I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Sunday 1 June 2014

Crofton Pumping Station (Kennet and Avon Canal) – Thursday 29th May

We hadn’t gone quite as far as we had planned to go yesterday because of the rain so that has left us with two longer days to do.  We like the visitor’s moorings at Crofton so that was our destination.  Having had a total knee replacement three years ago I can’t get up on the lock beams of the K & A locks so Richard is having to do the locks.  I do like doing locks so let’s hope that we can find another boat to do some with so I that I can keep my hand in! 

Bruce Tunnel
After Wootton Locks we were on the summit pound of the K & A though it is only a short one and is 450ft above sea level.  Almost in the middle is The Bruce Tunnel.  We have been through it before but this time I noticed that the guides, maps and Canalplan all refer to it as the Savernake Tunnel.  Wondering why this is I discovered that it is indeed the Bruce Tunnel and is named after Thomas Brudenell-Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury (1729–1814), the local landowner, who, when the canal was being built, would not allow a deep cutting through his land, and insisted on a tunnel instead.  The tunnel was begun 1806 and finished in1809.  The tunnel inside is lined with 2 million English bond bricks from the Devizes Brick and Tile Works beside Caen Hill Locks.  John Rennie first proposed to have a longer tunnel at a lower level however it was cheaper to build more and excavate a shorter tunnel.  More locks for the boater to do but without them we wouldn’t have the iconic Crofton Pumping Station which was built to pump the water up to the higher summit pound.

Above the tunnel is the Savernake Forest therefore it is also sometimes known as the Savernake Tunnel – so now I know!!

Burbage Wharf crane (borrowed from Google)
At Burbage Wharf we saw the new replica crane.  The first replica was built in 1978 but was dismantled and removed in 2007 as it had been made from soft wood and had slowly deteriorated. The new crane was made by volunteers based at Claverton pumping station out of English oak and returned to Burbage in 2012 and is the last surviving example of seventeen cranes along the canal.  The only original piece of the crane is the two-tonne stone counterweight.  The crane was originally constructed in 1833 and was used to load and unload coal, timber, lime, bricks and other commodities at the then-busy wharf.  But by the 1950s, when commercial traffic on the canal ceased, the crane was in a state of disrepair, and many original parts were missing altogether, as metal pieces had been salvaged and melted down to help the war effort.

The Crofton Locks are a pain as they have to be left empty so each time Richard had to close a paddle, and quite often a gate as well, before he could start filling the lock.  Still I seem to remember that there are more like this towards Reading.

We arrived at the Crofton VMs just as it started to rain but fortunately it didn’t come to anything. 

Just as a by the by, Lock 60 at Crofton has a walkway along the inside of the bottom gate but it is HINGED so it can go upwards if anyone gets stuck under it!  Obviously there have been a few problems there in the past – let’s hope that this might happen in Bath too.

Muffin had to have 2 showers today.  One to wash off all the mud and then one to wash off the goose poo he had rolled in!  Richard says he smells like a girl now!

One dirty dog
Pewsey Wharf to Crofton Pumping Station
7.30 miles
10 locks

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