Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Friday, 24 September 2010

Enjoying our last full day on the Kennet & Avon - rats!

Due to a couple of 'beaching' disasters yesterday, we only got as far as Tottenham Hale late last night.  So with Freddie and Tom on board, we left the delights (few and far between!) of that London suburb this morning and are heading to find a 'safe' mooring in central London.  With a bit of luck we'll get near to St Pancras Station, ready for our next round of visitors tomorrow - my daughters Lisa and Kim, and Barry's daughter Jamie ...

Wednesday 8 September

Due to the lock closure, we didn't set off until after 1100hrs as there was no point in arriving at Aldermaston before the lock opened at 1600hrs.  Barry was thrilled to find a shop in Newbury selling home-brew to make some more beer, so the morning wasn't wasted!

It was an unpromising start weather-wise, but happily it turned out fine once again with enough heat in the sun to match a warm summer's day. 


 Newbury Lock with its strange configuration of wooden beams 



















 An amazing variety of locks along this section

Just outside Newbury we met a hire boat with a family of Kiwi's from north of Auckland, who were on the canal for a week's holiday.  Although we've enjoyed this canal, the stretch they were doing probably isn't the most idyllic for a week's cruise due to the endless and difficult locks, so we hope they get a positive impression of the system.


At Monkey Marsh we found a man sitting on the gate ready to help boaters through, bless him

We then shared a few locks with NB Odin, whose crew kept telling us they were novices, as they'd won a day on the boat as part of a church raffle.  They were very friendly people, and we discovered that bizarrely one of them had a cousin who'd lived in Gisborne for many years working as a doctor, and also brother living north of Auckland - what a small world it is!

P1350126A Stiff swing bridges keep the muscles stretched

By the time we got to Lock 95 just after 1600hrs, there was another boat coming up so we had a short wait for them.  We were then stuck in the pound for half an hour as you're not allowed to open the swing bridge until after the rush hour at 1730hrs!  There were another couple of boats below the bridge who'd had to wait as they'd just missed the slot, but they were kind enough to open the bridge for us - so the poor traffic was building up by the time they would've shut it after them!










 P1350149A Aldermaston Lock - splendid scalloped edges, aesthetically pleasing but not terribly practical! 











We had a holdup here till the 'rush hour' finished at 1730hrs - very different to the 'rush five minutes' in Gisborne!

P1350173 Oh dear! Sandra accidentally broke a piece of wood off the old lock gate 











There are some pretty fierce top paddles on some of the locks - it's not a good idea to open them up this wide too quickly when your boat's in the lock

On a completely unrelated note, I've finally decided to complain about my new glasses while we're in Reading - if we have time.  The whole purchase has been a disaster from buying them in Banbury to collecting them in Oxford - I detest the varifocal lenses, which could possibly be because I didn't pay the extra £80 on top of the £256 I'd already spent, for 'anti-glare' or the 'reactions'.  I keep trying to wear them, but they're just hopeless.  I can't see any clearer than I can without them, so also wonder if the prescription is incorrect - but maybe I just can't do the varying long or short sight thing?  The frames were chosen in a rush too, and I'm not keen on them.  The sunglasses seem OK, but I do look a little daft wearing them on cloudy, rainy days that are still bright!  Specsavers state on their website to have a 'no quibble, no fuss guarantee that if you're not happy within three months of purchase they'll exchange' - so we'll see!  In exasperation I even tried my old glasses today, but they're just as hopeless due to the scratches on them!  Can Specsavers redeem themselves I wonder ...

Message to self - don't be rushed into making decisions that you don't want to make by Saturday staff in opticians who've been trained to push punters through like a cattle market production line!!  I've discovered it's a dilemma to buy such vital things when you're living on a boat and travelling to different places on a timescale; I may have to put it down to a very expensive experience!


A tranquil scene late in the balmy afternoon

We continued as long as we could in daylight, but by the time we'd used the facilities at Tyle Mill Lock, dusk had fallen.  While going to put a bag of rubbish into one of the skips I opened the lid to find three pairs of eyes staring back at me - it took me a few seconds to realise they belonged to large rats - aargh!  I screamed and dropped the lid, with a sick feeling in my stomach knowing I'd have to open another one to deposit the bin bag.  Luckily the next one had nothing living inside as far as I could tell, so I threw the bag in and ran away - gross!

We leave Kennet & Avon canal tomorrow, having been on it since Sunday 8 August.  We've loved every moment (well apart from the broken toilet incident, but that's not the canal's fault!).  Before we arrived we thought it'd be rather tedious to do the same journey twice, but have found it great to return and visit places we missed the first time, know where we're going, where the shops and some pubs are (sadly we're not frequenting them very often - too little money available in the time we have left!), and where the best mooring places are. 

We've also been fortunate to meet many wonderful people along the way, and caught up with some family and friends:

  • Jon and crew on NB Guelrose from Reading to Hungerford;
  • My sister Linda in Newbury, and then with her husband Dave from Devizes to Pewsey on our return;
  • Dave, Elaine and family from Newbury to Hungerford on Widebeam Rebecca;
  • Debs and Pete on NB Lorna Doone from Crofton to Pewsey, and their friend Toby;
  • My friend Jenny and her partner John from Pewsey to Devizes;
  • Finally meeting Sue and Vic on NB No Problem;
  • Barry's friends Dick and Sandra who joined us for five days from Devizes to Bath;
  • Barry's daughter Jamie who came for the weekend from Bath to Bristol
  • David, who we shared locks with when he was on a hire boat last year in Manchester, who we caught up with for an evening in Bath;
  • Blog reader Brian and his crew on NB Nancy Anne who Barry met in Bath and we shared their company for an evening at the pub in Devizes;
  • The crew of 'Canal Cuttings' on NB Maid of the Mist who we shared Caen Hill flight with; and finally
  • Many other boaters who we've chatted to along the way, children we've 'kidnapped' for rides on the boat, and people we've shared locks with who are too numerous to mention!

The other joyous things for me have been the abundance of wildlife; the incredible variety of locks, swing/lift bridges and aqueducts; so many villages, towns and cities close to the canal and embracing their waterway as an attraction not something to be ignored; and of course the wonder of mooring so close to Pultney Bridge in Bath and being in the 'Floating Harbour' at Bristol - awesome!


Pretty pink dahlias


  1. Ah ha!

    A little tip for you which is two fold.. as you get to the bins, kick them!

    1. This will scamper any pesky rats to the bottom

    2. Also tell you if the bin is empty or full depending on the thudding sound of your boot!


  2. Hi Sandra, Good to see your'e still managing to find the time to blog!!! with all the visitors.... My partner also had the £300 odd varifocals from specsavers and perservered for 3 months!! as they suggested each time he went back to say he couldn't get on with them, couldn't see clearly and thought the same as you the precription was wrong, but after 3 months they were returned and refunded in full and a normal pair of reading lenses replaced in the pair, so please don't worry, what you say all seems normal but they certainly weren't for me even after 3 months of trying! Be interesting to see if you do get used to them after a while? Keep up the great blog!