Friday 19 September 2014

Wootton Rivers to All Cannings

After Wootton Rivers our next stop was Pewsey Wharf.  The mooring there is poor but at least we were able to walk into Pewsey to stock up with provisions.  Provisions were not the only thing we were able to stock up with.  I had seen a flyer about the coal boat “Aquilo”and knew that it was going to be in the area.  They carry cheaper diesel, gas, coal, logs, kindling, pump-out cards – just about all the essentials  boaters need!  Job done!  They have a yard at Hilperton and are incredibly well organised.

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Also whilst at Pewsey, Gill and Rodney came to find us and we all went to the dog friendly Golden Swan at Wilcot for Sunday lunch in order to celebrate both mine and Rodney’s birthdays.  Lovely.

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Onward from Pewsey.  There’s no doubt about it, parts of the K&A really are very pretty ………………..

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Views of the Marlborough Downs

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Picked Hill

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Ladies Bridge

We thought the visitor mooring at All Cannings was the nicest we had come across since Reading.  And, how bizarre!  That very day, whilst we were moored up there, All Cannings featured on “Escape to the Country”!  It’s a really nice village with a community shop, good pub and access to some lovely walks up on the Downs.  We walked up to the site of a neolithic earthworks called Rybury Camp.  The views from up there are breath-taking.

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On the way up we passed this -

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This is The Long Barrow at All Cannings. 

It’s a modern-day burial mound.  When finished it will have a grass roof topped with wild flowers.  Cremated remains can be placed on shelves inside.

It’s an alternative.


To finish on a more cheerful note – a couple of pictures of Ellen …………..more??????

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We thought our wood collection was doing well until we passed this lot!


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Another example of determination!

Our next challenge is to be the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight …………………….


Friday 12 September 2014

Kintbury to Wootton Rivers

Hungerford and it’s surrounding marshland is a great area for walking.  The crystal clear little river Dun flows through the marsh and there’s lots of choice as to which paths to follow.  The middle picture is of an egret – I’ve only ever seen them flying or on the ground before.

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One day we decided we didn’t want to moor where everyone else was but it wasn’t easy and took lots of determination.  It’s not fair to say that there’s nowhere to moor on the K&A – there are designated visitor moorings but they are where the powers-that-be want you to stop for a pub or shops.  For those of us who like to moor in the middle of nowhere with open views, it’s really frustrating!  And, where there are rare places to get into the bank, the Unofficial Residential Non Compliant Continuous Cruisers are generally well entrenched!!

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Locks and swing bridges just kept on coming but when some joker decides to put a swing bridge is in the middle of a lock chamber ……………. well, I ask you!!  This is Hungerford Marsh Lock.  The truth of the matter is that when the canal was constructed, permission to re-route the existing public right of way around the lock was refused.  The crossing had to be provided exactly where it had been before and that is where it remains today.

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Now we are in Wiltshire and beautiful thatch cottages abound:-  ££££££££££££££££££££

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They obviously provide a constant source of work for the professionals:-

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We walked away from the canal to see the restored and extremely well cared for windmill at Wilton.  It is maintained and operated by The Wilton Windmill Society.

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We moored for the night by The Crofton Pumping Station.  April Love was there for a short while and we were able to have a bit of a chat with her new owners.  It was a somewhat noisy night as the main London – Plymouth railway line, which has been our constant companion since Reading, was a just a stone’s throw away!

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We have seen very few boats on the move.  After Crofton Top Lock we reached the short summit pound.  After all the effort to reach the summit – 52 locks, 13 swing/lift bridges and 35 miles, it was over in little more than 2 miles!  We are now, however, seeing the appearance of a few widebeam boats and, since coming through the short Bruce tunnel, we’ve had lots of kingfisher sightings.

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We moored for the night at Wootton Rivers.  The church clock has the unusual inscription of ‘Glory Be To God’ instead of numbers.  We can now look forward to 15 miles of lock free boating.  The guide books, maps and articles I have in my possession tantalize by telling me about lovely walks on the downs but whether or not we will be able to moor up in order to access them remains to be seen.

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Saturday 6 September 2014

Reading to Kintbury

I’ve decided the K&A can be a-likened to having a baby!  It’s a painful experience but time forces you to forget!  I remember there being a lot of locks.  I remember the locks being double, heavy and fierce.  What I hadn’t remembered were the number of swing/ lift bridges!  Locks and swing/lift bridges are relentless!

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Before leaving The Thames we spoke to Ricky on Hidden Pearl who said he had recently been as far as Newbury.  He was not impressed!  He told us that not only was it hard work but it was over-grown and there was nowhere to moor – the first two observations are definitely true and, as for mooring, opportunities are seriously insufficient.

With the exception of the little Cornish Crabber which I now know to be called Demelza, we had not encountered any other boats going our way since the first morning.  Coming towards us we have met a few hire boats.  Demelza with Ros, Barbara and Nancy on board have passed us and then we have passed them and then they have caught us up and then we have caught them up ……………  You might be interested to read about the challenge, Derek, as they will be coming past your watch next Spring:-

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And onwards to Newbury.  The navigation passes through the centre of the town.  On reaching Newbury we did, at last, begin to see a handful of other boats on the move.  One of them was …………. April Love, Ben’s old narrowboat!  It was good to see her still being used but she’s seriously in need of a polish!!

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Jane and Ron came to find us for the day and we had a really nice meal in a canalside pub.

I thought Newbury was a really good town for shopping!!!!!!and on to Kintbury 003 (480x640)

We moored up right by the The Newbury Bypass – noisy but really good for Lola because the lovely Victoria Park was so accessible for ball games.

We have now moved on to Kintbury and, thank goodness, we have managed to get on to a good designated mooring – the banks are seriously overgrown everywhere else.      xxoo

Tuesday 2 September 2014

On to The Kennet and Avon

At last I have a waterway to blog about that I have not blogged out before!  That’s not to say we haven’t been on this canal before – it was the first canal we did as liveaboards back in 2007 but that was before blog days.  I remember it being very hard work due to the number of double locks and swing/lift bridges and finding mooring spots hard to obtain – we will see.  We did go to Bristol and back in about 3 weeks – far too fast!!

Soon after entering the K&A you come to Blakes Lock, the last under the jurisdiction of the Environment Agency.  The lock keeper was at lunch so we had to sort ourselves out.  (My maiden name just happened to be Blake so nostalgia is hard to suppress!)

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We went round The Abbey Loop really just to see what the moorings are like round there and we found Blake’s Wharf:-

Blake's WharfBlakes Cottages

     Back on the main part of the river we saw his cottages:-

              SO …………………………. who WAS Blake?

Is this statue in his memory?

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Anyway, onward through the Oracle Centre in Reading.  The last time we did this I remember feeling like a goldfish in a bowl but it didn’t seem so bad this time.

Yesterday Megan had come to find us and she and I had walked in and around the shops in Reading so I now know what retail establishments lie beyond this centre as well as what’s inside it!!


We carried on through and at the second lock outside of Reading we met a lady in her seventies on a small Cornish Crabber – she had set off from Falmouth in the Spring, had gone all along the South coast, come up the Thames and is now making her way to Bristol to go out at Avonmouth.  She’s raising money for the provision of wells in Ethiopia.

A Cornish crabber - the captain (female in her 70's) started out at Falmouth and sailed round to The Thames Estuary.

As in the past we’ve found it difficult to find somewhere to moor for the night so are sort-of stuffed in the reeds up against a meadow!  Lola thinks it’s great!! xxoo

Saturday 30 August 2014

The Royal River Thames

We are all enjoying being back on The River Thames – “Ellen” is loving the deep, clean water, Lola is loving the open spaces where we have managed to moor, John is loving having stretches of the river to ourselves and room to manoeuvre and me?  I just love it all!

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We stopped off at Oxford for a walk around – we hadn’t really done that before.  The city of Oxford was busy!  Lots of people, lots of traffic (with the exception of London I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many buses in such close proximity before!) lots of shops and lots of bicycles.

On to Oxford 030 (640x480)      Parking at the train station      At Osney Bridge

We decided that we also wanted to visit Dorchester – Dorchester-on-Thames that is, not the Dorchester in Dorset!  In order to do this you need to be able to moor somewhere near Days Lock and, in the past, moorings have always been full.  This time we were lucky!  What a brilliant spot!  And, what a pretty little place Dorchester-on-Thames is – lots of thatched and half-timbered buildings, a huge Abbey church which is now the parish church and the happiest, friendliest little Co-op I’ve ever shopped in!  From where we moored it was a really nice 20 minute walk across the fields.  Our friends, Gary and Joan drove from their home in Wargrave and came to have dinner with us.

On the other side of the river, accessed by crossing over Little Wittenham footbridge, you can walk to – or rather up to – Wittenham Clumps.  These are clumps of beech trees on top of hills (Round Hill and Castle Hill) where there are remains of ancient hill forts and spectacular views of the river and surrounding countryside.

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Spot Ellen’s red back door.

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Wittenham Clumps

There are also waymarked paths through Little Wittenham Wood and dogs don’t even have to be on leads!  Red kites are becoming more and more numerous the closer we get to Reading.

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Well worth a visit.


Tuesday 19 August 2014

It’s Debatable …….

“Times they are a-changin”  (Who sang that and when?)                                                                                                                 Some really experienced and respected boaters have said that things on the canals aren’t as good as they used to be, that things have changed for the worse.  What makes them think that and are they right?

I know it’s inevitable because things can never stay still/ remain the same but, we have noticed:-


Mature, Experienced Citizens, (yes, like ourselves) have most definitely taken a real liking to the canals and narrow boating – marinas are full of boats owned by folk like us and more and more have become Liveaboards and cruise all year.  I’ve been doing some cut research and I can say with confidence that 8/10 private boats are operated by males who have, judging by their hair – (grey/white/silver/dyed or none!), seen the better side of 60 – or at least 50.  At the height of the season, certainly in the Braunston area, it has been ridiculously busy, private boats out-numbering hire boats by about 10-1.  It does make everything much more difficult – passing boats, being passed, mooring, pulling away off a mooring, getting onto the water points, getting through bridge holes, getting through locks etc etc.  All this is bound to increase stress levels and must directly relate to the suspected increase in instances of intolerance.

CRUSING PATTERNS   debatable (600x800)

At the height of the season and on particularly busy sections it now seems that the thing to do is to set off early in the morning and then stop earlier in the day. In popular places it is now not unusual to be passed by the first boat at about 6.30am.  Not being an early-riser myself, by 9.00am I’ve generally not only lost count but patience too!!  Some boaters pass slowly showing a degree of consideration for those of us who are not floating insomniacs and some pass quietly showing a degree of consideration for those of us who like to confront a new day in a subtle fashion …… but not all!  The early-to-get-going lot also seem to be the early-to-moor-up-for-the day lot.  If you arrive at a popular spot past 4pm there’s little chance of finding somewhere to moor.  Surely this cruising behaviour is directly related to the sheer number of boats now out and about and is really only an issue in the summer months.  Again though, it does add to stress levels and accompanying intolerance.


Several well-established boaters have expressed their belief that boaters aren’t as nice to each other as they used to be.  I must admit that too often this year I’ve been told tales by very upset people about being shouted at, sworn at, moaned at and most of those with the bad tempers have been private boaters who don’t stop to ask questions or assess situations before shouting.  We are all capable of making a bad decision – like the hire boater who didn’t realise another boat was approaching a lock and proceeded to empty it.  It was a genuine mistake but, boy, did his ears pay a high price for that mistake!  Then there was the teenage boy on his holiday who was doing more than a reasonable job at steering his hired boat but he clipped a lock gate on entry.  My goodness, how rude was a moored up private boater – going on about damage to infra structure – I bet he’s bashed a few lock gates in his time.  That lad was really upset and it took lots of persuasion by this dad to get him to stay on the tiller.

Other things that trigger intolerance (some of them being more than justified*) seem to be:-

  • when you’re trying to pull away from being moored up and, even though the ropes have been untied for some time, you struggle to get the back away before someone comes steaming along and then accuses you of ‘pulling out in front’!
  • when it’s so shallow or silted up that you are forced to go slowly and those behind seem to think you are doing it on purpose.  We met a chap who had a horrid experience in the Chirk Tunnel.  Because of the current, the shallow water and the deep draft of his boat he ended up going backwards!  He resorted to jumping off and pulling it through.  He said he had to suffer dreadful verbal abuse from those behind.  Why didn’t they just get off and help him?  This man refused to go any further – he turned round at the next winding hole.
  • lone boaters*  If they make some effort to help – fine - but some of them just assume you’re going to do it all for them. Yesterday I locked a single hander through a lock.  He made no effort to help.  Standing on the tiller he looked up, grinned and said to me “ It’s such hard work on my own.”  “Yes”, said I.  “I can see that!”
  • Non-compliant Continual Cruisers in very neglected boats, toot all over the tow path and, this year, we passed one that had not only been in the same place for at least 3 months but had also pitched a tent! * debatable (600x800)
  • Speeding past moored boats*

Sadly, it’s always the bad instances we tend to remember the most.  The majority of the boaters we meet are lovely, friendly and helpful.  The sheer volume of boats now on the system makes the likelihood of confrontations higher but I suspect the grumpy, ill-tempered minority have always been there and always will be.  Some people are never happy unless they’re moaning about something!


Saturday 9 August 2014

Taking the p**s………

We’ve lived all our adult lives believing that it’s cheaper and more sensible to DIY it if you can – painting, decorating, car maintenance, gardening, fitting kitchens, fitting bathrooms, making soft furnishings etc etc  So, boat-related things, in the main, we try to tackle ourselves.  DIY should be a cheaper option …… shouldn’t it?

Well, when it comes to the modern-day, CaRT pump out, think again!

Was it not bad enough when the price of a DIY pump out card rose 50% in one fell swoop - £10.00 - £15.00?  For a £15.00 card you got 25 points in order to do a pump out.  The Skipper tells me it only takes 20 points to complete a pump out so what happens to the 5 remaining points?  “What can I do with the 5 remaining points on the card?” John asked the lady at the Anderton Boat Lift where we bought some cards.  “Oh, you can use them on an electricity point,” said she.  Right!  Where might they be then?  We’ve seen something suspicious-looking on the Chesterfield canal and a couple going down to Boston but I bet they wouldn’t accept our 5-points-remaining card.  Actually, we now have FOUR cards with 5 points remaining on each!

AND, to make matters worse, when we purchased a couple more cards this year, we found they had gone up in price again – they now cost £16.00!  For that you:-

  • have to DIY
  • get no Blue added unless you put it in at your own extra cost
  • worry that you’re going to run out of time before you’ve been able to give the tank a decent rinse out
  • pay for more points than you actually need

DIY pump out a good financial option?   Not at the moment it isn’t.  Some marinas are not charging more than that but no doubt they will soon ‘wise-up’!  Perhaps this is a sneaky way of getting DIY pump outs off the canals altogether!  Cards need to be 20 points for £12.00.  As it is, whichever way you look at it, it’s a case of taking the p**s!  No wonder so many of our boating colleagues have opted for cassettes!