Tuesday 18 July 2023


Today's Canal : Kennet and Avon

By the time we were ready and took a look at Crossing Lock, it had already had had the padlocks removed.

Today was largely one of working through one lock after another - with much the same distance between most of them. This was too far to want to walk but not long enough to recover from the previous one!

The second lock is today called Longmans Cottage Lock. The cottage itself is obviously in private hands, behind a substantial privacy hedge, but still calls itself the Lock House. We have not had a chance to see if there is more information about the naming but we wonder whether it was perhaps once call Lengthmans Cottage, or that lengthsmen were called longmen. (A lengthsman used to be an important feature in the upkeep of the canal - they would all manner of minor maintenace and repair but are no longer deemed affordable, or easy to fit within present day Health and Safety ideas. Apart from anything else they would have to go on so many trainig courses there would be little time left for 'real' work!

Contemporary guides all call Bridge 99 'New Lock'. presumably it was not built as part of the original canal but for some later purpose. It at least dates from before the Second World War as it still has tank traps - the concrete domed cylinders can just be seen over the parapet.

Interestingly, the 1877 OS map shows the next bridge as New Bridge but the above one seems to be part of a long, straight drive through Wilton and Bedwyn Brail, two wooded areas either side of  Wilton Common and both once part of Savernake Forest. There are also links to Wolfhall (see here)

Here is another bridge with similar defences - we are not sure whether the width has subsequently been increased by removing some of them, or whether originally they were placed so that the farmer could still get his tractor through but not an invading tank!

At Bedwyn Church Lock we spotted this strange metal object, standing next to a classic diamond shaped railway weight limit sign. The purpose of the item is not obvious and we do not recall seeing anything like it elsewhere. Anyone know more?

Just as we neared Bedwyn Wharf, where we needed all the usual services, we were pipped to the post by a boat coming the other way. We had to secure ourselves alongside one of the Bruce Trust boats until it was our turn. Almost immediately another boat arrived had had to come alongside use while we filled and emptied. We also heard that the Bruce Trust are still suffering from effects of Covid with bookings very much down on what they once were.

The bank alongside the lower lock landing at Little Bedwyn was a riot of wild flowers.

We struggled to find a lunch time mooring, eventually managing to tie up with difficulty just before the first of the three locks at Froxfield.

It was almost 3 o'clock before we continued, unsure where we might find to moor for the night. It seemed that it would take just a bit too long to attempt to get as far as Hungerford, and in any case, it might by then be full. An added complication was mobile phone signals, both of which were too weak at the first place we found (which had good armco, alas!) In the end we came in just beyond the lock landing below Lock 71, still 4 locks away from the centre of Hungerford. That is now a treat for tomorrow and a chance to replenish our larder.

We would have had abetter picture of our overnight stop but the camera battery had run out of juice - a lack of attention by the battery charger, we are afraid. Usually top it up at lunch time but all the effort of the morning distracted us. (Well, that's the best excuse we can come up with!)

5.0 Miles - 11 Locks

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