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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!