Tuesday 30 May 2023

Not Quite Kintbury

Today's navigation - Kennet and Avon

Today's schedule included a zoom call with friend from Cornwall that was booked for 10.30. However, we also wanted to make good progress towards Kintbury (the next CaRT service facility since Tyle Mill - hopefully getting there early tomorrow) but also to fill our diesel tank at the marina in the centre of Newbury.

So, we made a prompt start at 9 am, immediately passing under Whitehouse footbridge, which appears to be a modern construction, complete with ramps for accessibility. However, old OS maps indicate that there has been some sort of footbridge here for a long time.

Next came Greenham Lock - just below is a towpath bridge over an arm - a dry dock is located just to the right - hidden by trees we could not get a picture of it!

We pulled in to the marina service point - the owner came to see what we wanted and apologised that she would be a few minutes as a Sainsbury delivery was just arriving - the driver had not been to a boat before as seemed to think that he ought to be lost when in fact he was in the right place! After we filled up we pushed across to the towpath side as there was a convenient space to moor - just the other side of the boat on the left of the picture. Although our mobile signal was not the greatest we managed our hour long zoom catch up albeit with one or two glitches.

We then pressed on through the centre of Newbury - we managed a photo of Newbury Wharf (on our left) but forgot Victoria Park on the opposite side!

The elegant and quite modern Wharf Road Bridge connects Newbury Wharf with a shopping centre on the opposite bank of the river - no private cars are allowed to use it. We have seen a suggestion that it is also called New American Bridge as it replaces an earlier American Bridge built during WW2.

The river gets quite narrow now, with older buildings cramming in on both sides and the water flow increases accordingly.

Access into the next lock is also hampered by the entrance of the river under the towpath bridge to the left of the photo.

Alongside the lock in a small secluded park area is a sculpture called Ebb and Flow that was installed in 2003 as part of a scheme by the local council to use new works of art to enhance the environment. It is carved from a single piece of granite and is connected to the lock in such a way that water only gushes into the bowl when the lock is in use!

The canal then passes another older part of the town, West Mills yard. Now a mixture of shops and offices, we have not yet discovered what its particular purpose was originally.

At the end of the row of buildings in the previous picture is a mechanised swing bridge that carries narrow road giving access to a small number of houses and apartments. This website indicates that West Mill processed corn before being converted into apartments.

Shortly after passing the bridge (which was comparatively slow) we pulled into a convenient slot (only just big enough to moor up for lunch.

A riverside meadow in splendid colour!

On the outskirts of thwe town we passed the remains of an old railway abutment. On one side there is no trace of the railway as it now lies underneath a modern housing estate but there are occasional reminders of its past elsewhere. This was the Lambourn Valley railway, quite a late entrant into the railway era and was initially privately owned but in 1905 was gobbled up by the mighty GWR. A sleepy branch line between Lambourn to the north west and the mainline station in Newbury, it was never sufficiently popular to be a success and it finally closed in 1973. More fascinating details can be found here.

One of the bottom gate balance beams on Lock 83 looks as if it cannot be long for this world! It is, however, amazing how some timbers carry on regardless.

This railway bridge is usually called Pickletimber although we have not found the origin of its name. Some maps more prosaically say Benham Railway Bridge. This carries one of the main lines to the West Country - electrification stops at Newbury so no overhead cables here.

Three locks, including here Benham Lock 82, have signs requesting that they be left empty. Several were also very hard to open at the top end as leakage from the bottom meant that they were unwilling to make a level. Occasionally we were able to accept offers of help from walkers. Never turn down assistance, especially when you need it

Although the navigation from Newbury was meant as a canal to connect the Kennet and the Avon (which much pre-dated the middle section) the original surveyor rs could not resist using the river water when available. The flow was no longer quite so acute as down steam but still needed care when passing weirs and sluices such as this one.

Our last lock of the day was Copse (no 80) just one short of the Kintbury pound. Rather late we spotted that there was a boat waiting to come down. Christine had to carefully reverse back onto the lock landing - not easy with the flow from the side bridge going from bank to bank.

We were keen to avoid doing another lock today so we hoped for a mooring in the next pound. Alas, the banks were overgrown with reeds and other greenery. We thought we had found a possibility but it proved less satisfactory than we expected. Nevertheless we made it do, despite not being that close to firm land! We had to use several of our tricks to get ropes, pins, hammers, planks etc in the right places. The stern was too far out for throwing a line to the towpath but we used the boat pole to catch it! We also slid a mooring pin down the rope, threaded through its eyelet, when it was not safe to toss it ashore as per usual. We made it, but no evening walks are likely with the drawbridge drawn up early doors. No photo either - perhaps in the morning we will capture something as we cast off.

4.5 Miles - 7 Locks

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