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.