Where was I? Ah...
concrete things are on quite a few accommodation bridges, presumably
part of WWII invasion preparations, along wth the pill boxes along the
route. I like the message on this one...
Fri 29th July - Great Bedwyn to Bridge 130
Crofton locks above Great Bedwyn are the last of a constant stream
since Teddington, climbing the Thames, Kennet and then Dunn valleys to a
relatively short summit (and a tunnel) before starting to drop down
Speaking of tunnels: I never manage to tweak the camera to get a non-blurry tunnel shot, but this was worth posting to show the shadow of the bike, writ somewhat large on the tunnel roof:
K&A's locks go out of their way to be
single hander unfriendly - yes, a bridge across the throat of the lock
is very handy if you don't want to be crossing lock beams all the time,
but means that there's very few I can use my usual technique of pulling
the boat in or out. Going down in a lock just means climbing down to the
bat to drive it out, rather than climbing out after having driven in...
However after a few locks down there's the
long pound through Pewsey - lots of moored boats; I even spotted Mick
Atkinson's workboat - Mick replaced Tortoise's cabin sides a good few
years ago. Also, amsuingly on I think the first downhill lock, I spotted
a flyer adverting Dan Hollands - another of the people who have helped
to keep Tortoise going over the years who's moved west.
many stretches of heavily overgown vegetation on both sides - the GU's
clean towpath edges and piling a distant memory. That doesn't stop
people mooring up though, often several feet out from what may or may
not be a bank. Tortoise came with a gangplank, but I think got used once
on the Oxford canal, and wasn't replaced when it became a liability. I
haven't needed one yet.. just past Bridge 130 I found a perfect spot,
30' of relatvely clean bank that allowed me to get in, and apply a few
power tools to the boat. The middle of nowhere stops being the middle of
nowhere when another boat moors a short distance away, but it was
lovely & quiet, and indeed dark in the night...
Sat 30th July - Bridge 130 to Sells Green.
short amble into Devizes, where I ambled around for a bit (and found
the eer-useful Wilkinson's) and largely put off the fateful moment when
I'd have to start the Caen Hill flight. I'd forgotten there are a fair
few locks before & after before the main flight with the lock
side pounds... thankfully at about the 4th down, a hire boat caught up
with me - with nine people on it, largely a random collection of able
children. It ended up being easiest for me to open the left hand paddle
and then get back on the boat, and thanks to them, we got down
relatively painlessly. Whether I have the same luck on the way back
remains to be seen... the pound at the bottom of the flight was around a
foot down, with with moored boats hanging at scary angles. If my boat I
would have run some water down...
got caught out at one swing bridge - I'd pulled in & waved the
boat behind me through, only to find, unlike every other I'd encountered
on the K&A, the wasn't mooring bollards on the other side, only
a winding hole - I was about to do something nefarious with my boat in
the winding hole to get round this, when a watching moored boater came
to my rescue...
Sun 31st July - Sells Green to Dundas Aqueduct.
few more locks, dropping down to a long pound all the way into Bath,
with only one lock in Bradford upon Avon. The locks were almost
alternated with swing bridges; I was more or less sharing with another
hire boat, so we'd take turns on getting the swing bridge open while the
other sailed through.
One fly in the ointment was a
very indignant day boat's occupants who claimed they were 'told' they
could stop on a swing bridge mooring. They tried to tell me to stop
somewhere else, and failed to understand that there was a sodding great piece of metal across the canal, so I'd need to stop there to move it.
Semington, I think, broken left hand paddle gear and plenty of people
around the lock waiting to come up meant I was in the rare position of
being n my boat rather on the side - which meant I noticed that the hire
boat next to me was a little too far back, so suggested they move
forward, but they couldn't, as they were jammed on the cill... just when
I needed to be on the side... ;-( Anyway, a lot of issuing orders
without explanation from me (rare, but sometimes necessary) while
standing on Tortoise's roof got the boat floating again. Lots of people
around the lock, but all hire/day crews. Could have been a lot, lot
worse. I think the crew (especially the rather timid driver) were more
shaken and they let on. After that of course it turns out one of the top
paddles (hurriedly raised, of course) hadn't been closed properly, the
guy with the working lower paddle gear had closed the paddle before
opening the gate, and we were in that far longer than I wanted to be. I
was so glad to get away, I forgot to look for the bricked up mouth of
the Wilts & Berks...
It does strike me a little
daft for hire companies to supply such long boats - I know that's were
they make their money, and can sleep more people - but another 5' of
leeway might prevent the inevitable hire boat cill hangups everywhere
Bradford upon Avon was in carnival mode - a hot
Sunday, a floating boat market beyond the lock and, a civil war
reenactment just off the canal. I squeezed on to the end of what might
have been a reasonable mooring, had a quick look around and risked
sunburn watching people in heavy wool ht each other with sticks. I left
after a bit, on the way out one of the stewards (in the inevitable hi
viz jacket, but labelled 'Civil War Staff') asked me what I though - and
I said what was on my mind, that it was a bit strange to celebrate
battles, and death... I know it's a much loved hobby for a lot of
people, but... up to them. I guess.
North West Passage: Day 31 - A day of changing plans and good company today. We'd arranged to meet people at about midday at the top of the Hatton Flight; but there was rain overnigh...
16 hours ago