Friday, 18 August 2017

Still waiting on the Avon

We are moored at Saltford, between Bath and Bristol and are still hopeful that we may find a patch of calm weather to head out from Bristol and up the Severn to Sharpness.  More of that later, but in the meantime here is the story up to date.

We left Avoncliff on Monday morning and cruised down to Bath.  No locks but a pretty slow bit of canal.  Monday and Tuesday nights we spent above the locks in Bath.
There are two wonderful aqueducts between Bradford on Avon and Bath: the first is Avoncliff and the second is Dundas.  Why does the canal swap from one side of the river to the other and then back again?  We wondered that too, but the answer seems to be that it would otherwise have to cross two deep side valleys and that might be harder.  This is the view from Dundas Aqueduct.

We have plastic ducks on the boat which get a lot of comments like 'glad to see you have all your ducks in a line'.  However ours are nothing compared with this boat!!

This is the George at Bathampton which is right beside the canal.
 We saw this float being towed behind a small narrowboat in Bath.  Now we all store all sorts of things in our sheds and lofts, but why would you keep this stuff, let alone tow it behind your boat?

On Monday afternoon we had a wander round Bath and went up the tower of Bath Abbey seen here.  The clock is on the top of the north transept .....

 .... and our tour took us behind the clock face.  A long rod connects the clock hands with the mechanism in the main tower.

This is the view north from the tower.

And here we are looking west.

And here looking down on the Roman Baths.

Pulteney Bridge crosses the Avon and has shops on each side, so it would be easy to miss that you had crossed the river.  Here is the view looking through a tea room on the bridge. You can see the river through the far window.

Bath is famous for its Georgian terraces and this is Great Pulteney Street which leads between the moorings at the top of the locks and the famous bridge.











On Tuesday we left Leo and had a day out cycling the 'Two Tunnels' cycle route.  This is just 12 miles but is the most interesting 12 mile route we've ever cycled.  Well worth doing.  Good cycle routes cross the city so that you barely meet any traffic.  Then along the river and a fairly easy climb following the route of an old railway through two tunnels.  The first is about 400 yards long but the second is over a mile in length.

This picture was taken inside Coombe Down Tunnel, the second and longer one.  In the middle there are some interesting sound and light musical features and the whole is lit with fairly subdued but adequate lighting.  It is chilly though, so take a woolly.

Through the other side an information board directed us to a cliff with some fossils.  Here you can see the fossil of a sea shell.

A well signposted return route leaves the old railway and passes this cottage where William Smith, the founder of Geology as we know it, lived.

A quiet road leads through Monkton Coombe which is a quiet village mainly comprised of a private school.  This view is of the church but there is also a pub, the Wheelwright's Arms, which we tried and was very good, if a little pricey.

The route took us along a road which was built as a canal, turned into a railway and then became a road!  It is part of the Somerset Coal Canal, the navigable part of which ends here in the picture.  It is a half mile branch from the Kennet and Avon.

The cycle route took us back to the K&A at Dundas Aqueduct from where we followed the towpath back to Leo.  On the way we detoured down to Claverton Pumping Station shown here.  This houses a waterwheel which pumps water from the river up to the canal.  Though it wasn't open to the public on Tuesday, a volunteer kindly showed us round.

I liked this ambiguous sign near the Pumping Station.  Now does it mean: "Please do not leave litter here: take it home" or does it mean: "Please do not take it home: leave litter here"?

I think we know the answer but it amused me.

It was a warm afternoon on Tuesday and quite a few people were enjoying paddling and swimming above the weir here.











You might be getting the impression that we are not moving far each day at the moment.  You would be right.  On Wednesday we simply went down the six locks at Bath that take boats off the canal onto the river.

There are two short tunnels before you get to the top of the locks.  This one passes under the original headquarters of the canal company.  The portals of the tunnels are very ornate as befits a canal which bisects the fashionable Sydney Gardens.

This is taken part way down the Widcombe flight of locks at Bath.  The flight is quite fun because it goes round tight bends between some of the locks and there are plenty of boats using it.

The penultimate lock is called 'Bath Deep Lock' and is around 20 feet deep.   When built there were two locks here, but they were amalgamated into one lock when the local roads were changed.

The deep lock is a real deep dark hole.  We shared with a hire boat.  They were first time boaters but were doing really well at navigating these difficult locks.

This view taken from the Victoria Bridge shows Leo moored by some modern flats in what proved to be a fine quiet spot.  In the afternoon Ian's sister Ruth and brother-in-law Peter came to visit and we enjoyed a walk round the city and a meal in the evening.  It was good to see them and catch up.






Yesterday (Thursday) we came down another couple of locks on the river and moored at Saltford.

Here we are approaching Kelston Lock.

It is virtually unknown for us to use our gang plank but the mooring at Saltford left us little option.  Though it is reedy and difficult to get in, the views are superb.  In the afternoon we took our Bromptons and went for quite a challenging bike ride up the hills to the north of the river.  The tracks were very rough and we were impressed with how our little bikes handled this.
This is a panorama from Penn's Hill near Newbridge on the edge of Bath.


Here you can see Helen and bikes on the top of Kelston Hill, our highest point at 218m.  The views from here are spectacular.

 With a long lens we could even see Leo moored above Saltford Lock about a mile away and far below us.

We could also see the first Severn Bridge shown here but we didn't manage to spot the newer one.

Our route out and back was along the Bath to Bristol cycle route which follows an old railway.  Part of this route is now also a real railway (beside the cycle route) - the Avon Valley Railway - and we were lucky to see a steam train.

The light in the evening was soft and glorious as this view from Leo shows.













Today we've stayed where we are and lunched at the Jolly Sailor nearby.  Going out on the Severn is dependent on getting light winds (up to Force 3) and preferably from the South or South West.  We've spoken to the pilot this morning and it now looks possible for us to go up to Sharpness on Monday or Tuesday next week.  Our fingers are tightly crossed.  The next posting on here will either be from the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal or else from us retracing our outward route along the K&A towards Reading.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Down Caen Hill and now heading for Bath

At our last posting we were moored in Devizes.  Well we spent two days there chiefly because we wanted to do the tour round Wadworth's Brewery, so we did not actually go down the Caen Hill Locks until Thursday.

One of the impressive features of the Brewery (apart from the beers we sampled on a tutored tasting) was the sign shop where most of the Wadworth pub signs are hand painted.  This one was finished by Prince Charles who apparently painted the fourth horse's hoof from the right.

Here is the sign shop with a rather unflattering picture of Lucy, our very enthusiastic and effective guide, on the right and Helen laughing on the left.


This is the grist mill (for cracking the grains of barley to make grist) manufactured in Leeds in 1938 and still in use.  Apparently the firm that made it was a victim of its own success as its machines were so reliable they never needed replacing.
And here is a vat of Harvester beer being fermented.















So last Thursday we set off down the famous Caen Hill flight of locks, going down the initial 6 and then the straight run of 16 locks to moor at the bottom.

Here is Leo just approaching the top lock at Devizes.

And this is the top lock of the main flight, next to the cafe.  At this point a wide view opens out of the plain down below the locks.  Though we were on our own in the locks we had the benefit of an accomplished volunteer, Gill, who helped us all the way down and then stayed for well earned tea and biscuits.

Caen Hill is quite a tourist attraction so you need to be prepared for being the centre of attention.

 As you come out of each lock the view ahead is amazing.

Here is Leo at the bottom of the straight flight of 16 locks.

Seen from next to the boat, this is the classic view up the locks.  Designed by John Rennie the flight is straight as an arrow up the hill.



















The locks don't end here as there are another 7 below where we spent the night.  We came down these on Friday and met our friends Pete and Sylvie who have a broadbeam boat near the bottom of these locks.  They treated us to lunch onboard their boat which was very welcome and totally unexpected.  We then carried on to Seend where another five locks drop towards Bradford on Avon.

This is Violanthe which is Pete and Sylvie's boat.  It is 'a narrow boat and a half ' wide so very roomy inside and even has a bathroom with a bath!!

The K&A has somewhat of a reputation for 'crusty' boats and this was a fine example of a residential boater with the contents of the loft and the garage on its roof.
At Seend we moored in the pound with the Barge Inn.  This is a fine pub but unfortunately that pound leaks quite a lot and was down about 18 inches by morning.  Once a boat came through the lock below we were no longer floating. Mud and rocks were visible on the sides of the canal.  So we pushed off and had breakfast while moored in the lock!!

Coming into Trowbridge an aqueduct crosses the A350.

And at the bottom of the pair of locks at Semington we passed where the Wilts and Berks canal once turned off the K&A.  Perhaps it will again be navigable one day.

At Hilperton we stopped as arranged at 'The Boatyard' run by Spencer and Victoria to have our fuel polished.  This cleans the tank and the fuel and we have had this done with a view to the passage on the tidal Severn that we are planning.  Our fuel was not in fact very dirty and this jam jar shows the small amount of muck at the bottom from the filtration process.

As well as doing this we were able get all the boat items on our shopping list at their chandlery and they sell the cheapest diesel on the canal.  So well worth patronising.


From Hilperton we had a slow journey into Bradford on Avon following a pair of boats, Ferrous pulling Susan.  Still boating is not for those in a hurry and it was a nice day.









We had a good look round Bradford yesterday afternoon.  It is similar to Bath with terraces of golden stone and an attractive riverside too.  Today (Sunday) we welcomed our son David and his girlfriend Ash on board for a short cruise to Avoncliff.

Bradford on Avon has a single lock which is one of the deepest on the canal at over 10 feet.  This is another tourist place so lots of people were watching from the road bridge as we came out of the lock.

The canal from Bradford to Bath is on a level shelf high above the River Avon and crosses the river and the railway on a couple of wonderful aqueducts.  This is the first one at Avoncliff.

This is the view from the top of Leo crossing the aqueduct looking towards the east.

Beyond the river crossing the canal crosses an aqueduct over the railway.  There is a sharp right turn onto the aqueducts and a sharp left turn to come off them.  The blue boat is waiting for us to come off the aqueducts so that it can cross.

It was a fine afternoon so we enjoyed a salad lunch on the bank watching other boats making a mess of the sharp turn.  David and Ash are between Ian and Helen at the table from Leo.

Here is John Rennie's fine architecture of the Avoncliff Aqueduct.

After David and Ash had left us we had a drink in the garden of the pub, the Cross Guns, sitting right down on the banks of the River Avon.  You can see the tables and brollies on the right of the river.

As you come off the aqueduct there is a pillbox left over from the Second World War.  Some humourist has put a couple of beer bottles in the gunsight so that it looks as if someone has binoculars trained on passing boaters.

















This is a pleasant spot to spend the night so we haven't moved on to Bath as we had intended.  Still, tomorrow is another day.  From here it is on to Bath and then Bristol before we tackle the tidal Avon and Severn if the weather is kind to us.  Fingers are tightly crossed because unless the wind is force 3 or less we won't be going.  We'll see.