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.

1 comment:

  1. Well done! Do let me know if you'd like another hand when either ascending that flight again or braving the Severn, whichever you decide...


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