Sunday, 30 July 2017

Heading West on the Kennet and Avon

Yesterday we came off  the Thames and we are now travelling up the Kennet and Avon Canal heading to the West Country.  Last Thursday though we set off from our island on the Cliveden Reach.

This is Seven Gable Cottage on the Cliveden Estate.  It featured in the Profumo Affair as the place where a lot of the sexual shennigans took place.

The river at Bourne End is unusually wide.  No need to look for a winding hole here - you can do 360s in a narrowboat with plenty of room to spare.  At this point we have just overtaken the broad beam you can see behind us.

 Here we are coming to  Marlow Lock with the church showing behind it.

Above the Lock you pass the church and under Marlow Bridge which is a suspension bridge built by the same chap, William Tierney Clark, who built the bridge over the Danube at Budapest.

The church at Bisham above Marlow is built of chalk and looks brilliant in the daylight.

Temple Lock is the next one above Marlow and, as you can see, is pretty well half way to Oxford from London.

As we waited below Hurley Lock this camping rowing boat came out.  Camping punts and rowing boats were common in past years but are now a rare sight.  The lady at the back commented that it was great fun but could be a little damp.

Medmenham Abbey was at one time the home of the Hell Fire Club and decorated  with pornographic and sacreligious paintings as background to the orgies that took place there.

From our mooring above Hambleden Lock we walked to Remenham and Aston.  Near Aston we came across a field with guinea fowl where 8 to 10 Red Kites were diving and soaring.  We wondered if this was adults teaching the young how to do this.  Left is a Kite sitting on a hen house in the field.

This is the more usual view of a Red Kite soaring with its characteristic forked tail.

We all know about the Nazi Stormtroopers 'goose stepping' on parade.  But when these Canada Geese passed our boat we could understand why it is called goose stepping!

We've had some good storms lately.  Look at the sky behind the sunlit field as seen from Leo at Hambleden.

On Friday we cruised up the river through Henley where we stopped to visit the bike shop and Sainsbury's.

As we came into Henley this platform was removing some of the posts they drive into the river bed to mark the course for the famous regatta.

Here we are approaching Henley Bridge.  The traffic on the road is nose to tail.  Do you see any other boats moving on the river?

Enough said - who needs a car?

Henley is a pretty place whether seen from the land or the water.  This view is looking back to the church, bridge and the Angel Inn right by the bridge.

At Sonning we tried to moor for free but all the places were taken.  So we finished up here and had to pay £10 for the privilege.  We've had five nights on the Thames from Weybridge to Reading.  We've paid £10 twice (at Hambleden and Sonning) and managed to moor free for the other three nights.

Sonning is a pretty place but has far too much traffic queuing for the bridge over the River.  We left Sonning on Saturday, stopping just beyond the mouth of the Kennet to visit the nearby Tesco.

Sonning bridge is delightful but can present difficulties for tall cruisers when the river is high.

Upstream of the bridge is Sonning Lock, our last on the Thames for the moment.  Here Leo is waiting below the lock.  The lock keeper here has a bad back which makes walking difficult.  His solution is to travel from one end of the lock to the other on an electric scooter!

After our Tesco shopping trip we turned round and turned off the Thames up the River Kennet which goes under the main line railway and shortly reaches Blakes Lock.

This is Blakes Lock which is actually still on Environment Agency water.  Technically the Kennet and Avon navigation begins just a little further on.

The route through Reading is narrow and the River Kennet is quite fast flowing.  Through the centre the river is one way and controlled by traffic lights.  Just like driving a car really!

Here is Leo  cruising past the many restaurants in the Oracle development.  If only boats were allowed to stop and enjoy all these retail and gourmet opportunities.  But it is all 'no mooring'.  I think the town is really missing an opportunity here.  Some towns make use of their waterways, Reading just ignores it.

 Through the centre of town you meet a small weir ahead with a lock to one side which rises all of 1 foot 1 inch.  And it was full of two narrowboats.  A fun bit of manoeuvering sorted this out by putting Leo in the lock alongside one narrowboat facing the other way.  Quite novel having two boats in a lock facing opposite ways.

Above County Lock the river flows strongly and is very bendy.  This makes navigating it somewhat tricky, especially when we met a wide beam hotel boat coming the other way.  After a mile or more the navigation bends to the right and goes up Fobney Lock.  Another boat was waiting and we had no choice but to moor alongside.

We moored just above Fobney Lock and sat out some quite heavy rain yesterday afternoon and overnight.  Today (Sunday) we've come through 9 locks which crop up every mile or less as the Kennet Valley climbs steeply into Berkshire.  Tonight we're moored at Aldermaston Wharf.

Helen took this lovely photo this morning of a Grey Heron enjoying the sunshine.

 A biplane gave us an aerial display as we approached Burghfield Lock.  Yes the plane really was upside down, I've not cheated at all with the photo.

Garston Lock is one of two remaining turf sided locks on the K&A.  A steel frame stops boats drifting onto the turf and getting stuck.

By Garston Lock is one of many pill boxes.  In the Second World War, the Kennet and Avon was a defensive line that was to be held if England had been invaded.  So there are a lot of defensive structures along the canal.

Here's what Garston Lock looks like when it fills up.  The water, as it fills, spills over onto the sloping turf sides.  This does mean it takes a lot longer to fill.

There are some odd locks on the K&A.  This is Sheffield Lock which has brick built scalloped sides.  The ends facing the boat are lined with timber.  This seems to be a development from the original turf sided locks.

 In several places a lift or swing bridge is set just before a lock so you have to set the lock then open the bridge and then drive the boat through the bridge into the lock.  This one is at Tyle Mill.  Leo is waiting for Helen to set both lock and bridge.

Towney Lock  was a problem.  At 9 feet 8 inches it is a deep one but the bottom gates would not close properly so there were plenty of leaks under and between the gates.  We had to fully open the top gate paddles which is not normally recommended.  But it did then fill up.

Aldermaston has a lift bridge with the lock just beyond.  This time there is in fact sufficient space between the bridge and the lock to fit the boat in between but this isn't always the case so you need to have a close look before you start to tackle these.

We're really enjoying the K&A, though some warmer and more sunny weather would be even better.  Moving from the wide Thames to the relatively narrow Kennet Navigation emphasises the variety in boating.  And you know that they say about variety.

In the next week or more we'll be continuing our way west on the K&A.  The plan is probably to come back the same way but our discussions lately have been turning to the possibility of then going up the tidal Severn to Sharpness from Bristol.  Not sure if we'll meet that challenge this year.  We'll see.


  1. Great blog...really informative for me as we (Very Pinook) are doing the opposite journey so you're preparing me for the licks I'm soon to encounter! We did the sharpness to bristol estuary and it was fab, we did have a pilot and I really advise this! Thanks for blogging

  2. Thanks Leigh, glad you appreciate the blog. There is a chance we might decide to take Leo from Bristol to Sharpness via the Severn. Do you have contact details for the pilot you used and how much did it cost? Many thanks Ian.