Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Kennet & Avon - I (Brentford to Newbury)

Well, I did mean to be a little more organised on this trip, but I'm at Newbury already... ;-)

The K&A is one the of canals I cycled, years ago, and the opportunity came up to take some time off and get over here, so I did...

The strat was a little delayed due to a collapsed water pump on the way down to Brentford; a replacement was ordered from Calcutt, naturally I have a non-standard pulley size, but after bending two gear pullers from Toolstation I took myself down to the huge MSO boatyard in Brentford, who sorted it for me with a certain amount of amusement - and that's without seeing the size of the boat.

Most pictures are on my phone - so may be added later, or maybe not - who knows...

For at least my own memories:

Thurs 21st July - Brentford - Sunbury (mooring by park in lock channel)

I do quite enjoy the Thames, if everything is going to plan. It's a big expanse of water, but Tortoise is quite happy with a bit of depth, and motors along.

I was accompanied by a small plastic thing and some teenagers, under parental orders to get it back to the Wey. They wanted me to follow behind on the tidal section, as 'it's broken down three times already'. They had no guidebook, so looked to me to guide the way with waves & shouts. I left them to go on through Sunbury lock, they seemed to think the first lock on to the Wey has to be passed when manned, but I know nothing of such things.

Fri 22nd July - Sunbury to Marlow (mooring on inside of bend, just before bypass bridge & Marlow lock)

The previous times I've been on the Thames I've come down, and somehow the ropes (esp front) seemed long enough - but going up I quickly had to extend the front rope (already the length of the boat, to aid manually turning) so both could be held from the back deck. Lockeepers are [largely] friendly, and whenever possible I'd walk up and ask in advance for a hand with roping up. The grumpier 'I've seen it all' types allow it to feed their preconceptions ;-)

It is a different world from canals, especially at weekends - huge great plastic things whizz around, passing slow old me by default, and often charging around corners on the left - up to them. I realise they look down on me (literally), but it's mutual...

Sat 23rd July - Marlow to Reading (moored above Fobney lock)

A quick passage through Henley was slowed by the lock keeper at Marsh lock enjoying a long lunch; the queue for self-service was chaotic, and apparently not entirely orderly...

I also realised that the gentle rise in engine temperature when the engine is off at a lock was inevitable was the water had stopped circulating - obvious now, but a quiet concern until I realised. Yes, I watch the temperature gauge a lot.

Like Kingswood junction for the Stratford, the entrance on to the Kennet & Avon is something I'd passed, and planned to explore one day. The first lock was a gentle pleasure after the Thames locks, and then a bonkers trip - on self-operated traffic lights - through the middle of a shopping centre. There are NO BOATS in Reading - apparently there were permanent moorings but long since removed, and nowehere for CCs - deliberate, I'm sure. The kennet winds it's way through the back end of Reading, feeling very small (reminded me of the Wendover Arm, initially).

I was assisted at Fobney lock by Ciaran, on his way back to his boat above the lock. The K&A locks aren't entirely single-hander friendly, but there's always a way, of only climbing out at the lock, or sometimes pulling in with an extended centre rope... Ciaran's boat has an extended well deck workshop and looks like the kind of boat I might have ended up with myself.

Sun 24th July - Reading to Midgham lock 

Being a relatively recently restored canal, there's an amusing mishmash of lock mechanisms, presumably acquired from around the system. Phil from work & NB Jacob had warned me it would be hard work - and it is - but reasonable, with occasional amusements stopping traffic for ages, to get into a lock just past a swing bridge etc. Gongoozlers are largely friendly, and I have borrowed a few to help me out - including the first turf lock, which would have been kind of OK, but it was nice to have help. Also shared a few locks - it's nice to be able to share the work, hopefully at least my fair share, taking turns to close up one & the other goes ahead to deal with the next swing bridge/lock...

I know nothing of Aldermaston the place, but had in my head historical (and more recent) marches from RAF Aldermaston/AWE. Turns it is just a quiet, pretty village:

I ended up moored on the offside of the lock, after about an hour of looking for somewhere to moor, but no bollards, so think it was OK. There as an unoccupied boat there too, but that & the promimity of the railway (and little else) meant I had no qualms about running the engine to fire up power tools and do some prep work for intended painting on the boat, when the opportunity arises.

Mon 25th July - Midgham into Newbury (mooring by footbridge no 53)

A short hop to get where I needed to be for a few days, mainly shared with a shared ownership boat. Comments about 'no moorings in Newbury' didn't prove to be that accurate, especially for a 30' boat... ;-)

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