Friday, 24 October 2014

End of september - towards Bath

All was well at the house and I bring my car back to the marina on the 24th.  The lovely late summer weather continues and I enjoy sunset in the marina sitting out on the back deck.

My mooring viewed from the bridge, looking to the bottom lock
I set out in very pleasant weather on the 26th and spend 3 nights in the bottom pound of the Seend flight.

Looking back from Seend bottom lock, mooring on the left.

I have arranged to meet up with a few people from the Livingonanarrowboat forum - Mike, his wife Ellen and friend Marion, all from Canada from the hotel boat Wessex Rose, Tim & Jo from NB Albion and Norman from NB Teal.  A very pleasant evening and excellent food at the Somerset Arms in Semmington - unfortunately no-one took any photos!  It is a 24 hour mooring so I set off for Bradford-On-Avon on the 30th.

For once the heron did not take flight!
I had intended to moor at Bradford but the visitor moorings are pretty full so I continue and am pleasantly surprised to see a lock-keeper and volunteers at Bradford lock.

At over 10 ft deep it would not be a problem to work on my own but avoiding climbing down the ladder is always a bonus!
The lock landing stage, below the lock and next to the Lock Inn Cafe which serves a "Boatman's Breakfast", which I had hoped to partake off - unfortunately not this time!
Almost like a miniature Bath, Bradford was a prosperous weaving centre and at one time had no less than 30 water-powered cloth factories.
I soon reach the Avoncliffe Aqueduct, built by John Rennie in 1801 and taking the canal over the river.  It is 110m long and 10.4m wide and, as part of the restoration of the canal, the aqueduct was lined with a concrete "cradle" and made water-tight in 1980.
Looking back across the aqueduct

View of the river from the aqueduct
My mooring at Dundas Wharf - 48hr mooring is available at both ends

A long wooded section follows, with the canal following the river along the side of the valley, before arriving at the Dundas aqueduct (named after the first chairman of the K&A) to re-cross the Avon and the railway, which is a constant companion from Bradford to Bath.

Completed in 1804 the aqueduct, by Rennie again, it is 137m long, Grade 1 listed and a scheduled ancient monument.  Over many years leaks had developed and it was closed in 1954. For a while in the 1960s and 1970s, the canal was dry and it was possible to walk along the bed on each side of the river as well as through the aqueduct itself. The aqueduct was relined, with polythene and concrete and restored, reopening in 1984

The Somerset Coal Canal adds a delightful distraction.  Originally a very profitable canal, providing a means of transport for the coal from the Somerset mines, and feeding traffic to the Kennet & Avon and Wilts & Berks canals from 1805.  Only a very small portion of it now remains in water, at its junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal, where it is used as private moorings.  It incorporates a cafe/restaurant and several pleasant walks.  It remained very profitable until the arrival of the railways in the late 19th century.


Tonnage rates on the Somerset Coal Canal in 1805
Cargo Rate
For all Coal, Coke, &c 2½d per Ton, per Mile.
For all Iron, Lead, Ores, Cinders, &c 4d ditto. ditto.
For all Stones, Tiles, Bricks, Slate, Timber, &c 3d ditto. ditto.
For all Cattle, Sheep, Swine and other Beasts 4d ditto. ditto.
For all other Goods 4d ditto. ditto.
For every Horse or Ass Travelling on the Railway 1d each.
For every Cow or other Neat Cattle ditto ½d ditto. ditto.
For Sheep, Swine and Calves ditto 5d per Score.

The canal is currently being restored and it is hoped it may one day be fully re-opened.

Continuation of the K&A towards Bath and where I will be heading

To 30 September

TOTAL:  638 miles; 371 locks (132 broad; 37 large; 36 moveable bridges)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

September and into Caen Hill Marina

I haven't moved since my last post - partly because it is a great location and partly because it looks like the fantastic late summer has come to an end and we are now getting winds and rain, so not inclined to move.
It means I have time to record my September meanderings.  I am booked into Caen Hill Marina for the winter and intend to get there by mid/late September to let me spend a few days back at the house and fulfill the insurance company's requirement for me to "live" in the property at least every 60 days.  First, I have more than a few locks and some lovely countryside to negotiate.
I spend a few days covering the section I have previously travelled down to Froud's Bridge Marina then spend a couple of nights in Newbury:

Victoria Park

This used to be the terminus of the Kennet Navigation from Reading, before the K&A canal construction to Bath.
The Canal & River Trust offices

The river is comparatively quite narrow going through the town.

West Mills swing bridge, looking back to the town

Great Bedwyn Lock and village.

Couldn't resist this photo of a boat moored near me - no prizes for guessing who they are looking at.

My mooring atGreat Bedwyn

I am lucky to find a good mooring at Crofton for a visit to the pumping station.

The first design of the Kennet & Avon canal by the distinguished Scottish civil engineer, John Rennie, called for a 4.5 km (2.5 mile) tunnel between the Wiltshire villages of Crofton and Burbage but, in those days, tunnelling was a very expensive and uncertain process and a cheaper alternative was sought. This involved raising the summit level of the canal and constructing a much shorter tunnel. However, this new summit was 12 m (40 ft) higher than any reliable local, natural water source and so a pumping station was needed at Crofton to keep it topped-up. It was estimated that this scheme saved £41,000 (equivalent these days to about to about £8,000,000) in the cost of canal construction, a very substantial saving.
Crofton Pumping Station was built in 1807 and started work soon after. The first engine installed in the building was a 0.9 m (36 inch) bore Boulton and Watt which had a wooden beam and began working in 1809. In 1812, a 1.06 m (42 inch) bore Boulton and Watt engine was installed beside it. In 1846, the 0.9 m bore Boulton and Watt was replaced by a Sims Combined Cylinders Engine constructed by Harvey of Hayle.  

The Lancashire boiler encased in fire-bricks
Thw two beams, weighing 6 tonnes and 4.5 tonnes, respectively

Lancashire Boilers are related to, and derived from, the Cornish boiler in that they have tubular metal furnaces passing through a horizontal cylindrical water space with external multiple pass flues. However they differ from Cornish boilers in that they have an additional furnace tube, a different gas path and they are much larger. Crofton uses a Lancashire boiler, and has a spare shell on site held for the future. Both of these boilers are some 2.3 m (7½ ft) in diameter and 8.5 m (28 ft) long and weigh about 22 tonnes. They have a working water capacity of some 18,000 litres (4,000 gallons/18 tons). These dimensions are typical for boilers of this type.

Both the 1812 Boulton and Watt, and the 1846 Harvey engine (in its final form) are in working condition, and are steamed publicly on several weekends through the summer months from a coal fired Lancashire boiler. When the Pumping Station is in steam, it actually carries out the job for which it was built as the electrically powered pumps, that now normally do the job, are switched off.  I would love to see it in action.

The start of the feeder channel.
The pumping station is located 1¼ km (¾ mile) to the east of the summit. It raises the water to a level slightly above that of the summit, delivering it via a specially constructed feeder channel, called, from Cornish tin mine practice, a leat.

Full information and much more detail HERE

Burbage Wharf, with original buildings converted to residential.

The Vale Of Pewsey, unfortunately a bit hazy, with the famous white horse - first cut in 1937 to commemorate the Coronation of George VI.

And so I arrive at Devizes, faced with 29 locks in 2.25 miles, including the famous 16 lock Caen Hill Flight.  By arrangement, I meet up with Jo and Tim on NB Albion, who have kindly offered to share the locks..  I walk down to the top of the Caen Hill flight with James and discover there is mooring for 2 boats immediately above the flight.  We take a chance and descend the 6 locks, meaning there will only be 23 on the morrow and are lucky to find both spaces unoccupied - not for long!
Our moorings for the night.

Off we go.
The flight is drained and locked at night and first passage is at 8am.  But that means all the locks would be set against us so we wait until about 10 in the hope that a few boats will be coming up.

And, fortunately there are boats coming up.

The whole flight is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument – the same level of heritage protection given to Stonehenge. 

We travel most of the flight breasted up (tied together) meaning only one engine is used and, more importantly, only one steerer, leaving two people free to work the locks and set the next lock.  My first experience of steering two boats - thanks to Tim and Jo for trusting me with their boat!



The end of the Caen Hill 16 - only 6 to go to the marina.  It was a fantastic experience negotiating the flight and thanks to Jo and Tim for their company and help.  I think we worked very well together.

I have booked a car for the 15 September on a one way hire and will spend about a week at home before bringing my own car back to the marina.  It seems daft to spend the night in the marina so I travel down a little way and moor at Sells Green - next to the marina managers, who are on a week's holiday!  Into the marina next morning, but that is not the end of my cruising for this year as I intend to have a final cruise down to Bath and maybe Bristol before winterising the boat.

To 15 September

TOTAL:  623 miles; 363 locks (124 broad; 37 large; 20 moveable bridges)

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Although the shoulder is a lot better (ultrasound, Sissal spikey ball and exercises), I have not wanted to risk it with too much typing and mouse.  However, it looks as though the summer has come to an end and I am moored up in a fantastic spot on the Kennet and Avon for a few days so will at least post some of the photos since my last post.

I ended up staying at Hurley for a week.  Photo above is the view from the nearby footbridge (below).

My mooring at Hurley, as I am about to move off.

 My cousin Margaret's daughter and family are on holiday in London and we arrange to meet up for the day.

I pick them up at Maidenhead.

Fraser proved an excellent helmsman giving me a rare chance to enjoy the view from the bow while Callum and Cameron shared the work.

Monkey Island, where the 3rd Duke of Marlborough built his fishing lodge and pavilion in 1744, using rubble salvaged from the great fire of London.  It became an Inn about 1840 and Edward VII and Queen Alexandra had tea there.  Now a hotel and wedding venue.  Despite monkey paintings on one of the ceilings, the name comes from a corruption of Monk's Eyot.
A lovely day and I spend another night at Maidenhead after dropping the family back at their car.

The rowing course built for the 2012 Olympics.
Now the rowing centre for Eton

Windsor Castle comes into view.


The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede commemorates by name over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. They served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force.

The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill. The Memorial was unveiled by The Queen on 17 October 1953.  More details HERE
The Magna Carta Memorial

The riverbank at Runnymede is the ancient ‘meeting meadow’ which witnessed King John’s sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215.
Also on the site is the British memorial to John F Kennedy.
Many and varied are the means of transport

Egyptian Geese

It takes all sorts

I moor up at Staines for a couple of nights.  Unfortunately this will be the limit of my Thames cruise this year.  I had intended to travel into London but have been a bit curtailed by the shoulder.  Maybe next year.

Pair of Cormorants admiring the view

There are plenty of brilliant moorings on this stretch.  Unfortunately mooring is prohibited on pain of treason - they are the extensive grounds of Windsor Great Park.

Alternative living arrangements.

Another view of Monkey Island on the way back

The wooded stretch approaching Cliveden

Built in 1851, Cliveden has a chequered history.  The home of the Astor family from 1893 (purchased for $1.25m), it was used as a hospital by the Canadians in the first world war and has boasted many famous visitors including President Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin and George-Bernard Shaw.  Perhaps the most infamous visitors were Christine Keeler and John Profumo who started their affair there in the early 60's.  The Beatles even filmed part of HELP at Cliveden. 

It became a luxury hotel in 1985.  You can book a room for this Saturday from £1104 per night - that does include breakfast!  There are cheaper options available on other dates or you could book the whole place next year for £55,750 per night (up to 74 guests in 37 rooms).  More about the history HERE

The Complete Angler at Marlow

Travelling towards Henley

Plenty of moorings near Henley - all at £8 per night.

I wonder who stays in places like this - not the "ordinary people" for sure.
Passing through Henley
I soon get back to Reading and turn onto the K&A again, so that is it for the Thames this year.  One thing I kept thinking when moored on the Thames, mostly for free, was "How much would I pay for a hotel room here with this outlook?".  My license for the Thames cost about £300 extra so, ignoring mooring fees, it worked out at about £6 per night - not sure I would get many hotels at that rate!

That also raps up August.  Hopefully an update on September before long.

To end of August

TOTAL:  588 miles; 321 locks (82 broad; 37 large; 15 moveable bridges)