1500 MILES AND 1500 LOCKS - THE LOG OF THE NARROW BOAT TRISTRAM SPRAGUE - PART THREE: MAY TO JULY 2002 - CONGLETON TO BATH


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February 3rd 2013
Published: February 4th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Tristram Sprague Voyage Part 3


May 11

Congleton Wharf

We are going to try and buy a Welsh smallholding, which comprises a farmhouse and four barns with planning to convert to cottages. Spent most of the day in Macclesfield, buying a new mobile phone, doing the washing and shopping in Tesco!

May 12

A lovely day, spent mostly composing a business plan for the cottage business in Wales. Got hold of tourism statistics from the web, and printed out the plan...amazing what you can do on a boat!

May 13

Rain! Started the day by trying to get our new O2 mobile connection up and running. Problem is no connection, but then found that we had been supplied with the wrong software. Back to Macclesfield to pick up the software. Still no luck, but then found that our account had not been activated yet! Decided to take the car back to Nantwich, so a short run there followed by a two stage bus trip back. Meanwhile, heard from the bank that our business plan had been received, with only a few queries to answer...fingers crossed! Looking forward to moving on again, since everything has now run out!

May 14

Left Congleton at last. Headed south through pleasant country towards Kidsgrove. Arrived on the Trent and Mersey canal, after passing over it first on the Red Bull Aqueduct. Had to wait about five minutes outside the entrance to Harecastle Tunnel. An easy passage through, and it was relatively dry for an old tunnel, even though headroom was as low as 18ins in some places, due to mining subsidence. On into Stoke, where we took on fuel and had a pumpout at a boatyard near Festival Park. Last time we were here with the kids on a hire boat, this was a wasteland. Now transformed for the Garden Festival. Headed for Etruria Junction and the Caldon Canal. Trouble with kids spitting at us (locally known as "gobbing") at Planet Locks, very sad. Someone yelled teatime and they all scarpered! Sue had a few problems with a sticking road barrier at Ivy Lane swing bridge. Found a good mooring near Birches farm.

May 15

Birches Farm - Caldon Canal

A gloriously hot morning! After brief clean up, we set off slowly through mixed countryside, following a disused mineral railway and passing variously houses, open farmland and some industry in the valley bottom. Met several boats, mostly hire craft. Stopped at Milton to buy bread, a long 150 yards to the grocery shop advertised as being only 25 yards on the bridge sign! Two small boys came to chat, nicer ones than those at Planet Locks! Lunch at the bottom of the Stockton Brook Locks, then up the flight to some splendid open moorings. Top Lock being meticulously painted by BWB man in black and white. Sat with glasses of wine on the foredeck, tacos for tea!

May 16

Stockton Brook

Sunny but windy! Another glorious morning, although quite blustery, so had some difficulty getting away from the bank! Cruised through delightful country past fields of buttercups and young cattle. Came across excellent facilities at Endon, complete with coin operated pump out and even washing machines! Searched for a Post Office at Bridge 6, in the rain. Received good news from the bank in Lampeter about our Welsh dream project! Through the remarkable Leek Tunnel, high and narrow, to spectacular mooring about the valley near Leek. Foul weather overnight.

May 17

Leek

A very blustery and wet day. Walked into Leek, about 2 miles. Unfortunately the canal ends right next to a scrapyard and although in a lovely setting with the aqueduct over the River Leek still in place, the walk into town is a dismal path through the scrapyard and an industrial estate! Leek should take a leaf out of Whitchurch's book, and restore a canal link into the town centre. This would be possible by using the "feeder" canal from Rudyard Lake, and a lot cheaper than digging up the industrial estate. Leek is a very fine town, full of character and some charming buildings.

May 18

Hazlehurst

Spent a frustrating day trying to get GPRS to work on the phone linked to our laptop. Nobody seemed to be able to help. We will probably end up having to buy yet another new phone!

May 19

After breakfast, I cycled to Froghall, calling at Consall Forge. Had a look around the North Staffordshire Railway. Several steam trains passed me by on the towpath. Sue's Mum and Dad, Tome and Jean arrived and we enjoyed a nice pub lunch at the Holly bush in Denton, before cruising to Cheddleton Flint Mill.

May 20

Endon

Rain. Moored at Endon services. Spent most of the day trying to sort out phone and laptop problems. Finally achieved a connection via infra red. Did tons of washing and had a pumpout...wish there were more like this! Then on back towards Stoke in the pleasant evening sunshine.

May 21

Stockton Brook

Sunny. Set off early. Several boats ahead, so all the locks had to be refilled. Stopped at Hanley near Planet locks, and I walked into town to exchange our duff phone. Round the tight bend into Stoke Top Lock. Again had to refill most locks, and it started to rain as we passed by Etruria Flint Mill and several of the distinctive "bottle" kilns. On past a huge incinerator plant and Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City FC> By the time we reached Trentham, the rain was torrential. Moored up, and the phone actually works...with the laptop..amazing!

May 22

Trentham Limekiln Bridge 105 - Trent and Mersey Canal

Short trip through Trentham Locks as far as the Wedgwood Factory at Barlaston. Good moorings here, and walked to the factory for a look around the visitor centre. Seemed expensive, but soon realised that it was excellent value. Audio tour of the history of Wedgwood Pottery, with the best pieces on display. Then a fascinating tour of the working factory and into a section where the craft skills were being displayed. Spent some time with the man decorating Spode figures, followed by a 20 minute film show about Wedgwood's long history. Back on the boat, set up a drawing board and set to work designing the barn cottage conversions.

May 23

Barlaston

Overcast. Despite rain and high winds, we set off early. Through long wooded sections bounded on one side by the main line railway, strangely quiet because of track maintenance. Reached Meaford Locks, some of the prettiest on the canal, isolated and quiet in their wooded setting. Tried to find the remains of an old staircase lock here, but no luck. Into Stone past new housing estates, then through Stone Locks. The boatyards here are glorious, reputed to be some of the oldest on the system, as the Trent and Mersey Canal was "born" in Stone. Several picturesque covered dry docks. Saw a house with a full size signal box in the garden! Lovely mooring close to the third lock, very close to the town centre. Stone is a very pretty town, with lots of posh restaurants and interesting shops.

May 24

Stone

Very wet and windy. Spent all day drawing plans for the barn cottages. Surprised how quickly I got back into the routine, even on a boat! Very pleasant mooring here, especially now I have made a new clear side window which fits into the open side doors, while shutting out wind and weather...and nosey passers by! Lovely meal at the Dolce Vita Italian restaurant, where we celebrated Eleanor passing her college exams.

May 25

Did the shopping at Safeways. Picked up water below the lock then moved on fast towards Great Haywood. Stopped in the rain near Aston Lock. The hoped for boatyard at Hoo Mill seemed to have ceased trading, and Anglo Welsh were too busy at Great Haywood to pump the boat. So on to Colwich, where we met three hotel boats last seen at Droitwich all that time ago!

May 26

Colwich - Wolseley Bridge 70

Wet! In Cannock Chase. After another wet morning, things improve enough to move on. Rapidly through the bland Rugeley, through Armitage "Tunnel" (a tunnel no more!), and on towards Fradley. No locks, but lots of boats!

May 27

Fradley - Woodend Lock

Sunny! Passed Huddlesford Junction which is the end of the hopefully to be restored Litchfield Canal. Through pretty Woodend Lock and then two more before Fradley. Lots of boats, many Canaltime. The long stretch before Fradley has a wide immaculate grass towpath. Crowds of boats tied up there including several working boats. No room to stop, so tied up by the famous Swan PH beside the turn into the Coventry Canal. Can't get used to the flatter countryside after the northern hills! Streethay Wharf even has washing machines, and a labyrinthine chandlery. Decided to get the engine serviced...nice mechanic with a tug called "The Governor" did the work! Friendly place!

May 28

Whittington - Coventry Canal

Overcast. Spent the day working on the plans for our new barn homes in Wales! This is a pleasant spot, ideal for a stopover. Discovered that the printer will also work off the inverter we use for the laptop! Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has resigned...not over the waterways I think! India and Pakistan close to war...whatever next. The country is definitely more interested in the World Cup than the Queen's Golden Jubilee.; everywhere there are St George's flags, but not a lot of Union Jacks. Even the boaters are flying St George's flags!

May 29

A good day between showers. Stopped at Whittington to go to the post office then rapidly through Hopwas past the junction with the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Fazeley Wharf, then two very small (but incredibly slow filling!) locks at Glascote. Tamworth seems to go forever..row after row of housing estates. At Alvecote there is a huge marina with berths for the Canaltime boats which we have been seeing frequently on these canals. Back into fine countryside near Polesmouth and found nice moorings across from the busy main railway to Manchester near Crendon. Beckham is fit for the World Cup..first match is Sweden on Sunday. Passed by the Reiver and the Mad Hatter, both boats we have seen before!

May 30

Grendon - Bridge 48

Promising weather. Started off fairly early. Just round the corner we stopped at a BWB water point in sight of Atherstone Bottom Lock. people said it was padlocked due to a problem, then heard about contractors talking about a "breach"..oh no! Joined a queue of six boats. Walked up to the lock and was told there was a problem with a paddle seal. Hoped to be fixed by 3.00pm. So decided to walk into Atherstone, about 1/2 hour. Pleasant walk, pleasant town! Shopped for essentials and walked back in showers. Lock had been drained and paddle repaired, and by 3.00pm the convoy was underway. Got through the whole 11 locks by 6.00pm!

May 31

Hartshill

Very sunny! Lovely moorings near BWB Hartshill Yard, which we visited to see the lovely old buildings. After clearing the boat, set off for Nuneaton. The passage through town is rather drab. Several landscaped coal tips add interest, otherwise mainly back gardens. Deep cutting with mobile homes near Burton Hastings. Into Stoke Golding where Henry Tudor was crowned after Bosworth Field Battle in 1485. Collected our mail! First barbecue of the year, during which an amazing old character with spaniels stopped to chat.

June 1

Stoke Golding - Ashby Canal

Kirsten's birthday..hot and sunny as always! We started by giving the boat a touch up..blue paint and light blue decks. Sat on the towpath on the brand new fold up chairs and sunbathed. :later on moved up to a nice spot near the Bosworth battlefield, with another BBQ!

June 2

Shenton

Another sunny day! Pleasant mooring cycling round the Bosworth battlefield, a very evocative place steeped in history..and ghosts! The battle mostly took place either side of Shenton Station, restored with buildings from Leicester. Polished the boat watching England-Sweden match..only a draw 1-1. Moved on towards Snarestone.

June 3

Snarestone

Sunny again! Decided to bike it to the nearby town of Measham along the filled in canal bed. This is interesting, because instead of remaining as an empty ditch the Ashby Canal Association arranged to have the cut in-filled until restoration became possible. As a result, the sensation of cycling along a wide green grassy "motorway". Peters out after about 1.5 miles, and we ended up in a field with a car boot sale going on! Bought some cheap but useful garden shears. Visited Measham, which was not very inspiring, and mostly closed! Biked back in time to miss heavy rain, before we were able to head back to Stoke Golding with a weird Canaltime boat in our wake. watched the Jubilee Rock Concert (on TV) and fireworks over the church!

June 4

Stoke Golding

Overcast. The church stands where Henry V11 was crowned after Bosworth. Met Jenny Whitby and Roman at the George and Dragon. Has excellent varied cheap meals, but some not available..is this the usual problem, huge menu but mostly off! Nice to catch up with their lives; Roman is a great walker in training for climbing Mont Blanc. After a cup of tea headed for Nuneaton, and dropped them off after about a mile. Carried on to fantastic moorings at Trinity Wharf in Hinkley. Brand new marina with top notch restaurant and shop...hopefully also launderette!

June 5

Hinkley

Overcast. A very wet day, so we decided to stay. The marina does have an excellent launderette, so did all the washing. Wandered into town but couldn't find a supermarket open, so hopefully one in Rugby!

June 6

Despite a wet start, we got a coin operated pump out at the marina. Not pleased, because when the pump paused it would not restart. Obviously the time keeps going while you "flush out"...not fair! Moved swiftly back to the Coventry Canal and cruised the rather uninspiring section through Bedworth to Hawkesbury Junction. This is interesting, but drabness follows on the first part of the North Oxford Canal. Sub stations, pylons then through long straight cuttings with the remains of the "loops" in the old canal (pre 1829) marked by fine Horseley Iron Works towpath bridges. And so to Rugby, after a brief stop at Newbold to look at the old tunnel. Tesco beckons!

June 7

Rugby - North Oxford Canal

Overcast with drizzle! Decided to go and look at...carpets! The boat is moored near a retail park, so we walked into a carpet shop and within five minutes spotted a long (narrow!) jade green carpet remnant. The salesman wondered how we could possibly use a 6ft wide by 40ft remnant..we kept him guessing! Took the huge roll on our shoulders back to the boat, then on a few miles towards Hillmorton and stopped at the locks. Watched the big match against Argentina, which England won (first time since '66!) due to a David Beckham penalty. The country went crazy...we just set to and laid the carpet!

June 8

Hillmorton

Overcast. Up through three Hillmorton Locks, very unusual since they are doubled up. Met four people whose boat was between the locks, but they had not been anywhere yet and wanted to know how to work the locks! They were on their way to the pub to tank up with Dutch courage to face them.

June 9

Braunston

Overcast at one of the great "hubs" of the waterway system. Popped into the village to post a letter. Nice church and a few nice cottages. Great view down to the boat from the churchyard. On through the rain to Napton Junction and the Grand Union Canal.

June 10

Napton - Southern Oxford Canal

Overcast with sunny spells. Amazing moorings opposite field full of black shaggy sheep., some with huge horns, plus horses, geese and cattle. Almost below the famous windmill. Spoiled by old farm in the foreground complete with derelict caravans etc! Good going through Napton locks despite lots of boats, then through the pretty twisty bit near Wormleighton to Fenny Compton. Nice evening, so kept on through Fenny Compton "tunnel" (now opened out), and ended up at nice moorings near Claydon Top Lock.

June 11

Claydon Top Lock

Engine 900 Hours. Sunny! Set off towards Banbury, passing very attractive old buildings at Claydon Locks. Met several boats coming up, including one who told a gruesome tale of being held up at Banbury due to a lady who had fallen in and drowned! Couldn't take water at Cropredy due to a barge blocking the basin. Extensive work here to create linear moorings. You could tell this is where the folk festival is held, because there are lots of boats called "Fairport" or "Meet on the Ledge", and hippies living on all sorts of derelict "boats"! Lost a lock key overboard, but replaced it with a better one. Someone has damaged our sign writing in the night. Banbury is transformed from our last visit - huge shopping centre flanks the canal, though very useful for supplies...and coffee!

June 12

King's Sutton

A long day! We made rapid progress, passing the famous Somerton Deep Lock. A lot has been made in the waterways press about the insensitive alterations, eg. flower baskets outside windows etc. This is all rubbish; perhaps the only bit we disliked was the black painted gable end, but even this is quite striking when you look back at it! Fun and Pigeon's Lock with a dog who drops sticks in front of your feet...very large ones! Then got stuck in the lock and had to "flush" ourselves out! Reminded us of our problems on the Huddersfield Canal. On past several long wooded cuttings and saw a train called "Police"! Moored opposite a golf club. earlier, near Heyford we repaired the damaged lettering.

June 13

Kirtlington

Overcast. Today will be remembered for various things! Through well wooded section. Past Hampton Grey and the ruined Manor House and church which we looked at from the railway line in 1975...very dangerous, but then we were students then! Had a much better pumpout. Then near Kidlington we saw the boat people from Wareham; they recognised us and were on a hire boat from Winchcombe. Further down we moored for water and a sailing boat came up towards us...name of Mysterious Meg! He gets a good sail higher up the River Cherwell. Finally down into Oxford, we stopped to allow a fisherman to "land" a huge 20lb carp. He was very grateful, as it could have been "the one that got away"! then saw two old men in a boat with no reverse gear...they had waved goodbye to their wives!

June 14

Oxford

Promising start to the day with sunshine. After calling at a small shop for bread and milk, then headed down to Isis Lock on to the Thames for the short run to Osney Lock. Nearly got stern swept on to the fast flowing weir. Bought Thames licence from cocky lock keeper, then on down the river, taking the narrow channel at Folly Bridge. Mixture of heavy showers and sun. Nice to get speed up through largely deserted river. Arrived at Shillingford at about 4.30pm, and tied up between two gin palaces. £8 per night for a mooring...can't afford many like this! Gill and Alistair arrived at about 5pm, and we ate at the Shillingford Hotel.

June 15

Shillingford - River Thames

By car to Goring. Then walked back along the Thames path in good weather to Shillingford. At about 1.30pm, set out for Reading. Made good time through the locks and arrived in Reading at about 6.45pm. Stayed near "The Back of Beyond"! England beat Denmark 3-0.

June 16

Reading - Kennet and Avon Canal

Walked from the boat, past the town centre. Also past an amateur rowing regatta which caused some amusement yesterday. A lovely day's walk, sometimes through woods down to the Thames. Back to Goring, then car to Reading and voyaged through "The Oracle" shopping centre and first few miles to Theale. Garston Lock is one of the unique turf sided locks, with iron protective rails instead of solid sides.

June 17

Theale - Shenfield Swing Bridge

Sunny! Steady progress through Sulhampstead to Aldermaston. Stopped at the Wharf for a pumpout and fuel; friendly boatyard staff, one keen to see inside the boat. We then ended up sharing the lock with trainee hirers. Three men, of whom two had left their wives to escape on a narrow boat. On through wooded Berkshire countryside to a lovely secluded mooring (except for trains) near Woolhampton. Touched up the damaged paintwork...the bow diamonds had suffered horribly on the Thames!

June 18

Woolhampton

Sunny again! Spent a pleasant morning collecting kindling wood and polishing the boat. Onwards through Woolhampton Lock. Lucky enough to meet a boat coming the other way, so we were able to plan a double crossover through the swing bridge and lock channel. This section can be tricky, with a very strong current flowing in just below the lock tail. All went fairly smoothly except that the other boat in the lock tail did not allow me to "stem" the current and there was an alarming moment of angled approach crab fashion into the lock at full speed. On into Thatcham to pick up mail, and moor below Monkey Marsh Lock.

June 19

Thatcham - Monkey Marsh Lock

Monkey Marsh Lock is turf sided, so very interesting to be in! We shared several locks with a boat called Seven Stars which has a web site..all about the boat and layout! How silly, as they have only been on the K and A and up the Thames in two years! Sailed into Newbury ready for washing and food. We moored in the centre, and walked only about 1/4 mile to a fantastic laundry (the Laundry Box), and then into Tesco only about 5 minutes walk from the boat. On into the lock and up to a nice mooring above the new bypass bridge.

June 20

Benham

Sunny! On through lovely parkland near Hamstead towards Kintbury. Apart from occasional trains a very peaceful stretch, mainly still river navigation. Kintbury is a nice spot, we shared several locks near here. Found good moorings just beyond the village, although the place has a super but tree shaded mooring area. Locks along this stretch are all shapes and sizes, with all manner of different paddle gear (borrowed?!). Main priority is a mooring with good TV reception for the match tomorrow!

June 21

Kintbury

Sunny, with rain overnight! England vs Brazil at 7.30am. Great Michael Owen goal in 25th minute. Then Brazil scored about 1 min before half time. Final score 2-1..England out! Three men on a hire boat well aground before the next bridge. It took another boat with three men to drag them off, one a former Navy sailor from Devon! Passed from wooded cuttings to open country then into the very attractive town of Hungerford. Beyond here a strange lock at Hungerford Marsh with a swing bridge over it, then Cobbler's Lock...which wouldn’t fill. nearly came to grief here when we tried to drive the boat out while the top gate started to close itself again!

June 22

Great Bedwyn

Sunny. Started the day with a short walk to the village. The Post Office is amazing..it used to be a monumental mason's yard and the place is covered in grave stones, statues and urns of every description! In the pretty Crofton Locks rude man tried to empty a lock in front of us, under the eyes of a BWB Lockeeper! Through Bruce Tunnel and the first locks down. Nicola (David's sister) and Ken dropped in for coffee!

June 23

Pewsey

Sunny! A glorious day. Spent the morning reading the papers, then a leisurely cruise down towards Honey Street with lots of other boats on the move.

June 24

Honey Street

Hot and sunny! White Horse on the hills! Moved to Honey Street Wharf for pumpout and fuel. Nice guy at Gibson Boat Services very interested in our boat, and told us he had nearly bought Hanbury Wharf! Moved to a mooring outside the Barge PH. This is the world famous home of crop circle study, with many wonderful pictures and maps showing the latest circles. Met sister Nic and Ken, and then visited his eco house, before going back to the boat and cruising to Horton.

June 25

Chain Bridge

Sunny again! On the way to Devizes. Shortly after setting off, came to Bishops Carry Swing Bridge, where a large lump of wood got stuck in the propeller. Had to free it from the weed hatch. Slowly into the town, very pretty cutting with gardens down to the canal. Moored opposite Wadworth's Brewery. Shopped at a rather small and badly stocked Tesco. After tea, surprised by Sue's Aunt Betty and Uncle Mervin. Watched Tim Henman go through to the next round of Wimbledon.

June 26

Devizes

Sunny! The big day for locks!! We set off at 10.30 down the huge flight of 29 at Caen Hill in glorious weather. The locks are in beautiful condition, and it is hard to believe that they were derelict ten years ago. The huge "side ponds" were full of wildlife. In one lock, swans wanted to travel with us, but this is not allowed so we had to "shoo" them out! Got easier near the bottom when tow boat came up. Met a 76 year old man from Romsey in the lock near the bottom..very sprightly and shows what you can do if you want to! No water at the bottom, but excellent moorings at Sells Green. Sampras, Agassi and Safin all out of Wimbledon!

June 27

Sells Green

Sunny! On down the Seend Locks. Shared two or three with a lady whose boat had been aground in the lock pound! Past a nice pub at Seend, also the Barge Inn, which we must visit on the return journey. Above Semington Top lock the canal has been diverted into a new channel. Looked for the remains of the Wilts and Berks Canal at Semington Bridge, but little to see apart from the bricked up junction bridge. Nice brand new timber framed barn at Seend park. Moored at a nice spot east of Bradford on Avon. Cleared foredeck and did some painting. Henman and Bathacha got through....Kirsten got engaged!

June 28

Bradford on Avon

Sunny! Spent most of the morning doing jobs. Cleaned and repainted the foredeck and after-deck. After lunch, headed into a very congested Bradford Wharf. Shared lock with awful pair of blokes in a nondescript boat..thankfully no damage! Watched baby moorhens being fed on apple cores! Went into town, which suffers too much traffic, but nice tea and sticky cake! On towards Avoncliff, photographed the aqueduct then along to moor at a pretty spot at Freshford. Saw a Pullman train go by..happy memories of our Orient Express trip in 1988!

June 29

Winsley Bridge, Freshford

Sun..again! Did some clean and polish then settled to watch another Henman nail biter. Paul, Lisa and Bradley turned up and we spent a pleasant afternoon. Moved on to Dundas.

June 30

Dundas Aqueduct

Overcast. Nice slow run to Bath through the spectacular Avon Valley, until we encountered a boat driving on the wrong side near Claverton! Moored near Sydney Gardens and walked down Widcombe Locks into town. Brazil won the World Cup!!

July 1

Bath

Sunny! Spent the day having haircuts, and shopping for clothes for Sue's niece Anna's wedding. Nice lunch at a French Bistro and tea at Piazza Italian Restaurant. Tim Henman through to 1/4 finals...Greg Rusedski almost!

July 2

Engine 981 hours. Fuel 40p a litre. A bit more shopping, and off to the launderette in Bathwick..this had tumble driers which set up a great rhythm! Said goodbye to Bath and headed towards Bathhampton. Met Richard and Kate, David' cousins for a meal at the George PH.

July 3

Bathampton

Rain! When it cleared we headed back up the valley. Met a Sally boat at a swing bridge, crewed by Dorcas Henry the Southern TV weather lady! Back to Dundas and moored at the Aqueduct. Tim Henman won his first set of the Finals against Sa, but rain stopped play. Went along the old Somerset Coal Canal and had a cuppa!

July 4

Dundas Aqueduct

Sue's birthday! Slow run to Avoncliff and stopped to watch tennis half way. Henman won by a whisker to get to the semis. Back over the Aqueduct and spend pleasant evening at the Crossed Guns PH celebrating Sue' birthday!

July 5

Avoncliff Aqueduct

Overcast. Spent some time photographing the aqueduct, which seems to have a "sag"! A tramway once ran along the west side and connected with the railway below. Reached Bradford Locks. Bought some bits from the K and A shop, including Rosie and Jim boat for Jade. As we passed Hilperton, notices we were in diesel scum. Phoned BWB, who turned up to put a boom across at Marsh Lock to stop the scum spreading. Came from a boat called Ryecroft which we had seen earlier...he's got trouble! Tim Henman lost to Leyton Hewitt!

July 6

Hilperton Marsh Bridge

Sunny! Up through Semington to Seend. Lucky to share the locks with a lady and five friends...all novices without a clue. Three swing bridges left open for us...great! New diversion turned out to be because of the bypass being built, with a new aqueduct at Semington Top Lock. Walked into Seend Cleeve and Seend, but shops closed. Serena Williams won Ladies Final.

July 7

Seend

Overcast. Met Linda and Tony at the Barge Inn, then cruised to Sells Green for the night.

July 8

Sells Green

Early start and at the bottom of the Caen Hill flight by 10.30. After three locks, the keeper popped up and asked us to share locks to the bottom of the "16". Great to have help, as we maintained a good rhythm and got to the tea shop at the top in 2 hours flat! Completed the flight before rain set, and had a great Indian Takeaway, and even did some shopping thanks to Tony's car!

July 9

Devizes

A lot of rain around, but set off in a clear spell. Pump out at Devizes Marina, then through the "long pound". Brooding hills of the Wiltshire downs look spectacular in this overcast weather, with occasional flashes of sunlight! Very lucky with swing bridges, as there was a boat at each one so they were opened for us. Moored at the Barge in Honey Street again, and this time met up with Sue's cousin Jane, husband Gary and children Emily and Charlie. Spent a pleasant evening in the pub.

July 10

Honey Street

Sun again! Set off through lovely scenery with the Wiltshire Downs to the left. Saw two White Horses. Lots of helicopters chasing crop circles! Moored boats in bridge holes..most annoying, especially if a boat coming the other way! Lovely mooring near Pewsey. Loads of wildlife, including water vole busy in the bank collecting nesting, and later an owl, probably Tawny.

July 11

Pewsey

Cloudy with sunny bits! Off at 9.00 and good run to the Wooton Rivers Locks. Took water and visited the famous church, which has a clock with "In God We Trust" instead of numerals! Crazy people wanted to share locks, but we avoided them! Instead endured "snail's pace" down the Crofton Flight at a rate of 25 minutes per lock, trying NOT to catch them up! Passed them at Great Bedwyn, but guess what, they appeared and moored up (with difficulty!) right behind us!!

July 12

Little Bedwyn

Overcast and windy. Got up early to find ourselves hard aground! Didn't want to share locks with the boat behind, so slipped quietly away through the first lock without being seen or heard. Weather started to improve. By Hungerford we were having problems with locks overflowing and bad gates. Met up with Challenger boat "George" from Nantwich. Amazingly, this was crewed by Tom Rayner from Southern Locomotives at Swanage. Caught up with railway news. His son is a Town Planner at New Forest DC, with a flat near the girls in Southbourne. Another interesting link was that he went to Lampeter University, soon to be near our new home in Wales!

July 13 - 14

Visit to Dorset

July 15

Kintbury

Through the locks towards Newbury in scorching hot sun. Passed a horse drawn boat near Kintbury Lock. Lots of moorhen nests around here, and we had to be careful not to wash them away! After several attempts running aground, found a nice spot near Hamstead park. Eleanor said that she had got on her degree course...well done!

July 16

Hamstead park

Set off through a series of locks to Newbury. By the second lock, the sun got really warm. Shared locks with a nice couple who had borrowed a boat from a friend. He had helped weld the hull, but complained about the noisy Czech engine. Moored above West Mill in a pretty spot, then into town for some essential items. Back to the boat then through Town Lock with help from great long haired and waist coated lockeeper, to moor at launderette! Warm evening!

July 17

Newbury

Sunny. Cleared up the boat; we seem to have collected a lot of dust off the towpath together with leaves. Nice town, very different from what you see when passing through on the A34. Four more locks down to Thatcham in a clammy, almost stormy warm evening.

July 18

Thatcham

Started by trying to avoid some "lock nobblers"...this is our term for people who wait until you go past then set off at a distance of about 100metres, hoping that you will prepare the next lock for them! Had some fun with a lock at Collhop with a very strong weir which sucked the boat in. No problem with Woolhampton Lock ans wing bridge, but very fast through the chicane and only just managed to pick Sue up! Shared the lock at Aldermaston, then had a pump out. Very pretty jungle section between Woolhampton and Aldermaston. Found pretty mooring at Tyle Mill above the lock.

July 19

Tyle Mill

Spent the day...sunbathing! Very few boats passed by, but several people walking including a man carrying strange objects including many plant pots back to a boat. Later, another man offered us a Rainbow Trout, but he looked very suspicious so we declined!

July 20

On through Tyle Mill Lock to Sulhamstead Lock, the most decrepit on the canal, to Theale. Pretty town with some nice buildings on the main street. Shopped at Coop, then painted the other side of the boat using the dinghy. Into Reading...next stop the Royal Thames!


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