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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Abingdon to Thrupp.

Thursday 26th June.

Abingdon to Oxford. 8.1 miles and 3 locks.

Thankfully the windy weather of yesterday had somewhat calmed down for us to get underway. We said goodbye to Abingdon and headed under Abingdon Bridge, towards Abingdon Lock with its weir, we joined a hire boat in the lock and followed them to Oxford. There are some lovely views above the lock with wide open spaces. Once under Nuneham Railway Bridge the river passes the entrance to Swift Ditch, it was once the main navigation channel, where there once was one of the earliest pound locks on the Thames, it was built in 1620.
The river is edged by woods of ancient trees. Some have probably stood for hundreds of years. We then saw Nuneham House and Park. The house itself is an 18th-C Palladian mansion by Leadbetter; it looked absolutely splendid surrounded by beautiful grounds and woods.We continued to follow the hire boat and a cruiser joined us to Sandford Lock, which is very pretty. The Lock gardens are well tended by the keeper.It is really picturesque, with the Kings Arms pub alongside the lock if you need a drink LOL. But remember NO drinking and driving.We then had a long run again to Iffley Lock, which once again is a pretty lock. We left the lock behind the hire boat heading for Oxford.The breeze was picking up a bit once again, so although we had thought of going to Thrupp we changed our plans and decided to stop in Oxford instead. We cruised passed the many boat houses belonging to the colleges.Christ Church Meadow lies along the river and is always busy with tourists... We managed to find a mooring before Folly Bridge, where the Salter trip boats operate from, you can also hire punts and rowing boats to cruise the river if you wish, there seemed to be a few takers out on the river in the sunshine. The trip boats were also doing a good business. Having moored up we had lunch and then took a walked into Oxford for a bit of retail therapy. What we found was an Antiques and Crafts market on, so always looking for a bargain we took a stroll around the market. It has to be said that a lot of it was old tat, but we did find a small ribbon dish for 50p, with A Present from Teignmouth on it, now that was a bargain.

Friday 27th June.

Oxford to Thrupp. 9.5 miles, 7 locks and 2 lift bridges
.8.45am we headed off on a sunny morning with a slight breeze. We past the Salter’s boats and The Head of the River Pub before going under Folly Bridge, making for Osney Lock.Osney Lock is a pretty lock with lovely well tended gardens. The Lock Keeper was attached to his mobile phone whilst working the lock. Later we found out that the decision to sell or rent off Lock Cottages has been put on hold for now, which is wonderful news, so maybe he was getting the good news.
Before Osney Bridge there is a lovely stretch or water with terraced houses facing the river, giving it a traditional feel.
We then entered an area of open countryside known as Port Meadow, it is used as a flood plain for Oxford, and today it was being used for cattle and horses.We trundled Hadar to Godstow Lock, where you can see the remains of Godstow Abbey, the lock is really pretty as well, with once again pretty gardens.
The river then winds towards Kings Lock, which is the last Thames Lock before we head onto the Oxford Canal.We waved goodbye to the last of the manned locks and now the hard work would begin again. I have really enjoyed my first time on the Thames and cannot wait to do it again (hint, hint Keith). I love the fact that it is so wide and varied with its scenery and the things that are going on. I want to go back and see each place in more detail, so we will do it again and spend a few months cruising.But for now it was onward along Dukes Cut and the weir stream.It was back to the narrow stretches of water and our first lift bridge before Kidlington Green Lock, where we joined a two boat que to go up the lock. Back on the canal and back to the ques ha ha ha. Happy days.
Sadly the weather took a turn for the worst and the rain began to fall, so my camera needed to go inside. We passed by Kidlington and onto wards Thrupp, but first we had to get through Roundham Lock. Having had problems with the lock back in March with the canal being silted up below the lock, this time we were taking no chances. Keith held Hadar down by the railways bridge whilst the boats in front went up through the lock and other boats came down. When it was our turn to use the lock, Keith took a run through the Roundham Bridge Hole hoping not to get stuck this time, thankfully he made it ok and entered the lock. Having worked the paddles and opened the gate, Hadar exited the lock and we headed into Thrupp hoping to find a mooring at The Jolly Boatman pub, but there was no room at the Inn, so we carried on under Aubreys Lift Bridge and stopped at the BW Sanitary Station to take on water etc. We set off with the view of cruising for a few more hours but found a space big enough for Hadar on a 14 day mooring below Shipton Bridge at Shipton-on-Cherwell, so we will be staying here for a few days, as Keith’s sister is going to pay us a visit. The rain stopped and the sun did its best to poke its head out, but it was never going to be wonderful. We got to put our anchor away in the front locker as it is no longer needed and enjoyed a peaceful evening onboard, before heading to bed. We will see you when we gewt underway again, so enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Child-Beale to Abingdon.

Monday 23rd June.

Beale Park, Wildlife Park and Gardens.

They say it is a woman’s right to change her mind, but in this case it was Keith’s turn to change his mind. We woke up to a bright sunny morning, with no breeze at all, so Keith thought we should stay put and go and have a look around Beale Park after all. So we were going to see if £8.50 each was good value for money. Beale Park opens at 10am and closes at 6pm, so at 10am we took the short walk from the mooring to the entrance of the park.
I always go by first impressions and the first impression of the park was lovely.The parks gardens were laid out in 2006 on 50th Anniversary of the opening of the park. We enjoyed looking around at the aviaries, with some beautiful birds in them. The park also has some primates and other animals.This very cute Prairie dog was just one of the animals to see.
Throughout the park they have large lakes and ponds for the fish and waterfowl. It is a really great place to being the family as well, because there is such a lot for the children to do and see. They even have paddling pools, so if you take the children, take a towel and their swimming costume.
I am huge lover of owls and they have a wonderful selection of owls to see.Amongst them the Snowy Owl, Barn Owl and many others.
Keith and I really enjoyed our day at Beale Park and would recommend it to anyone young or old.
We spent the evening back on the boat, cleaning brass and then sitting outside to enjoy our dinner and the evening’s sunshine. Rowers were out in force training for the Henley Regatta.One things fore sure it keeps them very fit all that rowing.

Tuesday 24th June.

Child-Beale to Abingdon. 21.7 miles and 6 locks.
A fantastic morning greeted us, the wind had dropped and the sun was shining, so what more could we ask for. We set off at 8.30am hoping to make Abingdon.
Firstly we passed a small island and a Narrowboat coming towards us, this was one of many boats we saw today. We skirted by Lower Basildon where Jethro Tull ( 1674-1741) is buried in the church yard. The views are awesome, you can see for miles across the countryside.
We passed under the Gatehampton Railway Bridge which was one of three bridges along this stretch built by Brunel. Approaching Goring and its lock there are some pretty boathouses, the mill and church in what is a stunning part of the river.
There are very few places to moor on the way to Abingdon, so you really find yourself on the move all the time. Even Wallingford moorings are in a real state, with the banks falling into the river. Wallingford itself is one of the oldest Royal Boroughs; Wallingford received its charter in 1155. It would be wonderful if there were more mooring places so you can actually go and see these wonderful places. The Boathouse Pub at Wallingford is lovely from the outside as it sits beside Wallingford’s stone bridge, I was however disappointed to read the blackboard outside of the pub though.Wouldn't you say this is discrimination to long boats?
Especially as the pub has plenty of room along its frontage for boats.I guess we will not be mooring Hadar outside and heading in for a drink or a meal. Shame on them.
The skyline is dominated by the Didcot power station, it can be seen for miles.We swept pasted Dorchester and into Culham Lock the last lock of the day.Having said thank you to the lock keeper we made our way to Abingdon, with the hope that we would find a mooring.It was now 3.15pm and first impression of Abingdon was awww how lovely it looks. We did find a mooring wedged between two cruisers, Keith managed to fit Hadar in like a hand in a glove, even one of the cruiser owners remarked on how well he did to get her into the slot LOL. So this will be home for overnight and tomorrow as we want to take a proper look around. The moorings are for 5 days, so it gives us a few options on what we decide to do. For dinner I made us Tacos, something a little different for a change. We then enjoyed what was left of the evening’s sunshine.
Wednesday 25th June.
We have spent the day looking around Abingdon, enjoying its history and its hospitality with a meal in one of the many places to eat in the town. Keith and I then took a stroll around the abbey ruins, the old and new part of Abingdon.
Abingdon is such a beautiful place and it is steeped in history. There is a small museum, which is free to enter. It was intersting reading the time line of Abingdon and the many famous people who have visited the town over hundreds of years, helping to change its history for ever.
So a nice day has been had by us so far. I will fill you in on anything else that happens when I do my next post LMAO, got to keep you guessing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cunningman to Child-Beale

Friday 20th June.

The Cunningman to Reading. 5.6 miles and 5 locks.
A beautiful morning greeted us, when we opened the cabin doors and no early start today. Keith fired up Hadar’s engine at 8.30am and we left for the Thames or so we thought. We got to Southcot Lock and coming up behind us was another of the Reading Marine Co hire boats, so I duly opened the other gate to let them in. They were only going down to reading and turning around, but it meant we could share the lock work, especially as they had 6 people onboard.
There were a few boaters about and all going in the other direction. The M4 and the railways are evident on the way into Reading; their noise breaks the peace and tranquillity.There are some beautiful water meadows and old gravel pits which have been turned over to the wildlife along the way. We came to Fobney Lock and the old water work, at the bottom of the lock the weir stream is extremely strong, and care has to be taken when exiting the lock.We then wiggled our way along the river towards Reading and County Lock which was running with some ferocity, as you exit the lock you need to press the button for the traffic lights, they turned immediately green so us and the hire boat made a dash through Reading past the oracle Centre towards Blakes Lock and the lock keeper. At this point the hire boat had to reverse back to turn around as the lock keeper could not allow them to go through without a Thames licence, we however carried on into the lock where there was a sign up for the Reading Water Fest, which is on Saturday for the one day, you pay £10 a boat, with that you get a plague for the boat and free entertainment.The lock keeper told me that they were short of boats for this year’s event. But we were going to carry on to Tesco do our shopping and go to Child-Beale or were we?
We left the Kennet and Avon and were back on the Thames where we managed to find a mooring for Tesco. The boat moored in front of us NB Liberty Bell owned by Barbra and Dave told us that the Harbour Master had just spoken to them asking if they would like to join in with then Reading Water Fest as they wanted to swell the boat numbers a bit, so Keith and I decided that hey why we don’t join in as well. So he rang the Harbour Master to see if we would be welcome, he was only too pleased to have a working boat at the event and told Keith he would find us a mooring. We firstly did our shop at Tesco, and then along with NB Liberty Bell turned around on the Thames to head back up the Kennet and Avon Canal and through Blakes Lock. We then turned into the Abbey Back Water, where the museum is and found the Harbour Master who directed us to a bank side mooring, he asked us if we would go into the boat parade tomorrow, and of course we will. So far we have met up with Carol and George the Fender man on NB Penny; they have their border collies Jan and Millie with them. Having settled in and met a few boaters we had our dinner before going to watch a performance by the Mikron Theatre.We gathered together our chairs and coats as it had been trying to rain and headed into the Abbey Ruins, where the Mikron Theatre had set their stage for the performance of Debtonation which was all about the UK’s addiction to Credit and the chaos it causes when you are in debt.It was a fantastic performance by the four actors; there were lots of laughs, but also food for thought. Keith and I really enjoyed the evening, despite the heckling coming from Reading prison. The prison over looks the ruins and some of the inmates decided they wanted to join in with some colourful language. It made me think “Now I know why I am out here enjoying myself and you are banged up in there”. Still it did not spoil the evening for us or anyone else there. Afterwards we headed back to the boat for the rest of the evening.

Saturday 21st June.

Not a good start to the morning as it was heavy drizzly rain, so it was a wet beginning to the Reading Water Fest. People were bustling about putting up gazebo’s for their stalls, whilst others were helping with bins and notices. The show would go on despite the weather. Come 11am when the Fest opened to the public, the skies were trying hard to brighten up. Even George the Fender man was not put on by the weather; he was sat by his boat making a fender.It was quiet to begin with and it looked like it would be a washout, but as the weather improved so did the number of people turning up to look at the boats. Come 12 pm we got ready for the boat precession, we were at the rear with the steam boat Surabaya. We had to follow all the other boats out of the Abbey Back Water, back onto the navigation and then back into the back water by the museum, passing the announcer who gave a description of each boat and its history.There were some people in costume and that included two ladies and two gentlemen from a local theatrical group who come every year dressed up, this year the ladies dressed as tarts, they look brilliant.A reporter from the Reading Chronicle came to interview us about Hadar and her history, taking shorthand notes to take back to the paper, so we may appear in print.
We had a fantastic day; the weather did improve with the sun appearing from time to time. If you like small boat festivals then come to Reading. It is a friendly festival where you will be made most welcome. We both agreed we would come again as it is so well organised in conjunction with the council. People of all ages and denominations were milling around the site today, there was something for everyone young or old. Keith and I enjoyed chatting to people who wanted to know about the boat, her builder and the engine and will as I have said come again to the Reading Water Fest. A Reading Councillor asked if we would allow the Reading Mayor and his party onboard to see what a traditional Boatman’s Cabin looked like, this also included a mayor from Ireland, Reading are twinned Clonmel, Ireland and have been since 1994, and every year the Irish mayor comes over to the water fest. So we welcome the party onboard and I gave them a guided tour of the cabin.Coming to small festivals like Reading’s means you get to know people and make long time friends.
Having had dinner we both put our feet up to watch the football, unfortunately though neither of us was very good at keeping our eyes open, so come 9.15pm we both got ready for bed.

Sunday 22nd June.

Reading to Child-Beale. 9.7 miles and 4 locks.

We had thought we may stay put today, it being a Sunday. But everyone else seemed to be moving off, Carol and George had left early, so having chatted with Dave and Barbra who were about to go, we decided that we would go and visit the River Museum and have some lunch at the Back of Beyond pub, which is a Wetherspoons. The museum is free to enter and is only small, but was very nice all the same. At the Back of Beyond we both enjoyed a roast dinner with a drink thrown in for £6.49 each. Both roast dinners came with all the trimmings and were very good value for money, I could not finish mine. Having walked back to the boat we made the decision to go despite the fact the wind had got up, but the sun was shining so off we went out of the Abbey back water and down to Blakes Lock.Now did you know that Blakes Lock was named after Robert Blake – mayor and mob leader, he owned a wharf on the north bank of the river Kennet. In 1720 he was the mayor of reading and opposed the opening up of the Kennet and Avon Canal to Newbury, his fear was it would bring a loss of trade. Because of this fear he led a mob of over 300 people to Burghfield where they destroyed a part of the canal works. But the canal company at the time threatened him with prosecution, so he decided to be the one to keep the peace and used his influence to prevent further violence.
History lesson over, we entered the lock with Pearl Barley a lovely boat with a Perkins engine in it, which gave off a growl when it was revved into life.Both boats then turned onto the River Thames and off we headed towards the first lock of 4 for the day for us. NB Pearl Barley would be carrying on as they have two days in which to make Braunston. Caversham Lock was the first Lock, where we slotted in side by side. We passed Caversham and several small islands on the river and passed Mapledurham and its big house which is still owned by the Blount Family and has been since they purchased the original manor in 1490, the present manor was built in Elizabethan times.We arrived at on the outskirts of Pangbourne where they were holding a canoe regatta, so care had to be taken not to mow them down, we did have to wait whilst a little girl was rescued after her canoe capsized and she was alone in the water, but all ended well and we cruised into Whitchurch Lock and out the other side and made our way to Child-Beale where we found a mooring, this was none to soon as the wind had been getting stronger throughout the afternoon, it was making cruising difficult at times.
One of the quirky things we saw today was an amphi jeep, in other words a car on water. I kid you not.We arrived at Child-Beale and the Beale Park moorings, but we will not be visiting the park this time, not when it costs £8.50 an adult to probably see things we have already see at London Zoo etc, so we will be on our way in the morning, destination unknown yet.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Newbury to The Cunningman Pub, near Reading.

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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hungerford to Newbury.

Monday 16th June.

A beautiful morning after a night of rain, it was looking good for my friend Yvonne’s visit. I took Paddy for his morning stroll, returning to enjoy breakfast and a cup of tea, before doing a few jobs on the boat.
I took the opportunity to take some photos of Hadar at the wharf moored behind NB Beau and in front of the trip boat Rose.Hungerford is a lovely town, I had only known Hungerford from the news, when they had a shooting there some years ago and it was on the news, and despite the fact I grew up and lived most of my life only an hour away I had never been to the town until now,Hungerford has a nice high street which was busy being a Monday morning. The A338 runs through the town, but the buildings built in the 18th and 19th-C are set back from the busy road, so it feel spacious, some of the buildings have a beauty all of their own. On the second Tuesday after Easter 99 commoners, are summoned to the town hall by the sounding of a horn. Two Tuttimen are appointed, they have to visit the homes of the 99 commoners to collect a ‘head penny’ from the men and a kiss from the women, and in return they give oranges. The new commoners are then shod by having a nail driven into their shoe. The ceremony dates from the medieval times and you can see photos and read about the history of the Tuttimen in the Tutti Pole Café.
Yvonne arrived just before 10.30am, we had walked up through the town to meet her, only to see her walking down the other side of the street to see us hahaha. Having caught her up and arrived at the boat we spent the morning showing her around, enjoying a good chinwag and coffee. We last saw Yvonne in 2004, so we had plenty to talk about. She has been my best friend for over 25 years.After the chatter we spent sometime walking around the Antique arcade, which is absolutely fantastic, we managed to find a pair of lace plates for £2.25 a real bargain. Lunch was taken at the Tutti pole café, which was excellent. We then had a final stroll around Hungerford before heading back to Hadar for another coffee and a slice of cake. Yvonne left us early evening. It was a fantastic day with a dear friend and we look forward to seeing her again soon.
So a new week has begun really well for us. Tomorrow we head back to Newbury and our journey now takes us to Birmingham for the August BCN run.

Tuesday 17th June.

Hungerford to Newbury. 8.7 miles, 10 locks and 1 swing bridge.

We said goodbye to Hungerford at 6.40am, the sun was out and the high street was busy with the early morning rush hour. Rather than going up a further five locks to wind, Keith reversed Hadar under the wharf bridge to a winding hole 100 yards back down the canal. Hadar is easy to reverse, even though it was a little shallow in parts and she was turning mud in places, still some 20 minutes later we were facing towards Newbury and on our way. We had 10 locks and 1 swing bridge at Newbury to do, what was surprising was there were only two other boats on the move all morning and they were coming up the locks, which helped as I did not have to set them ready for Hadar and Keith.Being early the wildlife was out getting breakfast, we saw a field with a number of rabbits out enjoying the lush green grass, not a bit bothered by us chugging past.On the way into Newbury we went under the Newbury bypass, many will remember that being all over the news when it was being built, because of all the protestors camping in trees to stop the bulldozers knocking them down.
We had a companion for some of our journey. A Common Tern was following the boat hoping we would turn up something for his breakfast.He was not worried about getting close to us as he would fly by diving down to the water.
The Common Tern is a beautiful bird, now a common summer visitor to these shores. We arrived in Newbury at 12.10pm and found a mooring above Newbury Lock at West Mills. I made us some lunch and a coffee, and then afterwards we went into the town to sample the delights of Newbury high street. Keith and I visited the Museum, but only a couple of rooms were open, due the fact that they were refurbishing all the others so there was not much to see. Never mind maybe they will be open properly next time. Newbury is actually really lovely, with some picturesque buildings. There are all the usual shops and more importantly a Tesco Metro for provisions. We will enjoy a quiet evening onboard, I have a rhubarb crumble to make, from the rhubarb my friend bought us yesterday from her garden mmmm. So see you tomorrow.

Aldermaston to Hungerford.

Saturday 14th June.

Aldermaston to Newbury. 8.4 miles, 11 locks and 5 swing bridges.

Up early at 6am so we could get an early start. We had a peaceful night at the Aldermaston Wharf along with NB Otto. Paddy even had his walk early, not that he cares what the time is, he just does what he has to do, and then he wants his breakfast. So having walked Paddy, I prepared Aldermaston Lock whilst Keith turned the Hadar back on to the navigation. The morning was beautiful, sunny, cool and no breeze so perfect for a full days cruising. We crept past the moored boats, onward to the first swing bridge of the day, Woolhampton Swing Bridge, which used to be operated manually but has recently been mechanised. We arrived there at 8.10am and I went with my BW key to operate it for Keith. I inserted the key and turned it clockwise, waited for the instructions to come up, only to see Hydraulic Pump Isolated, Emergency Stop. So Keith came and tried, turning the key to no avail. I could not even get my key out of the machine.So Keith rang the BW emergency helpline and they said they would send someone out. Whilst waiting we had a look at the Pillbox which is in the pub garden at the Row Barge on the side of the canal, they have made a feature of it and it looks like they keep it tidy. I was surprised at how cramped it was inside.8.30am and two BW guys arrived, they tried everything they knew including trying to reset the bridge, but it was having none of it. So they then called out a technician who had to come from Heathrow, they said he would be an hour. He did arrive and once again he tried all he knew, but once again nothing worked, so he rang the guy who built the electrics for the bridge. Who went through the plans over the phone to the technician. I in the meantime was cleaning some of the brass on the boat. Finally he solved the problem and we were underway at 11.15am. By this time there were now 4 boats behind us and three coming from the other way. The joy of that was we had someone to share the locks with.
So we paired up with NB Ruby Tuesday owned by Ian and Jenna and headed off through the swing bridge and up through the lock. Now you have to set the lock first so you can then open the bridge because it has a nasty flow below the lock.Our final lock of the day with NB Ruby Tuesday was Newbury Lock; we then found a mooring at West Mills, whilst Ian and Jenna were carrying on further, so we said our farewells.
Having moored up we decided to finish cleaning the brass before having our dinner which was a stir-fry, it was then time to relax for the evening watching Euro 2008. We will be making another early start for Hungerford in the morning.

Sunday 15th June.

Newbury to Hungerford. 8.7 miles and 10 locks.

The alarm clock went off at 6am, but we were already awake anyway, so we got up and did the usual morning stuff, which yes as always including walking Paddy. 6.45am we left the mooring at West Mills.The first job of the day was to operate the West Mills Swing Bridge. You need a windlass to wind down the barriers and a BW key to operate the panel for the swing bridge. On the way out of Newbury you pass some delightful cottages which face the navigation.It was nice to see we were not the only ones up and about this early; a couple were out for their early morning walk. I reckon it is the best time of the day, especially when it was like this morning, sun was out and was warming up nicely.
We had 10 locks today all to ourselves, there was no one going our way to share with, but none of them were that difficult. Once again some of the locks are in need of some TLC. A couple had paddles not working properly and some very leaky gates. We used to think the ones on the Trent and Mersey Canal was bad; they have nothing on these gates. Mind you some of the gates are over 20 years old.
We were operating Copse Lock and a wide beam boat was moored on the lock moorings above the lock.Which as any good boater knows is not the done thing. They had spent the night there. Now this was not a hire boat, it was an organisation boat and therefore they should have known better. It meant that the only way to get back on Hadar was to do it from the lock, leaving the gates open. I say shame on them. It all comes down to having a little bit of respect for others, particularly when there is a sign there saying Lock Mooring Only. We were fortunate enough to see Kennet Valley the horse drawn wide beam boat; they were getting ready for a trip.The scenery from Newbury to Hungerford is really picturesque, much nicer than yesterday if that is possible. I am always mentioning the wildlife and flowers and now I am going to give a mention to the trees, because we have seen such a wide variety. Willows, Poplars, Oak, Ash, Sycamore, Horse Chestnut and others. They have a wild beauty of their own, giving us a shady spot to moor up at the end of a hot days cruising.
On our way to Hungerford we passed by Kintbury with its 13th-C church and quiet village.
11.40am and we arrived at Hungerford after an uneventful cruise. We managed to find a mooring opposite Station Road Bridge, Sanitary Station, and a really nice shady place. We may be here for a day or two as I have one of my closest friends coming to see us. Having had something to eat, we thought we would take a walk into the town and get to know the lay of the land as it was back in 1994 when Keith was last here. For me it was another first. Hungerford is well known for its Antique shops so we took the opportunity to have a nose around the ones that were open. We also looked out for a place to have lunch tomorrow when my friend arrives. When we got back to the boat she was listing and sitting on the bottom, so we decided that staying there was not an option, luckily there was a mooring place at the wharf Hadar size so we moved her into the wharf, and whose boat should be moored in front of us.Trevor on NB Beau, with his lovely border collie Bill. Trevor got Bill from the Border Collie Rescue after I recommended them to him, and Bill is certainly a cheeky chappy and very loved by Trevor. We stood chatting and drinking coffee for ages, catching up on all the news and adventures we had all been through. I so enjoy catching up with boating friends and hearing their news. Trevor will be carrying on up the Kennet and Avon Canal tomorrow where as we will be moving off Tuesday back down the navigation.
With my friend Yvonne coming tomorrow it was time for a quick clean around, to make sure the boat was at least tidy. Floors washed, mats brushed, brass in the back cabin cleaned, Victoria Sandwich made, so all ship shape and Bristol fashion. We spent the rest of the evening watching football.