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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bristol onwards, and Boiler problems

31st July to 4th August were spent in Bristol and the harbour and city were heaving with people. We were moored near The Cottage (pub) and opposite to the Grain Barge, one of the entertainment venues, a worry, but music stopped at 6pm and the type of music played suited us!

It wasn't the best way to see Bristol as there were too many bodies around. Wandering along the dockside into the centre and back jiggered Carol on Thursday so she rested on Friday, but on the Thursday we had managed a bit of sight seeing plus a Weatherspoon's curry plus seeing Mama Mia. We thoroughly enjoyed it, though I thought I enjoyed the stage show more, certainly it as a real feelgood film.

I did some ambling around alone on Friday and Sunday whilst Carol recuperated, we did some of the Harbour Festival, especially enjoying the offerings from the Continental Markets, great French cheeses and dried sausages. We were fortunate with the weather and loved the interesting boats that kept tripping up and down. We visited SS Great Britain, what an amazing feat it was to bring this rotten hulk back all the way from the Falklands. Be aware if you visit it in mid winter, you will need to strip off clothes as you go round it as they keep it very warm and dry to stop more rusting. We also had to watch the GP on Sunday. We bussed to Sainsburys on Sunday, getting there for 11.20, hoping to dash round and get home for a 1pm start, only to find this store opened at 12!

The journey there was free, but took over 1/2 an hour, the return by taxi took under 5 mins and cost £5, and a lot easier!!

Monday morning was pretty wet and we filled with diesel at Bristol Marina at 88p (Bath was 98p) and got to Netham Lock at 11.30 to find it closed until at least 12.30 whilst the spring tide dropped. The Avon to Bristol is only affected by tides at high Spring Tides, certainly nothing akin to passing through Cromwell Lock on the Trent.

The cruise back to Bath took the afternoon, sharing locks with cruisers, mooring alongside the main Sainsburys store at 6.30, we virtually headed the rush upstream from the Festival. We were a bit concerned about the mooring, but it was surprisingly quiet & handy for the centre of Bath.

Tues 5th we went up the Bath flight, fairly slowly as we had an hour's wait whilst water was run down to feed the very deep (19 feet) lock 8/9. When they combined the two single locks into one to facilitate a road improvement scheme they did nothing to sort out the water supply problems that were certain to occur. I was very concerned about how water inflow would throw Lily about as I could not get hold of the bow rope to hold her steady. I need not have worried as the ground paddles fed 3 inlets along each side of the length of the lock. It was a wet virtually all day, but sandals and shorts dry quickly, and we tied up outside The George at Bathampton at 5. We were drenched and went straight in for a drink, followed by a warming shower. I then decided to take the boiler to pieces to find out why it would not fire when we were last here. I found it to have around 6 pints of water in the burner chamber, there should have been none there! I got it out by using a sponge, and gave it a short burn to prove it worked, but didn't replace the baffles. Where had the water come from, was there a crack in the boiler?, had it come in through the exhaust? but this is a horizontal exhaust! Worry, contacted Debdale next day. If we had an overall heating problem where we would not be able to use the Bubble stove & back boiler i the lounge we would have to head straight home. Mike assuaged these fears.

Wed 6th and Carol's sister Annette and husband Mike arrived for 3 days of holiday, a holiday I had carefully ensured included getting up Caen Hill locks!! The forecast for the 3 days was poor, but we had a lovely afternoon's cruise through to Bradford on Avon. Poor mooring required use of the plank, for the first time in 19 years of boating! We had a wander into this gorgeous town after we had demolished the wonderful meal Carol had made for us. A & M were keen to see as much of the canal as possible but decided they would like to make a preliminary exploration of the town the next morning. We all visited the incredible 14thC Tithe Barn, Carol returned to Lily, her back is not good, I went on to see the lovely Saxon Church, possibly dating from around 700AD and not "improved". A&M liked Bradford so much they intend to return for a holiday nearby, they may even consider moving into the area, but then A was at college in Bath & loves the area.

We set off after lunch & Mike & I were on the side of the lock waiting for Lily as a shower started. We were in Tee Shirt & shorts, and were wringing wet through in seconds I have never experienced rain like it before! It brightened up shortly afterwards and the afternoon finished bright and warm at Sells Green. Mike had brought his Brompton folding bike and each day travelled back to bring his car to our finishing point. We had a new recipe meal this night, a great one pot dish using Choritzo and beans.

Fri 8th and after filling up with water Caen Hill beckoned and we were off and entered the bottom lock at 10.40. The day started overcast, but brightened as the day went on and was way better than the forecast. We stopped for lunch in a lock about half way up as there were no boats nearby in either direction ( A needs her food ) and had fabulous ice cream from the cafe at the top of the main flight. We had no boat to share the locks until just above the cafe when a fibreglass cruiser shared a couple of locks. It seemed to be over 7 feet wide and was uncomfortable with Lily so dropped out and we cleared the top lock 5 hours after starting up. It is so much easier with extra crew, I was able to set locks in advance. We passed about 6 boats coming down including a wide Dutch Barge being moved down single handed. We got a good mooring at the top & A&M took us out for a meal a lovely finish to a lovely day, at least with the weather improving they were able to enjoy the views.

Sat 9th we said farewell to A&M and cleaned the boat & re-provisioned in Devises and loitered around in poor weather on Sunday, as on Monday our friends came and picked us up to view their area. After seeing their home in Trowbridge we went to Laycock. This is a fabulous village, owned by the National Trust since the mid 1940s, and as such retaining much of its charm, plus Laycock Abbey where Fox Talbot effectively invented photography. After wandering around the place we enjoyed a great evening meal at "The Sign of the Angel" before being dropped off at home around 9pm. Laycock is not on the canal & I doubt there are buses running readily to it, but it is so lovely I do urge you to try to arrange a visit.

Tues 12th was blustery and forecast wet, but we did not have many showers till about 5 when it threw it down in several storms, including thunder and hail. We moored up just before the Bruce Tunnel, needing to use the plank again. Our friends Mike & Gerry on Tubbs (from Debdale) were nearby & we hoped to see them the next day. I made a note that Carol again prepared us a great meal.

Wed 13th dawned very blustery and overcast. We met Tubbbs after two locks down from the summit. They were not able to stop as they had lost some days due to a breakdown with their travelling partner's boat and had a rendezvous to make in Devizes. we were not enjoying the strong winds and decided to stop at Crofton and had great news in that our daughter Clare & family want to join us for 2 days from Thursday. Quick consultation of maps & we decided to set off bright and early the next day to meet them in Hungerford and use Lily as a static home for the two days.

Thurs 14th and we moved on down past Gt Bedwin where we filled & emptied and on a lovely day reached Hungerford by lunchtime. I went shopping at the useful Somerfield store and just as I returned to Lily the mob arrived and we started a lovely two day holiday with Clare, Simon, Emily & Annabel. We were fortunate with the weather and pulled in a great farm park and other things kids love.

We did a short cruise on Saturday with them before they set home off in the afternoon, but Emily stayed. She was desperate to see her cousin, Sam, who was to arrive on Sunday afternoon. We cruised for 3 miles and 3 locks to Kintbury after the mob left and wandered into the pretty village to get lollies.

Sun 17th, rain overnight but a fine bright morning and we set off to Newbury, arriving there by 2. Sally, John, Sam & Hannah arrived about 3.30 on their way back to Leicester from Deal ( odd journey!) and had lunch with us. Sam arrived with his electronic keyboard and scooter and this was to give entertainment over the next week. We tied up alongside Victoria Park though people advised that this was not the best location due to youth interest. We had a very peaceful stay.

Mon 18th, more overnight rain. Both kids slept well and on a warm but breezy day we set off at 11.30 for Aldermaston Wharf. Weather worsened and we had heavy drizzle most of the afternoon and we arrived at about 5 after 10 miles, 7 locks and 4 swing bridges, one of the locks being turf sided.

After a good evening and night we set off for Reading after using the facilities at the wharf. Sam operated the electric swing bridges, enjoying his power to stop traffic. He also took Lily into and out of one lock entirely on his own, he is a very competent boater. Emily tried her hand a steering, but wasn't wildly impressed. One lock was Woolhampton that gave Carol such problems on the way upstream, but it was much milder this time. We arrived at Reading just after 4 as it started to drizzle, it aving been a fine day till then. We just got Lily tied up before the heavens opened. 10 miles and 11 locks.

On our way through the traffic light controlled section past the Oracle Centre we noticed a sandy beach had been built. We visited this with the kids, including Annabel when she arrived on Thursday to pick Ems up.

We also went to see Mamma Mia with them, and all thoroughly enjoyed the film. Buses took us to the Riverside Leisure Centre where we had a great time in the pool, but came across the crowds arriving for the Reading Festival. It was an amazing sight, so many people and sadly so much rubbish. It was fortunate we went on Wednesday to the pool as from that night for several days it was closed for the Festival.

After Clare had left we passed through the last lock on the K&A and onto the Thames, working ourselves through the first Thames lock as it was 7.30pm. We tied up at Caversham Boat Services on Frys Island where Lily was to stay whilst we took the train back to Leicester for the Bank Holiday weekend to see my mother, go to the IWA National Festival & to return Sam home. Our journey on Friday morning involved a ferry, taxi, 3 trains and tube, all with loads of kit including Sam's keyboard and scooter! It went well and having been booked in advance was quite cheap and only took 4 hours.

Next we cruise the Thames, but first of all Hotel Lily needs a good clean!

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