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