Monday, 25 August 2014

Blogging in the bank holiday rain

We called time on our extended Thames jaunt at Henley, mooring up to do some shopping as well as gawping in estate agents at the multi-million pound properties in the area.

Returning upstream we stopped above Shillingford lock for the night before joining the Kennet & Avon navigation at Reading early the next morning.

Even though it hasn't rained much recently the Kennet is a frisky little river and there was noticeably more flow against us as we worked through the city. Part of the navigation is one-way and controlled by traffic lights so we had to press the button and wait for the green light.

The Kennet winds out of Reading in a narrow, fast flowing channel. Virtually every lock seems to be a different size or design and the first one out of Reading is a whopper, probably over 100' long, which is no bad thing given the strong bywash which crosses the lock at its entrance.

We stopped early once we got a little way out of Reading, giving David time to mentally prepare himself for his annual baking effort - a (belated) birthday cake for Victoria.

Next day we came across a really unusual lock - these are turf sided locks which have no walls as such, the water fills all around the boat and the boat is held in place by metal beams. They were a feature of the K&A (amongst others) but only two now remain.

Because this end of the K&A is a mixture of river and artificial canal cuts it can be hard to find moorings. We eventually stopped above Aldermaston lock, after a long wait at the lift bridge (time delay in rush hour, 8 minutes between lifts) which seems to be a major irritation for local motorists!
From Aldermaston the next lock upstream has a lot of big red warning text in our guidebook as there is a skewed swing bridge followed by a lock where the river flows strongly across the entrance. Victoria walked on to prepare the lock and it all went smoothly - as seems to be the way when nobody is around to watch.
We were glad to meet nb Quaintrelle above Woolhampton lock. The K&A locks are pretty ferocious, many only have gate paddles which let a lot of water in at once and throw a single narrowboat around. Sharing locks is much quicker and easier and we had a great run to Thatcham with nb Quaintrelle, where they stopped to meet friends. We carried on to Newbury where we moored at Victoria Park.
Newbury is a lovely town with a bustling centre. We liked it so much we somehow didn't get round to moving on the next day and ended up having two nights there.

The river is right at the heart of Newbury and the channel up to Newbury lock is really pretty. This is another lock the guidebook suggests you set ahead as the river current can be quite strong through Newbury and there are cross-flows beneath the lock. Again we did as we were told and had no problems.
Another boat had set off from above the lock just as we were coming up and waited for us after West Mills swing bridge. We made good progress with nb Darcy, especially as she had plenty of crew to help with the locks.
Darcy's ship's cat tried to make a break for freedom at every lock and probably used up a few of his nine lives but we enjoyed the cruise to Hungerford with them. We are most likely staying put today enjoying the usual bank holiday rain.

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