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.

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