Sunday, 16 July 2017

Devizes to Hungerford

Tue 11th Jul  Devizes to All Cannings

As we were about to depart, a wide beam came past us, and we decided to follow, and stop for the facilities if they continued.  As we were pulling out, past Dawn Run, another wide beam also pulled out further back. When we reached the facilities moorings, we saw that the first wide beam was moored there to take on water. We decided to move on rather than be held up, as they tend to have large water tanks. We could stop at Pewsey tomorrow for water etc instead.

Leaving past Dawn Run

Widebeam on the water point

As we proceeded through the cutting we spotted a cruiser covered with a flimsy plastic sheet, and someone sleeping on the bank under a propped up fence panel.  Everyone has a story. It would be interesting to know this one.

Sleeping rough

We soon left both wide beams behind as we left Devizes and started the long (14-miles) pound towards Wootton Rivers.

We had intended to stop on the 2 day moorings at All Cannings. When we arrived there, we found the moorings were full, so we reversed back under the bridge, and moored up in a space we had noticed.  We couldn’t get the bows in, but the stern was in enough to put the plank out.

2 day moorings full

Moored out from the bank

The lady from Narrow Escape came past with their dogs and said they were moving on from the 2 day moorings soon, and would we like their spot?  By then we were moored securely, and we thought it would be quieter where we were, rather than amongst the other boats, so we declined the kind offer.

We had heavy rain later, and through the night.

Raining at All Cannings

0 locks, 6 miles, 2 swing bridges

Wed 12th Jul  All Cannings to Wootton Rivers

When we got up in the morning, Hugo was soaking wet on his back half, but the brainy end was dry, so we guessed he had slipped partly in down the wet bank.  He was also covered in grass seeds, burs and miscellaneous items. There were mouse remains on the back deck.

We retrieved our mooring pins and plank quite easily, as the boat was slightly stuck in the mud and didn’t move.  We set off once more through the Vale of the White Horse.

White Horse

Lady’s Bridge is very ornate and was erected as part of the agreement for the canal to cut through land belonging to Lady Susannah Wroughton. The Wide Water was also created for the same reason, to make the canal look like part of a landscaped garden.

Lady’s Bridge

We stopped at Pewsey to empty cassettes, dispose of rubbish, and fill up with water. The elsan unit was unusable, as it was blocked and overflowing.  After some debate we found a manhole cover, and emptied two cassettes there. Apparently the unit had been out of order for two weeks.

We moored at Wootton Rivers near a tree full of noisy rooks.  We found Narrow Escape here as well, and we arranged to share locks with them the next day.

Rook Tree

1 lock, 9 miles, 1 mouse

Thu 13th Jul  Wootton Rivers to Crofton

The two locks at each end of the summit pound, 53 to 56, were padlocked from 10am to 4pm to conserve water. We had one lock to negotiate before then so we departed at 9.30 with Barry and Jan on Narrow Escape.

Barry and Jan

We discovered that two hire boats had been unaware of the time restriction, and had arrived at Lock 53 in the late afternoon hoping to get through, and they had moored on the lock bollards.  They were therefore to be the first boats through. One was 72ft, and they discovered that they couldn’t get through into the lock together, as the gates would not open fully. So they went through one by one.

When it was our turn to use the lock, we knew they were going up to the winding hole to turn and come back again, so we left the top gates open, instead of closing the gates and draining the lock as instructed on the notice.

We soon caught up with the hire boats, one of which had turned, but they kept steering into the bank because they weren’t used to the use of the tiller. The other one was trying to turn at the Burbage Wharf winding hole. They had several attempts, and they weren’t helped by a canoe moored in the wrong place.  Eventually someone else had arrived to help them round, and they let us pass.

The first hire boat in the bank

 Trouble turning

The Bruce Tunnel soon followed, and we spotted a crayfish at the water’s edge in the cutting.  We also saw a sandpiper flying past us. After this summit level the locks start to descend all the way to Reading.

 Bruce Tunnel


Approaching Crofton Top Lock

The six Crofton Locks followed, taking us down from the summit level. We met three boats coming up, all of which had turned the locks against us as instructed, and thus wasted a lockful of water each time.

When we arrived at the visitor moorings, the pound was extremely low, so much so that we could not get in close enough for James to get back on board. We phoned CRT at Devizes and told them the problem. After a while we managed to get the bows in close enough for Hazel to pass the plank to James and we moored up with the stern sticking way out into the middle of the channel. 

Sticking out at Crofton visitor moorings

Two guys from CRT arrived a little later and ran some more water down, so that we could get the stern in close enough for the plank.  Hugo’s cat flap is at the stern, so it is much better for the plank to be at the stern as well.

A man on a widebeam who was moored there tried to leave, but was stuck firmly on the bottom and could not get away.

We got out the chairs and tables on the grass, and shared a bottle of wine with Barry and Jan from Narrow Escape.

9 locks, 4 miles.

Fri 14th Jul  Crofton to Froxfield

Hazel had a disturbed night from all the trains rattling past on the other side of the canal.  They used the canal to bring the materials needed to build the railway, and then the railway put the canal out of business.

This morning the water levels had risen, and Gabriel was in to the side, with the plank right across the stern, and the ropes slack.

Slack ropes

We departed at around 9am, while there was still enough water, and continued down the locks through the Bedwyns.  Strangely there seemed to be plenty of water around, washing over the weirs.  At Bedwyn Church Lock we discovered that only one of the top paddles was operational, and the bottom gates were leaking badly, so the lock took a long time to fill, and considerable strength was needed to get the top gates open.

Bedwyn Church 

Bedwyn Church Lock with Narrow Escape

Any guesses what this was for?

Our target destination today was Froxfield, and we found some lovely flowers near Froxfield Middle Lock. There was a colourful bank of willow herb, plus some unusual white flowers and also some pink ones. Sadly we are not very good at plant names.

There was also some ragwort and we found some cinnabar caterpillars. Will this be the only sighting this year?

Willow herb

White flowers

 Pink flowers

Cinnabar caterpillars.

James went for a hurried walk to see the almshouses at Froxfield.

Somerset Hospital (almshouses)

We shared one of Barry and Jan’s bottles of wine this evening.

9 locks, 4 miles.

Sat 15th Jul   Froxfield to Hungerford

We had planned to leave with Narrow Escape at around 9am, but it was raining slightly so we decided to delay for a few minutes. We left at 9.30am, with four locks to negotiate before Hungerford.

We put the hood up at one point because we had a second rain shower. Neither had been forecast.

Cobblers Lock

At Cobblers Lock we were pleased to see that the lock cottage there was being lived in and restored, even though there is no vehicular access. At Hungerford Marsh Lock we swung the swing bridge, and opened the lock for two boats coming the other way, as it was almost empty.  Then it was our turn, and there was another boat waiting to come up by the time we had finished so we left them with the swing bridge to close again.

Hungerford Marsh Lock

 A boat with metal art

We moored above the lock in Hungerford, by the church.  After lunch Hazel went shopping, while James caught up with the blog. When she returned, we both went to support an event going on in the field nearby with stalls, live music etc. It was in aid of the British Legion. We had tea and cake, and James bought a pre-owned pair of binoculars for £10.

St Lawrence Church Hungerford

James went looking for suitable eateries around the village and found that many of the old pubs had been turned into antique shops.


In the end we went for a curry. The food was fine, but the man serving was a bit strange.

“Would you like to order drinks?” 
“Yes please, two pints of Kingfisher.”
“And would you like popadums?“
“Well, we’d like to see the menu first, as we may have a starter instead.”
He disappeared off, and returned two minutes later, without menus. 
“What was it you wanted to drink?”
“Two pints of Kingfisher.” 
“Would you like popadums?” 
“Can we please see the menu first?”
He went off again, returning triumphantly with two menus.
“Would you like popadums?” 
“We haven’t had a chance to read the menu yet.”
Two minutes later:
“Would you like popadums?” 
“No thank you”
“Are you ready to order?”
“No, not yet” It was quite a long menu.
A few minutes later, we had made our choices, and we caught his eye.
“We are ready to order now”
He alerted another waiter, who was passing, to take the order.
“Would you like popadums........?”

4 locks, 2 miles, 2 swing bridges

Tomorrow – Church on the Rock, and they meet in the Croft Hall. Then on towards Kintbury, Newbury and Reading.

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