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Thursday, 24 July 2008

Caen Hill, Avoncliff, Dundas & Claverton

Mon 21st July
Dawned bright and warm with light breeze, just right for the task ahead. After filling, emptying & a bit of last minute shopping we set off from Devises Wharf at 10.30 and arrived at the first lock at 11, and there was no other boat there preparing to descend. In fact we had only seen one pass us to go down in the previous hour or so, so it was up to us on our own. We caught up with a lady working down single handed after two locks and worked through the next 3 or 4 with her till she stopped to await friends, but fortunately Blue Nun had caught up with us.

Blue Nun is a converted 1931 Wooolwich Butty stern at 50 feet long and freshly repainted, with a Ruston twin engine. We worked well together and started on the main run of locks at 12.30.

What a sight, such a stretch of wide locks, all about 90 feet apart and with side ponds for water storage, but we were so lucky to have such a beautiful day giving us pleasant lock working conditions and wonderful views.

We had a problem shortly after starting these locks, we could not open the bottom gates. We called on the assistance of about 6 other onlookers, but still we could not open them. It seems that the locks were built without by-washes to let surplus water above a lock pass by to the next pound. As such the water cascaded over the top of the ground paddle mechanism at the top end of the lock and kept flowing into the lock we were trying to open, and was doing so faster than the bottom paddles were letting it out. The solution is simple, install a by-wash, except English Heritage will not allow it.

Eventually we were through it and working well until we met another pair of boats working up. To get past each other we had to do a shuffle with them manoeuvring into line astern, then our partner cruised into the space they had vacated. They then moved forward to the lock we were leaving & Carol did a shuffle past them to get into the next lock. Simple really, interesting too but it slowed our progress.

We ended the descent of the main, close-set locks at 14.45 had a cup of tea and carried on through the remaining 7, passing just through one pound that was nearly 18 inches low, there had been a problem over the weekend and levels had yet to equalise.

We said farewell to Kathryn, Lydia & Benedict as they had quite a way to travel still and not much time to do it before Kathryn had to be back at work. We poddled on a mile or so and stopped at Sells Green where Carol did another of her amazing space judging tricks. I thought I was going to have to get one of the boats to move forward 6 to 8 feet, not her!

The Three Magpies was just along from our mooring and was a very welcome sight after 3 1/4 miles and 29 locks. Carol does well with her flower tubs, nearly everyone compliments her, but the landlord goes a bit further.

Tuesday morning was bright at first but soon clouded over and wth the breeze was a bit cool. We cruised to The Cross Guns at Avoncliff Aqueduct. We had realised we were passing Trowbridge and that two friends that we had last seen around 25 years before lived there. We had exchanged Xmas cards over the years but directory enquiries found them and John arranged for us to meet at this pub alongside the aqueduct, and amazingly we managed to moor within about 50 yards of it. It was a great meal, do try it, and the years between our last meetings melted away so quickly, we are looking forward to seeing them again as we return through the area.

We had cruised through several of the locks with "Joyce" and one of her crew was wearing a Leics County Cricket Club Cap & jacket. I asked if he was from Leics, and he said he now lived in Woodhouse Eaves, having moved from Old Woodhouse some 8 years ago, but he was a Loughborough lad. It turned out he went to the same school as me, but was a few years my junior. I asked if he got to see much of the cricket, he said he did as he was the Chairman! It also turned out that he was acquainted with a very old friend of mine who lves in Woodhouse Eaves........small world, especially as this was his first time on a boat and was helping his friend down the locks.

The next morning was a late start and we were greeted by these pirates just as we set off, perhaps it was part of a stag do.

We cruised at tickover to the Dundas Aqueduct and were fortunate to find a mooring right at the end of it where the Somerset Coal Canal joins. Carol did her gardening whilst I walked down to river level to get a few pics. It is a wonderful structure named in honour of the original Chairman of the Kennet & Avon Canal Co.

We walked along the length of the Coal Canal that exists and took a coffee at the very pleasant cafe that has been sited there. They also do bike hire and electric launch and canoe hire, but we put back the ice lolly Carol was about to eat when they tried to charge about 50% above the going rate.

We followed this by cruising to the Claverton Pumping Station, where we arrived just at 3.30, last entry time. It was interesting, but not so much as Crofton, with a very large water wheel driving a beam pump lifting water 48 feet from the river Avon into the canal. It is operated several times a year at weekends, but we fear we will miss it working when we return.

Great mooring here, limit 24 hours and the other 3 boats on it have clearly been here a long time! I have emailed strongly to BW about this as it is absolutely rife along this canal. We dined outside this evening, the cyclst & jogger race track (sorry towpath) was busy till dusk. Sorry about the blobby lump on the left.

Carol's sister was at Uni in Bath & told us of a few things we really needed to see. One of these was the American Museum. We mentioned it to a couple who had stopped near Lily & they were locals & said it was just over the road, so that was great and could be seen tomorrow before we moved onto Bath.

A good night's sleep, though as for much of the length from Reading the railway was close at hand. We set off on the lovely morning, it was warm and sunny. The road from the canal to Claverton village was about 250 yards, very steep and very narrow. We reached the main road, bore left and saw the brown sign to the museum, and set off. Carol does not walk very well, but she has determination. The road was steep and went round several bends and into a wood, and it carried on

and on

and on

But we got there.

We got there at just after 10, but the place didn't open till 12!! It was OK, the coffee shop was open & we could walk around the gardens and enjoy the sights, including this reconstruction of George Washington's garden.

Eventually we were able to go round the museum that showed a great collection of reconstructed rooms that showed American living through the ages, along with wonderful Native American art. It really is a good visit, we are really glad we did so, but be warned of the walk.

When we got back to Lily, Carol retired to stretch out on the bed.

1 comment:

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