Sunday, 18 June 2017

Hungerford to Pewsey

Thu 15th Jun  Hungerford to Beech Grove Lock

We noticed that Rosie had already left, although we never heard them go. Hazel went off to Tesco, while James reversed through two bridges to the facilities where he emptied cassettes and topped up the water tank, washing the starboard side of the boat while he was there. Hazel joined him from Tesco. Then we cruised back past Paws up to the lock bollards.  As we pulled in, the engine suddenly died.  A visit to the weed hatch revealed a tyre fender on the prop.

Arriving back after using the facilities

The tyre fender

Paws also went to the facilities and were gone for an hour, mainly because they had to wait for another boater who hadn’t worked out that both taps needed to be open properly, and he had water barely trickling into his tank.

Someone at CRT has a sense of humour

A narrowboat called Bibendum arrived at the lock, and went through. They offered to share with us, but we said we would wait for Paws.  Just before Paws returned, Rachel, a wide beam boat set off from the moorings, and used the lock. We ended up following them all the way, and they were a lot slower than us.  As we left Hungerford we spotted a boat that had once been the trip boat John Pinkerton from the Basingstoke Canal.

John Pinkerton

St Lawrence Church, Hungerford

James operated the first swing bridge, near the church, and then we came to Hungerford Marsh Lock, which has a swing bridge across the lock. The bridge was open, which is how Rachel found it but we ascertained from a local dog walker that it is usually kept closed, i.e. across the canal. We started to fill the lock, and realised that it was taking a long time to fill. Then James realised that he had left the paddle up on the bottom gates, and most of the water was running away.  Doh!

When the lock was full and the boats had left, Pat closed the swing bridge.

Hungerford Marsh Lock

There followed a series of locks, and at each one we had to wait for Rachel to complete their locking procedure.  Once or twice they had only just got the boat into the lock. We helped them as far as we could, shutting the gates for them as they left, to speed them up, but we wasted five to ten minutes at each lock, and there were ten locks.

Synchronised boating

Little Bedwyn

We started looking for moorings at Little Bedwyn, but there was nowhere. The guy on Rachel said we wouldn’t have a problem finding a space at Great Bedwyn, but when we got there, all the visitor moorings were taken.  Rosie was there as well as Bibendum.  The early ones get the moorings.

We did dispose of some rubbish at Great Bedwyn, but we forgot to get rid of the tyre fender.  Rachel thankfully pulled over onto the Bruce Trust private moorings.

At Bedwyn Church Lock, we met a guy coming the other way who said that he had travelled for hours and not found anywhere to moor.

We tried several times to get close enough into the side to get off. We even tried mooring on some short pontoons which were new private moorings, but they were silted up as well. We ended up mooring on lock bollards at Lock 63, Beech Grove Lock. This lock is called Crofton Bottom Lock on our older map.

We don’t often moor on a lock landing stage, but when there is nowhere else.....  We were very tired as we had taken more than an hour longer than necessary because of the slow boat in front, and after meeting the guy coming the other way we realised we had little choice.

Moored on lock bollards

James got out the barbecue and we had a very pleasant evening on the bank below the lock.  While we there, there was a very unusual feathery cloud formation.  Only two boats came through and we helped them down the lock and let them cross our boat to get back on board.

Later we heard some clattering on the roof, and had to chase off a duck, twice.  There was also a beautiful sunset.

Barbecue with Tony and Pat

Cloud formation

WWII defences

Duck on the roof


11 locks, 6 miles, 2 swing bridges, 1 mouse

Fri 16th Jun  Beech Grove Lock to Wootton Rivers

Morning sun on the lock landing

Although we had planned to be earlybirds and make an early start, we helped evenearlierbird Rosie through the lock first. We followed a little later, passing under bridge 99 which was under scaffolding. 

Bridge repairs

 Sharing Lock 62 with Paws 4 Thought

At Crofton we noticed Rosie had moored up. We emptied our rubbish, including the tyre fender.  Tony and Pat decided not to visit the beam engines this time, but to stay with us and share the locks. They can visit the pumping station on the way back.

Rosie at Crofton moorings

Crofton Pumping Station

At the Crofton flight of locks the notices require boaters to empty the locks after use by raising a paddle.  However, at the first two locks, the notice saying this is on the bottom gates, not the top gates where they should be, so we missed it on the first lock.  It is a bit like in public toilets, there is sometimes a notice saying “Now please wash your hands”, situated over the washbasin, where you only see the notice if you are already washing your hands.

Pat walked back to empty the lock.  However, when water is in short supply, why are we asked to waste a lockful of water each time we go up a lock? The water just rushes down to the lock we have just left, and goes down the bywash.

When we reached lock 56, the pound to the top lock 57 was very low, so we decided to break the rule and leave the lock as full as we could, i.e. about two thirds full. We managed to get the boats out of the lock and closed the top gates behind them, but they were soon stuck on the bottom.  James and Pat went to the next lock and ran some water down to increase the depth, and after a few minutes the boats were able to proceed slowly. We locked them through the top lock and were now on the summit pound.

Low pound

On the bottom - not enough water

On the top - the Summit Pound

We were surprised to see another lifeboat. We thought we must have seen them all on the Lee and the Regents Canal.

Lifeboat number 15

We had to get the tunnel light out, not used since the Maida Hill Tunnel near Little Venice.

Bruce Tunnel

Bruce Tunnel roof bricks

 Burbage Wharf and Crane

We found strangely that the visitor moorings at Wootton Rivers were empty. There were confusing and conflicting notices here about the permitted length of stay

Mooring Notices 1 or 2 days.

We had a meal on board, and then James walked into the village, where there were several thatched buildings. He also saw a squirrel struggling with a large piece of toast up a tree.

Royal Oak, Wootton Rivers

Thatched houses

There was also an empty farmyard in the middle of the village, with planning notices posted up. We wonder what will be here next time we come.

Planning consent applied for.

As far as we know, there were no boats past our mooring from the time we arrived at midday to the time we left the next morning.

12 locks, 5 miles.

Sat 17th Jun  Wootton Rivers to Pewsey Wharf

Early morning at Wootton Rivers

We had noticed that the church was open from 8am until 6pm, so we went to visit.  The clock was interesting, with a face saying “Glory be to God” instead of numbers, and the clock itself being made by one of the village inhabitants in 1911.

 The clock face

The clock

The brass plaque

Organ and stone pulpit

St Andrews Church, Wootton Rivers.

On returning to the boats, James found a grass snake crossing the towpath. We haven’t seen one for two years, so this was a delight.

Grass snake

We only had one lock to do, and three miles. As we left we saw that some new thatch was being installed on a farm building across the fields.


We had a pleasant cruise to Pewsey, and we took the last two remaining visitor moorings.

Moored at Pewsey

There were lots of boats going up and down as this was Saturday. It was very hot and we tried to catch up on sleep.  Pat cooked a meal later for us, and she and Tony came on board Gabriel for a pleasant dinner. Hugo meanwhile brought us a mouse, sadly demised.

12 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse, 1 grass snake.

Next:  Pewsey Methodist Church and Sunday lunch at the Crown. Early start on Monday to get to Devizes for the Folk Club in the Lamb on Monday night.  Caen Hill locks midweek.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Newbury to Hungerford

Mon 12th Jun  Newbury to Benham Lock

We broke with tradition this morning and had breakfast at Bill’s instead of at the cafe. We returned to the boat and said our farewells to everyone we could find

We put the hood down, made sure Hugo was on board and set off.  The first boat we met was Kew coming the other way, before we had gone more than a boat length.

Farewell to Kew

Through Newbury

 Newbury Lock

We found Graham at the first lock and he kindly helped us through and operated the swing bridge for us.  It is really good that he has been welcomed into the Canal Ministries team.

Graham on the locks

Through the swing bridge

We waved to Jane Sutton as we went past

As we were ascending in Guyer's Lock a widebeam boat  pulled out in front of us, and we followed them most of the way.

At Higg’s Lock the top paddle failed to close, so we could not leave the lock empty as requested. We made a phone call to CRT, and left a message.   

We moored above Benham Lock, and James sent a proforma message to CRT on their website.  Then he sent an email to the regional office, whose phone number was not published.

We needed very little lunch as we had had a decent breakfast. James went for a walk, and saw two cinnabar moths, which was encouraging and they have been scarce in recent years.

He also saw a whitethroat singing on a branch

We started to watch Springwatch. Unfortunately this is screened at the best time for seeing wildlife so James went for another walk hoping to see some deer or water voles.  He found some black slugs and some nice flowers.

Blackberry flower

 Some other flower


Some interesting reflections and ripples meant that the following three images all came from one photo:

Water art
There are lots of WWII defences along the K & A. We have counted eighteen pillboxes between Reading and Hungerford.

Benham Bridge and pillbox

Oxeye Daisy

Weathered bridge parapet

A white umbellifer

Hugo waiting for his dad to return

4 locks, 3 miles, 1 swing bridge

Tue 13th Jun  Benham Lock to Kintbury

There was a lovely early morning mist hanging over the meadows and the canal this morning.

Dawn at Benham Lock

 Mist on the waters

We had a pleasant cruise through delightful countryside to Kintbury.

Has this boater heard about the floral boat competition?

Approaching Copse Lock

The view from Dreweatt’s Lock

Kintbury Lock

We had to wait for the water point while we dealt with rubbish and cassettes. When we had filled the water tank, we moored alongside Mistol to begin with, as there were no bank side moorings available. Rob and Trish were away for the day.

Moored behind Mistol

Then the boat behind moved away, so we took their place.  Later, Tony and Pat arrived on Paws 4 Thought and tied alongside us.

Rob and Trish returned much later after we had all turned in.

4 locks, 3 miles.

Wed 14th Jun  Kintbury to Hungerford

Hugo staying close to the boat

Rob and Trish set off fairly early with Mistol and Litania.  We followed almost an hour later, with Paws 4 Thought.  We had a very agile tern following the boats and catching fish.

Leaving Kintbury with Paws

The vicarage at Kintbury

The tern

 It was a fairly easy journey, but very hot. We were trying to find shady spots near the locks while we were waiting for them to fill or empty.  Thankfully we only had three locks.

At Wire Lock we were hoping to see a watervole, where we saw one eleven years ago.  We didn’t see one this time, but Tony and Pat said they saw one yesterday near Hamstead Lock. There must be several along here, because there are many holes in the bank.

Wire Lock 76

A beautiful copper beech

At Dun Mill lock, the towpath goes up onto a road, which crosses the canal via a bridge. We used to cross straight over the road and through a gap in the hedge onto the lock side. Now the people in Dun Mill have put a fence right across, and up to the bridge, so that we have to walk up over the bridge, halfway down the lock where there is a stile, and back to the bridge and across the lock gates to reach the same place.  Grumble! Moan!

Arriving at Hungerford we saw a shady section of towpath, sheltered by some tall trees, and we tried to get into the side to moor. It was too shallow and we couldn’t get close enough for James to get off, so we had to abandon the idea.

We passed the facilities wharf, and a footbridge, and then a narrow section to Hungerford Road Bridge.  The moorings on the right, where we have moored in the past, were taken up by two large work boats and two narrowboats, including one called Rosie.  Instead we had to moor on the towpath side, where the waiting is limited to one day, and there are no rings, so we had to use mooring pins.

Paws 4 Thought moored behind us. Thankfully we both had some shade, although the sun moved round later.  There was a steep bank with a hedge, but Hugo managed to find his way up and out of sight.

Hungerford moorings

We contacted Theresa, and made an arrangement for her to collect us this evening for dinner, along with our guitars.

We went to explore the town, and found a butcher that sold eggs. We also discovered a market stall selling fresh produce (Wednesdays only) so we bought a few things there. Some oven liners and a room thermometer completed our shopping spree, and we called in at a cafe for ice creams before returning to the boat.  We will visit Tesco before we leave tomorrow.

We discovered Tony hammering in our mooring pins, as the boat had been washed out by someone going too fast.

 We found our heavy duty angle iron spikes and bashed those in instead.

Later, David and Frances came to collect us and our instruments, to take us to see their daughter Theresa, number three out of the “four little girls”.  She lives about five miles north. Her husband Diccon is an artist, making sculptures out of metal. Sadly he was away, but we may catch up on the way back. We had a lovely meal on their patio, and then we sang a few songs to them, including “that” song.  Theresa delivered us back to Hungerford.

David, Theresa, Frances

Diccon Dadey’s artwork

3 locks, 3 miles

Next:  Sunday in Pewsey, Monday night at Devizes Folk Club.