Friday 21 July 2023

Newbury Racecourse (if only we could see it)

Today's Canal : Kennet and Avon

If we were into giving our blogs enigmatic, or even meaningful, title, this one might well be A long walk for a short plank. But more of that later.

Although there was somewhat more cloud around today, it was still very pleasant and the only short period when potential rain clouds put in an appearance still remained dry.

A reminder that we are now on the navigable Kennet came with a significant weir, although they will get larger as we go on down to Reading. There are some longer canalised sections but most is the river itself, Often it is deeper and wider than the canal we have been on for this trip thus far and we could travel noticeably faster and smoother. (The canal part officially begins at Newbury Lock)

The first lock, Benham, is another Leave Empty and the top balance beam has already had extra metalwork to extend its life. Despite this the angle of the outer part of the beam suggests it will need more work ere long.

Higgs Lock has also had a recent life-extending operation since the en of May when we came up this way.

The state of  the remaining top beam on this gate suggests that it too will need further work.

Guyers Lock, on the other hand, is much newer and worked with much more ease. And it was not Leave Empty.

We were now nearing the outskirts of Newbury and soon passed through west Mills Swing Bridge, which very recently had a stoppage for a few days. We could not work out from the description what had to be done nor, looking at it, were we any wiser. Alas, for once we did not catch any cars wanting to cross.

There were plenty of onlookers at Newbury Lock, including a young family with two small girls very keen to help.

The top of the lock originally had the type of sluice mostly seen on the Leeds and Liverpool.ore conventional gate paddles operated by a standard lock key.

The opposite side of the lock has a well-tended garden that looked very smart.

Looks like it is feeding time at Victoria Park.

As when coming the other way we stopped at Newbury Marine to fill up with diesel as it may be some time before we have our next opportunity. On the Thames and on the Wey we have in the past found prices somewhat higher.

We found a good mooring just by Tesco and Lidl - time first for lunch.

After stocking up in Tesco (and a couple of items from Lidl - alas they no longer stocked the rather delicious small ice creams we had before) we continued for another couple of locks. In the second one we shared with another boat that was being delivered from Devizes to Banbury by a couple of boat movers. It was quite an historical boat, especially the water-cooled engine.

We opted to moor just after Bulls Lock - in theory close to one end of Newbury racecourse but there was too much vegetation in the way to see anything at all.

We moored reasonable conveniently but on this occasion, unusually the stern was closer to the bank that the bow. Mike was able to leap ashore to tie up to pins. When he was satisfied that all was as safe as he could make it he turned to thinking about how to get back on board. Jumping ashore was one thing but getting back is another and needed the boat to be just a bit closer for comfort. The gangplank was at the bow/ So we hatched a plan to attach a rope at one end (we do this regularly both the prevent it falling off and also to manoeuvre it). Christine then threw the rope to Mike on shore and he proceeded to pull the gang plank across. It was almost there when suddenly the rope gave way and the gangplank fell into the river. DISASTER!

Somewhat cautiously, Mike did manage to get back on the stern - but he was not happy! We poked around with our boat hook - we could see the ladder in the water but it kept sliding further away, underneath the bat. We then realised that actually the two parts to the gangplank - the ladder and the flat attachment to walk on, had become separated. We quickly retrieved the ladder part but there was no way we could catch hold of the other.

We checked with the manufacturer on their website and the earliest that a replacement could be despatched would be Monday - and where to? In any case, we knew that mooring without a gangplank is all but impossible along most of the Kennet and Avon. Would we be marooned for ever? Could we get a timber plank instead? Good old Google Maps showed a Wickes store, about a mile away, as the nearest timber merchant. They remain open until 8 pm tonight (it was now about 5.30) A quickly phone call established that they had scaffold boards in stock and another call to find that they could not deliver until next week (despite saying Next Day Delivery)

Mike leapt ashore yet again and set off to walk - Google estimated 20 minutes (about right). Hooray, there was Wickes!!! Within minutes we were the proud owners of a means of crossing between boat and shore! Of course there was just the little matter of carrying it back to do first.

With numerous breather stops along the way, taking a bit longer than the outward trip, Mike finally made it back, rather more worn than we planned when we first started to moor. Ah well, we can now move on in the morning.

5.3 Miles - 7 Locks

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