Monday, June 30, 2014

A very rare day on Jannock

Sunday 29th June

We were all lie-a-beds today, much creaking and groaning of muscle and bones, crew still broken, we declared that rarest of things for weekenders like us – a day on the boat not boating. After a breakfast of kippers, the un-grateful pIMG_0316ress-ganged deckhands made a break for IMG_0309 freedom. Matt and Alice have bought an inflatable  kayak and today was to be it’s maiden voyage. Their first launch and paddle. After all the effort required to inflate it I was surprised they had any energy left to move it. No sooner had we helped them board the beast than they disappeared over the horizon and were gone for ages.


A wet start to Caen Hill

Saturday 28th June

Today we press ganged a crew to join us – Matt and Alice came along to assist (and do most of the hard work) down Caen Hill. It started raining as we arrived in the car at Horton bridge and so we got quite damp moving aboard Jannock.I can stand like this for ages At least she wasn’t aground this time, makes a change. After waiting to see if the rain would pass I eventually donned waterproofs and set us off towards Devizes.

We stopped at the wharf and filled with water and then moved across onto the 48 hour moorings for lunch. It was still raining when we bit the bullet and set off down the first six locks to the top of the flight where we found another boat moored at the top of the flight. I went and had a look but there was no-one on board so we filled the top lock and started to get Jannock in when a man in hi-viz waterproofs asked if they could share with us. Of course we said so he explained they were just finishing their lunch in the cafe so we waited in the open lock for them to return to their boat and join us.

Two boats in harmony By the time we finally set off it had stopped raining and the sun was out. Our two crews, six peeps in total, soon mashed into a smooth machine only being delayed by meeting other boats coming up the flight. By the fourth lock even the steerers were making a good job of transiting between the locks in perfect harmony. A swan family did it’s best  to upset every-one by trying to get squashed whilst sharing a lock but we’d been warned by the lockies not to let them transit down because of another family of some of the gates are leaking badly swans in a lower pound. A gongoozler family did it’s best at ‘stating the bleedin obvious’ and running a crisis control centre having no idea of what was possible in the world of boat floatery of swan scaring. Our partners pulled over for the night near the winding hole after lock 29 and we collected new partners.

We now shared with a hire crew and yet more rain for the last six locks of the day. Our efficiency was now compromised by their boat being almost too long for the locks and so the bottom gate could not be opened without pulling the boat across to get the bows out from the gate recess. Therefore Jannock had to leave first in order for them to complete this manoeuvre to get out of the lock. It had not been a problem for them going up so they were surprised to have to issue going down.

The Three Magpies We stopped for the night in the first available mooring after sells green bridge and went for an evening meal in the Three Magpies. It’s well worth a visit especially if you want to eat - that was the bribe to our lock crew. Try booking as they were very busy but managed to fit us in with a little bit of table jiggery-pokery. The boys really enjoyed their liver, bacon, faggots and black pudding with a wonderful gravy. After we had eaten, Brian and Jilly Rich, fellow Cutweb members, arrived and joined us for what was probably one drink too many. Then back to Jannock and all to bed. The crew reckoned that we’d broken them and we were all tired and full to bursting.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Duck therapy day in the Vale of the White Llama

Saturday 21st June

When we arrived at Jannock we found that the pound between the locks must have been really low during the week. For the first time in 14 years there were things that had fallen off shelves and out of cupboards all over the floor. Luckily Jannock’s bike was strapped to the radiator rail so that had not fallen over and caused serious damage. Once it all had been restored we were glad to find nothing broken or leaking.

As we passed down through Wooton Rivers lock an ld gent on a pushbike crossed over the bridge and joined the towpath. He cycled along a bit, then stopped and went back. Parked his bike, then changed his mind and moved it a bit before parking it again further along. He then took Pickled Hilla carrier bag from his handlebars, from it he took a second bag. From that he removed a box, opened it and took out another bag. From this 3rd bag he extracted a camera and took two photos of the roses painted on Jannock’s front and back. He stopped to consider for a moment and then put everything back into the first bag, hung it on the handlebars and pushed the bike a few yards down the towpath. He then stopped and the whole process was repeated again for another boat moored on the 24Hr moorings. Exhausting! Whatever happened to point and shoot? Bless!

As we travelled towards Devizes there were three pirate ships moored up with no obvious excuse for their fancy dress. We asked and were told it was a boat club treasure hunt. Har har me ‘earties, Oh, and they were celebrating England’s early bath in the World Cup. To err is human, to arr is Pirate (Dave TV).

Just past them was another boat in distress. It was a Springer Water Bug that’s outboard Stranded Water Bug about to be rescued. motor had ceased purring. The occupants were desperately trying to get it restarted as it floated about in the middle of the canal. One observer told us that if we struck it amidships, at just the right place, they could be spinning around for hours. We passed carefully enquiring which direction they we supposed to be heading. They were heading the other way to us so we asked the boat coming the other way if they would offer them a tow as the starter battery had all but given up the ghost as we went by.

We pulled over at Horton Chain bridge to sit out the heat under a shady tree. A cyclist stopped and asked how far it was to Trowbridge. We consulted the maps and showed her where she was. She’d caught a train from Bristol to Chippenham and then cycled to meet the canal at the Barge INN, Honeystreet via Avebury. She now wanted to get to Trowbridge to catch a train back home. She had no sun protection, sun glasses, hat nor sun-block. No drink, food or map. Her nose was burnt and she didn’t look great. A sit down in the shade, a large glass of water and the use of our loo soon got her colour back. We suggested a short cut using the road through Horton to cut out a large loop in the canal. Off she went and shortly afterwards we continued on our journey.

Looks like a Llama to me We moored at Horton bridge, just where our friendly cyclist should have rejoined the towpath, and moored up. Along came our cyclist again. “Hello” says I, “you found the towpath alright then?” Poor girl nearly fell off her bike. For a moment she thought she’d turned back by mistake and wasted an hour and a half. But then she realised that we were not in the same place we’d been before and the odd timing was because she’s been into the Bridge Inn for some food. Ho Ho Ho!

Do you remember the store cupboard challenge? I found a packet of the dessert that delight's angels, from Asda, that was two years out of date. It was fine. Up to the Bridge Inn after dinner for a couple of pints – Wadworth’s Swordfish has Pussers Rum in it – Yum. A very busy pub today, they ran out of plates they had served so much food. How can you spot a stressed chef? She came out of the kitchen, downed two Jaeger bombs before joining the rest of the staff in the garden for a drink.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Father’s Day

Sunday 15th June

We started the day picking Elder flowers to make cordial as requested by Alice. Some D of E hikers came along and were looking decidedly lost. I know it was a cliché’ but it was the girls who came across to us to ask where they were, while the boys just scuffed their shoes and looked decidedly shift by the lock beam. They had taken a turning ‘too soon’ and so they had now lost where they were on the map. Luckily their new route had brought them parallel to the required path and so they had ended up in the right place by accident. Then a supervisor arrived with the greeting “there you are!”. She thought they had got lost – they had – but they convinced her that they were just a bit ahead on schedule and that she had been looking for them too far back along the route.

We then had a pleasant conversation with the boaters moored in front of us, fruit liqueurs, cordials, jams, pickles and prunes in port were today’s topics. We’ve not really got summer under way yet but are already making plans for the autumn harvest. Off at last and there were a IMG_0233 few more boats about today so more locks were set in our favour than yesterday. Up the last three of the flight and then through Bruce tunnel where the landscape changed from river valley to wooded rolling hills along the short summitIMG_0235 before we started to descend down the other side towards Devizes.

We stopped early for lunch and then decided to close up and head home early as we have an appointment tonight. A few weeks ago Graham went and brewed a beer at Aylesbury Brewhouse Co.,a local brewery, a birthday present from his Soddit mates. Tonight it is being served at his local , a birthday present to celebrate Father’s day. There was a rookery near our chosen mooring and something disturbed  the birds and they all took off at once and the sky went very black. Unfortunately I Graham didn’t get to the camera quick enough so most had settled again when he got this picture.



Becoming a common occurrence.

Saturday 14th June

When we arrived at Jannock last night, she was well aground again with the stern obviously wedged on the bottom of the canal. This is starting to become a theme for this years cruise. The weather was threatening as we managed to ease her back into deeper water and then move back onto the 24hr moorings above Hungerford lock. There were rumbles of thunder as we went to bed and within an hour the cabin was lighting up like a disco and thunder could be heard from three directions simultaneously. A lively night with some rain. A cyclist we met today commented that today’s weather was an improvement on last night and went on to say that homes had caught fire at the other end of Berkshire and people had left their houses as they didn’t feel safe. It had certainly improved in the morning with a nice warm and sunny run on the Di Blasi to get the car in place for this evening.

Today we were joined by Garry, an ex-Vodafone colleague, who lives near Newbury. GarrySteering He did an excellent job crewing for us through 16 locks that we managed to pass through. As we cast off a wide beam boat had just left Hungerford lock and so I walked ahead and opened the swing bridge for both boats to pass. We then followed them through both Marsh and Cobblers locks before we became separated by having to wait for a boat coming the other way. We pulled over for a lunch break under a shady tree just above Froxfield middle lock. Just as we were leakinglockgates finishing lunch, there was another boat descending Oakhill so we rapidly cast off to take advantage of the lock being in our favour. On the K&A the lock gates appear to leak so much water that a lock does not remain empty or full for long after it has been left.

We passed nb Ceilidh, another Cutweb member, IMG_0231 moored just above Church lock at Great Bedwyn, Ken was no-where to be seen but we spoke to his wife as we passed. He had returned to fleet on Scout business and she was enjoying the peace and quiet offered by the lovely location. This is another ex-Black Prince boat like Jannock and is the boat from which Jannock’s current gearbox came. I purchased it, and his old Kubota engine, from Ken through an Ebay auction after he’d bought a new engine and gearbox to fit into Ceilidh.

On past Crofton pumping station and up the flight until we reached the pound where I had parked our car this morning, about 3 locks down from the top. We hadn’t been moored for long when nb Ceilidh passed us as they were determined to reach the top of the flight before stopping for the night. then sat down to a terrific chicken curry before I return Garry to Hungerford where his car was.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

All weathers

Saturday 7th June 

We loaded the car at home in the pouring rain, we drove through more rain to Aldermaston and then moved our stuff onto Jannock in the rain. Once we had most stuff stowed we had a cup of tea, the rain then stopped so we set off at 11:20am.

First obstacle of the day was Woolhampton rosecottage at Woolhamptonswing bridge and lock. G set the lock with both gates open and then returned to open the bridge so that I could bring Jannock straight in without having to stop. As I set off, two more boats appeared behind us so G held the bridge open for them to pass through as well. They said they were stopping on the pub moorings for lunch so we ascended through the lock on our own. Just as we were leaving their crew arrived at the lock as they had decided to move up to the moorings above the lock and return to the pub by foot.

G spotted another boat approaching above the lock so asked them to stop turning it. It’s steerer ignored our signals and then proceeded to moor up for lunch so G felt foolish at stopping the other crew from turning the lock.

As we passed we suggested they may have signalled to us that they didn’t want the lock only to be told that they had done – but only after it had happened – and with a demonstrated hand signal that was basically what waiters do, with a flourish, as they open your napkin for you in swanky hotels. <Lamb and preserved lemon tagine aboard tonight, what know we about knappery?>

At Neales lock we noticed a hole in the brickwork of the downstream throat. A wagtail flitted in, home. After a minute there was an avian kerfuffle at the entrance to the hole and two wagtails burst out. The first seemed to fall before sorting itself out and flying off. The second was graceful and in control, returning toward home. We realised that we’d just witnessed a wagtail fledge, more like being chucked out though.

At Colthrop lock G spotted the plaque (below left) stating that the gates were 1990made in 1990 with various contributions yet the gates were2007 also


sporting a BW Bradley 2007 plate. Methinks the original plaque has now been fitted to replacement gates.

At Monkey Marsh lock we were helped through by a chap who patrols this stretch of the canal. G remembers him from way back when he used to take lunchtime walks to get out of the office. A dedicated volunteer – pre CaRT.

The river was flowing quite fast through Newbury and I knew I’d have to fight the by-wash at Newbury lock. The good news was that the lock was open with one boat already inside, so we signalled to not close the gate. The bad news was that only one gate was open and there wer e dozens of gongoozlers. Again I gunned the engine, again I just got away with it. It was our last lock of the day and the only lockshare. G helped a little crew member work the paddle and then, much to my surprise, no-one batted an eyelid when said 5 year old accompanied G up to the swingbridge beyond. Will all responsible adults please put their hands up?

The countryside has been just gorgeous today and it was fitting to hear the closing overs of a cricket in the full evening sunshine as we ate our supper.