Monday 29 May 2023


Today's navigation - Kennet and Avon

Another great morning as we prepared to set off - the river was still running pretty fast and so we took the precaution of casting off two-handed. Normally, this would be done by one person but from our experience as we came in last night (and also of the story from a hire boat) we knew that if the bow rope was cast off, there was a real risk that the boat would be swept around by the time we reached the stern and freed that.

As we mentioned yesterday, the first lock, Monkey Marsh, was close by, just after the river junction. This was one of 20 locks on the Reading side of the navigation to be built in this fashion. It has conventional straight sides up to the level of the downstream side but then sloping turf banks for the upper section. The width can just be seen from the protective metal railings. According to the accompanying information boated, this lock was reconstructed in this style during the restoration project - the only original one is back at Theale. Operating this lock took even longer as a sign on the balance bream requesting that it beleft empty - and it empties sloooowly.

A manual swing bridge follows very soon - it proved to be remarkably easy to swing but, of course, you do not know that until you try it!

Most of the K and A manual bridges have pin and chain to secure them in position. A picture indicates how it is used - the threaded pin screws by hand into the hole in the end of the bridge deck. If it proves difficult to turn then the top of the pin is the same size as paddles and can fit a standard windlass. Alas, most are located too close to the side structure to allow a windlass to make many turns quickly so it only really is useful to loosen it. 

As we were coming up the next lock a Scouts Association boat arrived with a party of enthusiastic Brownies and their leaders. At least it meant that we could leave the gates open for  them to enter!

In places the reeds in the water have been left to their own devices and so expand rapidly. here , the warning of an impending weir (sluice) is soon to disappear altogether and even now is onlhy meaningful if you know what it should say!

The next lock follows directly after a railway bridge. As it is also on a bend it is not possible to see where the landing is until almost the last moment.

The river flows in under this footbridge, very close to the lock (just out of shot to the left). The landing is in fact opposite and initially we thought that the flow would keep the boat happily against the landing but we discovered that the front end of the boat is pulled sharply away!

Ham Lock, which later proved to be our last lock of the day, appears to have presented a challenge to the restorers who used very large bolts set into the ground at a downward angle to hold the wash walls in place. The whole of the wall inside the lock was similarly restrained.

As we looked back down the river from a junction above the lock we could see the original mill building. As far as we can discover it has been a small hotel but now a private home. 

We hoped to be able to moor between Ham and Greenham Locks where there is a wooden footbridge leading to two supermarkets just metres from the canal. The building behind the moored boat is Lidl and Tesco is visible in the photo to the left.

It was really lunch time but we opted to do our shopping first at the Tesco store. It was convenient not to have to carry two bottles of milk as well as other grocery items any further than over the bridge!

By the time we had had our lunch we readily agreed that we could stay put for the night. Although there is quite a bit of foot traffic it is otherwise quiet.

After stowing away the shopping, Christine discovered that we really needed another four items to last us until the week end! Mike went over the bridge, this time to Lidl (well, we need to be fair!) At least the bag was lighter than the first time.

2.9 Miles - 4 Locks

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