Friday 22nd April 2011
What a start to the 2011 season – the most wonderful weather. It’s been perfect all week and I was worried that it wouldn’t last but it has and the forecast is good until the middle of next week :-)
We left home at 8.40am and arrived at Mary H about 9.30am with Victoria who had stayed with us the night before. She had come up with Yoyo and we have left her at Somersfield alone with James feeding her – I hope she will be OK! Millie, of course, is with us – I wasn’t sure how she would adapt again after a winter at home but she made herself at home straight away :-) We set off about 10ish and through the first lock and that was about the only lock we did on our own. We had anticipated queues at the locks but in fact it was pretty quiet. We doubled up with a couple at Newbury town lock and we stayed with them until just below Hamstead Lock where they were staying for the Easter weekend. We moored just above the lock for lunch and were about to set off when we saw the horse drawn trip boat coming towards us, I was worried about my plants on the roof but in the end it was the chimney that came off with the tow rope and fell in the canal! The guys that operate the boat must be used to that sort of thing as one of them soon hopped onto our boat with his seasearcher magnet and managed to hook first the cap and then the chimney out of the water!! At that stage another boat came past and we joined up with them through the locks to Hungerford where we moored up for the night.
We had planned a BBQ but weren’t able to have one as we were right on the town towpath so Victoria and I went and got a lovely Chinese take-away. After dinner Richard and I went for a walk and came across Knackered Navvy who we had gone down the Caen Hill flight with last year and had a long chat with them about how their winter onboard had been.
We were very caught up in the Devizes to Westminster canoe/kayak race today. These people are plain mad!! They paddle 125 miles and get out at each lock and carry their boat to the other side – 77 times!!!!! The people we saw today were the “fun-runners” and are doing it over 4 days – camping at Newbury, Marlow and Teddington. Tomorrow’s paddlers are even madder as they will do the race in 24 hours!
Saturday 23rd April
Victoria and I went into Hungerford to do some shopping and then we set off with Daisy Chain, the boat from yesterday. Again it the canal has been very quiet – it’s really strange. Steve and Diane (Daisy Chain) don’t usually stop for lunch so we made some nice sandwiches made with nice fresh bread that we had bought in Hungerford. We stopped at Great Bedwyn to fill up with water and empty the toilet then motored on. We wanted to make Crofton which we did and managed to get the last two mooring places. We were barbecuing as were Steve and Diane so we set up our barbecues by the lock and had a party! It got a little chilly about 9pm but we put on our fleeces and stuck it out!
Today’s paddlers are plain insane bearing in mind it has been about 250 – goodness knows how they will survive. They set off from Devizes and then paddle non-stop to Westminster – which means going through the night. This race is one of strategy as they have to complete it in less than 24 hours so have to work out how long it will take them to get to Teddington to catch the tide. Each crew of 2 have a support team to give them fresh water and jelly babies – well I guess they have more than that but there were lots of plastic boxes around with jelly babies in. We all had great admiration for them as even going round the locks they were running! However they were a pain as they were using the lock stopping areas to get in and out which meant we couldn’t stop.
Sunday 24th April
We were treated this morning to bacon sandwiches made by Victoria – a real indulgence!! We set off up the Crofton flight but had a problem at the top as one of the paddles on the lower gate wouldn’t shut. Steve thumped it with a pole and fiddled around under the water and managed to free whatever was blocking it. After the Crofton flight we went through Bruce Tunnel and then down four more locks and into the Long Pound – no more locks – yippee!! Its been really hard work doing 35 locks in the heat but at least there have been three of us and my knee has stood up to it all really well :-) We had hoped to stop at Wide Water for the evening but it was packed with really tatty live-aboards – a great shame. We went on a bit further and managed to find a nice spot to moor up with the night.
We barbecued again but Steve and Diane did their own thing but we all sat on the towpath later on with a glass (or two) of wine until it got really chilly about 10pm. Millie decided to join us and even went onto Daisy Chain and was prepared to make herself comfy until she found their cat!
This evening I checked the results for the Devizes to Westminster race. The fastest person did it in 18 hours and 8 minutes!! About a third of the starters retired – not surprising really. The “fun-runners” were all at Teddington for the night and I guess will be off on the tide tomorrow.
Monday 25th April
Another sunny day but not quite so warm. Victoria got a little burnt yesterday – she had been so careful with sun cream on Friday and Saturday but it didn’t seem so hot yesterday - it obviously was. We set off for the last few miles into Devizes. It’s quite a boring part of the canal and overgrown so Victoria and I stayed below and read. I was a bit worried about whether or not there would be any space in Devizes but we were very surprised to see only a few boats tied up.
Victoria cooked us a very nice lunch of bacon and cheese pittas and then she and I walked into town and Sainsburys. We left Richard polishing the side of the boat. We got a taxi back to the top lock where Richard met us to help cart all the shopping back to the boat. We had fajitas for dinner and then sat on the towpath with Steve and Diane.
We decided tonight not to go back to Newbury but to go on to Bath!! I was really surprised that I felt rather unnerved about such a late change in plans – I guess that must be the organiser in me! There is a boat next to us going down the flight tomorrow so we will set off with them about 10am.
Tuesday 26th April
We were all up very early as Victoria’s bus back to Newbury left at 8.05am! Still it was a good idea as while I was showering we ran completely out of water! We had our breakfast and reversed back to the wharf to get water and get rid of rubbish. I made some sandwiches ready for the trip down the flight – very organised!!
We went back to the top of the lock and said goodbye to Steve and Diane and set off. Richard was doing the locks and I was steering. Just as we were going into the third (of 29) lock my phone went and it was the hospital to say that they had a cancellation for next Wednesday! I said I couldn’t really answer just at that point and could she please ring back. We decided that I really should go for it so we went through the lock, turned round and went back up to the top!! Thank goodness they rang when they did and not when we had just got to the bottom! When the hospital rang back I was told that I need to go to a pre-op assessment tomorrow at 9am!!! After a load of phone calls it was arranged that Victoria would come back to Devizes in Richard’s car and take me back to Somersfield and then down to the hospital tomorrow morning.
When we got back to Devizes Wharf Steve and Diane were very surprised to see us! They were heading up towards Pewsey but said that they would wait there for us tomorrow.
Richard and I went for a walk into Devizes and to see the Wadworth horses. I’m sure there were four of them last year but there are only three there now. They didn’t really want to know us as they had just been fed :-( Richard spent the rest of the afternoon polishing the other side of the boat – she looks so shiny now. I cooked a chilli which we ate before Victoria arrived to pick me up.
Wednesday 27th April
Victoria and I managed to get to the hospital by 9am and the complete pre-op assessment took 2 hours – longer than the operation will take! Victoria took me home then went off. I spent the afternoon watering the garden whilst waiting for Richard’s son, James, to come and take me back to Mary H.
Richard had spent the morning finishing the polishing and then he set off for Pewsey – he arrived about 20 minutes before James and I did!
We decided to go to the pub for dinner. We went to the French Horn last September and I had been once before with my sister and brother-in-law four years ago. Steve and Diane joined us and we had an excellent meal. The chef and landlord is a young Australian guy who had just arrived when we visited four years ago – the menu includes kangaroo and ostrich as well as all the usual favourites. I must say we think its one of the best canalside pubs we have been to.
Thursday 28th April
Oh boy it was cold last night! I was worried about my plants as I hadn’t covered them up but they seemed fine this morning and I noticed that the petunias have flowers on them already! We left Pewsey at 10am – there were 2 wide beam hire boats moored in front of us and we wanted to get away before they did and managed it by the skin of our teeth! I am not going to do any locks on the way back as I can’t risk getting any cuts or grazes as they won’t do the op if I have any.
We did 10 locks before we reached Crofton, our mooring for the night. It was a very windy journey and I struggled to keep the boat from being blown into the side. Manoeuvering the boat at the locks was even more difficult! We arrived at Crofton about 2pm, had some lunch then Richard rubbed down and prepared the gunnel for painting – he had already done the other side earlier this year. We went for a short walk and settled down for a quiet evening. I managed to get the TV sound going through my new Bose SoundDock which was unbelievably better than the tinny sound before!
Friday 29th April – Royal Wedding Day
Royal Wedding Day! The TV went on at 7.45 am and wasn’t switched off until after William and Kate appeared on the balcony. It was a lovely day and I did shed a few tears. Steve and Diane came in to watch the actual wedding – it was nice to have the company. Kate looked absolutely lovely and the whole event was a delight. I’m so glad I managed to sort the sound out – we had the music from the Abbey going full blast! Steve and Diane came back in to watch the appearance on the balcony and we shared a bottle of bubbly to toast the happy couple.
We set off about 1.45pm not really sure where we were headed! Most of the locks were with us – they should have all been left empty but they weren’t! We stopped about 4.30pm at Froxfield middle lock. It is usually very full here with liveaboards but they all seem to have moved on and there was only one boat moored up.
We sat on the towpath and had a drink with Steve and Diane then I cooked a meal and we settled down to watch the re-run of the wedding!
Saturday 30th April
We set off at 10am to Hungerford – it was only about a 2 hour journey. We went into town for some shopping and a pint at the pub (I think Steve is a bad influence on Richard!!). After lunch we motored on to Kintbury, again not a long trip. The sun came out this afternoon and it was quite warm again – lovely!!
In the evening we went to the Blue Ball in Kintbury to have a pizza – in fact only Steve had a pizza in the end the rest of us trying steak done in a pizza oven! I thought the outside was a bit crisp but Richard enjoyed his.
Sunday 1st May
Another 10am start and 9 locks to home. Unfortunately there was a boat in front of us which meant that every lock was against us – added to that there quite a few boats coming up so we had to wait quite a while at each lock.
As we got to Greenham Lock we bade a fond farewell to Steve and Diane. They live in Greenham Lock Marina which is next door to Ham Manor. We had both really enjoyed their company and have arranged for them to come up for a BBQ sometime. It’s a shame though that we won’t get to cruise with them again as they will be staying on the K & A for the foreseeable future and of course we are off on our travels again once I have recuperated.
Statistics. 10 days, 71 miles and 78 locks. Of course we had our aborted descent of the Caen Hill Flight which added on another mile and 6 locks.