Wednesday 18th June.
Newbury to Woolhampton. 6.5 miles, 7 locks and 4 swing bridges.
We both had an excellent nights sleep and woke up to a breezy, dull morning with a feel of rain in the air. Nevertheless it would not put us off going anywhere and today we wanted to head for Woolhampton. So at 8.10am we fire Hadar’s engine up and I set the lock, which is just above The Lock, Stock and Barrel Pub
Keith manoeuvred Hadar away from the mooring, but making sure she did not drift towards a very fierce weir. Safely in the lock paddles were wound up to allow Hadar to drop down onto the River part of the Kennet and Avon Navigation. Having climbed down the lock ladder onto the Hadar Keith then has to negotiate the strong flow of the river through Newbury Wharf to Victoria Park. The old Bailey bridge that used to be in the park and was something of a talking point has now gone and it has been replaced with a new bridge. We were on our way now and out into the countryside.
Now I have said I think on a previous posting that the locks are in need of some TLC and this lock proves it.It is leaking really badly and makes it very difficult to open the bottom gats due to the amount of water flowing into the lock. This is not the only poorly lock there are others.
By lock three Ham Lock we joined up with NB Patience, a father and son crew Don (father) and Geoff (Son) and had a great time passing the time of day and putting the world to right. Geoff used to help with NB Nuneaton and NB Brighton, who are part of the Narrowboat trust, with which we helped at the Little Venice Cavalcade. So it is a small world this boating lark. Between us we shared the swing bridges and locks until we left them below Monkey March Lock (one of two remaining turf sided locks) and the Thatcham Railway Station and carried on our way, meeting up with NB The Puzzler from Norfolk, who we had met a few times previously a long the River Wey, we were to learn that we will see them again in August at the IWA National Festival, they were coming up and we were going down so we did not have long to chat.
At the final lock of the day we met up with NB Hannah, she is owned by the Bruce Trust, who takes out groups from Hospices around the area, today they had on terminally ill children from The Douglas House Hospice. All those onboard were clearly enjoying their day out, whilst having their photo’s taken and getting damp from the spray the water was kicking up as I helped to fill the lock with water. It is such a fantastic idea the Bruce Trust and it gives the children and adults that use the boat a day of relief from their illnesses. Having spoken to one of the ladies who was in charge of the children, she was telling me that the children can stay at The Douglas House Hospice up to 28 days through out the year, giving them respite care and their families a much needed break and whilst they stay they get taken out once a year on the Bruce Trust boat. The weather was a little hit and miss today, one minute it was trying to rain and the next the sun was out, but one thing that never changed and that was the strong breeze.
We stopped for the day at 12.45pm above Woolhampton Lock and I made us lunch and a coffee. Afterwards we took a walk around Woolhampton village which in on the A4 making it very busy with traffic. The village owes its existence to the mail coaches on the old Bath Road. It is a small but pretty village with some nice old properties; some actually have old signage painted still on the house walls. One advertising the fact it was a bakery dating back to 1875. Also some of the houses are named after their usage, such as the Old Forge, the Old Bakery and the Old Post Office. The village does have a small shop for provisions, a post office and three pubs. The Falmouth Arms, the Row Barge Inn which is near the Woolhampton Swing Bridge and The Angel Inn, which classes itself as a Bar and Brassiere, looking at its menu prices I can see why £12.95 for Cod and Chips, I should say the chips are described as rustic ha ha ha. We gave that a miss this time. For basic pub grub I think the Falmouth Arms is the best bet. Still a nice village with character. Oh and they have a railways station (Midgham) as well for anyone needing to get somewhere and wanting to leave their boat for a few days. Although the moorings we are on are only 48 hour.
Before dinner we cleaned the boats brass, even though dark clouds were gathering. An evening watching football was ahead of us.
The photographs today were done on my mobile, so sorry for the quality.
Thursday 19th June.
Woolhampton to The Cunning Man Inn, Burghfield Bridge, near Reading.
7.5 miles, 9 locks, 6 swing bridges and 1 lift bridge.
5am the alarm clock springs into action, and we turn it off and roll over for another 5 minutes of kip, marmite on the other hand had other ideas, she was wide awake and wanting her breakfast, so she jumped on Keith meowing her demands for food. We did get up and have breakfast before readying Hadar for the mornings run. The sun was shining after a night of heavy rain, it was really a lovely morning. I set Woolhampton Lock whilst Keith fired Hadar into life. To do the lock and swing bridge, you firstly have to work the lock and sit in the lock until the swing bridge is open, because below Woolhampton Lock the current can cause problems. So I did the lock work and then ran down to the swing bridge to set it. Once it was open I then rang Keith on his mobile so he could get enough revs up to get through the current on the river, which was flowing rather freely. Keith managed to manoeuvre Hadar enough to get her through the swing bridge without hitting the sides. The problem then was he had to try and stop the other side. A notice suggests you attach your stern rope to a bollard to help with the stopping process, it also tells other boaters that the moorings are for the swing bridge and lock ONLY. So that was why a Reading Marine Co hire boat had moored there over night Grrrrrr. This meant that with Hadar coming through the swing bridge at speed she was unable to slow down enough to avoid hitting this hire boat. Even with her slammed into full reverse; she still collided with the boat. A dopey looking man (dopey though being woken up, put his head out of the back doors). Keith politely reminded him what the sign by their boat said, asking if he could read and got no reply, but then we had just tipped him out of bed ha ha ha.
So we moved on our way. Past the junction with Frouds Marina, we crept on towards Aldermaston Lock and a chance to empty the toilets, rubbish and fill up with water. But when we got there, there was a boat moored at the Sanitary Station, they had moored there overnight, so we pulled up below Aldermaston Lock, and walked across the Lift Bridge with the toilets and rubbish. It was now 7.30am and I operated the Lift Bridge, if we had been ½ and hour later we would have had to wait until after 9am, because between 8-9am and 4.30-5.30pm you cannot use the lift bridge as it is peak times for the traffic. After the lift bridge we were able pull in for some water near the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust building.
At Padworth Lock we were joined by a Reading Marine co hire boat. Yep you guessed it, it was the same boat we hit at Woolhampton. But that did not mean we would not share ha ha. One of the gentlemen onboard apologised to me for where they were moored and we left it at that. Past Towney Lock the railways runs along the canal and along the fence were windmills, the sort children play with in the summer on the beach.There were several of them taped to the fence.Between us and the hire boat we shared the lock and bridge work, making life much easier.We did however find that two of the locks on the navigation Sulhamstead and Burghfield Locks were short, so we had to pull up the fenders and exit the lock diagonally, which was a bit of fun. After Garston Lock, the navigation becomes very twisty with the current it makes for a slalom ride with a 70ft boat, but both Keith and Hadar were up for the task. We did manage to go bush brushing a couple of times, but no damage done. We left the hire boat after Burghfield Lock and moored up at The Cunningman Pub, 11.40am and our day of cruising was done. Tomorrow we will be back on to the Thames.