Friday, 28 June 2013

Furthest West at Bristol

Tonight we are moored in Bristol's Floating Harbour immediately opposite to the SS Great Britain - a splendid position.

We enjoyed our stay in Bath after 3 nights moored there.  Here are some of the other sights of Bath:

Roman Baths

Roman Lead Pipe

Bath Abbey

Inside the Abbey

I particularly liked this memorial in the Abbey - notice that it was written by David Garrick, the famous Shakespearean Actor

We even managed a night at the Theatre Royal in Bath seeing 'Relative Values' by Noel Coward.  We really enjoyed the performance with a superb cast including Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin and Rory Bremner.

On Thursday we finally left Bath first going down the six Bath locks which featured in the last posting on this blog and then going out on the River Avon below.  We travelled with John and Ali on a rather nice new boat called Triskaideka.  We went upstream and turned just below the Pulteney Weir:
Leo below Pulteney Weir
We then travelled on downstream out of Bath and towards Bristol.
Cruising on the River Avon

Kelston Lock with the weir behind - notice the fishermen sitting on the weir

Probably a windmill just below Saltford Lock

On Thursday night we moored on a pontoon (the River Avon has a habit of rising and falling many feet) below the old railway bridge at Bitton:
Moored on the Avon with Triskaideka
Having phoned up the lock keeper at Netham where we enter the Bristol Floating Harbour the tides meant we could not enter Bristol until afternoon, so we spent the morning cycling along the Bath-Bristol cycle path into Bitton to find a post office.  Then we set off through Keynsham and Hanham Locks onto tidal water:

Here we are sharing Hanham Lock with Triskaideka.  Beyond here we are on tidal water.

The Avon below flows past some high cliffs and steep valley sides.

And here we are on the feeder canal towards the Bristol Floating Harbour leaving Netham Lock behind us.  Notice that at this state of tide you can drive your boat straight through this lock - both gates are open.

Coming into Bristol we did a good tour of the Floating Harbour in quite strong and gusty winds.  The water was pretty choppy.
Coming down Welsh Back

Under the Prince's Street Swing Bridge - low but not too low for us

Looking up St Augustine's Reach

Past the SS Great Britain

Beyond these gates in Cumberland Basin is the tidal Avon towards the sea

View from Cumberland Basin - you can just see the Clifton Suspension Bridge

When it came to mooring this was not straightforward in the strong wind.  We eventually backed into the harbour inlet with a small boat of the Harbour Master pushing the bow and acting as a bow thruster to help us and keep us from blowing onto nearby boats.  We've finished up moored next to our new friends John and Ali on Triskaideka.

Tomorrow we'll have a look round the waterside at Bristol and we are meeting friends tomorrow evening for a meal.  On Sunday we'll start our journey back eastwards.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Aqueducts and Splendid Architecture

We've had an interesting few days but we are now moored above the locks in Bath.

Leo has been making a loud 'clonk' noise when engaging forward gear for a few days now and it has been getting worse.  I feared we may have gearbox problems so we called into 'The Boatyard' (yes that's really its name) at Hilperton on Saturday morning.  The boatyard is run by Spencer and Victoria Collins and they were very helpful.  Spencer diagnosed our problem with one simple look below at the engine.  It appears that we have had a small diesel leak for some time and the diesel has seeped down onto one of the engine mountings.  Diesel dissolves rubber so that engine mount is now useless and our engine has effectively been sitting on only 3 rather than four mounts.  No wonder we had the vibration and noise.  So we booked Leo in for some tlc (and new engine mounts) on Sunday.

We carried on to Bradford on Avon on Saturday.  We loved Bradford which has loads of fine architecture on terraces up the hillside from the river:

This is the inside of one of the largest and most complete Tithe Barns in the country.  It was built in the 14th century and has this magnificent roof.

Here is one of the lovely narrow streets running up the hillside from the main street.

This really surprised us.  It is a Saxon Church built in the 8th century and extended in the 10th century and little altered since.  Most of our churches were knocked about by the Normans, but not this one which became incorporated in a larger secular building and was only rediscovered for what it is in the 19th century.

And this is the bridge over the River Avon.  The canal is higher up the hill to the South.

In the afternoon we had a lovely cream tea at the Bridge Tea Rooms where the waitresses are all dressed in Victorian dress and the choice of teas is considerable.  While we were inside, this strange vehicle drew up outside:

And this is where we ate on Saturday evening with Ian's sister, Ruth, and brother in law, Peter:

We liked the pub sign but the food was also pretty good and the Wadworth's 6X was truly excellent.

On Sunday we returned to the Boatyard where Leo was placed under the tender care of Spencer for the day.  It was late by the time he had finished, including some extra jobs like replacing the primary fuel filter/water separator, so we were allowed to stay at the yard and to take up their recommendation for the neighbouring Chinese takeaway which was very good.

Today we've pressed on to Bath coming back through Bradford on Avon.  Leo feels like a new boat with less noise and vibration and a more responsive engine.  Thank you Spencer.  Here we are coming through Bradford Lock with a day boat full of smiling people for whom this was their first lock:
In Bradford Lock
The canal journey to Bath then crosses two wonderful aqueducts, Avoncliffe and Dundas as it swops to one side of the narrow valley of the River Avon and then back again.
Avoncliffe Aqueduct - in fact this view is taken looking back

View down to the River Avon from the Aqueduct

View down to the railway below the Aqueduct

Dundas Aqueduct - didn't the Victorians do this sort of thing well?

Approaching Bath you begin to see the famous terraces up the hillside and this evening we walked beside the flight of 6 locks down to the Avon which we shall be doing later.  We then walked up the River which is now just 60 feet below us to have a quick look at the town.

This is a view of Bath as we came in along the canal.

This is Cleveland House which was the original headquarters of the Canal company and sits appropriately on top of a short tunnel on the canal above Bath

This is called Bath Deep Lock for a reason.  Because of a road improvement scheme two locks were rebuilt as a single lock so it is 19 feet deep  You can just see a boat in the lock so that gives an idea of scale.

This is a view of the River Avon and you can see the exit of the canal onto the river through the arched bridge on the right.

This is the famous Poultney Bridge and Weir in Bath.  We aim to come up to the Weir and turn just below when we come down to the River with Leo.

This is the view of Poultney Bridge.  The shops on either side are actually on the bridge itself.  When passing along the street, you can see the river through their windows.

Tomorrow we plan to have a proper look around Bath and will probably stay moored in the same place.  On Wednesday or perhaps Thursday we'll carry on down the locks and take to the River Avon with the aim of reaching Bristol by the end of this week.

Friday, 21 June 2013

All Downhill now to Bristol!

Well we've done it, we've managed the descent of the Caen Hill flight of locks and exceeded yesterday our previous highest number of locks in a day.  But first let's pick up where we left off in Hungerford.  Leaving Hungerford the climbing to the summit level begins in earnest with lock after lock as you leave the Kennet Valley.
This lock was most unusual with a swing bridge over the middle of the lock.  We heard tell of hire boaters who forgot to swing the bridge before coming up in the lock.  A boat will certainly not fit under the bridge once the lock is full.

Sunday evening we moored in Great Bedwyn and walked up to the Crofton Pumping engine which was designed to pump water up from a lake called Wilton Water to the summit level of the canal which is only two and a half miles long and has no other sources of water.  We had an interesting tour of the engines which unfortunately were not in steam which happens only once a month. There is an alternative electric pump for when the steam engines are not working.

Here is the pumping engine house just below the final 6 locks up to the summit level.  The local worthy was liable to complain if any smoke came out of the chimney so the boilers were designed to 'consume their own smoke'.

And here, right up the top of the building, are the beams for the two steam engines that pumped the water.  Each moves around a ton of water at each stroke.

On our walk back to Great Bedwyn we passed a most unusual museum of stone carving and here is one whose inscription amused us:

On Monday we climbed to the summit level and found a lovely mooring (albeit not very close to the bank) out in the wilds with only cows for company.

On Tuesday we went through the only tunnel on the canal - the Bruce Tunnel, all of 500 yards and dead straight.

Here is the east portal of the tunnel and you can see the light at the end in the photo.
I'm hoping you can read the inscription on this plaque which explains the name of the tunnel
On Tuesday we came down four locks which leads to a long pound of 15 miles to Devizes with no locks at all.  Here is a very leaky lock at Wootton on the way and some of the sights from this pound including a walk that evening into All Cannings.
Leaky Lock at Wootton

This conical hill is variously called 'Pickled Hill' and 'Picked Hill'

One of several white horses around here

Again, I'm hoping you can read this inscription from the church at All Cannings. What conclusions do you draw of a lady variously described as 'an ornament to her sex', 'an indulgent mistress', 'universally loved by all those who had the happiness of her acquaintance' and whose loss is looked upon 'as a public loss'.  I'll leave you to draw  your own conclusions!

On Wednesday we came into Devizes which is a very attractive market town.  We did some shopping and on our way back to Leo we helped rescue an old gentleman who had fallen down the steep embankment of the canal, fortunately not into the water.  He proved to be the landlord of the White Bear in Devizes and we called his wife to come and pick him up.

Here is the market square in Devizes.

And here is a statue of the local MP in the 1700s, Mr Sotheron-Escourt.  The curious lump on his right hand is a pigeon which appeared to be pecking crumbs from his hand.

Yesterday came the day we have been anticipating for the whole of our travel up this canal - the Caen Hill Flight.  Six locks at the top lead down to the 16 locks all in a very straight line with enormous side ponds.  Below this a further 7 locks carry on the descent from the Wiltshire Hills.  We waited at the top for another boat to accompany us down, but none came.  So we set off pretty slowly and fortunately a Sally Hire boat called Lydia with a three person crew of Brian, Belinda and Brian's brother Paul caught us up.  So we went down the rest of the flight with Lydia which made life a whole lot easier.

Here is a view of the whole of the main flight.  It really is an amazing feat of engineering.

Here we are with Lydia in one of the locks up the top of the flight.

And here below us you can just see a cabin cruiser on the right coming out of the side pond to pass two narrowboats going down in front of us.  The white house down the bottom indicates the end of the main flight.  There are then only 7 more locks to reach level ground.

If you do the maths and have read carefully you will realise that we did not get down the final 7 locks but spent the night in a delightful spot in the middle of this final flight.  Here is a picture of the fine grasses growing round there.

I'm typing this unusually at lunchtime as it is very hot and we have good internet signal here.  This morning we have come down some more locks and intend to go a little further through a succession of swing bridges and a few locks so that we can reach Bradford on Avon tomorrow lunchtime to have a proper look round.