Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Avoncliff back to our winter base

The last few days of our trip are posted from home as the internet signal on this trip has been very poor.  It’s odd, because on our last trip we had a brilliant signal most nights – but at least we now know where the good spots are for next time. Having finally posted several days’ blogs on Friday night, I used up the rest of the laptop’s battery catching up with some of the other blogs instead of writing Friday's!  So here’s the rest …..
 Friday 1st November
The few remaining hire boats set off very early in the gloom and damp.  We made a leisurely start and pootled gently up to Bradford-on-Avon where we moored at the Tithe Barn for a morning’s sight-seeing.  Although there is an English Heritage sign outside, the Tithe Barn is free to enter! We were impressed with its size and the general state of preservation, but particularly with the skills of the 14th century craftsmen who built it.  This picture was taken from the towpath, as the other side has got workmen’s vans and orange fencing round part of it at the moment, which doesn’t look too good in a photo!
tithe barn 2
My camera’s flash doesn’t work, but luckily Dave’s does, so he took some pictures of the inside.
inside tithe barn 2
We looked around the little gift shops – pretty stuff, but nothing we wanted to buy – then went on down to the Saxon Church of St Laurence.
saxon church 3
inside saxon church 1We strolled up to the Lock Inn Cottage for some Fun with Dick and Jane, aka lunch!  As they indicate, portion control is not one of their strong points and I defy anyone still to be hungry after eating there!  We sat in the brightly painted boat and read the paper while waiting, but now most of the hire boats had gone back to base there was no action on the water.
fun with dick and jane 2
Well, after lunch we soon found out where all the hire boats were – at the top of the lock, all breasted up along the offside. Two narrow-boats were breasted up opposite on the water point, with the wide-beam trip boat front of them.  We crept slowly out into the narrow channel – just out of the picture on the left were the boats on the water-point, and ahead is another narrow-boat waiting for the services, pulled up next to a moored boat.  Bit of a squeeze!bit of a squeeze
Dave had to get us through a channel not entirely straight and only about the width of a narrow lock at the narrowest point, which he did without even the merest touch of another boat. The photo below makes it look much more straightforward than it was!
bit of a squeeze 2
After that it was a short and easy potter to the little spot we have used before, just short of Ladydown Bridge on the outskirts of Trowbridge. It was nearly dark as a day boat passed on its way back to Bradford, the occupants singing lustily, and they were followed even later by a private boat in the pitch dark. 
1 lock 3 miles.
Saturday 2nd November
We set off soon after 9, and after a short stop at Hilperton for the paper, we set off to try and get through all the locks before the forecast rain arrived.  No such luck.  The wind was getting up as we went through the swing bridges and the rain started as we went up the first lock.  At least there was a bit of a rainbow;
rainbow near semington
We paused for lunch below the Seend locks, and in spite of the wind and rain we carried on towards Sells Green. We had some good fortune with the swing bridges – will this hire boat hold the bridge open for us?
will they hold the bridge open for us
Yes they will!
yes they will
What a lovely young man, and it’s raining again too.
lovely chap at swing bridge
We were lucky at the next one too, and pulled up for the night a few hundred yards before the moorings at Sells Green – we were so concerned they would be full we opted to grab the first decent space we saw while the rain held off.  The weather really was horrible after that, with heavy rain and buffeting winds – although the wind was largely blowing from behind us, and the cratch cover was firmly zipped up, the wind was still howling through the vents on the bow doors.  Even so there were at least two firework parties going on in the area.  At least we’ve got a TV signal and I can watch Strictly by the fire!
7 locks, 6 swing bridges, 6 miles.
Sunday 3rd November
In spite of the wind last night the chinaman’s hat was still on the chimney – it blew off the night before but luckily stuck in the grass at the edge of the water.  It was cold enough this morning to need the Mikuni on – we tend not to leave the fire in overnight.  Dave spent the morning doing a few jobs while I went for a run and got the paper (getting very wet on the way back), before we walked up to the Three Magpies for a very nice Sunday lunch which we had luckily booked last night – it was very full.  Then we got wet again on the way back to the boat! but as soon as it had passed over and the wind abated somewhat we pulled pins and made for the marina. 
The wind got up again, making mooring rather difficult, but we got there in the end.  A very smart Dutch barge, Branta, has moved onto the next door pontoon – we have seen them a couple of times and admired their paintwork.
I only took one photo today – this was from our mooring at Sells Green.rainbow at sells green
We can hear more firework parties going on as the rain patters on the roof and we settle down for a cosy evening by the fire.
1 mile.
Monday 4th November
Sunshine and a beautiful, if windy, day.  A good day to be out on the boat but also for packing the car and getting home in the dry.  Dave managed to get the area between gunwales and rubbing strake touched up on the starboard side, as well as a couple of engine bay jobs.  The damaged chinaman’s hat disappeared during the night, presumably now at the bottom of the marina, so that’s another thing to buy, as well as a new car battery...... it's the second time is has failed, but luckily a friendly moorer offered a jump start from her car to get us going.
We haven’t winterised yet, as we hope to get the engine service done before winter and maybe get a few days’ cruising in if the weather is not too bad…..

Friday, 1 November 2013

Off we go again; autumn trip from Caen Hill marina

We have had no internet signal since we left, so here’s several days’ worth of blog posted on Friday 1st November…

Tuesday 29th October 2013 – Caen Hill marina to Seend

A delayed start to this trip.  We had been so alarmed by the dire storm warnings for Monday that we thought we had better stay home in case any of our trees came down.  In the event there was very little damage in our area, though the roads were covered in leaves and bits of branch.  We drove up to Caen Hill in bright sunshine and apart from the brisk wind blowing across the marina it was a beautiful day.

We discovered the heavy rain had caused water to pool on the pram cover and break two of the guys which was a shame as the water had been dumped on the mat outside the door.  But no matter – after a quick lunch we left the marina (not an easy job in the wind) and set off for Seend, stopping briefly at Sells Green to top up the water.  Though we had only gone a short distance, we had already picked up a large twiggy moustache on the bow.  When we reached the locks there were boats coming up and also a CRT Hydrographic Survey boat coming up behind us with 4 crew so the locks were easy peasy. We moored at the Barge and set about re-hanging all the curtains which we had taken home to wash.  Here is the survey boat passing us to go down the fourth lock; they carry on till it’s too dark then finish for the day.  As you can see dusk is creeping on and it’s only 4.30. 

hydrographic survey at seend

The woman in charge, CRT’s only surveyor apparently, had come down from Leeds.  They go around the system, and are currently surveying the K and A to find out where it needs dredging – though she couldn’t say when that would be!  We lit the fire and decided to stay in as the rain started again.

2 miles, 3 locks, 2 swing bridges and lovely sunshine.

Wednesday 30th October – Seend to Bradford-on-Avon

It was very cold first thing, but the sun was shining as we had breakfast.  The CRT survey team passed us before we left on their way to their boat below the lock, and that was the last we saw of them.  By the time we left soon after 9 we had already had to take the thermals off!  We had an excellent morning with brilliant sunshine, and company for the first two locks to boot. 

By the time we moored at Hilperton for lunch the cloud was over and the wind getting up.  Dave popped up to the shop for the paper and came back with a sack of recycled wood briquettes which we have started to use instead of coal.  There is sometimes a bit of sawdust on the floor but they are generally much cleaner to use and to burn than coal, and leave very little ash.  They provide plenty of heat too, but need topping up more often than coal.  The other advantage is that they are relatively cheap (4.99 for a sack) and obviously much lighter to carry!

There are some interesting craft amongst the liveaboards; very tall

tall boat near bradford

and with some interesting artwork!

interesting art work

There are a lot of hire boats out this week and many have Halloween decoration of various kinds.


We moored mid-afternoon above Bradford lock, midway between the road bridges, where it is nice and quiet, and straight away went down to the town.  We discovered the cake shop shortly before it closed and got some lovely half-price cakes, then strolled round the town admiring the buildings and dodging the traffic.  We walked into a little park to take a photo of the Avon bridge

bradford bridge

and crossed the river via the footbridge which was renamed to honour Bradford’s own Olympic gold medallist Ed McKeever;

plaque on footbridge over avon

soon afterwards we found his gold post-box and took the obligatory photo of that too.  I love how towns are so proud of their athletes.

ed mckeever gold post box

We walked back to the canal via the road bridge over the Avon, where my picture of the old lock-up on the bridge is too rubbish to publish, but here is a much better photo of the Bradford Gudgeon! (That’s the fish on the weather-vane above the lock-up, for those who don’t know Bradford-on-Avon).

the bradford gudgeon

We made a diversion past the station to rejoin the canal by the Tithe Barn – no photos as it was getting quite dark by this time.  As we approached the boat the rain started and continued on and off all evening.  We didn’t mind, we were cosy and warm inside!

7 miles, 4 locks, 4 swing bridges.

Thursday 31st October- - Bradford to Dundas and Avoncliff

We popped down to the town to get some milk and check out the market – some good food stalls but we didn’t really need anything this time.  We thought we’d get going straight away when we got back; we pulled in to wait as two hire boats came up the lock; approaching bradford lock

and with two more waiting below had no work to do for a change!  This is an unusual view for me – leaving a lock on the boat!

leaving bradford lock

There was a steady procession of hire boats this morning on their way back to Hilperton, Foxhanger and Bradford – it’s clearly been a good week for the hire companies.

The planned tree felling between bridges 174 and 175 at Limpley Stoke has begun.

felling at limpley stoke

We continued to Dundas, where we took on water and emptied a cassette, then turned and moored for lunch on one of the 24-hour spots at the end of the aqueduct.  Before we left we strolled up the Somersetshire Coal Canal to realise we could have had lunch at the cafe, then went down the steps for a look at the aqueduct from the river.

dave at dundas aqueduct

and from the other side, where Dave was looking at the masons’ marks.

dave admiring masons marks

The marks are fascinating – as Dave pointed out, they can mostly all be quickly chipped out with ordinary stone chisels.  Some nice lichen too where it hasn’t been cleaned off.

masons marks 1    masons marks 2

masons marks 3    masons marks 4

On the way back to Avoncliff, we saw some of the sculptures that have been made out of bike bits and other rubbish pulled out of the canal;

  sculpture 2

We moored just past the Cross Guns and walked down to look at the Avoncliff aqueduct while it was still light enough. 

avoncliff aqueduct

The river is flowing very fast, and it’s not surprising that the navigation below Bath locks has been closed for several days.

We were astonished to see two canoes turning above the weir – not only is the river high, but the light was beginning to go.  We didn’t catch them on camera though.

weir at avoncliff

We had a pleasant meal in the Cross Guns, with beer from the Box Steam Brewery 4 miles away.

7 miles, 1 lock.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A sunny day at Caen Hill

After some early mist the sun came up and it was a glorious autumn day.  We decided to go for a walk, get the paper and some milk and go to the pub – it didn’t quite work out that way but we still had a good walk!
We started by walking to Seend via the footpaths from Martinsdale bridge.  The footpaths were not well signposted and half the stiles were broken or non-existent, and when we got to Seend we found a notice warning that the path was going to be extinguished, so it’s not surprising that the landowners have not maintained the stiles recently.  Seend has some beautiful houses, but the shop closes at 10.30 on a Sunday…..  We walked back to the canal down Rusty Lane to the swing bridge, which you can see in the centre of this photo.  The views were lovely.
rusty lane swing bridge from afar
As luck would have it, a boat was just turning at the winding hole so we had the chance for a chat and to discover the existence of the Spar at the top of the Caen Hill flight.  So off we strode!
It was nearly lunchtime by the time we got to the top of the locks, so after a visit to the Spar we relaxed in the sunshine with the papers, a cup of tea and bacon baps in the cafe.  We walked back via the grassy slope that runs down the far side of the side pounds and got a different perspective on the flight.  Near the top -
side pound near the top
and near the bottom.
side pound near the bottom
There were some late-flying butterflies – we saw this red admiral, a comma, some skippers and several dragonflies.
red admiral
The rose-hips were magnificent. 
rose hips
After more tea and some cake we set to work cleaning the outside of the boat.  Luckily there is no boat next to us so we could wash both sides of the boat by pulling across to the other pontoon.  The Spar shop had meat from a local supplier, so it was roast beef this evening (sadly no Yorkshire pud as I forgot we had run out of eggs).
Tomorrow Dave's off to Froud's Bridge marina to collect the car, then we're off home for a couple of weeks.

Into Caen Hill marina after another RCR callout

Saturday 5th October

A dry day at last and still very mild.  We pootled gently up the 4 remaining locks as a succession of hot-air balloons drifted up from the Bristol direction.  Ordinary balloons;

balloon 1

a posh one;

posh balloon

a jazzy one;

jazzy balloon

and a patriotic one.

patriotic balloon

We arrived at Foxhanger 24-hour moorings for an early lunch and to await RCR again.  The Morse control had started jamming - the first time while still in forward gear in a lock – but luckily this time RCR were quite quick.  There were two of them – one had broken his wrists in an accident and he had to give his companion, who is nearly at the end of his training, the necessary instructions.  It turned out that the Morse control had lost its ball-bearings and a spring.  They also offered an opinion on the noise we are getting from the prop shaft, suggesting the engine is slightly misaligned – we will have to find out which boatyards west of Devizes people recommend to get this fixed.  Any suggestions?

We have booked into Caen Hill marina for the winter.  The facilities look good (though there is no workshop) and there are restrictions on the work you can carry out in the marina, but we have had good reports from a few boaters.

There was a beautiful sunset this evening – and it’s getting colder.

Sunset over the marina 1

4 locks, 2 swing bridges, 2 miles.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Hilperton to Seend and a better day

Friday 4th October

There was a violent thunderstorm overnight and lots of heavy rain, but it has cleared away the mist and low cloud at last.  Still enough cloud for some drizzle though, so we stopped at Hilperton for a while for a cup of tea after a quick trip to the shop.

There was an efficient three-boat shuffle at the first swing bridge, with us only have to close up.  There is some very imaginative artwork on the canals -


Is this owner a fan of the mayor of London or does Boris have a hobby we don’t know about?


We stopped for lunch at the 24-hour spot below Semington Bridge and I went up for a look at the old junction with the Wilts and Berks canal.  There are a couple of interpretation boards; the one at the junction is about the canal’s history and the other one, by the mooring, has an photo of the Duchess of Cornwall symbolically lifting a turf – in 2010 - where they (optimistically?) expect the new entrance to be, as the old course has been partially built over.  The plan is to restore it as far as Melksham I think, but it looks as though there is rather a lot of money to be raised first.  There is even a marina proposed at the new junction.  Here is Chuffed passing the old junction;


We moored at Seend between the two bottom locks as we expected it to be quieter than opposite the pub – true, but as if the moorings weren't overgrown enough there were 6 lots of dog poo to be cleared first! 

After a relaxing cup of tea in the intermittent sunshine I went off to pick blackberries while Dave started cleaning and re-affixing the tiles behind the galley sink, as they have been loose for some time.  We walked up to the Barge, nabbed a window table and enjoyed our beer as we watched several hire boats coming down the locks as the light rapidly faded.  It was nearly dark when a Sally Boat arrived and took the last space right outside.  Lots of entertainment before an excellent meal.

3 locks, 4 swing bridges, 5 miles

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Grumble grumble

We made a very slow start this morning.  You know how annoying it is when boats go past too fast?  Well, an Alvechurch hire boat crept past so slowly as we prepared to leave that we barely noticed they were there!  Very good.  Anyway, we gave them 5 minutes before we left, but although we were creeping along too, what with all the moored boats round Bath, we soon found ourselves behind them.  Time to take a photo of the so-called visitor moorings outside Bathampton – a bit of phone-shake unfortunately as my camera battery is on charge.

socalled visitor mooring bathamptonWe stopped at Bathampton to take on water at the new-design water-point – a good flow and less leakage than the usual sort.  Looks more like Doctor Who’s K9 than a water point though!

new water point design

While we filled up, we watched an approaching widebeam wait for the super-slow hire-boat to inch past it, and as he came by he said there were 5 other hire-boats in front of it. It looks as though we have made a poor choice of day to be going in this direction!

We passed this odd sculpture, which we saw the other day;  on it is written ‘ceci n’est pas un canoe’ in the same cursive script as on the famous painting ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ by Magritte.

ceci nest pas un canoe

We thought it must be, or represent, the pointy end of a racing eight.  I couldn’t find anything on the internet about it anyway.

Once more the weather is so overcast and misty that we can see very little of the countryside.  We were waved past a widebeam, but he was then so close behind that when I opened the Millbrook swing bridge before Dundas aqueduct I really had to wave him through as well.  I closed up only to see him come to a halt as a single-hander towing a nearly full-length narrowboat came round the bend.  I didn’t really have much choice – back I went to open the bridge again as the rain started.

We needed to empty cassettes so were quite keen to stop at Dundas services – unfortunately they were occupied, and we foolishly opted not to moor up and wait.  As the rain got heavier and more persistent we thought we’d keep going past Avoncliff and stop at Bradford Tithe Barn moorings for the night – another wrong decision, as it was lunchtime and they were full too.  So we went up the lock with a hire boat that was already waiting, with a delightful couple enjoying their first canal holiday in spite of the weather.  And his job?  He drives tugs on the Panama Canal!  We  pulled in at the service station, where the unit is so prone to blockage you are asked to empty the cassette a third at a time, flushing between each third.  The cistern is slow to fill, and we had two cassettes to empty.  And one started to leak.  At least the rain had stopped!

Eventually we got going again and finally moored up before Hilperton on the nice little spot we were at the other day.  We finally had lunch after 3.  To cheer ourselves up, Dave watched Spurs beat some foreign team and I went for a run.  Much better afterwards!

The Kennet and Avon really hasn’t shown us her best side this trip.  Apart from the bit before Hungerford, and the Caen Hill flight which was great in spite of the breakdown, we have found the moorings poor and the miles of moored boats very tedious.  There have been no views to speak of this side of Devizes because of the weather and the overgrown banks. We had been looking forward to visiting Bradford-on-Avon but with our poor choice of timing missed out on that too!  Never mind, better luck next time.  Grumble over.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A day in Bath

We decided, having heard the weather forecast, to leave Bristol for a future trip so as soon as a couple of Alvechurch hire boats had gone down to the locks we turned round and took the first free mooring above the Sydney tunnel.  Here we have just come through the first tunnel with its ornate stonework;

emerging from the tunnel and towards the pretty iron footbridges.

pretty sydney gardens footbridge

It’s a much better spot here.  We did some chores and had an early lunch.  We brought a load of tomatoes from home to ripen, and I roasted a batch last night and made them into soup this morning – delicious.  While it was cooking Dave got his camera and we watched a heron quietly fishing on the other side of the canal.  It seemed to be picking flies off the surface of the water and got a couple of small fish too.  Not this time though -

coming up no fish

He was close to one of the bike sculptures you see along the canal – after Dave took this shot he decided to tidy himself up but he’s quite dishevelled here!

heron with bike sculpture

A bit later a kingfisher appeared, took a quick plunge and nabbed a fish, but flew off before Dave could get his camera.

After lunch we walked down the locks and into the city via Pulteney Weir. Half-way down the locks is this interesting sundial, though sadly no sun to tell the time;

sundial by bath locks

As we crossed Pulteney Bridge the heavens opened so we dived into the Victoria Art Gallery as the rain hammered on the roof.  We spent a very pleasant hour in there before strolling round the city, past the Abbey Church as the umbrellas came out (Dave’s picture again).

abbey church by dave

We walked up to the Royal Crescent and took a few photos.  Dave of Deb;

royal crescent deb

and Deb of Dave.

royal crescent dave

We were quite disappointed with it – the curve is elegant and beautiful of course, but some of the houses have been cleaned and others have quite bad staining on the stones so the effect is very patchy.  The more we looked at it the more we realised the windows are all different too – some are plain glass and others have small panes.  We wonder what the city planners say when people want to change their windows?royal crescent

We thought the Circus was more impressive, even in the rain.  As we walked back we caught up with Tony from Kyakatina who drives one of the tour buses a couple of days a week when he is not doing his day job.  Before we went back to the boat we stopped for tea and cake in the little cafe on Pulteney bridge above the weir.  A bit basic but what a view!

pulteney weir from cafe

(Note the raindrops on the window!)  There is a trip boat above the weir too – just out of sight is the Pulteney Radial Gate, which was constructed in 1972 as part of the Bath flood defence scheme, though they now think a weir will do the job http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/538657.

trip boat above pulteney weir

We shouldn’t have lingered over our tea.  While we were in Waitrose the rain started and it poured all the way back to the boat.  We passed a hire boat entering the Deep Lock going up – two crew off the boat with no waterproofs and one driver unable to get her waterproof either.  Poor things – at least I had a brolly and Dave a waterproof, though we still got soaked.  We put the Mikuni on to dry our wet clothes on the radiators and decided to eat on the boat instead of trekking back down to town.

No locks, no swing bridges, half a mile by boat and lots more on foot.