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Monday, 13 May 2013

Saturday 11th May; Leaving Thatcham at 08.40 we made for our first lock of the day and this one was different as it was a grass banked lock. The lower part being the standard width of a double lock and above this is a steel frame with open side’s sloping up to the top. The first part fills quite quickly, however as it opens out the filling slows down a lot, taking some time before it is ready to leave.

From here we had a further four locks and two swing bridges before we arrived at our mooring in Newbury, just a short run of around 3.5miles. Passing some reed beds which lined the canal side, and wooded raveins offering outstanding beauty. In places you are on the Kennet River with its fast flowing water, although the amount of river is now dwindling and turning more and more into canal.

With only the 3.5miles of travelling today we soon were on the outskirts of Newbury and searching out a good mooring for us to spend a couple of days exploring the shops in the town.

 Pointing at our chosen mooring
 K&A Trust building and cafe
The weather this weekend is still changeable with a cold wind and showers.


Monday 13th; another overcast day with a cold wind, but we have had some glorious sunshine and a couple of showers. We left our mooring on the park and headed up the narrow river on its way through the town and its arched bridge pushing against a heavy flow of water right up to the lock gates.

 Looking back through the lock gates
Note the speed of the river
From here we made our way out of the town with the main A34 trunk road bridge ahead of us, and for me this is a bit of a milestone having driven the road many times and seen Higg’s Lock from the bridge, wondering just where the canal went. Now I know, it’s the K&A and a strange treat for me (weird or what).
Now heading out into the countryside and making for Kintbury which offers all facilities and a good mooring for the night before heading into Hungerford. Eight locks and just the one swing bridge, and the locks seem to come thick and fast in our short 5mile journey.

 I know you are there Sally

Friday, 10 May 2013


What a difference a day makes, yesterday howling winds and rain, today after a showery start we had glorious sunshine. At Aldermaston overnight I did contemplate turning around and heading back to the Thames, however we didn't and I am pleased.

There is a lot more canal today and not so much heavy flowing river, we did our first lock at Aldermaston at around 10.00 and had a steady cruise up to Woolhampton. Passing Frouds Bridge Marina you once again return to the river for a push to swing bridge and lock, here the current gets stronger the closer you get to where we moored for the bridge.

Here there is a strong stream warning as the river narrows at the bridge and you need some power to get through cleanly, now as there was room for us to pull alongside the moorings, Sally closed the bridge and went up to set the lock. Just at the lock gate there is a strong stream coming from the left (going upstream) so again plenty of power was needed to get into the lock, first it is pushing your bow away so as you steer in, the back suddenly swings away and you need to fight your way in. However in we got without incident, but a moored boat just below shows all the signs of other boats not quite managing and is covered with car tyres as fenders.

Through her the 4 locks and 3 swing bridges come thick and fast which keeps you busy up to Thatcham and some well maintained moorings, where we stopped for the night.

 Stay back in the locks
 Sally having a walk to a swing bridge

Thatcham moorings

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Monday 6th May; We left Pangbourne this morning with Florida sky’s and bright sunshine making for Reading and the mouth of the Kennet and Avon, with only two locks ahead of us for the day.

It was not long after setting off that we passed what can only be described as an Alpaca Farm, with several fields of (flocks if that’s what they are called) of Alpacas of various colours grazing surreally on the riverside pastures. We soon arrived at Mapledurham Lock with all facilities and took advantage by doing all our usual chores and refilling the water tank. We were surprised to recognise the lock keeper, only to be told that we had met him two days ago at Whitchurch (I must be getting old, it’s the memory you know) as he is a temporary lock keeper and fills in for the full time lockies. Through the lock we saw Mapledurham House, one of England’s finest Tudor buildings, where the final chapters of the “Forsyte Saga” were written and where E. H. Shepard was inspired to illustrate “the wind in the willows”.

Passing several islands we soon approached Caversham with expensive houses lining the banks of the Thames, some of which we recognised from our last trip, four years ago, one of which had only changed by not having his Hughes 500 helicopter in the garden (must have sold it, poor thing). Through Caversham Bridge where we stopped on the last trip and on down to the last lock of the day and this done we only had a short journey down to the Tesco moorings where we pulled over for the night.

A Canada goose making good use of the thatch

What, no helicopter this year
Tuesday the 7th; today is the day when we enter the Kennet and Avon, leaving the Tesco moorings at 10.00 we had a few hundred yards (meters) to go before turning right up the K&A. The first thing I noticed was the increased flow of water as we pushed our way up to the first lock, thinking that as we passed the lock the water would slow down (but no). This first lock was manned and we were assisted through which went very well and we were soon on our way through Reading and under the many bridges.

Reading itself is a very modern city, especially along the waterfront with its many head office buildings of well known, worldwide companies. Most all of the buildings look very new with bright red brick and white sandstone, and climb up from the wharf’s edge reaching for the sky, and it’s all rather spectacular in a way. In front of us now are traffic lights which control the flow of boats through the centre of the town (why, I thought to myself) and like a pedestrian crossing there was a control panel on which a button had to be pressed to get either a red or green light. The button pressed and we got a green (the water still flowing very fast through the town) and we set off, being warned not to stop until we reached County Lock. This section is again all very new, passing the Oracle Centre and more restaurants than I had ever seen in one place, here the river has sharp bends going left to right and back again all the way through, under several bridges and now I understand why there are traffic lights, for if you met anything coming downstream you would be sure to have an accident or two. Eventually you reach County Lock, with a weir to the right with the water gushing over it and on through the town, however once at the lock you have a moment of tranquillity.

From here we did a further three miles before mooring just above bridge 14, by the Cunning Man pub, and a word of warning if travelling upstream in a strong flow, at bridge 14 stay over to the right and put some revs on, otherwise you will come to a stop and pushed onto the towpath under the bridge.

We had moored up and were eating our lunch when we saw a boat passing us on its way downstream, it was NB Morning Myst, so we waved franticly as we knew of the boat from our friends John and Graham. At the helm was Bob and he saw us and made to pull over and moor up, so we quickly finished our lunch and went out to meet them, chatting for a short while. Now with the offer of tea or coffee we arranged to go back at 3.30 for a chat and get to know them both (Bob and June). We eventually spent a couple of hours with them and have to say what a nice couple they are, and hopefully we have added two new friends to the many we have met whilst boating. (Thank you guys for a great afternoon and allowing us to join you both, and of course Phoenix).

Wednesday the 8th; With a fond faiwell to Bob and June we were soon on our way again up the K&A, with a promise of meeting up with them around September. Ahead of us are 6 swing bridges and 7 locks, as we plan to stop when we get to Aldermaston, only six miles further upstream. I would like to point out at this time, for those who do not know, the K&A is more a river than a canal at least as far as we have travelled so far.

At the first lock we teamed up with NB Mithril, skippered by Greg and Celia and stayed with them all the way to Aldermaston, a nice couple who made our journey a lot easier as this is their local canal. The stream here is still quite fast, and I calculated it as being around 3.45mph, which made the journey a little more difficult than we had travelled before. Someone had told us that the K&A is hard work, but very pleasant and I have to say that I agree with them so far. With the flow of the river the helm demands a lot more concentration than normal to keep it centred and running straight, not much time for enjoying the scenery.

Arriving at Aldermaston, we left our travelling companions as they pulled over at the bottom of their garden and moored up, as for us we went through the lift bridge (28) and moored up on the 48hour visitor moorings just before Aldermaston Lock. It is a quiet wharf, offering all facilities and a secure overnight mooring. A note, we had tried several spots for mooring, however the sides of the river are very shallow and we could not get the boat anywhere near the bank.

And now with 60mph winds and rain forecast for tomorrow, we are battening down the hatches and staying put for the day.