Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Foxhangers to Bath

Thu 22nd Jun  Foxhangers to Trowbridge

This morning was slightly cooler.  Thank you, Lord.

Leaving Foxhangers

Sells Green Swing Bridge was chained up, with a notice “Do not use”. There was a walker on the towpath wanting to cross. We offered him a lift to the next one but he stomped off in the other direction, not at all pleased. Rusty Lane Swing Bridge was operational, and only ¼ mile further on, and the paths on the other side connected so he could have got to where he wanted.

There are five locks at Seend, and after the first three there are rubbish, elsan, and a water point. However, they are spread out along the pound, and there are also visitor moorings there.  We had two cassettes to empty, and James emptied one. Babs went to set the next lock, but another boat was waiting to come up. Everyone was waiting for us, so we put a cassette on the towpath, together with our bags of rubbish. Hazel took the boat in to the lock while James went to dispose of things.  It was all a bit of a rush.

Sharing Seend Locks with Babs

At Seend bottom lock there was a narrowboat waiting to come up. Behind there was a wide cruiser, and behind that another narrowboat. We suggested to the first narrowboat that they share with the third boat, and we said the same to the third boat.

Three swing bridges followed. The first was Seend Park Swing Bridge, which was kept open for all of us by a boat coming the other way.

The second bridge was Lowes Swing Bridge. Babs opened it, and we went through, stopping on the bollards for James to close it. Then we spotted the wide cruiser, which had turned round, following on. Babs went through first, and James held the bridge for the cruiser, then when the bridge was closed, Gabriel followed on.

Seend Park Farm by Lowes Swing Bridge.

Lowes Swing Bridge

The third bridge was Newton Swing Bridge, and a boat was coming through. As they passed us they said “We’ve left the swing bridge open for you”.  When we went through we stopped on the bollards the other side, and James went back to close it, only to find a notice saying “Do not use” on it!

Boat with roof storage

There is a new aqueduct over the new A350 just before Semington Top Lock, which took us by surprise as we have an old Nicholson Guide.

A350 Aqueduct and the white cruiser

When we reached Semington Top Lock, Babs had gone in. The crew of the white cruiser said “I don’t think we can fit in there so you had better go in”.  Considering that we had held the bridge open for them, we might have chosen to be cross with them if they had had a narrowboat and went in with Babs.  However, we found out that the boat had belonged to the man’s brother-in-law who had just died.  They had never been through a lock before, and they were moving the boat further down the canal to sell it.

After the second lock at Semington, there is a special pontoon for getting crews back onto the boats. We found an elderly man with a rowing dinghy, which was on top of the pontoon, with the stern sticking out over the canal.  James suggested he swing the boat round out of harm’s way so that it was not in danger of being hit by one of the boats, and the man gave a load of abuse. “I pay my licence the same as you” “Isn’t the wharf long enough for you?” etc.  We guess he must have completely misunderstood the intention behind the suggestion.

We moored by bridge 168 at Trowbridge, where there was a wider grassy area.  This was not a good decision in hindsight, as there was a bench there, and it turned out to be a gathering point for a number of the local youth population.  We had stones thrown onto the boat and abusive comments from the young teenagers who were showing off to each other.  They were also shouting abuse at walkers who went past. It calmed down a little when one of them asked for a glass of water which we supplied. Eventually they gradually dispersed, and were replaced by some older ones who were having a few lagers but not bothering us.

Babs had moored just round the corner, out of sight of the group on the bench. She came on board Gabriel for dips and wine.

Moored in Trowbridge

James looked at the bilge pump which was on its side. He turned it upright. Although the motor was running no water was being pumped. Perhaps it was blocked, or broken in some way.  Engineer needed plus a new pump in the morning.

7 locks, 6 miles, 5 swing bridges

Fri 23rd Jun  Trowbridge to Dundas

Babs wanted to go further than we did, so she had gone when we emerged in the morning.

Our mooring in Trowbridge

We phoned round the boatyards trying to find someone to replace our bilge pump, but it was changeover day for hire boat fleets at ABC, Hilperton and Bath Narrowboats. Some said they would have to order in the part.

We cruised to Bradford-on-Avon Sainsbury’s and managed to get the last mooring on rings.  James had hoped for a bacon bap or similar, but there was only a cafe serving full lunches.  We bought some food and wine and returned to the boat where we had lunch.  We prayed for a solution to our bilge pump issue.

Setting off again, we came to Bradford Lock, where we noticed a chandlery. They had a bilge pump, so we bought it.


The lock at Bradford

We descended through the lock, where we were “helped” by a volunteer who, as James was about to raise a paddle to empty the lock, pointed out that the top gates were not quite shut. Exactly what he expected us to do about it we are not sure, but James just said “They soon will be”, and opened the paddle.  When the lock was empty the volunteer opened the second gate which we did not need. We don’t think he can have been a boater.  He then bellowed at Hazel for her to let him know if any boats were coming. She would of course have said if there were. 

We had a lovely cruise past the Tithe Barn, down the valley and across the Avoncliffe Aqueduct. We plan to return here on a Tuesday for the Cross Guns music session.

Tithe Barn roof

 Floating Charge, seen earlier at Brentford

Avoncliffe Aqueduct

Avon Valley from the aqueduct

Cross Guns

Lifeboat 16

Continuing along the valley side, as we approached Dundas Aqueduct we came across Mistol, and Trish said she would come and find us when we had moored up.

As we turned onto the aqueduct there was a space immediately on our left where we were able to moor, and she came on board for a cuppa, and invited us back for a meal later.

Hazel made a fruit salad, while James inspected the bilge pump, which he discovered was upside down. He turned it over, and it pumped out water!  Problem solved. Prayer answered, with a sense of humour.  We went round to Mistol at the appointed time and had a very pleasant meal.

1 lock, 6 miles.

Sat 24th Jun  Dundas to Bath

Moored at Dundas

Crossing the aqueduct

A leisurely start took us across the aqueduct where we said farewell to Rob, who was expecting visitors on Litania.  We decided not to stop at the water point as it was in use.

Rob on Litania

Lifeboat 17

Just round the corner at Millbrook Swing Bridge, we came up behind two hire boats full of youngsters. They were going very slowly, allowing the kiddies to steer, so we asked if we could pass. They pulled over to the left, so we had to pass on the right.  We managed it OK, but we came to a line of moored boats very soon after this manoeuvre, and a wide beam entered the resulting narrow channel, coming towards us.  We tucked into a space to let it pass, but there was some chaos behind us as the wide beam met the kiddies hire boats.

As we passed Claverton Road Bridge, we noticed it was numbered 179, and not 180 as our guide had it. The book had the swing bridge as 179. We’ll check it out on the return journey.

This is a lovely river valley with fields and woods rising on both sides, with the railway below us, and the canal following a contour on the hillside.

We soon caught up with another slow boat, operated by an elderly couple.  When we arrived at Bathampton Swing Bridge, instead of setting one person ashore to operate the bridge while the other remained with the boat, they both got off, and started to make a long job of mooring the boat, with bow and stern lines, and even the centre line. We couldn’t get off to do the bridge as they were on the landing stage. Another boat was coming from the other direction as well.  Thankfully a lady on one of the moored boats saw the challenge and went to open the bridge for everyone. We took the opportunity to pass the elderly couple and continued on our way.

By Bathampton Bridge 183 we stopped to fill up with water and to empty rubbish. The pressure was quite good and it didn’t take long. While we were there Babs arrived to dispose of rubbish and said she had moored just beyond the bridge.  Although there was a mooring space right behind her, we carried on as we wanted to be closer in to Bath. Also she had relatives with her.

Babs in Bathampton

We found a mooring space just before Sydney Gardens, but while we were tying the ropes, we discovered that just over the low wall was a fifty foot drop to the railway line below and we were concerned for Hugo.  We undid the ropes and continued our journey through the gardens, under Cleveland House, which used to be the headquarters of the canal company. 

Sydney Gardens

Cleveland House Tunnel

 Cleveland House

We found a 2 day mooring between Sydney Wharf Bridge and the Top Lock, just where we wanted to be for access to the city.  We had heard that there is no longer any mooring allowed on the river by Pulteney Weir, where we moored last time.

Tourist trap

 No mooring at Pulteney Weir

We had lunch on board before setting off for a shopping spree.  We visited Vodafone as our data usage has increased hugely recently, and we couldn’t get sensible answers over the phone.  We discovered that a lot of the usage was via a “free” app we had both installed which has a lot of adverts. That has now been deleted.

We took a few non-postcard views of Bath

A back street



A quiet corner

After a busy days shopping with very crowded tourist-filled streets, we had a meal in a Moroccan restaurant which was very pleasant.

Back at the boat we discovered that the next boat was Bibendum. He had been to Bristol and back.

0 locks, 4 miles, 2 swing bridges.

Sun 25th Jun  Bath

There was a little light rain this morning, so we took brollies and walked down the flight of stairs towards the city centre, and found the Pavilion, where the Vineyard Church has its meeting.

There were some good musicians and singers leading the worship, with two new songs.  There followed two baptisms and they had very exciting testimonies.  The talk was about going deeper with God, and was partly about fasting – not just giving something up, but making room for more time with God.

The worship band at the Vineyard

Praying for the baptised

 Pulteney Weir

Then we found a small Thai restaurant overlooking Pulteney Weir, where we had lunch.  During further shopping in the afternoon, we came across Rob and Trish who were trying to buy some kiddies fishing nets.

We caught a bus back from the centre up to Bathwick Hill, where it stopped very close to our mooring place.

No boating today. 1 mouse

0 locks, 4 miles.

Next:  a few days on the River Avon, between Bath and Bristol, before turning round and starting back.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Pewsey to Foxhangers

Sun 18th Jun  Pewsey

We walked into Pewsey this morning with Pat, but Tony was unwell so remained on the boat.

Blue flower

We went to the 1030 service at the Methodist Church where we were warmly welcomed. Music was supplied by piano and guitar and was a bit dated (e.g. Rejoice, rejoice, Christ is in you).

Pewsey Methodist

The preacher was Rev Paul Lim from South Korea, who spoke about being joyful.  His talk was translated by the visiting minister who was leading the service.

Rev Paul Lim

Methodist congregation

After the service we found our way to the Crown Inn, which is a little off the beaten track, up a side road. There we had a lovely lunch in a very unspoilt pub.  We returned to the boats by crossing the railway at the station.

Unusual building in Pewsey, near the Crown

We couldn’t avoid the uphill walk in the heat back to the canal.  It was VERY HOT and James caught up with the blog

Later we sat out with wine and nibbles.  We chatted to a pleasant man on Carrie Anne who had been playing a ukele earlier.

James trundled two cassettes to the wharf and emptied them so that we could didn’t have to spend further time in the morning.

No boating today

Mon 19th Jun  Pewsey to Devizes

We made a very early start (5.45am) and hopefully managed to slip away quietly without disturbing anyone.

Creeping past Paws 4 Thought

Pewsey Wharf

Stowell Park Bridge, apparently unique

We had a lovely cruise through the Vale of Pewsey in the White Horse Hills. We saw several yellowhammers singing loudly from the tops of bushes. We also had a good view of two chiff chaffs, which are usually heard but not seen. There was a kestrel around, and at one point there was a small water vole swimming in the canal.
Wide Water

Lady’s Bridge

Picked Hill (incorrectly called Pickled Hill by Nicholson)

Brick bridge and WWII defences

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet

Heron staying put

We saw two white horses – one near Honey Street, and another as we approached Devizes. We had two swing bridges – Allington and Bishops Cannings

Bishops Cannings Swing Bridge

How does this get through the locks?

Second brood

The main length of mooring in Devizes, between bridge 140 and 141, had been suspended, as there was work going on to improve the towpath.  There was nowhere else to moor, so boats were there anyway, and we took the last space, opposite the wharf.

The slope at Devizes

The closed gate

Babs arrived later and moored alongside us. She had also set off at 5.45am, from Wootton Rivers.

We had small appetites because of the heat, so we had a late lunch mid afternoon.

Babs came with us as we found our way to the Lamb Inn for a singaround evening of Devizes Folk Club run by Bob and Gill Berry.  The pub was very quaint with little side rooms and a courtyard. The club met in an upstairs room. There were some talented people in the room, including Bob and Gill who had great harmonies and strong voices.

Devizes Folk Club

0 locks, 11 miles, 2 swing bridges

Mon 19th Jun  Devizes to Caen Hill

We walked into the town and found a nice cafe where we had Eggs Royale before doing some shopping at Morrison’s.  Sadly they did not stock their own Vintage Cider which comes in a 2.25 litre box.  They were having trouble with the heat, and all their freezer cabinets had been emptied and switched off.

Horse drawn beer in Devizes

On the way back James managed to take the trolley down the blocked off slope instead of using the steps. The towpath works appeared to need six workboats.

Six workboats

On board it was 32deg C  (90 deg F)

Later, when it had cooled down a little, we filled the water tank, and went with Babs down six locks to the top of the Caen Hill flight, where we moored on the lock bollards, as there were no further boat movements that evening.

Passing Rosie

Heading for Caen Hill

Lock 46 to 45

We spoke to a man from CRT who was there on his quad bike.  All the locks were set against us with a bottom paddle raised. We understood that the padlock on the top gate would not be unlocked until 8am, although we could have done with it at 6am to avoid the heat of the day. We asked if we could begin setting the first six locks from 7am so that we could get a good start.  We were told that we might flood the pounds and we would have to leave it to CRT staff who would carefully manage the water levels.

We had a pleasant pasta meal al fresco by the lock bollards.

Sunset views from Caen Hill

6 locks, 1 mile

Wed 21st Jun  Caen Hill to Foxhangers

We woke early because of the heat and the fact it was mid summers day.  We got the boats all ready for the off when we had the signal from CRT.

Ready to go at 5am

Close to 8am we noticed the locks were still all set against us.

We saw a guy from CRT disappear on a quad bike, and discovered he had unlocked the gates. He did not even come to say we were clear to proceed. You would have thought he would have come over to ask whether we had done it before, let us know if there were boats starting from the other end and other helpful information.  He had also left all the locks as they were, empty with a bottom paddle up. He hadn’t closed the paddles as we had expected, “carefully managing the water supply so as not to flood the pounds”. He left us to do what we could have started doing an hour earlier.

James walked down six locks and closed the bottom paddle and opened the top paddle, walked back up doing the same on each one, then walked down again opening the top gates. Then he walked back up again to help the boats through.  Babs by then had locked Hazel through the first two locks with the two boats tied together. 

Third lock of the day

This was the pattern all the way down, with one person going ahead to set the locks, and the other locking the two boats through.   James asked a walker if there were any boats coming up and was told there were two. We then started leaving the gates open, and we sent a message via another walker asking the ascending boats to do the same.

Further down

There was one lock where boats are asked to leave separately as the gates won’t open fully. Thankfully this was also where we met the two boats coming up, so we had to cross over separately anyway. The other boats seemed to have about six crew between them, and they asked us how we had managed to get down so far. We had good team work. 


Tied together again

When we had about twelve out of the sixteen locks, two volunteers came and asked us if we would like help.  They pushed a gate or two and raised a paddle once or twice which gave us a short break, and they too were impressed with how far down the flight we had come.

At the end of the main flight of sixteen locks, our volunteers left us, and we had a further seven locks to do.

Sixteen done and what do you get?

A volunteer

At one point Hazel had to steer the boats through water lilies, and collected a nest of greenery on the prop.  While James was removing the vegetation, Hazel noticed that the bilge pump was on its side. It was too hot to deal with it straight away.

Lilies from the prop

There was nowhere to moor properly until we reached Foxhangers where there were some rings.  The boats were in the sun, and it was baking hot inside, 33degC. Thankfully there were some trees overhanging a grassy area on the towpath, and we could sit and recover in a slight breeze.  Hazel prepared a Mexican meal which we ate outside with Babs.

There was a black backed gull around, and twice we saw it catch something in the water. The second time we could see legs hanging down and we think it may have been a frog, or a baby moorhen.

Moored at Foxhangers

Sunset at Foxhangers

We both went for a walk at dusk along a disused railway line and back along the towpath. Last time here in 2006 we saw a badger run across the track, and there were glow-worms in the grass.  This time we saw neither but we did spot two foxes in a field.  There were lots of cats on the boats moored along this stretch.

This was mid summers day, and also the hottest day of the year, and we chose to do the Caen Hill flight!!  Mad dogs and Englishmen....

23 locks, two miles

Next: Foxhangers to Bath, aiming for the Vineyard church on Sunday.  The blog is a bit behind due to the recent exhausting hot weather.