Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Breezy but Bracing

Both little ships are now tied up at Kate Boats and I managed to get ‘Futurest’ across from the towpath just before the current blow began, which was useful.

My boat, having now spent six winters in a row here, I moved initially across into her customary winter berth right outside the office. However another vessel tied up just astern of us was using all the available 24 volt power points for its various needs. So yesterday, after a couple of days down there without power, I have moved the boat and breasted up against ‘Roots and Wings’ where there is more than adequate sockets for both of us.

The present blusteriness of the weather has come as quite shock after such a mild, quiet and unassuming start to the month of November and here at Kate Boats, though we are protected to a great extent by tall buildings all around and to the west of us predominantly, we have still felt the strength, in gusty form, of the gale-force westerly breeze that everybody is talking about.

Last night ‘Futurest’ was ranging excessively fore and aft alongside her bed partner so I decided to put out back springs fore and aft as well as bow and stern lines to keep her tight alongside and all has been neat and secure since. Though the temperatures are dropping slowly, both little ships are snug and warm aboard, and with endless hot water and being able to use an electric kettle once more, life is a relative luxury.

Yesterday morning Janis caught the train for one of her customary visits to Newark and basically she will be away for about a month. However she is returning tomorrow with a hire car so that we can attend a Douai Abbey and School reunion on Friday at Woolhampton (situated on the Kennet & Avon Canal coincidentally). We have definitely arranged to meet there my old school chum Roger and his wife Judith but I am hopeful that there may be others attending that I might know also, even though it will be just a couple of years short of sixty since we will have last met.

As I write now aboard we have just been peppered by one of the many gusty squalls that have continually passed across us today and the sound of the rain on the roof blots out all other noises that one normally hears.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Return to Our Winter Moorings

On Monday last the two little ships left the moorings at Leamington and moved the short distance up to Warwick.

However Kate Boats’ yard is still busy and there was no room as yet for both boats. So ‘Futurest’ drawing the short straw, has been left tied up for a while on the towpath opposite while we have managed to secure an equally temporary mooring alongside Kate Boats for ‘Roots and Wings’.

Here, even though her stern, because of a shortage of depth beneath her, is a good ten feet out into the canal (a mooring very reminiscent of our recent experiences on the Kennet and Avon Canal) we have been able to connect her to 240 volts shore power, providing her with all the decadence that such a move gives; hot water all the time whether the engine has been run or not is one pleasure that Janis and I have been looking forward to and dreaming about for ages now.

On Wednesday we began another pleasant occupation that’s available to continuous summer cruisers after they have tied up for the winter months; that is catching up with all the visiting that most people do naturally all through the year.

On Wednesday Janis and I spent the day with my brother David in Stratford-upon-Avon. The bus stop is situated opportunely just outside the yard gate which makes it so much more convenient for me to use with my bus pass. We didn’t manage to see much of him this time last year since we were away in Australia and New Zealand for most of the time so this visit was well overdue.

Then yesterday we had to attend a sad occasion; the Thanksgiving Service to my son-in-law Steve at Flackwell Heath Methodist Church.

We hired a car for the day and shot down the M40 and arrived well within time for the service. So we were able to meet my two sons Rupert and Alex briefly before the service began.

Steve had so many friends as a result of the numerous interests in his life and the church was soon bulging at the seams with many of them attending the funeral and though most were in conventional dress a large number were dressed in science fiction costumes from Doctor Who and Judge Dredd through Planet of the Apes and onto Star Wars which was a particular favourite of Steve’s. We were even privileged to have a special detachment of Storm Troopers attending, resplendent in their full shiny white plastic armour.

The service itself was as usual quite sad as everybody was reminded of sad thoughts of loss of a husband, father, son, brother or simply good friend. The reading of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd…. “ was read so beautifully and with such great control under the circumstances by my daughter E-J, the bereaving widow whilst the tribute of Steve’s youngest daughter Harlie was very courageous and heart-warming.

Later, after the service, was the wake in the church hall and as always at funerals, this was the happy part of the day. It was the time for reminiscence and the meeting of old friends that haven’t possibly had contact for many years.

It was lovely.

And now this morning (the day after) Janis and myself are in Wetherspoon’s at Leamington Spa, making use their Wi-Fi reading the many more tributes to Steve on Facebook.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Approach of Warwick Wintering

We lay presently at Leamington Spa, with the days getting shorter and the nights growing longer and this seems to herald more than ever the end of our 2015 cruise.

As always it has been a wonderful and eventful year, especially in the company of Janis my excellent travelling companion, while our two little ships that have happily been close together now for four years or more, frequently hugging each other while contentedly breasted up, seem to be aware that they are so near to home and winter moorings at Warwick.  


Steve, Janis and George on the way to Thrupp


It has been an eventful month in that it saw the sad and premature death of my son-in-law and chum Steve, who had only recently been to see us with my grandson George and cruised to Thrupp and back from Kiddlington on ‘Roots and Wings’. When the news came through it was such a shock in spite of our knowledge that he was going into hospital for what was expected to be quite a routine operation. He was a happy, always kind and thoughtful man and will be missed terribly by my daughter E-J and grandson George as well as the many many friends that he had. The number of wonderful tributes he received on Facebook was phenomenal.


DSCN4683  In the lock

The Sun always shines at Napton-on-the-Hill


After sampling the delights of the Kennett and Avon Canal this year as far as Bristol and the glorious River Thames in between the former and the South Oxford Canal, which was all bliss and having recently passed through Radford Bottom Lock on the Grand Union Canal, which is the last lock of more than four hundred this year, it will be good to tie up finally at Kate Boats to taste the sins of civilization again. As we plug into 240 volt shore-side electricity it will be wonderful to blow the dust off the electric kettle and toaster once more and not be forever anxious about the continual state of the leisure batteries and with public transport so close to us I shall be able to indulge to my hearts delight in visiting my family and friends with such ease during the winter months for as long and as many times as I like.



Jolly japes in Jephson Park, Leamington Spa


Friday, 9 October 2015

S’alright for Some


The Skipper has just popped out for lunch to the local Wetherspoon’s pub so I thought I’d grab the computer for a while as he was away. It always takes him all day to write a blog (bless him…He is getting on you know!) but it takes no time for me at all for me to say what I need to.

By the way, do you like my latest font? Don’t know what it’s called as I couldn’t read the words but I reckon it looks better than the old Man’s boring Calibri that he uses all the time.

Anyway what I wanted to say was that I’m getting a bit fed up at being left behind all the time. Reading his blogs have you noticed that he and Janis have taken extra trips this time out? Each time they’ve gone off with their fancy friends in ‘Roots and Wings’ and left me behind at the moorings to my own devices every time, without another thought as to what could happen to me while they were away and you know how bored and sad I am when left on my own.

That Skipper of mine!…. He does really take liberties sometimes.

The latest time it happened was when they all swanned off to Cropredy the day before arriving back yesterday. The Old Man didn’t start right anyway, when we arrived in Banbury and he tied me up under trees blocking any sunshine and as you and I both know the sunshine on my solar panel makes me feel so much better. He did at least think again about his thoughtlessness when he shifted me to a mooring nearer to Banbury Lock and into all day sunshine just before they left.

But…. oooh the smug look on ‘Roots and Wings’s bow as she passed me by made me so mad. If I hadn’t been restrained by my moorings I could have gone across and smacked her.

Still while they were away for twenty four hours I managed to calm down as it wasn’t really her fault, was it?

And when they returned she was facing the other way of course so for the first time this year she and I were face to face so we could enjoy a good chat together. And she shared with me, not in a smug boring way as she could have done, but nicely about her experiences in Cropredy, which I thought was kind of her, don’t you think?

It was lovely to be face to face and be therefore closer than we had been able to be all summer.

She’s alright really. It’s the humans that run her that are the trouble.

Still I need to go now as the Skipper will soon be back and wanting the computer again. It would be awful if he caught me using it. My writing like this would offend his dignity I know it would. But it’s lovely to be able to talk to you and get things off my chest now and again. See you soon I hope.

The Swift Passage of Time and Miles

I have noticed that it is over a month since my last posting from Hungerford and all I can say is how time flies when one is enjoying oneself. But I am also very aware that this is the first month since beginning the blog that I have written so few. I apologise as I do take great pleasure in writing these words as much as I hope you enjoy reading them.


Sunrise pictures at Somerton Meadow



Morning mist at Somerton


Morning’s calmness


However I wasn’t really aware of this lapse till I met and then was reminded by Lisa on NB ‘What a Lark’, who we encountered frequently with husband David while we were on the South Oxford Canal below Banbury, as our two ships ‘leapfrogged’ each other on their way northwards.



The narrow entrance into Nell Bridge Lock, Aynho


But we are now at Banbury after a swift passage (for us anyway) from Hungerford to Reading and then onto the River Thames to Oxford. On our continued idyllic exploration of the Kennet and Avon Canal it suddenly occurred to Janis and I that at our present rate we would soon run out of time for getting back to our winter mooring at Warwick by 1st November and as a result mild panic set in. After a few days spent in Newbury where we entertained Neil, a friend of Janis’s, for a little while, we set off in earnest, using only overnight moorings, towards Reading and the north until we arrived at a beautiful mooring at Kiddlington Green Lock on the canal just north of Oxford.

Here we remained for two nights while my grandson George and his dad Steve paid us a visit and we took them up as far as Thrupp and back in ‘Roots and Wings’. It was a great occasion for me as I hadn’t seen them for sometime.

And now in Banbury Janis’s sister Raeleen from Australia has come to visit us. She will be here for a few days so we shall be busy making sure she sees all the local places of interest before she leaves. In this respect on the day before yesterday we made the most of the beautiful sunshine to cruise to Cropredy, again in ‘Roots and Wings’ (the cruiser layout of her design makes her much more of a sociable boat for visitors than ‘Futurest’s traditional boatman’s cabin layout). We stayed the night there and returned to our moorings below Banbury Lock yesterday afternoon. But Raeleen’s work never seems to be too far away as today she has caught the train to Warwick to meet a colleague for a working pub lunch  giving me the grand opportunity of catching up somewhat with my errant blog writing.

In a few days Raeleen will be leaving and our return voyage to Warwick for the winter will be accomplished after we continue to the north towards Fenny Compton, Napton, Long Itchington and Leamington Spa.

The weather remains very fine for us at present though the verdant Summer green countryside of the past few months is now rapidly donning its colourful Autumn clothing as the days grow shorter and the nights get cooler. I must soon overhaul my ‘Squirrel’ solid fuel fire ready for its imminent Winter commissioning.


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Longing for the River Thames

I expect you’ve all been wondering what’s been happening to me, as I haven’t spoken for some time. I can tell you though that it’s not because I’ve had nothing to say but rather that I can’t get any time to myself on the computer these days….. The Boss always seems to be on it and I’ve had such a lot to say over the year too.

But now I have the computer I can’t remember most of what I wanted to say. Isn’t it awful?

They’ve just gone off shopping to Tesco’s after Janis persuaded him they needed to buy provisions. He was using the computer then and didn’t want to leave but he went in the end as he always does when she suggests something. He’s so soft and silly and not the same man at all these days. But for once I was pleased as it meant that I could talk to you.

We’re in Hungerford at the moment. Yes at last on the way back towards civilization and we’ve been here for a couple of days. But we seem to have been on the Kennet and Avon Canal now forever and I’m so flipping bored.

The Skipper’s family live down this way and I suppose he’s got to see them really while he’s so close. I know that’s why we’ve been so long but I do wish he’d hurry up and get it over with ‘coz I’m so dying to get back on the River Thames.

I love it there. The lovely deep and wide water. It makes a boat feel as if it’s doing the proper thing it was born to do not continually getting stuck in some ditch or other and never being able to get alongside at the end of the day. I like everybody to be able to see my beautiful paintwork as well and not have it hidden by tall stinging nettles and covered in bird droppings. I like to feel my engine thrusting me along with the water piling up in front of my bow and then caressing my sides and bottom as it swiftly rushes by.

But there you are.... We boats are made to obey our skippers and though I can give him ideas (he wouldn’t be the same man without my influence you know), I have to wait till he physically does do something about it and the old chap seems to take forever sometimes. Never mind I expect we shall get to the Thames eventually.

Even though he’s slow he gets there in the end!

He does such silly things sometimes though; like that day at Bathampton that he cycled into Bath and not only left me unlocked all day but left my top hatch open as well. It was just as well that it was a glorious day and it didn’t rain at all, otherwise my boatman’s cabin would have been thoroughly wet through. And what if a stranger had come aboard while he was away and raped me or something! ….

I simply can’t bear thinking about it!

But it’s his age really so I suppose I’ll have to make allowances for him and put up with it.

Though Janis is just as bad you know, and obviously not a good influence on him. Did I tell you about when she ran poor ‘Roots and Wings’ aground on the River Avon on our way down to Bristol from Bath and the Skipper had to turn me right round to go back to give her assistance?


Well I can tell you.... What a do! …. This’ll open your eyes.

It took over two hours for me to re-float poor old ‘Roots and Wings’ and the Skipper on this occasion did very well and followed my instructions as to what to do very quickly... He’s fine when he concentrates you see. My old companion was stuck fast and I reckon she was held by a submerged tree trunk or something in just one narrow spot amidships as when I pushed and pulled from different directions all she did was stick fast even though she rocked and rolled so easily and I was able to swivel her right round completely. Luckily there was plenty of water to do so. In the end one massive push on her starboard side ‘midships with my engine at high revs (black carbon chunks were flying out of my roof funnel I’ll tell you) and all of a sudden ‘Roots and Wings’ slid clear seemingly as easy as you like, as if to say “What’s all the fuss about.”

It was a bit cheeky and ungrateful of her actually I thought after all the time and effort I’d had to put into the operation. I was knackered too and very glad when soon afterwards we found a proper mooring on a pontoon at Keynsham.

But Janis and the Skipper have just come back unexpectedly so I’ll have to close.

But see you all again soon. I promise.

Friday, 4 September 2015


I am now a member of the West Berkshire County Library and I have my plastic card complete with bar code to prove it. This morning I came in search of free Wi-Fi at Hungerford Library and found that I had to be a full time member to enjoy the service, even though I shall probably only use it once.

But on thinking about it a little more, in fact the idea is fine since when I get to Newbury I can immediately log on to Wi-Fi at the library there by just flashing the same white card with bar code since that will be in the West Berkshire area as well.

But here the library is small and there are many people using it today for different reasons. There are the young mothers with toddlers in the play corner facing me and, as well as myself and one other lady trying to concentrate while using our computers, right behind me is a large ladies knitting circle; here I refer of course to the size of the circle rather than that of the ladies and all those people who know knitting circles well will immediately understand what I mean when I suggest that knitting is always accompanied by lots of happy contented chatter as well as the ardent noisy click of knitting needles.

So the small Hungerford Library is not one that advocates or encourages silence on this particular morning and I shall need to concentrate very hard on writing as my tiny brain will continually wish to join the ladies behind me or the little ones enjoying themselves in the corner.


The Stanton St Bernard White Horse


Reflections along the Kennet & Avon Canal


We arrived here yesterday afternoon having spent the morning and early afternoon travelling down through the ten locks from Great Bedwyn. The weather, as is usual in my experience as soon as September begins, remained autumnally cool all day, though magically the rain held off for the whole passage. Nonetheless we were very pleased to see that two separate berths, with the luxury of rings for our mooring lines, were available just ahead of us, as we moved through the swing bridge, just above Hungerford Lock, by the parish church. We then spent the rest of the day walking up one side of the high street visiting the numerous antique shops while searching for a decent pair of 7 x 50 binoculars for Janis. As it happened there was lots of choice and she found a good pair at a suitable price too. These antiques bazaars are like Aladdin’s caves to me (boat chandlers are too but that’s another story) and I spent a great deal of time just browsing whilst concentrating in particular on the particular job in hand.


Roots and Wings overtaking


As I have already mentioned the weather is becoming considerably cooler now and when I awake in the mornings the temperature is recording less than ten degrees which I fear is a shuddering foretaste of things to come. For the last two nights I’ve had to dig out the spare blanket (my winter blanket) and spread that over my bed for comfort ……

This boating is a hard life you know, but some of us are forced to do it and therefore we must stalwartly carry on I suppose….. Oh dear!

Monday, 24 August 2015

What to do on a Rainy Day

What can a fair weather sailor do on a day that is vigorously punctuated by thundery showers?

Well cruising is out for a start so why not, just for a change, do some blogging? Far too few have been written by me up until now in this year of 2015.


Mrs Mallard on a log


The reason of course is that there have been so many things to see this time and places for us to visit and it seems there have been far more of these than in previous years. Naturally this is the reason too for our dawdling progress along the Kennett and Avon Canal. So many boats that left their winter moorings far later than us to make this passage to Bristol and back, have long ago caught us up, overtaken and met us on the way back. To so many boaters getting to and seeing the destination is the most important part of any passage, whereas to Janis and I the getting there is most pleasurable and the time or even the day hardly matters.

So today, complete with umbrella and computer I set off, splashing my way along the towpath to find Devizes public library and their free Wi-Fi. However having sat here at a table for some three hours sending necessary emails and downloading from my camera many days worth of photographs I have only just settled to write my blog.

But I can now safely report that we are definitely on the way home to Warwick. We need to be there by the first of November and I reckon that we might just about make it for that time.



Janis at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight


On Friday afternoon we puffed our way up the Caen Hill Flight of locks and arrived at Devizes. The day was dull and threatening rain but in fact it managed to hold off until the following afternoon when we were blasted by the thunder and lightning. Delilah-Rose, my granddaughter and her mother Millie together with my son Rupert, Delilah’s dad, had come to visit us overnight on Saturday and the almost continuous rain over the two days that they were here rather curtailed our entertainment. But we did manage to venture ashore on one occasion before they had to leave and we walked along the towpath, jumping or squelching round the many puddles in our way, as far as the top lock of Caen Hill and back. Conveniently when we arrived there, as it began to rain again, we were able to slip into the adjacent café for tea and cakes.


Delilah, Janis and myself at Devizes


They all left yesterday evening so we are quietly on our own again soon to be bound for Hungerford and then Newbury.

Monday, 17 August 2015

On the Way Back

On Thursday evening we arrived in the Floating Harbour at Bristol. Since an extra license is required to enter the port of Bristol, for the purposes of cost saving we had left ‘Futurest’ at the visitor moorings back in Hanham and had brought ‘Roots and Wings’ only on this passage. But before tying up at our moorings we took the boat on a complete tour of the harbour, which included entering the large Cumberland Basin, designed by Isambard Brunel and built by the Great Western Steamship Company to accommodate the vastness of their new passenger ship ‘SS Great Britain’. Of course our little ship was completely dwarfed in the hugeness of the area but it did mean that we were able to navigate with no difficulty, right up to the final lock gate, that led ships onto the tidal River Avon and then turn around with ease before completing our tour. We were able to touch the ancient steel of the gate and finally reach the end of the Kennett and Avon Canal after entering it at Reading more than two months before.


Reflections on a misty evening at Bathampton



…. and on another equally as beautiful sunny evening


‘Futurest’ looking lonely as we left for Bristol


Though there is no handling of cargo any more the area is still very busy with leisure boats, and tourists flock every day into the area in their thousands to visit the old warehouses that have now been changed into pubs. In 1970 the SS Great Britain’ was returned to the Floating Harbour, to the very dry dock in which she was born in 1843 and has over the years since been restored from a rotting hulk into how she must have looked at her birth. This dockyard was busy with tourists inspecting the ship, the shop and of course the café on the day that Janis and I too decided to visit.



Our Skipper in front of the ‘SS Great Britain’



…. and the Cabin Boy


The northern arm to the harbour, where we moored to a pontoon, looking more as if it had been used at one time as a short commercial dock, is apparently all that now remains of the navigable River Frome that for some distance inland was the busiest part of the harbour in Medieval times. At the head of this waterway, today barely one hundred yards from the entrance is an ornamental fountain and a shallow waterfall down some low steps; all that remains of its rich ancient heritage and on either side the warehouses have all been turned into busy thriving pubs and restaurants.

On the Thursday evening we met Rupert my elder son and entertained him and a friend Chris aboard to one of Janis’s sumptuous fish pies. They seemed to enjoy it as much as I did and it was great to see my son again.


DSCN4461  'Roots and Wings' in the lead

Leaving Hanham for Bath


Quiet reflections on the River Avon


And now we are on the way back. We arrived at the river moorings here in Bath close to Sainsbury’s Supermarket yesterday evening and tomorrow we shall continue our journey east up the flight of locks onto the canal again bound for Devizes, Newbury and Reading.



The Circus at Bath

Theoretically anyway, we should take considerably less time on the way back than we did on the way out as we have already seen and experienced all that we have considered necessary.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Bath Time

I am boat sitting again while Janis whiles away her time in the Mediterranean. She left last Wednesday and flew to Majorca to crew on a yacht. The owners, friends of hers, invited her to take the boat across to Sardinia with them and she plans to fly back from there.

I tried Skype-ing Janis this morning but the signal was too weak and we had to resort to a telephone call instead. The yacht has just arrived in Sardinia after quite an exciting  forty seven hour passage I believe, being thrown about in a force 6 breeze with a two metre swell threatening them on the beam. She hasn’t booked her flight home yet but she reckons she’ll arrive on Wednesday.

In the meantime the two little ships and I are quietly moored to the south of Bathampton on the way to the ornate Dundas Aqueduct which throws the canal here over and across the River Avon. At this point the waterway follows the contours and is terraced along both sides of the tree covered valley on its meandering way towards Bradford-on-Avon.


Bath from Alexandra Park to the south


A happy little Chappy


I’ve enjoyed a great time here so close to Bath, the ageless city that I love with its now classical white stone architecture that positively sparkles in the Sun. Also my son Alex works here and lives with his wife Catherine and their three year old daughter Penny up on the hill at Combe Down so I have managed to see quite a bit of them, which is a real bonus. On Tuesday last the three of them came aboard and ‘Futurest’ performed her bit by taking us for a trip to the Dundas Aqueduct and back. It began as a beautiful sunshiny day but after a delightful lunch at the little café at the terminus of the Somersetshire Coal Canal branch and then topping up ‘Futurest’ at the waterpoint, black clouds began to build up and umbrellas were needed to get the ship back to her moorings.


Balloon and Sky


A number of times I have been into Bath to see the sights and for re-victualing purposes at Morrison’s. But having cycled into the city along the busy towpath I’m quite happy actually just to sit on a seat somewhere in the Sun watching the many talented buskers at their work and the thousands of happy tourists that pass by.



Crane at Dundas Wharf


However time is beginning to run out for us as we have to arrive back in Warwick by the end of October. I know it sounds a long way off but the way we are dawdling along at the moment indicates that we shall have a job to make it before the winter starts. We shall be returning the same way so most things that we consider as worth a visit we have sampled on the way out suggesting (….theoretically at least….) that we should be able to shoot straight through.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Shenanigans at Bradford-on-Avon

Monday 13th July 2015

We arrived here yesterday afternoon after a slow run down from our previous mooring at Semington, which had been close to the site of the entrance to the old Berks and Wilts Canal. This waterway closed at the beginning of the Twentieth Century through lack of use after a brief trading period of about fifty years. Had it stayed open it would have made a wonderful alternative route today for all the leisure boats that laboriously travel from Reading to Bristol and then back. By this route we could have  returned to the Thames at Abingdon via Swindon and the Cotswolds or we could alternatively have joined the River Severn at Stroud had we so wished. Though there is an active group of people planning and fighting to reopen the canal eventually, due to the usual challenges of funding and land ownership, I do not expect this splendid event to happen in my lifetime.

At the mooring in Semington Janis and I assembled our fold up bikes for the first time this season and on a beautiful sunny day cycled the three or four miles through Melksham to Lacock Village and Abbey, which is owned by the National Trust. We spent a wonderful day there viewing the house, gardens and village, which remains very medieval and is often hired out to television companies as settings for their period films.



The outside of Lacock Abbey after the Reformation



Inside, the medieval abbey cloister




The end of a village cottage with a more recent roof added


The painted roof of the parish church



A Tortoiseshell Butterfly in the garden



….and a Bumblebee doing his stuff




An Exotic lily in the gardens at Lacock Abbey


The invention of the negative photographic process in 1839 happened here when Henry Fox Talbot, the owner of the abbey made the first box camera and photography as we used to know and remember it was born. Apparently he was not as expert at drawing and painting as his daughter so wanted to find another method whereby he could match her images.

I mention above that it took us some time to travel the short four miles from Semington to here, because the run was so busy with boats, mostly on hire, travelling in both directions. Many boats are moored along this part of the canal and the one travelling just in front of us had obviously been well coached by the hirer since he was travelling both extraordinarily carefully as well as extremely slowly past each and every one of the stationary craft so that I found myself simply coasting along in neutral for much of the time with just the occasional burst of dead slow ahead now and again in order to keep steerage way.

Mind you not far ahead of him a great big wide beam boat seemed to be filling the whole width of the canal and making very arduous progress in a forward direction. Consequently when the lumbering convoy met anything travelling in the other direction everything came to a shuddering halt with heavy thrashings of astern propeller throwing both boats and owners out of control and in a panic, with their charges strewn in all directions across the canal.

But eventually we made it and managed to find a mooring suitable for our two boats to breast up snugly together just south of the town. It had been a wet passage and the rain continued as we went ashore with our unfurled umbrellas and walked into town past the very busy lock and basin area from where the hire boat companies were either sending out or collecting in their returned charges.

On this wet Sunday afternoon we found Bradford itself quiet and nearly deserted in contrast to the hectic lock area as the rain steadily sheeted down on glistening pavements and streets and the local stone of the old houses and shops of this miniature Bath shone even whiter than usual.

After a while Janis and I retreated to the Bear public house who advertised a free Wi-Fi facility and we enjoyed a refreshing pot of tea while we sent and received a few emails. In the background we could hear the cheering from Wimbledon as the two male finalists slogged it out on the Centre Court.



Earlier nr Devizes, the Caen Hill Locks

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Dithering around at Honey Street

That we have left the River Kennett far behind us on our way westwards towards Bristol, is now plainly obvious. There is no wild current anymore and  ‘Futurest’ struggles to make any way even in the centre of the sluggish waterway. Here beyond Honeystreet this so called wide beam canal with rushes encroaching from both sides is hardly wide enough on occasions for the passage of a single narrow boat and finding a mooring at the end of a day’s cruise is very difficult as well as hazardous on occasions.


The Red Kite (not quite the usual silhouette)

For the amount of traffic using the Kennett and Avon Canal the allotted visitor moorings, though very well maintained are probably not sufficient in number anyway.

But notwithstanding this, many of these are still filled by occupants who believe that ‘24 hours’ entitles them to 24 years. Furthermore, to add to the vexation of the genuine occasional visitor, many of the allotted spaces still available to him as he approaches with glee and gratitude at the end of a long day aren’t, because a paper notice pinned up on a board that has been stuck in the ground in front of the 24 hour sign tells him that the mooring has been reserved for certain boats, which only in fact use them occasionally when the vessels are on charter. So valuable moorings are left unused at night because of the possibility of a visit by the said boat.

If these boats cannot arrange special moorings with the authorities and so must use the limited ones of the bona fide visitor, why can’t a representative of said organisation come along the night before they are due to arrive to post the notice then and remove it when they leave?

The lack of visitor moorings along the River Kennett was less of a challenge since I could easily manoeuvre ‘Futurest’, with her after draft of thirty three inches, alongside at virtually any place I wished, the flowing river having eroded the sides to the vertical. It was then a challenge only to drive the mooring rope pins firmly into the ground, even though wrestling with the foliage alongside could be adventurous sometimes.

Janis and I both enjoy our country moorings and this part of Wiltshire is absolutely glorious but unfortunately I cannot get close enough to the bank to even safely jump ashore with a line anywhere fore or aft. So it means us having to breast up with ‘Roots and Wings’, with a draft of only eighteen inches, mooring on the inside. Even she has to use her long plank for us to safely get ashore. Two thirds of our whole cruising day yesterday was spent trying to find a decent enough mooring at the end of it. We dithered about furiously, trying this spot and then that, not letting anything pass us that might possibly be a mooring.

We nearly made it at one point just before All Cannings, with first me trying to get alongside unsuccessfully and then Janis. We tried very hard and almost made it with the very generous help of Tony who lived  on board nb ‘Holderness’ moored nearby.

It was good to discover that he was at one time in the Merchant Navy and so refreshing to hear him refer to the boats in the old tongue i.e. Bow and Stern instead of Front and Back and that he would venture ‘Fore and Aft’ to get there. When he took my ‘Bowline’ from me he ‘took a turn’ around the pin instead of ‘tying it to the pin’. Honestly it was all lovely stuff. I’ll bet he has aboard ‘Holderness’ a Forepeak Locker and as well as a deck, I expect he has bulkheads and a deckhead to keep him warm and dry. Many thanks for your help Tony and happy sailing.

Nevertheless yesterday was a beautiful day and in spite of the negative sounding vibes above, Janis and I were happy with the day’s adventure and grateful for the beautiful evening, relaxing with our gins and tonics on the after deck of ‘Roots and Wings’, whilst watching the Sunset and the little brown birds come into roost, a flock of busy and very gymnastic Long Tailed Tits in particular.


DSCN4196  The mooring near Allington Swing Bridge

Our Mooring near Allington Swing Bridge



Through the After Hatch



At the setting of the Sun


Long Tailed Tit with the evening Sun on his breast

Friday, 26 June 2015


As we approached Woolhampton, we tied up safely against the swift current, to the steel approach balustrade of the Wickes Knight Footbridge and planned to remain there for two nights.


Our mooring at Woolhampton


It turned out to be a beautiful mooring and even though we were surrounded by tall thickly wooded areas on both sides of the river, our solar panels benefited from the Sunshine all through the day as the Sun rose and set in line with the course of the river.

On the first morning we set off towards Woolhampton, past the ‘Rowbarge’ and over the busy swing bridge into the village with its ancient Tudor cottages festooned with climbing rose beckoning us onwards. The railway station had been modernised but otherwise nothing appeared to have changed in sixty years.

For it was here, or at least up on the hill behind the village, that I spent four of my formative years. Between nineteen fifty three and nineteen fifty seven I was at Douai School, part of the Benedictine abbey of the same name. They were good and memorable years and though unfortunately the school closed down at the beginning of this century, the abbey still flourishes and every time I pass on the Kennett and Avon I enjoy the pleasant walk and pilgrimage up the hill to my fond alma mater.


DSCN4096  Wild Flowers and Douai from the Cricket Field

The old school buildings, now modern flats


DSCN4102  Posing

Sixty years afterwards


The eastern end of the abbey church


The completed western end of the church


The abbey itself is only a hundred years old and whilst I was at the school the abbey church, the building of which had begun in the 1930’s, was incomplete. It had been planned in a gothic cruciform style but only the eastern arm had been completed before work stopped (through lack of finance I believe) and a kind of temporary lean-to garden shed effect was added to the open end to protect it from the weather.

The medieval cathedral style was never completed and towards the end of the last century a modern but very beautiful bell end was built and the abbey church was finally completed with a most complementary mixture of two entirely different styles.

Janis and I enjoyed coffee at the visitor centre, new since I was there and discovered that there was a choral concert scheduled for Saturday evening. So in order to see The Wayneflete Singers perform Rossini’s ‘Petit Messe Solenelle’, we decided quickly to stay a third night at our mooring.

The second day was again full of Sunshine so out came our folding bikes and we cycled the three miles further west along the towpath to the town of Thatcham. It was market day and the little town was bustling about furiously, mostly in their four-by-fours I have to say, but it was very pleasant to sit outside a café drinking our coffee whilst watching the world go by.


The Slender Speedwell


The morning after the excellent concert we moved on westward and at our next mooring in Newbury we managed to secure widely separate moorings above the town lock and it was here that our friend Pip joined us for a few days. Apart from the centre of the town now being mostly pedestrianised  Newbury too was relatively little changed since the days when I would hitch hike here along the A4 on single day holidays, holy days that happened frequently throughout the school year.

Newbury is memorable also, especially one particular seat by the town lock where ‘Futurest’ was moored, in that it was here that I proposed marriage to my now deceased wife way back in 1963 (though now it doesn’t seem so long ago)

After two nights in Newbury the two little ships moved on to the pretty village of Kintbury where the three of us walked the one and a half miles to Avington, by precarious footpath, amongst dangerously healthy looking, waist high Stinging Nettles. We survived and were rewarded there by the most delightful little church, which apart from a change of roof from thatch to tiles, was almost entirely unchanged from the time, in the Norman era, that it was built.


Red Admiral in the Lock


Avington Village is set in parkland and consists only of the church, four Twentieth Century brick built cottages and the Manor House, at the moment being refurbished. We managed to secure the large ancient key to the church from a hook at the front door of one of the dwellings and so were able to enjoy the dark, cool solitude inside the church for quite some time while we surmised the archaeology of its different features.



The simple interior of the Norman church of Avington


And now we are at Hungerford, about halfway-ish along the Kennett and Avon Canal to Bristol. Here  there is a Tesco, so we can re-provision our little fleet. Pip left us yesterday afternoon; it had been good to see him again and tomorrow we plan to move on.



Our mooring at Hungerford

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Oxford to Reading

Tuesday 16th June 2015

Finally we have made it to the River Kennett. I hammered the mooring pins into the bank in amongst the enveloping tall Stinging Nettles and Hogweed yesterday afternoon and made fast ‘Futurest’s ropes with ‘Roots and Wings’ safely breasted up on the outside. The Floral spectators didn’t approve of my clumsy intrusion onto their world too wholeheartedly however and chastised me in the normal well accustomed manner so that I am still tingling this morning from the encounter. I expect I shall survive though. It’s supposed to be therapeutic for rheumatism isn’t it?


DSCN3967  Exit from Isis Lock on Shipwash Canal

The Sheepwash Channel. Entrance to the Thames from Oxford


‘Roots and Wings’ entering the Thames


Cormorant resting


But it is a beautiful spot here, just to the west of Theale Swing Bridge with extensive ancient gravel pits on our left. They are filled with water now and were barely ruffled by the warm gentle easterly breeze of yesterday evening.  They’ve become a haven for wildlife and Janis and I were privileged to witness and to hear some of the birds coming into roost late last night, while it was still light on this perfect Summer’s evening so close now to the Solstice.



Sunset at Dorchester


Since there are few trees near us here, by day it is a perfect place to stay with the Sun able to caress our solar panels unmolested and as this weather is scheduled to remain fine and sunny for the rest of the week we’ve decided to remain here for two nights.


Bee on a Hogweed Umbrel at Theale


The break does enable me to catch up with other things in life, like writing this blog and answering emails, as well as rather more tedious chores such as cleaning ship. None of these can be performed when one is single handed and all day is spent at the tiller.

Back at the swing bridge there is a forty eight hour visitor mooring but as is usual along this waterway all the places were occupied as we passed. However there would have been a noisy road into Theale had we been able to tie up there and trees all around so we are certainly much better off where we are now. In manmade canals it is often difficult for ‘Futurest’ to get alongside even some visitor moorings with her thirty three inch draft so I am always delighted too be able to hammer in the pins into the bank at a river mooring, whose sides go down directly to some depth, even if it does mean wrestling with the foliage a little. I know I shall be very happy here on the Kennett and Avon.


DSCN4090  The 'plank' and Sun arbour at Theale Swing Bridge

The ‘Plank’ and the Sun Arbour at Theale



Mooring at Theale


The passage from Oxford to Reading down the Thames was as delightful as ever and no matter the weather nor the season, She is always quite majestic. Like a queen among her subordinates, She is regal and yet compassionate to all her users whether they be animal, vegetable or mineral; she has had lots of practice at this as she’s been doing it for so long.

During the whole week we spent on the Thames the weather wasn't always that favourable however. But we’d planned our journey meticulously, allowing ourselves two nights at Abingdon, one at Day’s Lock, Dorchester and then a further two at Beale Park, which would allow us to spend a whole day at the National Trust property up on the hill at Basildon Park. But it meant that we had to travel sometimes in the rain, to which we fair weather sailors are far from accustomed these days, but the raising of our umbrellas at these times in no way seemed out of place on this noble waterway.

Whist we were at Abingdon, purely by chance for us, Banbury Cross Players were performing a one act play called ‘The Canary Gage’ at the local Unicorn Theatre, so we spent a third night here in order to see the play. Furthermore it was very pleasant to meet our Thespian friends Ann, Jenny and Marilyn so soon and unexpectedly again after leaving Banbury.

Friend Ray met us while we were at Oxford with his daughter Helen, who was spending a few days holiday with him and then friend Pip cruised on ‘Roots and Wings’ from Oxford down to Abingdon so time has passed very eventfully for Janis and I.

A genuine milestone was reached when we arrived at Blake’s Wharf, Reading on Sunday, in that we had travelled a hundred miles since leaving Warwick in early March.

I know we’re slow. We’re dawdlers but we love it.