Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Chaos, Swing Bridges and Rain!

27th – 28th June 2015
Bath to Caen Hill Marina
20.75 miles, 14 locks, 8 swing bridges

A quick morning jaunt to the park with Monty gave me a surprise and food for thought – 2 people fast asleep and presumably sleeping rough.  They were completely oblivious to all that was going on around them – quite a few dog walkers and many parents and children on their way to school.  Back to the boat and this was the view out of the galley window!  At least it gave us some privacy from the many cyclists that whizzed past.

This was the view from the other side and at least the sky gave hope for better weather, which on the whole did behave today

Within a few hundred yards we turned off the River Avon onto the Canal.  The Kennet and Avon Canal is actually two rivers (Avon and Kennet surprisingly enough!) joined by a canal.  It stretches from Bristol to Reading over 87 miles, 105 locks and a fair few swing bridges.  As soon as you leave the river there are 6 locks to negotiate.  The first is big,

But the second is even bigger (it was two at one time) - at 19.5 feet in depth it is, I believe, the second deepest broad (can take two narrow boats or one wide beam boat) canal lock in the country.

It is a very long way down and the gates are so big and heavy that I cannot move them on my own. Even The Captain from nb Cleddau struggled.

This church is just below the lock - the Captain reckons it is a warning to boaters who risk heart attacks trying to open and close the bottom set of gates!

They get easier and prettier as you move up.  I was locking ahead and got a surprise at this one - my third sighting of someone sleeping rough that day.  This man really was how I visualise a true 'gentleman of the road' - long beard and quite elderly (or did he just look old?).  He was very helpful and helped me open and close gates.  He was packing up all his kit for the day - I wonder if he is a regular under this tree?

Once you have negotiated the top lock there is a lengthy lock free pound and as we were emerging from that lock it became apparent what we were to expect for the next couple of days - boats everywhere and most of them parties of young men.  I flinch whenever I see them standing on the roof - one bump and they could be off.

Even trees do not deter them

There were boats everywhere - chaos was the order of the day

Patience required to sort out who is going to move, when and where to

Pirates abounded - good job they were friendly

For me the pirate sporting bright pink tights won the day!

There were some more scenic parts

But not many without moving traffic - this boat was going so slowly we had to keep reversing to avoid colliding with them - it was a wooden boat, that had sunk and been rescued, hence the slow pace.  They did pull over and let us past once there was space to do so safely and nb Cleddau also made it past them eventually.

There was even the odd stretch of scenic canal and no boats either moving or moored

But very few - this is the norm - nose to tail moored boats

One of the things that marks the K&A for me is the number of swing bridges.  Some are open, but at most a member of the crew has to disembark to open the bridge, let the boat/s through and get back on board once the bridge has been closed.  To aid disembarkation and embarkation there are clearly marked landing stages.  We arrived at this one first to find a tiny little canoe whose crew had stopped for a picnic!  When we arrived they were moored by the white fence which marks the start of the landing stage.  I asked very politely if they could move as I needed to get off.  They did, but only a few yards!!  They just did not seem to understand that they really should not have been there!!  Still there was no damage done and I managed to disembark in safety. I believe the Captain gave them the benefit of his advice as well, but it went straight over their heads!

There are two rather splendid Aqueducts to traverse - Dundas

 And Avoncliff

Amazingly at Avoncliff there were some 24 hour moorings that were empty!

Monty, Boatwif and I jumped ship at Avoncliffe to get ahead and open the swing bridge before Bradford on Avon.  It was, however, open.  By the time we arrived at Bradford lock nb Tentatrice and nb Cleddau were moored up - there is a magnet that prevented further forward motion until a pint of 6X had been bought and consumed!!

We did eventually make it through the lock - the voluntary lock keepers assured us it is the busiest lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal.  There was certainly no shortage of action whilst we were there.

Shortly after that we met our Nemesis - probably not entirely the right word as we were not ruined, but we were harmed.  We had just come through a bridge, hence our slightly awkward position, only to find this boat heading straight for us.  You can just see Boatwif and the Captain on Cleddau who have just managed to pass the boat in safety, but we had nowhere to go but the bush by our bow, which had very long, sharp, spiky thorns.  We also ended up aground. I rushed to the bow to ask the two girls if they could ask their helmsman to move over (there was after all a lot of water on his side). They did not even look at me, never mind utter any sort of response.  I asked the helmsman the same question and yet again, there was no response.

We took bits of the bush with us

And sustained some nasty scratches.  We reckon he was just panicked and had no idea what to do!

Next it was past Hilperton which is where the boat had probably come from, so the Cleddau and Tentatrice might have been his first encounter with other boats.

In June 2012 Chris and I hired Yellow Weaver from here intending to go down to Bristol.  In the even it was too wet and the river was closed.  We were allowed down to moor below Poultney Bridge - sadly the moorings there are now closed due to safety issues - whatever they may be.  For us it allowed us 3 nights of spectacular moorings right in the centre of Bath for the princely sum of £20.  It was a great boat, probably the best we ever hired, and despite the rain we had a great holiday.

Sadly there is a postscript to the tale and a very sad end for our lovely boat - in March 2014 she was sunk when a stag party took their eye off the ball and she ended up on the cill in one of the Bath locks.  When Canal and River Trust tried to re float her it all went wrong and she was completely sunk and hence written off.  At the time there were comments about not hiring to stag parties, well as you will have seen from the earlier posts this has not been carried out.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but it does bring home the need to be ever vigilant when going down in locks.

From Hilperton onwards we were on the look out for somewhere to moor - a very difficult task.  Boatwif noticed one stretch with enough short grass
 for their bow
 and our stern (it was a bit of a lean and step for us, but manageable)

despite the rest of the boats being in the undergrowth.  I have a feeling we will need to get used to this sort of mooring on the K & A.

The next morning we set off in torrential rain. Monty and I headed off ahead of the rest so we would have the first swing bridge open before the boats got there.  We found the bridge open, so we continued on to the Semmington Locks.  In the event the pair of us walked about 5 miles of the 6.25 miles we covered today!

The morning after the night before?  As the clothes had been rescued I assumed that the wet body had been heaved out of the canal as well!

Boats everywhere at the first lock and note the brollies!

This is a stretch of 24 hour moorings by the above lock - now I wonder how many multiples of 24 hours this boat has been there for?!

We passed the site where the Wilts and Berks Canal will (it is hoped) join the K & A one day.

Too much manoeuvring to do, so the brollies have been put away.

Now to another photo which in itself is not very interesting - it was taken from New Semington Aqueduct over the Semington Village bypass (the A350).  

There is nothing particularly of note in it's construction except that it was only opened in March 2004 and is claimed to be the first navigable aqueduct built in the South West of England for some two hundred years.  

Onto the Seend locks (5 in all) and past the Barge Inn.  The Captain and Boatwif gave good reports and we have plans to eat here on Thursday of this week (9th July) when we return to Caen Hill.  It does have some moorings for patrons, but we will be arriving by car on Thursday.

The Seend locks are quite pretty and not hard to work, however, they take a long time if the boat in front of you picks up and drops off their crew members who are working the locks when there is only a very short distance between each lock!

Still we were not in a hurry and we made it eventually having enjoyed some good views on the way.

At the bottom lock we passed the cottage that Boatwif and The Captain stayed in with some family members in May of this year.

It was at this last lock that Monty decided to get back on board.  He had been on the go for almost 4 hours and we assumed he wanted a rest.

However once he was in no position to get off again and he realised I was still walking the tow path (another two swing bridges to go) we got the full benefit of his displeasure!  Follow THIS LINK with your volume up if you want a taste of the noise he can make when he wants to get off! This, I have to say, is not his loudest!!

Just before we arrived at Caen Hill Marina we passed this wonderful display of double parking - no problem with two narrow boats, but a wide beam and a narrow boat is pushing it a bit.

And so we made it safely to Caen Hill Marina where the boats are moored until we return to resume our travels and start the next phase of the trip.

The statistics to date are: 123.5 miles, 46 locks and 18 swing bridge.

These are a few boats that took my fancy for one reason or another over the last couple of days

I missed the 's' off nuts!!

 I wonder if the other side is also a work of art?

1 comment:

  1. Good post, I guess weekends are to be avoided near Bath by the look of it, last year we had a very quiet time Tuesday to Thursday, Friday were ok but we did see a couple hen/stag boats Saturday Sunday Monday we were up around Seend so all good there.
    Thanks for sharing.