Monday 30 August
I woke up unusually early on almost the last day of the British summer, around 0645hrs, and peeking through the curtains saw a glorious light and mist on the canal so had no choice but to give Barry a shake and suggest he took a look. He groaned, knowing there was no way that he could resist putting some clothes on and jumping off the boat to capture the surreal scene ...
An eerie light embraces the water
We commenced our big day around 1000hrs, which is terribly prompt for us to begin - seeing a boat ahead starting out we thought we'd untie quickly, hoping to share some (or all) of the day's 34 locks with them. We passed through three swingbridges together, overtaking each other as we went, but when they arrived first at Seend Bottom Lock, there was another boat there waiting to go up - dash it! So we lost our temporary partner and waited the obligatory 20 minutes for another boat (to save water), and then began the first of our locks alone. Fortuitously at the next lock another boat emerged from a mooring heading to Foxhangers to return their boat, so we were able to share a couple with them ...
A magnificent sunny day for an August Bank Holiday Monday - wicked!
Passing 'The Barge Inn' again - very picturesque but apparently a restaurant chain place rather than a 'proper' pub
The dogs were having a great day on the towpath!
Before you get to the main Caen Hill flight, there's seven locks in quick succession to negotiate, and these we did alone. So we weren't confident of having anyone with us for the long haul - then I noticed 'NB The Cat's Whiskers' coming down one of the locks - Jill had posted a lovely comment on our blog a couple of weeks before and said we may cross paths. They were returning to their mooring after a holiday - great to meet you Jill! She said that they'd just passed a single boat going up, and if we were quick we may catch up with them ...
Locks as far as the eye can see - but still not at Caen Hill yet ...
Jill and Sandra (with a silly smile on her face) ...
and John from NB The Cat's Whiskers
Arriving shortly afterwards at the Caen Hill Flight, there was no sign of the single boat, but when we reached the third lock up, NB The Maid of the Mist was waiting for us - how lovely of them! Unfortunately I didn't introduce myself properly, despite chatting to the man in charge for a few locks before handing over to Barry, but we did have a very interesting conversation about his website 'Canal Cuttings'. It's a type of on-line canal magazine, but with a vast range of associated pages giving information on holidays here and abroad, where you can go for free in places around the UK, boats and canal cottages for sale, etc. From the Google ads on their pages, it provides them with a modest income to supplement their retirement - good on you both, fabulous to meet you and thank you for waiting for us.
It was another gorgeous blue sky day, starting out cool at first but then the temperature rose considerably - as you can see I had to keep changing clothes! We'd worried that it may be busy on the flight on a Bank Holiday Monday, but there weren't too many boats, just lots of gongoozlers enjoying the spectacular scenery.
Once again we picked up a couple of children on the way, this time it was Ellie-May and Tyler's turn for a treat - and boy they got their money's worth bless them. There was also Ruby the dog and their lovely parents, but sadly once again we didn't get their names - sorry! They'd come up from Southampton for the day and ascended most of the locks with Barry, while I watched nervously from the side-lines, and their dad helped with the locks.
Towards the top of the flight, both kids helped to steer the boats - in fact the lovely man from 'Maid of the Mist' suggested that as Tyler was twice as old as Ellie-May, he should be twice as good, but felt that really she was the best - not that he was at all biased! What fun they had, it was awesome to see them enjoying the waterways and we suspect they'll be badgering their parents for a canal holiday at some point in the future.
Sandra did some of the driving and chatting A soulful swan along the way
A synchronised entrance to the lock - no worries!
Tyler and Ellie-May having a ball ...
At the top of the flight there were two boats coming down - a magnificent changeover occurred with no bumping at all - marvellous!
Thank you Tyler and Ellie-May for all your hard work and most enjoyable company up the flight - we had such a fun time.
Half way up I got chatting to a man who asked if we were hoping to refresh ourselves at the top of the locks - of course I knew he meant The Black Horse pub where Dick and Sandra had got off the bus a couple of week sago. He told me that sadly the pub had burnt down last Saturday and was in ruins. What a pity, it was packed with people on our way up, and appeared to be a very vibrant place, I hope they were well insured.
The burnt out remains of 'The Black Horse'
At almost our final lock of the day I was sitting happily resting on the lock gate when I heard a familiar voice - it was Sue from NB No Problem! I'd emailed her a couple of days ago to say we were on our way up and hadn't heard back, but she'd been waiting for us.
We moored up in Devizes, shortly after the final lock, behind Maid of the Mist. Who should be up ahead but Brian and crew on NB Nancy-Ann! Sue invited us aboard, but much as we'd have loved to have a night on board No Problem, we also wanted to catch up with Brian and crew so Barry suggested a night at the pub as it'd be rather congested with at least seven people on any narrowboat. We invited our companions of the afternoon on Maid of the Mist, but they understandably declined being exhausted after such a long day.
We tottered over to a pub across the road called 'The Artichoke', recommended by Sue and Vic, and it was indeed a most friendly hostelry. After a very chatty and laughter-filled few hours, we returned to the canal around 2230hrs - Brian was the only one brave enough to come back to the boat for a spot of Barry's infamous home brew. Luckily it didn't turn into a big session though, but it was a delightful evening, cheers everyone!
What a fantastic day on the waterway, we're so incredibly lucky - magic moments galore.