Sunday 7 May 2023


Today's Canal - Kennet and Avon

Despite the promise of a better day the morning was somewhat grey but not cold. Later, in the afternoon, we saw quite a bit of blue sky and when the sun was shining it was remarkably warm.

The schedule ahead of us is now uncertain as we have spotted that the three usual suspects, County Lock (which we came through yesterday), Woolhampton and Newbury, have all be put on Red Boards. This means that only the foolish will be able to go further than Froud's Bridge, just after Aldermaston Wharf. In addition, the navigation ahead, until Newbury, is largely canalised river. Overnight we had been surprised how much water was flowing past us even thigh we were moored on a non-river section.

The land adjacent to our mooring spot was developed twelve years ago as a wetland nature reserve. It uses the river to create both long term and seasonal wet areas offering a variety of habitats.

A little after setting off we passed this Canada Geese family. The parents have man    aged a better brood than another pair at the lock who were carefully guarding their only surviving baby.

The bywater that comes in below Fobney Lock leaves the navigation at this weir. After this the flow increased even further and steering became correspondingly more challenging. A boat coming down that we met at a later lock said that they had been spending quality time with the riverside trees! Whilst going upstream does give more control it is necessary to keep a constant eye on where the flows are going especially around some very twisting bends.

It took us a while to negotiate the first lock, Southcote, as we gradually remembered the lessons we learnt nine years ago!

When the bywater rejoins very near to the lock, the sideways force of the flow adds to the difficulty of dropping off at the lock landing.

The approach to Burghfield Lock is unusually narrow with the lock landing kin this restricted space. Initially we thought that there was a boat coming down but it turned out to be ascending so we did not find out whether the space really does make for a problem.

The M4 seemed busy as we approached it but none of the photos we took show any traffic at all!

Garston Lock is one of the two remaining former peat sided locks - the sides slope gently away from what would be the normal lock chamber. The railings where there would normally be a wall are there just to keep boats from straying off course and grounding, but the sloping sides are hidden with the shrubs either side.

The next lock is shallow - yes this is the view from below!

Along the next reach the towpath banks reveal that the ground here is very much made of gravel and sand. This makes lock construction complex as the ground will not be very good for the retaining tie bars that normally lie buried below ground. Ground pressure on lock walls can be considerable. Sheffield lock was originally also turf sided but was enlarged in mid 18C. We have not seen confirmation, but we guess that the reason for the modern scalloped walls is to act as a series of arches, bearing on the large piles driven at intervals along the length.

Around the corner is Theale Swing Bridge, fortunately now mechanised. The way through is very narrow and we struggled to push against the flow.

Now lunch time and we had hoped to moor on the rare visitor moorings just after the bridge. Alas, several hire boats from Aldermaston (who have not been able to go as far as they had expected) were occupying most of the room. We did, eventually manage to come alongside right at the end of the 'proper' moorings. We did have to deploy the plank, as is common along here. After lunch a couple that we know slightly came down from Newbury where they had been trapped by flood waters for several weeks. The3xy attempted to moor just above us but quickly found their stern caught by the string flow and they ended up wedged at the front behind our bow with their stern firmly across the canal on the opposite bank! Eventually, with our help and several others we pulled them into the bank (it was really hard work!) and ensured that they were properly tied up! They needed to be here as they have a date with an engineer to look at their stern gland. A little later one of the hire boats left and they were able to move down into that space.

Late afternoon Christine went for a walk back down to the bridge and lock - here are some photos.

3.7 Miles - 4 Locks

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike, we overwintered at Caen Hill one year with Chuffed, a really nice marina, but we had to spend a lot more time than we wanted at that end of the K&A because of the Kennet being on red boards! Hoping for some dry weather for you