Friday, 10 April 2015

Sunny Easter on the Kennet

After staying put in Great Bedwyn to ride out the stormy weather we set off in beautiful blue skies to continue our journey along the Kennet and Avon Canal. The canal mostly runs alongside the railway and you can see some fantastic trains.

We had the odd delay as CRT were still busy clearing up debris from the storms.

We moored by the church in Hungerford which is a great mooring, popping into town to find the local Wadworth's establishment to cling on to a bit of Devizes before we get too far away.

The following day we headed to Kintbury. Unfortunately the visitor moorings were full so we reversed back under the bridge to find the best bit of bank that we could.

As you can see it was a bit of a leap ashore. This was OK until the pound dropped nearly two feet overnight. Waking up in the middle of the night and feeling drunk like you have done an Otley Run but then remembering you didn't go out is a bit strange. The boat was on the bed of the canal at one side and at an angle. What do you do in this scenario? You wake your boyfriend up to push Pas Meche off back into deeper water. When it came to set off that morning Dave had to untie as the leap was too far for me.

We had a good run that day with NB Victoria into Newbury. We wish them luck with their new boat complete with a cat and two ducklings!

We arrived into Newbury just in time to be out of the way for leg one of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race. We moored just above Newbury lock still on the canal. The moorings here are only 24hr.

The following day we descended the lock onto the River Kennet. The Kennet may seem like a small river but it is a bit frisky, especially in the narrow channel through Newbury, and it's worth keeping an eye on it especially if it's been raining. We had no problem and thankfully some helpful CRT volunteers were on the lock that morning to close the gates for me. If not you have to moor to pick up crew directly by the Kennet's inlet that would be a challenge in stronger currents.

You meander through the centre of Newbury. It is quite narrow in places and David had been losing sleep over what would happen if a widebeam came the opposite way whilst we were flying downstream with limited control. This proved not to be an issue. However, a silent canoeist sneaking past us at the narrowest point was quite a surprise. I just managed to get him in this photo below, I decided to let him off since he was racing.

Newbury has nice moorings at the park (common advice is to not moor here overnight, although we didn't have a problem in the couple of nights we spent there previously).

We continued and moored opposite the marina as we wanted to stay in Newbury longer. The moorings here are 14 day towpath moorings and you can still walk easily back into town. It's also handy for Tesco a bit furthur east along the canal. It was here that we replaced our lost but never forgotton windlass that has lasted the whole 6 years we've been boating. David bought the cheapest one (of course) that is so rough he had to file the bits off to avoid losing a finger when locking. I have named this David's windlass to teach him a lesson for losing the old one.

We amused ourselves by watching the canoe race go past squeezing past hire boats at full throttle.

We were even more surprised when boats kept coming past until 10pm in the dark! I woke the next morning worrying about them paddling along the tidal Thames... it's scary enough on Pas Meche! Although David assures me power to weight ratio of a canoe is slightly better.....

We had a day off boating in Newbury which involved getting drunk mid-afternoon (another final Wadworth's pub...) and going out for dinner. The weather was lovely and the square in Newbury is really pleasant. It felt like a foreign holiday.

We left Newbury and headed for Thatcham, sharing a good few locks with a hireboat from Aldermaston. They were very pleasant but were apologising for their ignorance as they had had absolutely no instruction or guidance on how to steer or do locks or er anything else. Apart from how the fridge worked!!??.... They did just fine in any case and it was a pleasure to have someone to share with.

The following day we woke to a sea mist:

We then went down this strange turf sided lock, with a reflection representing the glorious weather we've had this week, and headed for Aldermaston. 

We went through Woolhampton with memories of where we met NB Quaintrelle, and our now friends Mike and Alieen, last summer.

You have to lower the lock and open the gate and then walk on to open the swing bridge before the boat leaves the lock. This is becuase the river Kennet rejoins at an angle here and it comes in like a spring tide, pushing Pas Meche's bum into the widebeam moored below the lock. (Not quite but this has obviously happened due to the number of tyres placed as protection). I made David drive that bit.

I left Dave at the helm for two minutes and he was already agressively revving poor PM on the river. Do not jump to conclusions Victoria - a day hire boat was coming straight for us round a bend on the left hand side. This confirmed our suspicions that they literally get no instruction. We do not blame them for assuming you would drive on the left in this country. After various thrustings across the river and polite conversation they'd got the message that boats go on the right.

We moored in Aldermaston, where you guessed it, we couldn't get into the side, long jump again, but it was a pleasant mooring above the lock. The next day we did sightseeing in Reading, i.e. a trip to M&S and Decathlon. Then the following day we set off  and here there is a time delay for the lift bridge and you cannot operate it during rush hour.

We held up a total of 29 vehicles.... well after all what's the rush?

We moored just above lock 103, not quite making it to the Cunning Man (recommended safe mooring) but a lovely countryside view from the boat, with some overhead entertainment. Again note blue sky!

Today we have made our way through Reading. A bit chilly and misty first thing. Perhaps as it's the highest level of pollution the UK has ever seen? We were glad to wave at the commuters by train as they passed overhead. Doing their bit for leaving their car at home.

The River Kennet through Reading is a challenge: strange bywashes directly under locks.

Weirs straight ahead:

And one way systems where you have to wait for the green man, I mean erm traffic light:

The River then passes through the new Oracle development, 9-5ers dashing about for morning coffee blisfully unaware of the boating challenges below.

Swinging a right hand bend under a bridge with plenty of flow behind you:

Despite what that photo looks like to non-boaters we didn't hit the bridge and Middlewich duck was safe.

We were pleased to get our parting message from Reading:

And the swans came out en masse for a leaving party for David. Do not visit Reading if you are scared of swans like him!

Today we were then welcomed with opened arms, I mean a wide open river, onto the Thames. It is beautiful and feels HUGE after being on the canals all winter. We are very much looking forward to the rest of the trip and seeing friends on the River Wey and in London.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed your latest posting and you seem to be having such lovely weather down South. Only 9 days now until we set off to join you on the water and to eventually meet you.