Oh my goodness! What an outpouring of comments we received after my ramblings on Saturday's blog - thank you to everyone who sent us positive feedback, it's really good to know our time and trouble is appreciated and that our writing and photos bring you some pleasure; we're overwhelmed and very humbled.
We usually don't post at the end of each day's travels (unless it's regarding the previous day's adventures) because we take a our time over each entry until we're happy with it, and when we have visitors (which are wonderful) we get even more behind - but we're determined to keep it up, at least until we have to sell the boat and return to NZ at the end of October. Having said that, we're being deluged by visitors over the next few weeks so apologies in advance if posts are slow - we'll be entertaining and being entertained!
We also had a link sent by Tony, one of our readers from USA, for the Dutch Barge we moored in front of at Mapledurham last Friday night - Libertijn - and Mike from 'NB Guelrose' kindly informed us it's one of many such vessels making its way to the IWA festival at Beale Park on the August Bank Holiday weekend. It's palatial inside - seriously, check out the marble bath - quite unnerving to have such opulence in comparison to narrowboats, and I seriously wouldn't want to negotiate the British waterways on it (even the Thames). I'm sure it's fabulous on the European wide canals though, and every one has different preferences (and vitally finances available!) - it would be a boring world if we were all had similar tastes and bank balances!
We left our rural mooring fairly early on Monday at around 1030hrs, and fortuitously Jon and his crew (he'd had a changeover so new folks on board) arrived as we entered the first lock - it was excellent to have another boat to share the work with and great to have the camaraderie.
Lots of widebeam boats on the Kennet and Avon as it's a broad canal
Even Jon's 70ft boat is dwarfed in this monster lock
Many hands make light work!
The turf-sided lock at Monkey Marsh
Due to the lack of rainfall in England this year, we'd heard that parts of the canal are precariously low and soon experienced a problem where the weir was taking water out unnecessarily. A passing boat warned us to be careful as the water level between Old Heale's and Midgham locks was dangerously low. Arriving at the first lock a boat was waiting to come down (having emptied the pound despite us being in sight coming up which we thought rather silly in the circumstances!), and said another narrowboat was stuck on the bottom a little further up so they were waiting for them.
This appeared to be the problem - an overflowing weir
Things progressed slowly but we eventfully got through the lock. However, on reaching Cranwell's Swing Bridge we came upon two hotel boats, one pulling the other, who'd become 'beached' on the muddy canal bottom. This meant we had to float around behind Jon who'd sent his wife Chloe and other crew to walk to the next lock to let more water in.
The hotel boats managed to extricate themselves and a short time later Jon found his stern wedged on the canal bed - he tried to winch himself out with his big stick (barge pole to those in the know!) but overbalanced, slipped on the matting at the stern and went in with a 'SPLASH' - shame! We've managed to avoid such a calamity to date - but there's always time! Jon's friend's camera had unfortunately run out of batteries, luckily Barry was there at the ready - didn't quite get the actual falling in though ...
One of Jon's crew gets a photo of the hotel boats passing - Jon successfully de-wedges himself this time ...
Not the cleanest water to be drenched in - but Jon was a great sport about his mishap!
is was a 'True Story' - looks more like a disaster
It was another sunny day which helped to keep spirits up despite the challenges - besides it's all part of the fun of being on the canals.
I had a long walk to Ham Lock, not far from Newbury, while Guelrose and crew got a bit left behind closing the swing bridge and removing an abundance of matter from their prop. As I arrived at the lock Barry was helping a hire boat coming down, so I stayed inside the boat writing the blog. Some time later I wondered why they hadn't opened the gates yet and found them still descending. I thought it must've been terribly slow to empty - Barry later relayed what had happened:
The man in charge (I use that term a little loosely bless him!) had tied up the stern rope to a bollard while Barry and one of the boys had opened the paddles. As water was gushing out of the lock the boat was descending accordingly - well apart from the back end that is! Fortunately Barry suddenly realised what was happening as he saw the boat leaning sidewards with its back end raised, frantically closed his paddle and shouted to the boy across the lock gate to do the same, then ran rapidly to the other end to let some water back in! Luckily he was in time to rescue the boat from catastrophe - I wondered why the man was sweating so badly when I passed him as I entered the lock and he told me Barry had saved the day! What a hero husband I have :-)
Geulrose caught us up and we continued onto Newbury where they carried on and we moored up to have a look around. As we were mooching around the town the rain started - and it set in for the next 24 hours! We had a quiet night in and I suddenly realised that we weren't far away from my sister Linda, who'd never been to the boat, so gave her a call and as luck would have it, she had a day off work on Tuesday so we arranged for her to come to see us.
A pleasant spot to dine The 'Lock, Stock and Barrel', Newbury Lock
St Nicholas Church - built in the 15th century at the height of Newbury's prosperity as a wool town
West Mills - lots of moorings adjacent to these pretty pink stone cottages - they look as though they've subsided!
The rear view of the church, and on the right the Town Hall?
Newbury Wharf area, where we moved along on Monday night and moored by the park
On Tuesday morning I received a text from Sarah in Oxford to say she'd just purchased a copy of September's 'Canal Boat' magazine from WH Smiths. We've been eagerly anticipating its publication so I ventured back into town and bought a couple of copies - one to send to New Zealand. Nick Hall has done a wonderful job - he took the copy I'd originally submitted for the 'Me and my Boat' feature, then came and interviewed us when he decided that he wanted to make more of our story, collected a CD of Barry's photo's that we'd sent, and put it all together to make a vivid account of our journeys which brought tears to my eyes - excellent article Nick, thank you, it really captured our essence/joie de vivre.
Around lunchtime, my sister Linda travelled up from Southampton with her two dogs, despite the persistent rain bless her. Such a shame that the weather was awful the whole day, but we did get a walk and had a spot of lunch at the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust (Newbury Branch) tea rooms, which are in a stone building previously a stone granary, and run by some very efficient and friendly people.
Linda and I had a bit of a girlie time and strolled into town, leaving Barry to babysit the dogs on the boat - he had a day off taking photos, must've been the driving rain - the only two were taken by Sandra!
Not sure who looks more apprehensive about this dog sitting thing?
Teidi and Alfie get their just rewards for putting up with Barry for an hour
Later in the evening the rain abated so I walked to Tesco's for some groceries and discovered 2kg bags of sugar on special (needed for the home brew!). So I phoned Barry to suggest that if he wanted 6kg of said sugar he'd best come and carry it, which he duly did. Returning to the boat I heard two smashes, looked round to find two jars of curry on the ground, then the sound of boys laughing as they watched the events from the bridge (cheeky buggers!), and realised they'd fallen from the backpack that Barry hadn't closed! What a shame, the jars had also been on offer, two for 3 pounds, so in the end I didn't save anything on the sugar after all. To top it all I was so worked up after having to use the 'self-service' checkouts with a trolley-full of goods (why do they do that? I worked as a checkout operator when I was 17, I don't wish to do it at 50 thank you very much!) that I'd foolishly abandoned my trolley at the checkouts and only realised when we'd got back to the boat that I hadn't collected my pound!
We had to see the funny side though - but sorry, no photos of the events as Barry hadn't taken his camera out all day - must've decided he needed a day off!