Tuesday 1 August 2023

Tyle Mill

Today's Canal : Kennet and Avon

We have been at home for the past week, leaving the boat in Frouds Marina, not far from Thatcham. Christine had some treatment for her neck and back at a clinic in Bath on Saturday so is still being very careful what strain she puts on those parts.  We found this marina to be very helpful and friendly and could easily understand why so many of the boaters we have met from here who highly recommend it.

We drove from home this morning and by lunchtime were unloaded and ready for the off. However, the marna office closes from 1 to 2 and, although we had paid our mooring dues, we needed to be let out - there is a small swing bridge between the old and the new sections of the marina. We also wanted to top up or fuel tank as the stretch ahead of us is less easy for finding diesel. This meant that we could have a good lunch break and have everything stored away.

We also ordered a replacement for the broken gangplank (see previous trip!) a the marina kindy allowed us to arrange delivery to them. They also put it onto the boat and gavere us a call to say that it had arrived! One of the tasks before we left was to remove the packaging which we could then dispose of whilst refuelling.

It was around 2.30 when we finally left the marina. This manoeuvre needs care as the entrance is on the river (one of the few marinas that benefit from being on non-licencable waters) Forewarned. we started our sharp right turn well before joining the river stream and so were in no danger of being swept downstream to the nearby weir! 

Shortly upstream we re-joined the Kennet and Avon and the canal section into Aldermaston Wharf. We were too busy with navigating the junction safely that we did not take any photos until in the calmer waters under Froud's Bridge. One option was to stop for the day where we moored a week ago but in the end we opted top go through three locks and hope to find a mooring above Tyle Mill.

As we approached Aldermaston Lock we could see that a boat had just entered and closed the gates but they spotted us coming and very kindly waited and opened the gates to let us in. The lock, arm, bridge and wharf were all very much quieter than last week when we had 'fun'. There were no hire boats turning around today - and even the small ABC day boat is up for sale.

The lock we restored using the scalloped edge but we notices this time something we have missed before - the heel posts of bottom gates which normally are supported by a notch in the side walls, here have two very large wooden beams instead.

We also discovered this time that the short arm (where the service block is now located) was originally somewhat longer and was built to link a transhipment facility on the nearby main railway line. The further half was filled in 70 or 80 years ago.

Padworth Lock is at the other end of the straight section from Aldermaston Wharf. This too was originally a turf lock and was totally rebuilt during restoration, but in the original location.

The balance beam holds a commemoration plaque - Google fails to give us any information about the history behind it. 

Alongside the lock is a rather splendid distance stone, today almost hidden in the long grass. The sculpting of the text is especially fine.

The towpath from Aldermaston Wharf to Ufton Bridge has been resurfaced and its completion was announced in the past few days, work having been suspended when we came up. At that time we were rather concerned that the edge of the cycleway had, in places been given minimal support and looked as if it would soon collapse. Since then, the edge has been better defined and dredgings deposited to create a supportive bank, at the expense of some of the canal width. In addition, the concern that others on social media had expressed about yet another black-top cycleway has resulted in the finish being in embedded gravel (if that is the correct technical description) One clear problem is that mooring pins are high risk along here,

We did notice that in several places the edging does not protect the very unstable soil from being eroded as the movement of boats washes water over the top. Here a void is already beginning to open up.

Visually, at the moment everything is very raw and the restoration  of ground disturbed during the works, but not under the hard surface, is often minimal. But time and nature will no doubt soon lend a hand and when the cycleway has begun to weather it will be much less intrusive. One boater did comment to us that the cyclists have already started to use it as a high speed route!

Our third and final lock today was Towney. This was wholly rebuilt using steel piling when restored. In addition, the nearby Ufton Lock, which was only around 500 mm rise, was degated (ie not used) and the depth added to Towney.

Ufton still has a swing bridge but it too is powered now. The former lock chamber has been retained to provide a lock landing on the upstream side in order to operate the lock.

We had leapfrogged with our companion boat and arranged that we would operate this bridge so that they could go ahead - we understood that they were going on a bit further, at least down Tyle Mill Lock tonight. Alas, we then saw them mooring up in one of the spots that we had had in mind to take for  the night!

However, encouraged by another longer term moored boat a little closer to the lock, we carried on and found an equally good spot just a short distance from where we stopped during the flooding back in early May.

3.6 Miles - 3 Locks

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