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.

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