water levels the bottom lock at Wootton Rivers has only been open from 10 am to 3 pm.  So we were fully expecting (and indeed a CRT chap had told us) it would be opened at 10 am on Monday.  Together with five other boats we were therefore more than annoyed to find that CRT had decided to close the canal forthwith for at least two days!!  This decision was taken because some idiot had drained the pound above this bottom lock the previous day and there was vandalism on other locks to the summit.  Well it took a lot of phone calls all morning and early afternoon to CRT people both centrally and locally but eventually the local team agreed to open this bottom lock and release the six boats. 

So here, finally at about 3 in the afternoon we are going through the lock.  Below here there is a fifteen mile pound with no locks until you get to the Caen Hill flights of 29 locks at Devizes.

It is a very quiet bit of countryside on this pound.  Here we are passing the strange conical hill called Pickled Hill.  The canal goes round this hill and we moored on the other side.

This is Lady's bridge.  The lady in question was Lady Susannah Wroughton who, when the canal was built across her land, insisted on a wide bit like a lake and this ornate bridge.









Where we moored near Pickled Hill was one of the quietest spots we've found for a long time.  No sounds of cars or trains, just an occasional tractor working the fields in the dying light.  Today we've come about 9 miles to moor in the centre of Devizes in sight of the first of the 29 locks.

Stretches of the canal round here are made narrower by the growth of reeds on either side.  So seeing these two broad beam boats passing was quite entertaining.  Diana is one of a number of Bruce Trust boats we've seen which are designed to accommodate disabled crew and guests.

This is the wharf at Devizes.

And here is the fine market square in the town.

Tomorrow morning we have booked to go on the tour of Wadworth's Brewery shown here.  Should be fun, but don't expect an update of the blog tomorrow evening.











We will be spending two nights here at Devizes and then we will have a hard working day going down most or all of the locks at Caen Hill.  Then we are heading to Bristol and the Bristol Channel so please wish for calm and fine weather for us.