There and Back Again

Ancient and modern – passing a horsedrawn boat at Copse Lock

The paucity of blog posts recently in no way reflects our disappointment with the Kennet and Avon Canal. Even though it’s a bit challenging to moor in many places, it has lovely fluffy banks harbouring reed buntings and interesting places to visit. We really rather like it. We’ve had the opportunity to go home for a couple of days, and had lots of visitors on the boat.

Sometimes you have to do more than a little gardening to moor your boat

It really feels like coming home. Bradford-on-Avon, Bath, Devizes, Trowbridge; these are all places very familiar to us from work and leisure. We used to drive to Bradford-on-Avon on weekends and bank holidays to gongoozle and dream long before we were lucky enough to have Beau Romer. We’ve hired boats from there twice and one year when a week on a narrowboat wasn’t possible due to time constraints, we managed to squeeze in a day hire with most of the family for my birthday.

April 2014, Martyn’s first canal boat holiday on the Kennet and Avon. He’s still wearing that sweatshirt – see the previous photo!

Enough reminiscing. Now we’ve been down the Caen Hill flight and back up it again we’ve completed all seven Wonders of the Waterways in this boat. We aren’t interested in the IWA Silver Propeller award, although we’ve now visited several of its required locations, the Seven Wonders was something I had my eye on from the start.

Descending Caen Hill

If you ever find yourselves in Devizes early on a Friday evening, take yourself to Wadworth’s Brewery Tap, where the beer is superb, the welcome friendly, and they even have a pizza van that turns up outside to keep you there for just one more pint.

There’s no better place to enjoy a good pint than in a brewery

One slight disappointment was we didn’t make it to Bristol, although we did get down onto the River Avon. I phoned the lock keeper at Hanham Lock to get all the information on mooring in Bristol Floating Harbour only to find out it was going to cost £51 to stay there for one night. The cost of a mooring in a marina is usually no more than £20 and we’re miserly so Bath was as far as we got.

The views from the roof of Bath Abbey’s bell tower are awesome

We spent a good few days in Bath. It felt like we were on holiday there. Martyn and I climbed to the roof of Bath Abbey, enjoying the views and the history in equal measure. Lianna, Dan and Rowan came to visit and helped us up the locks from the River.

Bath Deep Lock is 19’5″ deep, and the second deepest lock in the country. (Tuel Lane on the Rochdale Canal is the deepest at 19’8.5″. We did that in 2021)

We like the West End between Devizes and Bath so much that we went up and down it twice. We had Becky from America visiting and it seemed such a shame not to do some proper touristing, so there’s been a lot of eating, drinking and fun.

It was in the unlikely setting of Bath’s Guildhall Indoor Market I had possibly the best cocktail ever – a marmalade martini.

On the return trip we girls went to the Thermae Bath Spa and after a couple of hours floating around in the warm Bath water, I thoroughly recommend it.

The beautiful Warleigh Weir at Claverton, complete with wild swimmers

It wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t find out something obscure to tell you. We were having a stroll around Bathampton one evening when I happened on a plaque on the side of a building. After Wiliam Harbutt invented Plasticine in 1897, until 1983 the factory that made it was sited there. What a shame Wallace and Gromit weren’t from Bath instead of Yorkshire!

William Harbutt looks rather friendly, don’t you think?

Caen Hill is made up of 29 locks, the Lower Seven, or Foxhangers Locks, the main hill of 16, and the 6 Devizes Locks at the top. There are wonderful volunteer lock keepers who help with the 16, but you’re on your own for the rest. On the way down with Penny and Andrew as a pair we did all 29 in one day. I’m not in a hurry to repeat that. On the way up we moored at the bottom of the hill, waited for the locks to open and went up as a single boat. Martyn and I share the driving, but poor Becky wound every single lock. Thank goodness for that brewery at the top.

There she is, waiting for the hard graft in the morning

We think the attraction between us and the K&A must be mutual. The canal wants to keep us here. We are currently moored at Pewsey, and for a few more days at least, we’re stuck. Both the old and new electric pumps failed at the Crofton Summit. They had to resort to firing up the boilers and running the steam pumps to rewater the canal. Those pumps date from 1812 and 1845, thank goodness they are still operational. Now we are just waiting for a repair to a lock at Hungerford (which was due to be fixed during the winter, but it wouldn’t wait) and hoping that another one that looks dodgy a bit further east holds out long enough for us to get through. It’s a long way back to Lancashire.

Bath again – gratuitous charcuterie

6 Replies to “There and Back Again”

  1. After going through all those locks on the K&A you must have muscles like navvies!
    Glad you had time in Bath and that family came visiting. 🥰

    1. You know Brenda, I should have the figure of a model. So why don’t I? The inability to say no to good food and drink probably has something to do with it!

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