Sunday, 14 September 2014

End of the line

Been to Bath by boat before? Illiteration aside, we definitely recommend it. The canal through Bath is about the nicest urban waterway we've ever used as it descends through six locks down to the River Avon.

The best moorings in Bath, on the river below Poultney Weir, have been suspended by the council so we stayed on the canal and moored at the top of the Widcombe flight. These are nice 48 hour moorings and only minutes from the city centre.

Bath is a beautiful city and we did the usual sight-seeing.

The next day we went down the locks and onto the river, still travelling with nb Quaintrelle.

The penultimate lock is Bath Deep Lock, which at over 19' is the second deepest on the system as two locks were combined into one due to road building. For canal anoraks out there the deepest on the system is Tuel Lane at Sowerby Bridge on the Rochdale Canal, which we did in 2012.

Emerging onto the Avon we headed downstream a little way and found a mooring near Victoria Bridge.... especially for Victoria and complete with hot air balloon ride.....!  (for people in the hot air balloon - not us).

 A temporary closure of the navigation the following day meant we had to get off this part of the river or be locked in for a couple of days. We had known about this for a while but still managed to end up rushing to get off the river at the last minute.

The Avon is a lovely river and we had a scenic cruise downstream to a pontoon mooring near Keynsham.

The pontoon is just after the Bristol-Bath cycleway and, while a little short of space (we were three abreast for a while), it's a lovely spot.

We made use of the nearby benches to have a great BBQ with nb Quaintrelle, whose cooking skills have put us to shame the past couple of weeks! We have just about kept up with the drinking though.... and not ended up like Victoria's brother has done today...... (How's the carpet James?).

Having confirmed timings for the tidal section into Bristol with the lock keeper at Netham lock we made a late start the following day (nothing to do with the wine we had with our BBQ you understand).

As we're into spring tides, the river is tidal from Keynsham lock onwards. Spot the chimney from the old Fry's chocolate factory.

At Hanham we rang the lock keeper to confirm timings and he asked us to wait a bit before leaving as he had to nip out. We had a quick lunch in the lock to pass the time - cheeky but it's so quiet down here we didn't hold anyone up - before carrying on to Bristol.

Compared to previous tidal transits we've made, this was a doddle. The river was barely flowing and we had a nice easy trip to join the feeder canal at Netham Lock, which had both sets of gates open ready for us.

I should stress this is only because we followed the lock keeper's advice on timings - if you don't ring you could be in for a rough ride and find the lock not ready to let you into the harbour.

After handing over more money than we would've liked for our visitor mooring permit (£1 per hour for us!) we followed the feeder canal. This leads through an industrial area to join the main floating harbour at a 90 degree bend (which narrows, as Mike from Quaintrelle now knows...!). From here the journey to the visitor moorings is much more impressive, and reminded us a little of Liverpool docks where we went last year.

The harbour area of Bristol is really varied, from modern offices

To old terraces,
A low swing bridge (Duck, Middlewich! Geddit?...),
and Brunel's SS Great Britain

We moored on the pontoons almost opposite the Great Britain, which is a great spot in the harbour.

We took the bikes for a ride down the Avon gorge, which has a great cycleway along it, under the Clifton suspension bridge and scared ourselves looking at the very large mudbanks and racing tide on this part of the Avon.
We'll save that for another year thanks....

Our second day in Bristol got off to a slow start as we'd been invited for dinner the night before by Quaintrelle and managed to half fill their back deck with empty bottles.... Still, we made it out to watch the Tour of Britain finish in Bristol with our uni friend Will and had a meal out with him and his girlfriend Monica, as well as Mike from Quaintrelle whose wife Aileen had (foolishly??) left him boat sitting on his own.

The next day we sadly said our goodbyes to nb Quaintrelle. We've travelled with them for over a fortnight but they are staying on in Bristol a little longer. We will miss them as we head back east.

This will probably be our final blog for this year. We're heading back along the K&A to find a winter mooring and hopefully we will be able to amuse ourselves for the winter. We've had an amazing six months cruising and are already thinking about next year's plans......

This was the view out of our front doors on our final night in Bristol - a great end to a great trip! We've been to some great places and the weather has just been superb.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Up and down down down to Bristol

Oops, where did that last couple of weeks go? We've been travelling with nb Quaintrelle for the past fortnight from Hungerford and the time has flown by... the miles less so as the K&A turns out to be quite slow going.

We had a day off in Hungerford, partly as it was raining and partly to let the hangover subside from a night emptying Quaintrelle's wine cellar. We shared a few wet miles and locks with Quaintrelle to Great Bedwyn.

From there we climbed to the summit the next day, passing the Crofton pumping station which contains two beam engines which used to feed water to the short summit level of the canal. This is now done by electic pumps but the beam engines still work on steaming days.

There are great 48 hour moorings opposite the pumping station but we carried on up the remaining six locks to the summit level to a 'wild' (i.e. shallow and overgrown!) mooring we had marked in the guide, doing a bit of train spotting in the locks on the way up.

From the summit level we went through the short Bruce Tunnel and began the long descent towards the River Avon. The scenery immediately starts to open up as you descend and we had some great views on the run into Pewsey.

We had a lovely meal at the Waterfront in Pewsey, and quite a lot of guest ales so it was a slightly late and foggy start the next day as we made our way across the Vale of White Horse towards Devizes. The scenery on this stretch was really pretty even though the weather wasn't great (still waiting for that promised late summer heat wave....).

The weather got worse later on and it was slow going with the canal quite overgrown in places so we stopped short of Devizes and lit a fire to dry out.
That left us with a very short trip into Devizes the following day so we arrived in plenty of time to get a decent mooring. There are plenty of 48 and 72 hour moorings around Devizes Wharf.

To prepare ourselves for what lay in store we took the little bikes for a ride down to see what the 29 lock Caen Hill flight looked like. The flight has a warm-up and warm-down of about 6 locks either side of the 16 lock flight itself. The 16 locks drop 130' in less than a mile so it looks like the canal drops off a cliff from the top.

We agreed with Quaintrelle to make an unusually early start of 9:00 the next morning and, bleary eyed, we set off down the locks right on time. The 16 locks are closely spaced, with barely enough room to pass boats coming the other way. We managed to squeeze a pair of breasted-up hotel narrowboats between Pas Mèche and Quaintrelle without a bump, despite the crowd of onlookers.

With help from some of Quaintrelle's friends who came to visit we made it to the bottom of the main 16 lock flight by lunchtime and stopped on the beautiful visitor moorings there.

The next night stop was near Seend and from there David decided it was time for a bit of exercise so cycled ahead of the boats most of the day to operate swing bridges and set locks ready for the boats.

Apologies to Mike from Quaintrelle for posting this photo - despite appearances here he is not actually an 80 year old with a stoop.... at least your boat looks nice Mike!

After a night at Hilperton we stopped for good value diesel at The Boatyard before carrying on to the very picturesque Bradford on Avon.

The scenery from Bradford on Avon is stunning in places and you have plenty of time to admire it with all the moored boats in this area! Here we are crossing the Avoncliffe Aqueduct, with Quaintrelle in hot pursuit.

From one aqueduct to another, after a couple of miles we moored just before the Dundas aqueduct, which also crosses the Avon and the railway line.

We've moved on to Bathampton today and are hoping to get to Bristol next week. The lock keeper on the way to Bristol harbour warned of 11.5' high September Spring Tides when we called him this morning so we'll have to get our timing right.