Thursday 29 June 2023


Today's Canal : Kennet and Avon

It was bright and sunny when we awoke - the rest of the day was very mixed but only a few drops of rain, not amounting to anything much.

The batteries we a little low this morning and it was hair drying (which usually involves turning on the engine for the alternator). Christine suggested to Mike that he might like to move the boat the 100m to the water point just the other side of the bridge in Bathampton. This would give an excuse for running the engine! She also wanted to start a load of laundry.

Before long (it was a surprisingly fast tap) we were under way properly. With only the one lock at Bradford on Avon ahead of today, it was otherwise plain level cruising. The main downside is that almost the whole way is stem to stern moored boats, all expecting passers-by to slow down just for them! For long periods we were limited to tick over.

On the way down we noted a couple of sculptures on the off side. Today we saw several more, some almost buried in the undergrowth. (The difficulty with projects like this is that all the focus is on setting it up and forgetting about the maintenance in the future!) This one, however, is in a much better state.

We called at Dundas Wharf, long enough to use the sani station. We might have stayed longer but two more boats arrived and we had to finish up and move on as quickly as we could.

Immediately after this we crossed the Dundas Aqueduct. Although it stands high above the river  and rail, the substantial walls and wide towpaths mean that on the water it does not feel that way at all!

Just after the tight bend at the end of the aqueduct (where there are moored boats and it is narrow anyway) we spotted a very wide beam boat coming the other way. Not sure what it was doing, we backed off and gave him plenty of room to pass at a gap in the moorers. However, nothing happened and eventually we edged forward. It seems that he had stuck on the bottom and was going nowhere fast. Just after we had finally passed him, another wide beam came along. We tried to warn the steerer to stop as the boat ahead was in difficulty but initially he made no change in speed. He then spotted the problem, by which time he was almost running into the other wide beam! We left them to it and by the time they were out of sight, not much had changed . . .

Then followed a long wooded section until Avoncliff Aqueducts where we crossed back to the other side of the river and rail.

Around the corner, where the canal is rather narrower, yet another very wide beam (wide beams vary quite a bit in width) was moored up, taking up more than half of the channel. We only just passed and leaving enough room not to run into it or the overhanging trees on the offside. We could not work out what might happen if another boat of the same size came along!

A boat was emerging from Bradford Lock as we arrived - crew have to be dropped off before the cafe and bridge - but we guessed that there must be volunteers on duty as the other boat did not have to stop to pick anyone up. Indeed there were two very helpful chaps who cheerfully did all the work and brought us up very gently. It is a deep lock and not easy to secure when only one boat is in the lock. 

Nevertheless, we had an extremely smooth and effortless ride up. They obviously knew their lock well. This is a very busy lock with a lot of hire boats based just above - many of the hirers having to encounter their first and difficult lock within metres of being set off! Thanks chaps!

We were fortunate to find a space just, but only just, large enough to fit our boat in, right at the end of the visitor moorings and the bridge to Sainsbury! By the time we came back from shopping, the last boat in the line had left and it looked as if we had had an easy moor! If only.

Another slow cruise for just under an hour. We were at first behind a day boat out from Hilperton but they tried to pull into a gap to let a couple of kayakers, hard on their tail, to go in front. Alas this manoeuvre proved to be a bit more difficult than they had expected and they ended up across our rapidly approaching bows. Brakes on hard - and we avoided running into them but they were then able to let us pass them.

ABC Hilperton is a major hire centre (along with the others at Bradford) Fortunately by the time we arrived here we were still ahead of the mass on their way back at the end of their holiday. One or two were already in position for 9.30 am tomorrow.

Our diesel tank quenched its thirst at the adjacent Boatyard - a very friendly and helpful place it is.

Time then to look for a mooring. The designated stretch just after Hilperton is not very good. (Perhaps that is why it was empty, room for at least 8 boats) The problem with most of the length is that erosion has taken away almost all of the bank between the water and the hard towpath so that there is nowhere in which gto hammer mooring pins - no rings. After a couple of tries we eventually found that the final space would work and we quickly grabbed it! Mobile signal is not especially good however.

10.8 Miles - 1 Lock

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