Friday, 5 August 2016

Kennet & Avon IV (Dundas Aqueduct, Bath, then back to Great Bedwyn)

Mon 1st Aug - Dundas Aqueduct to Bath (above top lock)

A gentle amble into town, the pretty way - the canal tries both sides of the Avon, so valley one side and hill the other. My favourite official long term mooring was at Murhill, on the offside - tucked into the bank, bit of grass, mostly tress. Perfect.

I'd already decided to stop at Bath, so not point locking down on to the Avon, but I found a nice mooring not far from the Top Lock.

 A quite interesting wander through bridges & short tunnels,. the exit to one blocked by a day boat that was trying to turn, but wasn't really sure how, having got the moveable end somewhere that wouldn't move. I had to shift them out of the way (ok, in the direction they were aiming for) myself in the end..

 I did walk down the the locks to have a look, though, on the way into town to look for useful shops (I failed).

It's funny using the Nicolson as a guide book - very good in many ways, but as a possible side effect, the Avon above the canal joining is barely shown - whilst still obviously a major landmark in the city. I ended up having a coffee in the covered market cafe (having failed to find nearly enough charity shops), where I spotted a poster for the Bell in Bath, a pub where I'd played many, many years ago (more than two decades). I'd thought a Monday wasn't going to bode well, but it worked out really nicely - The Magick Brothers were an occasional Gong offshoot, Daevid Allen with Mark Robson (of Kangaroo Moon) and Graham Clark, part of the Gong family (he says vaguely). Now sadly without Daevid, but still a great way to spend a wet Monday evening, and revisit a pub that has held many great gigs.

Tues 2nd Aug - Bath to Semington

The day it rained - all day, more or less.

Not far from Bath - can't recall exactly where - I passed what claims to be the remains of Chalfont, a wooden hulled boat,  that has obviously been cut down at some point,,,

They're appealing for help - although it'll be one of those jobs where it is dubious how much would be left of the original if restored, even to cut down state. I didn't make a very good job of photographing the sign as I passed, but here's what I did manage to get:

There's a few swing bridges on this section that aren't single hander friendly - thankfully most have been, with mooring & bridge operation all one the same side - but one or two have either relied on luck (other boats, or the kindness of strangers) or just waiting for someone else to come along. I think it was Milbrook Swing bridge where I resorted to that... but it did give me time to have a quick look at the (sadly largely empty) farm honesty shop for a small co-operative:

No veg, but I did put money in the box for a Jon Boden CD and a spare windlass ;-)

Also along this stretch I spotted a family, on holiday, cycling: a blurry photo after they'd passed should protect identities nicely - that's the kids ahead, parents to the rear (including a trailer).

I'd seen a reassuring number of cyclists along the whole canal - I suppose the canal makes a handy preferable route as part of almost any journey in the area, not just the canal route itself.

I made another stop at Bradford upon Avon, and actually managed to look at the town this time... very twee...

It's interesting how little I remember from my cycle along the K&A, again a long time ago, but the large tithe barn at Bradford Upon Avon, I'm pretty sure I stopped & saw that (I also remember freewheeling down Caen Hill, feeling rather smug).

Weds 3rd Aug - Semington to Bridge 130

More locks & swing bridges - largely on my own, but I did share a couple with a hire boat who were telling me how they'd been told a boat had been nearly cilled 'only the other day'. I'm guessing that was the one I was in the lock for, although surprised the hirers admitted to it when they returned the boat...

At Foxhangers, just before the various locks of Caen Hill, a gaggle of kids in canoes burst out from the side not far ahead of me. I was already in tickover as passing moored boats, but they paid no attention to the large approaching metal thing - so I came out of gear and coasted, expecting them to at least stay to the left me. They continued their random movement, but when two kids in a canoe suddenly paddled right across my bow - so close I couldn't see them in front of the boat - I had to slam into reverse, and sounded the horn - which at least got them out of the way. The instructor then came up to me and announced 'I'd expect you to share the canal' - sorry, what was I supposed to do?: Teleport past them? I'm not sure how they were 'sharing' the canal, nor how the instructor was keeping his charges safe.

One of those situations where we've both probably come away thinking we were in the right. If anyone has any advice in such a situation, please give it... I'm normally happy to give canoeists space and pass dead slow (not that some seem to have any idea about passing on the right) - what more can I do?

I struck lucky again at Caen Hill again - this time a hire boat full of young men, but niether stag party or posh, so actually friendly and normal - and quite happy to work me back up ;-) No free moorings at the top in Devizes - I could carry on without a bit of shopping, they they wanted to moor, go to the pub and then head back down in the morning....

It's odd coming back the way I came - it's kind of the same, but a different view of everything. Rather trvially, though, there were two signs to 'The Memorial' only readable for those heading east... curious.

I sought out my little gap in the reeds by Bridge 130 again, and managed a bit of work on the front deck, although not really dry enough to do much....

Thurs 4th Aug - Bridge 130 to Wolf Hall (Bridge)

At about half past eight I was ready for the off; got all my bits & pieces ready, and went to start the engine - just a clunk of the solenoid, no starter turning over. After about an hour of cleaning contacts, different batteries and bypassing stuff, I gave up and called RCR, who sent John out all the way from - Uxbridge. He chased it back into life, and then we couldn't replicate the fault - which is sometimes as close as you get to fixing things in real-world engineering. A little frustrating as the solenoid/starter were relatively new, but hey...

While waiting that morning, sitting on the boat, reading - I realised that's what I'm not doing enough of - sitting on the boat in nice places, being.  Boats are a good way of being in a beautiful place - all I do is pass through, a lot of the time. A lesson learned (if I get time...).

Later that day I saw Dan Hollands, who's booked way in advance now he's moved over to the west country. He admittedly he'd had a missed call from RCR that morning ;-)

A shorter day boating than expected, though - through the long pound through Pewsey etc, then up the last few locks to the summit pound, finding a mooring ready for the locks downhill - downhill all the way back to Brentford, now - in the morning.

Fri 5th Aug - Wolf Hall to Great Bedwyn

The weather's looking better; the morning first thing boded well. Note the front stuck in the shrubbery in the pic above - after the first lock I found a snail hanging on to the side of the hull for dear life; I returned him to land as I doubted his luck would last (not with some of the angles I've found myself going into locks, anyway). There's some interesting old railway lines and remains of bridges across the canal around here, I must do some research... once again I didn't visit Crofton pumping station. ;-(

There's a lovely house along here - by lock 62, I think - that has lots of lovely sheds, one of which is an artist's studio. They have no road access, so transport of anything significant is by a small raft with an outboard - lovely, and a friendly chap, too. As I came past I saw they had a table with a few starnge squashes to give away. Looked peaceful.

Another pause for real life at Great Bedwyn moorings... I didn't mean to repeat mooring spots at all, but sometimes needs must.

Addendum: mooring at Great Bedwyn, I received the most delicious shake of the head and turn away from the boater adjacent, as I perfectly dropped a 30' boat into a 38' gap... whether it was because I had the temerity to moor in front of him (many people leave a gap of at least one ring spacing between themselves and the next boat), or dared to be seem on the open canal without a pristine paint job, or whether he just wanted to disapprove full stop (rather than offer to help & take a rope, which is what most others would do). Being the inverted snob I am, I feed off such pathertic behaviour...

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