We continue our journey along the Kennet and Avon Navigation travelling from Hungerford to Devizes.
Saturday 29th April
Hungerford to Great Bedwyn
A little over 4 miles covered today but another 9 locks and 2 swing bridges. This included another lock with a swing bridge over the top of it. This is one of only two places that have this. The other one is at Fenny Stratford on the Grand Union which we did a few weeks ago. This time though, someone wanted to make the crossing, so we swung the bridge back for them.
Along the way another boater passed us and we then discovered that he had left the gates open and the paddles up on every lock. Pure laziness, especially when water levels are so low.
The moorings at Great Bedwyn were busy but we managed to squeeze in to the last spot. We have usually arrived at moorings in the middle of the day and found them quiet but today almost everyone was having a day off. Tomorrow was our turn.
2 swing bridges
Sunday 30th April
With rain forecast in the afternoon, there was an early exodus of boats. By 8am four boats had set off leaving just one other boat.
Our plan was to go for a walk. I have just renewed my subscription to Walking World which gives access to over 7000 downloadable walks, mainly in the UK, for £18 per year. Walks can be printed, saved as a PDF document or downloaded to a GPS or mobile phone. I prefer to download them to my phone as a PDF file, as this gives full directions as well as a photograph of relevant way points. It also uses less battery on the phone.
The walk was a very pleasant 5 mile route taking in Crofton pumping station, Wilton windmill and local woodland.
After the walk I sat down to complete my month end paperwork. This being our first full month away I wanted to check how our spending compared to my budget. Happily we have come in well within the estimate I calculated before we set off.
As for the rain forecast in the afternoon, well it finally turned up during the evening.
Monday 1st May
Great Bedwyn to Wooton Rivers
Today it was our turn to set off early. Our first stop though was only about 50 meters away at the water point. At our first lock of the day we encountered a problem. All was going well until we came to leave the lock, when we were unable to lower the top paddle. We were unable to work out what the problem was and as it was a bank holiday there was no one at the CRT office to report the issue to. We ended up leaving a note for other boaters and hoped one of them could fix the paddle.
A few locks further along at Crofton we saw a CRT van, so we were able to let him know about the problem.
The end of the flight of locks at Crofton brought us to the high point of the navigation.From now on it was down hill all the way to Bath. First though we had the 501 yard Bruce Tunnel to pass through. It’s always good to arrive at a tunnel and find you have it to yourself. No need to pass another boat in the dark confines.
After about 2 miles of lock free boating we came to our first down lock. After the hard work of keeping the boat under control when ascending, going down was a delight. I didn’t even need to use a centre rope.
Having seen only a couple of boats so far we were surprised to see a queue at the next lock. We discovered that this lock had also been causing a problem and a boat had been stuck in it for a while. CRT had been in attendance and got everyone going again, though with only one working paddle on the bottom gate.
After getting through the lock we now had just one more lock to go before the overnight moorings. I had a quick check and saw that the moorings were all full with the boats that had passed through ahead of us.
Fortunately there was a good stretch of piled banking just behind us, with several boats already moored. The decision was made to reverse back a hundred yards and stop there instead. I’m getting better at reversing and the manoeuvre went ok. The thing I struggle with is how long it takes the boat to go from reverse to stopping and then to go forward. It’s very easy for all my good work to be lost at this point.
Wooton Rivers has more than its fair share of thatched houses and even its own thatcher. The church has the phrase ‘glory be to god’ instead of numbers on the clock dial.
Tuesday 2nd May
Wooton Rivers to All Cannings
An easy day today, with the only two locks being in the village. After this it was a very enjoyable run past Pewsey and on to All Canning all under blue skies. The only delays were squeezing past some dredging work and waiting for a wide beam to crawl past a long line of moored boats.
With woodland eventually opening up to give open views of the Marlborough Downs and distant Salibury Plain it was a delight to travel the route. I think that this has been the best days scenery of the trip so far.
Having past the moorings at Honey Street, where there was just one boat moored, we were surprised to find the All Cannings moorings nearly full in the middle of the day.
The only minus to this lovely spot are the low flying military helicopters and planes flying over. It’s like being back at work.
Wednesday 3rd May
All Cannings to Devizes
The wind suddenly built up last night and was still blowing this morning. This all meant that it was a chilly trip to Devizes. We continued along the 15 mile lock free Long Pound, stopping only for a couple of swing bridges.
We are getting in to the area of long term moored boats. I would say that about 10% didn’t have an up to date licence on display. Once we get beyond Caen Hill the concentration of boats builds up to a much higher level.
We arrived at Devizes about 11am and found that there were only a handful of places left on the 72 hour moorings. Happily there was a Tumbleweed sized gap for us. Three more boats arrived within the hour and just one left. Two of the boats managed to moor but the other boat was too long to fit in the remaining gap.
After only two locks in the last two days, it’s all change tomorrow as we have 29 locks to go down, in just over 2 miles. We have already arranged to share the locks with a New Zealand couple on their hire boat. They have already been up the flight on their 2 week trip, so are up to speed.
Only two boats have passed us having completed the flight and when we walked it in the afternoon, there were no boats at all on the move.
2 swing bridges
19 swing/lift bridges