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Bristol-next installment

Well the weather is certainly warming up and the wind has dropped. Thursday 15th June we walked up to Brandon Park with Izzy. It was quite a climb up but worth it for the views. The Cabot tower is on the top of the hill and it gives far reaching views over Bristol. Unfortunately we didn’t go up as after starting to climb the winding staircase, Charlie felt dizzy so descended. I only had to look up at the tower to get dizzy so didn’t even attempt to go up; but we still got some great views.

Cabot tower

views from the base of the tower

We then strolled back down the hill to the cathedral and had a peek inside. Another spectacular building, though Charlie didn’t take any internal photo’s.

Bristol cathedral. Abbey founded 1140

College green in the foreground

Central library with it’s medieval arch

Plan for Friday is a trip to the science centre. More Bristol blogs to follow.

Brunel’s SS Great Britain in photo’s

We spent around 3hrs visiting the ship and the photographer did a good job of getting the atmosphere. As you venture round there are smells in the different area’s of the ship to add to the ambience of the experience. Also the engine drones along. Imagine 10 weeks on board this ship; obviously 1st class gave better food, but accomodation was cramped for everyone. In steerage (where us minions would have been), it was share and share alike, and if you didn’t get on with your neighbour, it would be  long journey! The cost for this experience was 15 guineas per person in steerage.

Stern of the ship

Elaborate decoration 

The iron hull that is kept at a constant humidity to preserve it (the same as the Arizona desert apparently). You can walk around the hull and above is a glass sheet covered in water to give the illusion the ship is floating

propeller and rudder. Revolutionary in it’s time; cutting down the time it took to do these long voyages

model of the ship under sail

top deck or weather deck. 1st class passengers had their own area toward the stern. Minions not to stand over the white line!!

1st class accommodation

Captains quarters

no explanation needed!

Galley. All food had to be taken along on the voyage; even livestock for milk and eggs. 1st class ate 3 course meals whilst steerage passengers gruel and ship’s biscuits.

chef cooking

Steerage accomodation; where we would have been.

The ticket allows 12mths free admission, so we decided to take another visit later.

1843 ship was launched as a cruise ship to New York ; 1845 arrived in New York from Liverpool in 14 days and 21 hours; 1846 ship runs aground in Dundrum Bay, NI, and it’s a year before she is rescued; 1850 Great  Western Steam Ship Co sells the ship to Gibbs,Bright and co; 1852 ship carries hundreds of emigrants from Liverpool to Melbourne (gold rush); 1855 carries troops to the Crimean War; 1857 modifications made to the propeller to make it easier under sail; 1861 England’s first cricket team travel to Melbourne on the ship; 1875 she makes her last voyage as a passenger ship; 1881 Anthony Gibbs and partners buy the ship and remove her engines and convert her entirely to sail (windjammer), making 3 voyages to San Francisco; 1914 her coal stores supply British warships in WW1; 1933 ship’s working life ends; 1937 ship scuttled in Sparrow Cove, Falkland Isles; 1939 British servicemen raise funds for Spitfires by auctioning souvenirs they make from ship’s timbers. Iron plates are used to repair HMS Exeter.; 1969 salvage planning starts. 1970 ship returns to Bristol; 1998 ship at serious risk from corrosion; 2001 Heritage lottery fund gives 10 million to save the ship; 2005 glass plate is finished and the ship is relaunched on her 162nd birthday


Bristol..Part One.

I’m going to split the blogs into sections as there is so much to see and do, and we have what seems like millions of photo’s.  We started off moored at the Harbour Inlet on visitor moorings there.

Harbour Inlet mooring on a very wobbly floating pontoon.

Charlie decided we may be better off on the other section of visitor moorings at the Arnolfini arts centre. This would be better for the visit of Simon and Nette, as car park was nearby, and also for Sainsbury shopping; so on Thursday 8th June we moved. This area is gated and gives extra security, but the pontoons don’t have water only electric.

Arnolfini mooring

The Arnolfini area is closer to bars and restaurants and reaching the city centre, shops etc. Once moored we decided to go and seek out the Elsan point, find the carpark and order online shopping. The weather has been quite windy, and Thursday was a mixture of rain, wind and sunshine. Friday 9th we walked into the shopping area (after our first Sainsbury delivery), through St Nicholas’ market, the Galleries, Cabot Circus in the area known as Broadmead. Now Charlie doesn’t do shopping but he did manage to get himself a pair of lighter weight walking sandals, so he was happy.

Saturday morning and Simon and Nette arrived early and got parked easily. Off we all went again to the shops, Overcast today so comfortable to walk around. In the evening we booked for the UK’s largest restaurant called ZaZaBazaar; a fusion of all different foods from around the world in a buffet style.

ZaZaBazaar behind Pero’s swingbridge

The restaurant was very busy with hen nights, and it was very reasonably priced (except the drinks which needed a mortgage!), but you are only allowed 1hr and 45mins at your table so gave a whole new meaning to fast food; needless to say the next morning we were all suffering with stomach aches. Altgoigh the moorings are handy to visit everywhere they are noisy with the bars and also the buskers (some of whom can’t sing in tune, and I was tempted to pay them to go away|).

Stag pirates in the V shed

Sunday 11th June and we had our second Sainsbury delivery. I split the shopping into 3 lots as there are steps to negotiate and would be hard with our garden trolley, and as I have a prepaid delivery pass it made more sense. Another windy day we had a walk around the free nature festival that was on over the weekend in Millenium square.

don’t often see a dinosaur at a nature festival!!

Lots of people looking around but again as with all these things very expensive items on sale.

Who are these people?

I cooked a roast dinner and Simon and Nette left late afternoon. It was lovely to see them., and also they had brought the post from our tiny house with them, along with a few things I ordered as they were coming. Have to make the most of these journey’s when people visit. Monday and another windy day and third Sainsbury delivery. Also a trip into town as I had a cheque to pay in to the bank, and I needed to check out my phone contract as it is soon up for renewal.

waterfall water feature at the end of the Centre Promenade

One of the many ferry boats that swiftly go up and down the harbour (causing waves)

padlocks on Pero’s bridge (saw same in Birmingham)

Dragon boats practising

William of Orange in Queen’s square

The Matthew replica of John Cabots ship that navigated from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497. This one was built between 1996-97 and re-enacted the original journey to mark the 500th anniversary of the voyage

Tuesday 13th June and we were up early to move to the Harbour Inlet again. We were wanting an end pontoon and I had walked Izzy to check it was free and it was. Stopping at the Elsan point on the way before the ferries started. Once moored we hooked up to the electric point (that still had £7.27 on the meter), and filled with water and I started the washing. The wind has dropped today and the sun is shining. We walked back with Izzy in the evening to Arnolfini as our friends Mary and Stephen had arrived, and we popped along to say hello.

Wednesday 14th June hot and sunny, so we caught the ferry to SS Great Britain. Rescued in 1970 from her watery grave in the Falklands and brought back to Bristol where she was made. She was Brunel’s creation, made of iron and when she was built in 1843 was the largest ship ever built. With her steam powered propeller, and 1,000hp engine she was the most powerful afloat. She has been sympathetically restored and is well worth a visit. Pictures will be posted in the next section as there are many.

you can pay to climb the rigging!!

Harbour inlet mooring

looking toward the luxury flats

A very coastal view

We also walked further along the harbour to Underfall Yard and Cumberland basin. Next instalment to follow.

Change of plan

On Tuesday 6th June we moved to Bathampton on another 48hr mooring. We have been marking them all in our book for the way back. Gales were forecast and as it had been very windy already we decided to stay put. We also lit the fire again! We had a walk to the outskirts of Bath and were lucky that it rained very heavily when we got back to the boat and we had escaped it.

View looking over Bath

We were keeping an watch on the weather forecast, and as Wednesday was looking better we thought we would make the move to Bristol ( a slight change of plan) and leave visiting Bath for the way back.

We set off from Bathampton at 07.10am as we knew we were going to have a long day unless we could get moored on the river. We were  half way down  the first lock when another boat arrived behind us, so we agreed we would wait for them at the second lock.

travelling through Bath

another Bath view

Now travelling with another boat through the locks, and they were hoping to get to Bristol; so we decided we would too as it would make travelling easier, and the weather was reasonably calm. 6 locks in the Bath flight, with one being 19′ 6″ deep (the culmination of 2 locks being combined when the canal was restored in 1976); the gates on this lock were very heavy and luckily a volunteer arrived to help us open them.

Bath deep lock

Once through the locks we were on the River Avon.

River Avon views

view over the countryside

view from one of the locks on the Avon

old lifeboat, now someones home

Izzy sleeping on the journey

We arrived at Hanham lock (the last under CRT durisdiction), and we had to phone ahead to Netham lock and ask if it was safe to proceed. The little section between these locks is tidal, but as there had been little rain over the past few months we knew it shouldn’t be a problem; however the lock keeper advised us to wait half an hour as they had emptied Cumberland basin (entrance to the harbour from the sea), and were in the process of refilling it so the current would be strong. So we heeded his warning and waited in the lock. Off again after the wait and we arrived at Netham lock and the gates were open. We pulled over and went to pay the lock keeper for our stay. We had already decided to stay the full length of time (15 days), and have a holiday! The lock keeper was very helpful and actually extended our stay to 17 days; this would give us plenty of time for rest and relaxation, as so much to see, and we have never visited Bristol before. We eventually arrived at our mooring at approx., 17.30, which meant we had travelled 20 miles in 9 and a half hours and done 13 locks.

I will leave reporting on our travels through Bristol for the next blog.

Good signal?

Or so I thought. It has taken me a couple of hours to individually load the pictures for this blog! Anyway here’s to the next bit of our adventure. Bank Holiday Monday we stayed below Seend locks. As it had turned warmer we sorted some summery clothes from storage, and put away some wintery ones. We also changed the duvet to a lighter one. It was a typical BH in that it rained most of the day, so I made some gingerbread and a loaf. We still had the company of Mary and Stephen. Tuesday we decided to move to Hilperton getting caught in rain showers along the way. Moorings were still lacking, but we ended up by an industrial estate with a Lidl at the end of it. So I walked to it with the trolley to purchase some of our favourite wine and fruit and veg; oh and something for our anniversary dinner on Wednesday. We hadn’t taken any pictures along this stretch due to the rain. Later in the day we were joined again by Mary and Stephen.

Wednesday 31st May and it’s our 42nd Anniversary! We walked with Izzy to Lidl again and purchased some fresh croissants for breakfast. It turned hot and sunny again, and we enjoyed an anniversary meal of ribs (from Lidl), corn cobs and various salads, all washed down with a bottle of our favourite wine.

Thursday 1st June and it was lovely and sunny, so we moved quite early to Bradford on Avon. It is described as a mini Bath, and above the lock it was certainly very busy with walkers, cyclists and families (half term). There is also a hire boat base here, and many were venturing out.

Filling up with water at Bradford on Avon

We went through the lock with a day boat helping guide them with lock procedure. After exiting the lock we found a good mooring at the end of a line of concrete for 48hrs. There were volunteers rebuilding a stone wall near the old Tithe barn; they were using a stone cutter and suggested we may get covered in dust but as it turned out they didn’t use it much and left early afternoon for the weekend. We had a walk around Bradford Farm Park with Izzy, looking for the Saxon church but found out we were going in the wrong direction, so we decided to leave that for Friday. Later in the day Mary and Stephen moored behind us again. We are moored near the Tithe barn which is a very impressive building.

Great Tithe barn. Built in the 14th century by the Abbess of Shaftesbury. It is 168ft long which is broken by 2 porches. The barn is part of the medieval Barton farm which was part of the monastic estate of Shaftsbury Abbey

the beamed roof of the Tithe barn

Charlie drooled over this Austen Healey. We had a green one in our younger pre children days.

Friday 2nd June and we had our promised walk into Bradford on Avon and what a lovely place it is. A selection of the photo’s taken shows how olde worlde it is.

hillside view of Bradford

Holy Trinity church reflection. A 12th century church with additions over the next 3 centuries. Many of the names on the memorials relate to the woollen industry that made Bradford famous. It is now undergoing a restoration after a valuable painting was found within it; permission was granted for the church to sell the painting so it is that money that is funding the restoration. It certainly is a stunning restoration.

Saxon church of St Lawrence founded in AD705; the tiny church was enlarged in the 10th century and since then has survived unchanged. During it’s life it has been a school, a cottage and a slaughterhouse. The true origins of the building were only discovered in the 19th century, and it remains one of the best surviving Saxon churches in England.

the altar in the Saxon church

street view

and another street view

Town bridge. A nine arched bridge that is unusual for having a chapel in the middle (one of only 4 still surviving in Britain). Parts of the bridge including the chapel are medieval, but much dates from the 17th century rebuilding. During the 17-18th centuries the chapel fell out of use and was turned into a small prison serving the town as a lock up.

the chapel on the bridge

Abbey Mill (now retirement flats)

history of Abbey Mill

Heron fishing on the Avon

As we were walking around the town I was on the lookout for a hairdressers as my hair was in desperate need of a trim. Charlie keeps threatening me with the clippers! Anyway I went into a hairdressers to be told they didn’t do dry cuts and that it would cost either £30-40 depending on the stylist. I quickly walked out as I only wanted a haircut not a new wig! I spyed a sign for a barbers; asking the barber if he cut women’s hair he at first said no; then asked me what I wanted done. He then said he could do it there and then so Charlie waited outside with Izzy, and I had my hair trimmed by a barber. It was a first for both of us. I was really pleased with it as it is now nice and short again and should last a few weeks Cost £9.50 (that’s better on the old purse). We had a walk later in the afternoon to Sainsbury’s to have a look around. We met up with the couple on Hotel Boat The Billet. They had picked up some guests at Bath and were heading back. At one point we were following them.

Saturday 3rd June and we moved off early heading for Avoncliff. We said a temporary goodbye to Mary and Stephen as they didn’t want to get to Bristol too soon.

leaving Bradford

aqueduct at Avoncliff

We wanted to stop here as there is a quaint railway station here, but we were having the usual trouble of getting the boat near to the side. So we abandoned that plan (try on the way back), and carried on to Dundas aqueduct. Both of these areas have sharp turns to negotiate, but we managed without mishap. Both Aqueducts were designed by John Rennie, the architect of the K&A., and both built in 1804. We managed to moor on 48hr moorings just before Dundas aqueduct.

looking over the aqueduct to the sanitary station

looking up at the Dundas aqueduct from the River Avon

aqueduct goes over the River Avon and the railway line

We walked along the restored section of the Somerset Coal canal to Brassknocker Basin as we had been told the cafe sold nice ice cream. The coal canal was built in 1805 as a more efficient way to transport coal from the Somerset coalfields to Bath, Bristol and the rest of England. It carried a large tonnage of coal throughout the 19th century and it served 30 collieries more directly than the railway. There were many difficulties to overcome though due to steep gradients along the route. The canal was officially abandoned in 1904, as competition from the railway was reducing the traffic. A small section has been restored and is now private moorings and a day boat/canoe hire base with restaurant. We had our ice cream which was lovely but very expensive for one scoop! Must stock up in Lidl on the way back!

entrance to the Somerset Coal canal

Sunday 4th June was spent washing, polishing and cleaning the boat; then the rain came. I have now put the heavy duvet back on the bed as the evenings have turned chilly again. Half term is now over so things should quieten again hopefully. Today (Monday 5th June) we woke up to heavy rain but we needed to move off the 48hr mooring, so Charlie decided to leave the stern hood up while we travelled about a mile to Claverton. On another good mooring here as there is another pumping station nearby which we were going to visit, but rain has stopped play. We are now approx 4 miles from Bath and hope to get moored somewhere there over the next couple of days, then journey to Bristol for Friday.

And on to Caen Hill

Friday 19th May and we moved to Crofton. First though we had to reverse back to the winding hole to turn around. This I managed with Charlie on the bow with the long pole. I was very pleased with myself just taking it slowly, and occasionally straightening the bow with forward thrust. Past a line of trip boats as well. We don’t have the luxury of a bow thruster, but we managed and turned in the winding hole to face the right way. After negotiating  4 locks we arrived at Crofton. We said goodbye to Mary and Stephen who we had been sharing locks with, as they wanted to move further along, On Saturday we took Izzy for a walk to Wilton Windmill. It is only open to the public on a Sunday afternoon, but it was a pleasant walk anyway despite the showers.

Wilton Windmill

another view

Built in 1812 it was still in operation today. They mill flour here on certain days which is for sale when open. We walked back to the boat and had coffee and cake before setting off for Crofton pumphouse.

trains very close by; pumphouse on the other side of the tracks

Crofton pumphouse

Under a tunnel that takes you to the site, and there is an honesty box to pay the admission fee. Key dates of this building are

1809 First engine working; 1810 K&A canal completed; 1812 second engine working; 1841 London/Bristol GWR opened; 1846 first engine replaced by Sims combined; 1852 GWR took over K&A canal; 1896-1905 Lancashire boilers installed; 1959 Engines stopped as chimney shortened; 1968 K&A trust buys Crofton; 1970-71 both engines restored and back in steam; 1997 chimney rebuilt.

this engine is the oldest working steam operated beam engine in the world that is still in it’s original location. No 1 engine, single acting, condensing, 1.08m bore, 2.1m stroke, power 29kw, pumps 9,730litres of water per minute

the boiler; coal is burnt behind the 2 black doors to produce steam which drives the engines. made in 1899 and acquired from Imperial Tobacco installed in 1986. Contains 18,000litres of water, 1.4bar working pressure, 2.8sq m grate area taking 1 and a quarter tonnes of coal a day.

steam valves. there are 3 for each engine

the beams are the highest parts of the engines and connect the steam driving cylinders to the pumps.

No 2 engine. Cost £1637 single acting, condensing, 1.07m bore, 2.3m stroke, power 31kw, pumps 10,700litres of water per minute

Both of these engines have international significance for industrial archaeology

They were built on this site to help draw water from a fresh water source (Wilton water), to the summit level of the canal, as it had no natural water supply. The water is raised 12m before being discharged to the canal leat and thence to the canal summit. This is all done by electric pumps today.

The sort of big beasty boat often seen on this canal

Sunday 21st May. A lovely sunny day and we headed off early through 8 locks and 1 tunnel on our own and stopped at Pewsey, meeting up again with Mary and Stephen.

Pickled Hill; a relic of Celtic and medieval cultivation

The Vale of the White Horse

We had one night in Pewsey. I walked into the town on Monday morning with Stephen and Izzy, but I didn’t have the camera so will have to stop on the way back. This town is in the ancient kingdom of Mercia and a statue of King Alfred is in the centre of the town. I bought a “traditional pasty” in the bakery as someone said they were better than Cornish! I beg to differ; they were not a patch on a proper pasty. We had a lovely cruise to Honeystreet as another sunny day., and no locks!! We moored on 24hr visitor moorings outside a pub that sadly looked as if it were closed. Tuesday 23rd May and we moved along to Horton outside the  Bridge Inn pub on another 24hr visitor mooring. We had a shower then went to the pub and had a lovely meal and a pint.

lovely meal in this pub and very friendly staff

Mary and Stephen had gone on ahead to Devizes in readiness for the Caen Hill flight of locks; we met up with them again at the top of the lock flight at 8am. We will have to stop here on the way back and check out Devizes.

Caen Hill locks

The locks are split into 3 groups. 6 taking you out of Devizes; 16 in the Caen Hill section; then 7 taking you to Foxhangers. The weather on Wednesday started off misty and cold but soon turned very hot and sunny; a bit too hot for doing all these locks, but we had a good system going with our little team, and got through in 4 hours (with plenty coffee, juice and cake). We were going to stop at Foxhangers Wharf but the view wasn’t very tempting so we carried on a bit further to Sells Green to recover. 29 locks in just 2 and a quarter miles.

at Sells Green. This little opening in the canal was made to allow water to pass naturally from canal; before it was built the adjoining field was constantly flooded, so BW purchased the land to build this area

There were plenty of fish here and wildlife.

Charlie spotted a fox in a nearby field

cattle grazing in the countryside

I made cake and bread on Thursday, and it was another very hot and sunny day. Friday 26th May and we set off again for Seend Cleeve, stopping in the pound between the last 2 locks. Decided to have a BBQ with Mary and Stephen on Saturday as it was so nice. Managed to muster up a variety of food to cook, and between us had salady bits. Overnight though we had a thunderstorm and torrential rain, which cooled things down remarkably on Saturday, and brought with it a fairly strong wind. Undeterred we still had our BBQ but had to cook it under cover as it was so windy. Not the first time we have had to do that because of the British weather.

Today I woke early. A much quieter day weatherwise and sunny again, but the water in the lock pound was very low and threatening to put us on the bottom, so I woke everyone up and we were moved through the lock by 9.30am. Bank Holiday tomorrow so staying put as many hire boats too-ing and fro-ing. Next stop may be Hilperton; we have decided to go to Bristol after researching it. My son has a long week-end coming up on the 9th June, so he and his partner will travel from Cornwall to visit us in the floating harbour for the weekend. We will travel more slowly to ensure we don’t arrive there too early as it is quite expensive to moor in the harbour, but is good for exploring Bristol. But we have Bath to checkout first.

Finally some cute goslings


Lock sharing shenanigans.

Wednesday 10th May and we left Woolhampton for Newbury. We caught up with another boat, and managed to travel the distance to Newbury with them, which made life a bit easier, as the locks are wide and heavy going. I’ll have muscles like Hulk by the time we have finished this summer! We have also been following a hotel boat, which is a widebeam offering 5* accomodation. Thought I may join their crew as it certainly looks luxurious. Anyway we made it to Newbury and managed to get a mooring by Victoria park. A bit noisier than we would like due to traffic travelling over a nearby bridge, but handy for the shops. Charlie wasn’t too fussed about looking around the shops so I escaped and had a trip round on my own (bliss). I needed a chemist to get some proper dressings for Charlie’s poorly leg, and found a Boots. Purchasing some rather small hydrocolloid dressings! Also managed to get 3 DVD’s in a charity shop. Once back to the boat the dressings were applied (after cleansing in case my nursey friends pull me up on this), and looked a bit like a patchwork quilt; but a bandage over hid many irregularities. We shared a glass of wine with our lock sharing friends in the evening. We were going to sit outside as it had been a lovely sunny day, but there was a “no alcohol zone” sign on a nearby lamp post so thought we had better not.

Victoria park, Newbury

on a proper mooring at Newbury

Mandarin duck at Newbury

We stayed one night and decided if we could move to a quieter mooring it would be better. Sharing locks again on Thursday we moved along a couple of miles and found something a bit quieter for a couple of nights. The forecast was for rain so hence our decision.

quieter mooring outside Newbury

Friday raining so no moving for us today. Saturday off again and still with our lock sharing friends we stopped at Kintbury. I could get a Sainsbury delivery here so ordered it for Sunday as we were on 48hr moorings.

lock sharing

moored at Kintbury

We had a stroll into Kintbury village and happened on a wedding fire engine.

an unusual sight, a wedding fire engine

Kintbury church which had a wedding going on so we couldn’t look inside

Shopping arrived on time on Sunday and it took me 2 hours to put it all away (my last big shop being 5 weeks earlier). It had started off sunny, but we had rain in the afternoon so we finished watching a DVD box set (Line of Duty) that we had been loaned. Now Monday we were moving to Hungerford (still lock sharing with the same boat). It was a windy day and as if that wasn’t bad enough some of the bywashes on the locks weren’t helping. We had only done 3 locks and heading for Hungerford lock; I was on the bank, Charlie got off the boat to see about mooring. Don’t know what happened but either he forgot to disengage the gear or he caught the lever as he got off, but we had a bit of a battle to keep the boat from damaging a GRP cruiser. Little boat of our lock sharing mates to the rescue. They transported me over to Breakaway and I managed to gain control. Phew. We went through Hungerford lock as the 48hr moorings were full, and there were 24hr moorings above the lock. We were mooring up, and our friend Mary had stayed behind to help a boat going down. A hire boat crew waiting to come up were being overly helpful and wound the paddles obviously before the boat was ready, as it ended up listing and on the cill.  Another tragedy averted thankfully. Mary was quite shaken by all of these happenings. It had rained most of the day and we were tired and wet. I managed to take a look around Hungerford (again on my own), and found a nice shirt in the charity shop here. Tuesday off again and due to shallow pounds and little recognised moorings we ended up in Great Bedwyn. The 48hr moorings were all full so we ended up on the end of the Bruce Trust pontoon. (They provide trips for elderly and disabled groups on their widebeam boats). We were breasted up and on the outside next to our friends 31′ boat. Wednesday’s forecast was dire, with rain being the theme for the day. We noticed a hireboat move from the 48hr moorings, so we moved back to them, and decided to stay the maximum time. We usually don’t travel this quickly and needed some rest. It rained all day, and we lit the fire to keep the damp feeling at bay. Fuel boat Ozzie was moored here too so we exchanged our empty gas bottle and bought another bag of coal and kindling just in case. Seems like the April showers are now appearing in May!

12/13th century church at Great Bedwyn

Today started off sunny so we walked up the canal towpath with Izzy to Crofton. There is a pumping station here that houses 2 x 19th century Cornish beam engines. One built in 1812 and still working, and is the oldest working beam engine in the world. Dogs weren’t allowed in the building so we partook of a coffee and sausage roll from the cafe, and decided to return if we can get moored on the 48hr moorings here. There is also a windmill nearby that is also open to the public that may warrant investigation. We are now suitably rested and ready for the next stage of our journey.

Middle Thames to the K&A

Hardwick house

Leaving Pangbourne on Thursday 4th May, we were heading for Reading (that rhymes!). We were hoping to stop there somewhere. On the way we passed Hardwick House, where Elizabeth 1 once stayed, and Mapledurham house (moorings there for visitors), that is still owned by descendants of the Blount family, who purchased the original manor in 1490.  On the way into Reading a large railway embankment is passed and strangely there is a postbox in the wall! I wouldn’t like to have to collect the post there.

just visible is the red postbox

don’t know what the collection times were

Arriving in Reading we were now looking out for moorings. Alot of signs saying “No Mooring”, but none telling you where you can. We passed the park where there were widebeams moored, and carried on past and the next lot of moorings were full (no opportunity to breast up as no one displaying a sign and no one around), under the footbridge and eventually reaching a lock. We went through and hoped to moor at the Tesco moorings for the night. We squeezed in between tree trunks, but quite a way off the bank. A widebeam moored behind to go shopping and mentioned that it could be noisy at night. It was near another park, and there were a few boats moored (non continuous, continuous cruisers!), and one moored opposite playing rather loud reggae music. We were both tired so opted to stay a couple of nights in the Thames and Kennet marina. Cost an arm and a leg, but I caught up with all the washing, as the electric was part of the mooring, and washed everything possible that needed it. We were hob nobbing with cruisers that were up for sale.

you can just see us at the end of the pontoon

how about this for a sea faring vessel. Only £145,000.

Saturday 6th May and the weather having been quite windy had calmed a little, so we set off for adventures new on the K&A (Kennet and Avon). Once through 2 locks a set of traffic lights is encountered. They were showing red so we pressed the button and they soon changed to green, so off we went through the shopping complex called The Oracle.

entrance to the K&A looking back towards the Middle Thames

cruising past alot of juvenile swans

Blakes Lock. The last owned by the EA, and sometimes manned but not today

cruising through The Oracle. A missed opportunity here to supply moorings for boats

Pizza anyone?

Another lock awaits once through the traffic light system, and we stopped on the lock landing as another boat was coming through the lock. I went up to the lock to help, but encountered a very grumpy man (wife at the tiller), who proceeded to shout about the fact he couldn’t move from the lock area until the traffic lights turned green. He confused me somewhat, and as Charlie had offered to press the traffic light button for him he still wasn’t happy. I explained we hadn’t done this area before and he said nor had they! I was even more confused by this point. Anyway button pressed and green light on, they were able to go forward leaving us to continue through the lock. The waterway alternates between canal and river so many of the locks have weirs, or cross streams to negotiate. The weather has been dry and still the current is quite strong.

calf having breakfast

under the M4. Looks empty but cars were belting along

We were getting on quite well through the locks (although heavy and fierce; many of the locks have only gate paddles which have to be opened carefully to avoid drowning the boat), until we reached Grafton lock. I was at the tiller and Charlie got off at the lock landing; a strong weir stream pushes the boat over; suddenly another boat was descending the lock and opened the paddles on both sides; before we had time to secure Breakaway, I was pushed over and Charlie couldn’t hold the centre  line rope which ended up in the water; I had to reverse back beyond the weir stream and wait until the other boat had come through. Luckily the rope didn’t tangle itself around the prop. Once in the lock it looked altogether very different, with very little landing stage to negotiate. Charlie did this lock as it turned out to be turf sided (one of only 2 now on this system). Luckily it had ground paddles so water flowed alot calmer into the lock.

Grafton turf sided lock

same lock filling up

Still very few spots to moor except for rough moorings in places. We stopped briefly for lunch. Next we had a swingbridge to negotiate. I toddled off to get this open, but Charlie called me back as he had got grounded just past the lock landing. Pole out and after alot of pushing, the boat was free and on our way through the electric swingbridge. At last a decent spot to moor at Theale, so we did. Needless to say a couple of glasses of alcoholic beverage was needed after the long, exhausting day we had had. We stayed for 48 hours which is the maximum here. Didn’t walk into Theale, but maybe on the way back. Monday we moved from Theale to Aldermaston.  Charlie had a near disaster with the stern rope, which somehow tangled round his calf and caused a rather nasty rope burn (he was wearing shorts). So my first aid kit has been used for the first time, as a dressing was needed. We shared 3 locks with another boat who said moorings were to be had after Aldermaston lock, rough but possible. We tried three times to get in but to no avail, so carried on until we saw a couple of narrowboats moored further along. One of which had moored behind us at Abingdon. We managed to get in (still needing the plank to get on and off). The weather forecast is for rain on Friday, so we want to be somewhere we can stay to avoid travelling in the rain. Off again today. Through Woolhampton lock,(the advice on this lock is to set the lock first, open the swingbridge and power into the lock to avoid the cross currents) and lo and behold some decent moorings. So we stopped (we had only travelled an hour and a mile and a half). After mooring up and a cup of coffee, we walked into Woolhampton. Not alot there but I did find a postbox as I had a letter to post.

drinking water fountain celebrating Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee

bakery sign still visible on one of the houses

electric swingbridge at Woolhampton

Woolhampton lock

We haven’t explored as much as we normally would, due to the hard work involved on the first stretch of this journey. We haven’t met anyone yet along the way that has enjoyed this bit. Apparently it gets better after Newbury, so only 7 miles, 8 locks and 4 swingbridges to go till we get there.,may take us two days. Thinking this may be our only visit to the K&A!!

From Upper to Middle Thames

Thursday 27th April and we woke to a frosty start and we moved from Eynsham on the Upper Thames heading for Abingdon. Passing Oxford we looked out for places along the way to moor, and did see a couple of possible spots, but decided to carry on to Abingdon. The locks on the Middle Thames are mechanised, and easy to operate (full instructions given at each lock). Most are manned but not between 1-2pm over lunchtime.

Unusual craft moored at Oxford

Osney bridge that has a low headroom

luxurious houseboat near Oxford

We travelled 15miles through occasional showers, finally stopping at Abingdon council moorings, which had a 5day limit; this gave us enough time to explore.

moored at Abingdon

Abingdon is an 18th century market town which grew up around the abbey (founded in 695ad); little remains of the abbey today. The bridge  over the river has medieval origins but was rebuilt in 1927.

abbey remains

the old gaol built in 1805-11, now 3 restaurants and apartments.

the old police station

Abbey gate leading to Abbey gardens

County Hall Museum which is recognised as one of the finest town halls in England. Built 1678-82.

writing on the wall of the Broadface public house

view from Abingdon bridge

Breakaway in the distance. view from the weir.

Friday we walked into the town for a look round. A few independent shops still remain, but the town has suffered with the addition of an out of town retail park. Saturday we walked in again as Charlie’s electric shaver decided to stop working, so he purchased a new one. Sunday we moved again to Wallingford.

river views leaving Abingdon

Abingdon from the river

one of the many dutch barge style boats seen along the river

there’s a narrowboat hiding under the camoflauge

Clifton cut

a moo having a drink

house along the riverbank

and another

Didcot power station which we have skirted around since leaving Abingdon

swanky boathouse

arriving at Wallingford

The journey to Wallingford was slightly hampered by the windy weather. Especially at one lock in particular (Days lock), that was in the wide open spaces. A rather large cruiser was ahead of us, and the lockkeeper saw us both into the lock as the wind was pushing us into the side of the lock landing; alot of motoring got us in safely. Even more interesting stopping at the sanitary station after the lock! Wallingford also has town council moorings that are free during the day but £5 a night to stay over. We decided to have 2 nights. A rather nice lady arrives at 08.30am to collect the fees. Wallingford is one of the oldest royal boroughs, receiving it’s charter in 1155. The well preserved Saxon ditches and defences still remain. There are remains of a Norman castle built in 1071. The 17 arch bridge over the river has medieval origins and was rebuilt in 1809. Bank Holiday monday we walked into town where there is a small array of shops (many closed), though I did find a charity shop open and purchased a book.

Wallingford church which has an unusual openwork spire

same view at night

only 5 arches span the river of this 17 arch bridge

lots of widebeam boats on the river; you can just see us sandwiched in the middle of these 2. Don’t we look small?

castle remains

view of church steeple through the castle remains

smile and wave!!

view from the top of the castle mound

There is more to see at Wallingford; a museum and a heritage railway, but we will seek them out if we come back this way. The weather over these past few days has been cloudy and cold. It’s a good job we are moving frequently to keep the batteries topped up. Tuesday moving again to Goring. We shared 2 locks with 3 other narrowboats, but didn’t manage to get a picture of us all squeezed in. Goring is a small exclusive village set in a wooded valley. One of the most important prehistoric fords across the river linking the Icknield Way and the Ridgeway. We had a little look around the village that has a few shops and which also has the home of the late George Michael. Maybe thats why house prices are so high!

this impressive boat passed us on the way to Goring

heading for the lock with 3 narrowboats ahead

Goring on Thames

lovely cottage shrouded in wisteria

George Michaels home that now appears to be a shrine to him

Egyptian goose and gosling

24 hr moorings at Goring so off again today. Cold and windy (just when we run out of coal!!). Silly me thinking we would’t need the fire in May. We do have some wood though that we had collected a few months ago if we get desperate. We have now stopped at Pangbourne so only a short cruise today. Moored on the NT owned Pangbourne meadow. Still only 24hrs so we will be off again tomorrow.We are now only about 6 miles from Reading and the turning for the K&A canal. A little look around Pangbourne and another book purchased in a charity shop. Small array of shops here including butchers, deli and co-op (where I have purchased our favourite olives). Kenneth Grahame lived here, the Scottish author of Wind in the Willows.

Victorian toll bridge at Pangbourne.

Not our best week

Wednesday 19th April and we were up early for our planned trip to Lechlade. It was another lovely sunny day, and on the way stopped for water and sanitary necessities. We met another boat going downstream who totally put us off mooring in Lechlade, as they had removed their front cratch cover because cattle grazing in the field next to the moorings had apparently totally wrecked it. Anyway we decided we would see for ourselves when there.

Lechlade church

Our Nicholsons book showed that we could turn after the bridge at Inglesham so we ventured forth. Bad mistake. We had great trouble turning due to overhanging branches and sandbanks. How we never lost anything off the roof (including Izzy I’ll never know). Also managed to get temporarily grounded! We did give the gongoozlers a treat though I expect.

As far as we can go on the Upper Thames

So we reversed back to what looked like a winding hole and managed to turn eventually. We found a mooring without cattle but it was too shallow to get in comfortably. As we had had a very long day and were getting teasy by this point, we decided to carry on back to Kelmscott where we knew there were 48 hour moorings. We were very disappointed at missing visiting Lechlade. Needless to say we finished the day with a few glasses of red.

moored at Kelmscott

A lovely des res in Kelmscott village

We had missed an opportunity to visit Kelmscott manor (country home of William Morris). It is only open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays which fell outside the time we were there. Privately run with admission charge. So we went for a walk around the village on Thursday.

All of the elite houses are made of this Cotswold stone

carved frieze on one of the houses

It had rained for the first time since we left Napton on the Thursday morning, but it soon passed over and we had another sunny afternoon. We stayed 2 nights here as very tired after our mammoth day previously. In the evening we heard a bit of a commotion on our roof, only to find Mr and Mrs Mallard preening themselves on our solar panels! Friday and we headed back to the moorings before Rushey lock. It was easy to get on and off the boat without using crampons. Although my back has been okay, Charlie’s has now started troubling him. Probably all the scrabbling about on river banks. A few pictures follow of our travels along the river.

Above is the 13th century Radcot bridge, the oldest on the River Thames.

WW2 pillar box. Alot scattered along this area

iron footbridge

Back at Rushey lock we decided to stay the weekend as it was forecast fair. Lovely sunny weekend with lots of aeroplane activity.

military plane circling overhead

sunrise at Rushey locks

Monday and we were off again. This morning started with Charlie falling over on the bankside after catching his foot in a fender rope whilst preparing the boat for moving. It took the wind out of his sails, and now he has a sore chest as well as back. We ended up after Northmoor Lock, and before Bablock Hythe on another rough mooring; sharing this time with sheep.

our neighbours

Izzy wasn’t interested in the sheep, but was very interested in their pooh! So far on this trip I have seen my first swallows, many swans nesting, herons, terns, a mummy duck with 16 ducklings, and heard 2 cuckoo’s.

passing the very large holiday caravan park at Bablock Hythe

Another day of accidents when Charlie fell backwards on the stern after the rope slipped off the bollard in the lock. I’m getting very panicky about all these accidents; never had so many in one short trip. Luckily the only thing broken was his tea mug. The camera went flying but has survived. We moored at Swinford free moorings expecting to have to pay £5 for an extra night (24hr free). There were signs along this bank on the way up, but now (only 10 days later), they have all been blacked out! After we had moored we were chatting to a couple walking their dog, who it transpired owned the land and leased it to the local angling club. The reason the signs had been put up stating charges, was that a few boaters had been leaving their boats there for long periods of time; the anglers couldn’t get along the bank due to the boats; the boats were being moved on reluctantly, and someone has taken umbrage to this and defaced all the signs. They told us we would be ok to moor for a couple of days and not worry about the charge. Just as well as you can no longer read the contact details.

thunderstorm brewing at Swinford moorings

Yesterday afternoon we had some rain and thunder, and it was turning colder. The forecast had been for an arctic blast! A bit of a shock after all the sun we have been having. Today we walked into Eynsham, as Izzy needed her annual leptospirosis vaccination, and I had arranged it with the local vet there. Eynsham is another lovely Cotswold town with the buildings made in the characteristic stone of the area.

Eynsham town

Eynsham church. It was once a town of considerable importance.

Izzy was very brave having her injection, so I can tick that off the list now. It has been bitterly cold today although bright. Just as we are about to use our last bag of coal (thinking we may be ok now). The walk to and from Eynsham takes you over the Swinford Toll bridge built in 1777 and still taking tolls today. It is very busy with traffic. 5p per car, with the maximum being 10p for each axle of a lorry. There are a few shops here including a co-op, butchers, bakers and ironmongers. I topped up with a bit of fresh fruit, and we are now ready for the off again tomorrow; heading this time for the Middle Thames. We are both hoping the moorings will be better as neither of us has particularly enjoyed this trip. 40 miles to Reading.