Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Shenanigans at Bradford-on-Avon

Monday 13th July 2015

We arrived here yesterday afternoon after a slow run down from our previous mooring at Semington, which had been close to the site of the entrance to the old Berks and Wilts Canal. This waterway closed at the beginning of the Twentieth Century through lack of use after a brief trading period of about fifty years. Had it stayed open it would have made a wonderful alternative route today for all the leisure boats that laboriously travel from Reading to Bristol and then back. By this route we could have  returned to the Thames at Abingdon via Swindon and the Cotswolds or we could alternatively have joined the River Severn at Stroud had we so wished. Though there is an active group of people planning and fighting to reopen the canal eventually, due to the usual challenges of funding and land ownership, I do not expect this splendid event to happen in my lifetime.

At the mooring in Semington Janis and I assembled our fold up bikes for the first time this season and on a beautiful sunny day cycled the three or four miles through Melksham to Lacock Village and Abbey, which is owned by the National Trust. We spent a wonderful day there viewing the house, gardens and village, which remains very medieval and is often hired out to television companies as settings for their period films.



The outside of Lacock Abbey after the Reformation



Inside, the medieval abbey cloister




The end of a village cottage with a more recent roof added


The painted roof of the parish church



A Tortoiseshell Butterfly in the garden



….and a Bumblebee doing his stuff




An Exotic lily in the gardens at Lacock Abbey


The invention of the negative photographic process in 1839 happened here when Henry Fox Talbot, the owner of the abbey made the first box camera and photography as we used to know and remember it was born. Apparently he was not as expert at drawing and painting as his daughter so wanted to find another method whereby he could match her images.

I mention above that it took us some time to travel the short four miles from Semington to here, because the run was so busy with boats, mostly on hire, travelling in both directions. Many boats are moored along this part of the canal and the one travelling just in front of us had obviously been well coached by the hirer since he was travelling both extraordinarily carefully as well as extremely slowly past each and every one of the stationary craft so that I found myself simply coasting along in neutral for much of the time with just the occasional burst of dead slow ahead now and again in order to keep steerage way.

Mind you not far ahead of him a great big wide beam boat seemed to be filling the whole width of the canal and making very arduous progress in a forward direction. Consequently when the lumbering convoy met anything travelling in the other direction everything came to a shuddering halt with heavy thrashings of astern propeller throwing both boats and owners out of control and in a panic, with their charges strewn in all directions across the canal.

But eventually we made it and managed to find a mooring suitable for our two boats to breast up snugly together just south of the town. It had been a wet passage and the rain continued as we went ashore with our unfurled umbrellas and walked into town past the very busy lock and basin area from where the hire boat companies were either sending out or collecting in their returned charges.

On this wet Sunday afternoon we found Bradford itself quiet and nearly deserted in contrast to the hectic lock area as the rain steadily sheeted down on glistening pavements and streets and the local stone of the old houses and shops of this miniature Bath shone even whiter than usual.

After a while Janis and I retreated to the Bear public house who advertised a free Wi-Fi facility and we enjoyed a refreshing pot of tea while we sent and received a few emails. In the background we could hear the cheering from Wimbledon as the two male finalists slogged it out on the Centre Court.



Earlier nr Devizes, the Caen Hill Locks

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Dithering around at Honey Street

That we have left the River Kennett far behind us on our way westwards towards Bristol, is now plainly obvious. There is no wild current anymore and  ‘Futurest’ struggles to make any way even in the centre of the sluggish waterway. Here beyond Honeystreet this so called wide beam canal with rushes encroaching from both sides is hardly wide enough on occasions for the passage of a single narrow boat and finding a mooring at the end of a day’s cruise is very difficult as well as hazardous on occasions.


The Red Kite (not quite the usual silhouette)

For the amount of traffic using the Kennett and Avon Canal the allotted visitor moorings, though very well maintained are probably not sufficient in number anyway.

But notwithstanding this, many of these are still filled by occupants who believe that ‘24 hours’ entitles them to 24 years. Furthermore, to add to the vexation of the genuine occasional visitor, many of the allotted spaces still available to him as he approaches with glee and gratitude at the end of a long day aren’t, because a paper notice pinned up on a board that has been stuck in the ground in front of the 24 hour sign tells him that the mooring has been reserved for certain boats, which only in fact use them occasionally when the vessels are on charter. So valuable moorings are left unused at night because of the possibility of a visit by the said boat.

If these boats cannot arrange special moorings with the authorities and so must use the limited ones of the bona fide visitor, why can’t a representative of said organisation come along the night before they are due to arrive to post the notice then and remove it when they leave?

The lack of visitor moorings along the River Kennett was less of a challenge since I could easily manoeuvre ‘Futurest’, with her after draft of thirty three inches, alongside at virtually any place I wished, the flowing river having eroded the sides to the vertical. It was then a challenge only to drive the mooring rope pins firmly into the ground, even though wrestling with the foliage alongside could be adventurous sometimes.

Janis and I both enjoy our country moorings and this part of Wiltshire is absolutely glorious but unfortunately I cannot get close enough to the bank to even safely jump ashore with a line anywhere fore or aft. So it means us having to breast up with ‘Roots and Wings’, with a draft of only eighteen inches, mooring on the inside. Even she has to use her long plank for us to safely get ashore. Two thirds of our whole cruising day yesterday was spent trying to find a decent enough mooring at the end of it. We dithered about furiously, trying this spot and then that, not letting anything pass us that might possibly be a mooring.

We nearly made it at one point just before All Cannings, with first me trying to get alongside unsuccessfully and then Janis. We tried very hard and almost made it with the very generous help of Tony who lived  on board nb ‘Holderness’ moored nearby.

It was good to discover that he was at one time in the Merchant Navy and so refreshing to hear him refer to the boats in the old tongue i.e. Bow and Stern instead of Front and Back and that he would venture ‘Fore and Aft’ to get there. When he took my ‘Bowline’ from me he ‘took a turn’ around the pin instead of ‘tying it to the pin’. Honestly it was all lovely stuff. I’ll bet he has aboard ‘Holderness’ a Forepeak Locker and as well as a deck, I expect he has bulkheads and a deckhead to keep him warm and dry. Many thanks for your help Tony and happy sailing.

Nevertheless yesterday was a beautiful day and in spite of the negative sounding vibes above, Janis and I were happy with the day’s adventure and grateful for the beautiful evening, relaxing with our gins and tonics on the after deck of ‘Roots and Wings’, whilst watching the Sunset and the little brown birds come into roost, a flock of busy and very gymnastic Long Tailed Tits in particular.


DSCN4196  The mooring near Allington Swing Bridge

Our Mooring near Allington Swing Bridge



Through the After Hatch



At the setting of the Sun


Long Tailed Tit with the evening Sun on his breast