Kennet and Avon Bound – 27th July 2019

All good plans of Mice and Men go astray and that they did today. We had planned to do a reasonably long day so that we met our date of being in Newbury on the afternoon of the 29th July. What got us off on the wrong foot was starting up a great conversation for some lovely people at breakfast on the table next to us in the restaurant/pub we had moored up to last night. We arrived there at 8.00am and didn’t leave until after 10.00am. After they left, the restaurant manager came and sat down to pat Toque and be introduced to her so that was another half an hour.

Just as we pulled off the mooring we noticed this rather unique plague on the wharf where we had been moored. We hadn’t noticed it earlier and it stopped us in our tracks a bit. Hope Impro is still going strongly.

As we cruised passed George and Amal’s place there was nothing to see as it was all shrouded in thick growth of vegetation and trees. We were talking to some people last night who were gooing and gaaing over Toque and one of the chaps mentioned he was called in there once to do some gas pipe repairs as it had been punctured. He didn’t say much except all the workmen were Russian. Apparently, the Clooneys are there a lot of the time and George does drop in for the odd pint at The Bull pub in the town.

Our first item on the agenda today was to stop at the Tesco in Reading and resupply the bare larder. This took us an hour but on the way to mooring up outside the Tesco we saw what we were sure was a replica of the Ark. One might hope no one lived in there but alas, we think that is not the case.

It was then a left turn off the Thames River and onto the Kennet River which will take us up to the Kennet and Avon Canal in a few days. The first thing we noticed was the current against us. You would have thought we were use to it with the Thames River, but nothing like this one. At first we thought we had some urban jellyfish (plastic bag) around the prop slowing us down but it was just the strong flow.

Something we had never struck on the canals/rivers before were a set of traffic lights that we had to operate. It was more like a pedestrian crossing where we had to wait for any on coming boats as there was an area of the canal that was very narrow and two small canal boats are OK but a canal boat and a big Bertha would not make it passed one another.

This was the area in question and it is where they have done some inner city redevelopment of Reading. It looked pretty reasonable but we didn’t have time to stop – maybe on the way back time permitting.

Another first for us was what they called a turf lock. They were made like this with soft turf sides as they were cheap and there was an abundance of water. From the boaters point of view, they are gross to be in as you have all this rotting vegetation. There are only a few of them left now and are being replaced by more conventional locks when the money becomes available.

We have a number of swing and lift bridges along this canal and it is all so empowering when you get to stop the traffic to go through or under one. It is where very old slow technology snubs a nose at fast modern technology.

You require a Canal and River Trust key to be able to operate these bridges and all canal boats carry one. Marlene and Wolfgang have been very smart and attached the key to a small float so should we drop it in the water it should remain on the surface.

Now this is a bit of a sad tale – well for them anyway. This is what is called a Dutch Barge and as you can see it is considerably bigger than us. You can bring them up this canal but you need to know your water levels. This photo was taken after we had passed the barge but when we first came upon it, it was on a bend sitting three quarters across the canal. We just had enough room to squeeze passed it and get into the lock. What happened is that as they came out of the lock they hit a sandbar and had been sitting there for over two hours. Each time the water was let out of the lock they tried to refloat themselves but they were stuck fast. They had called up the CRT people who were on their way and let out additional water to get them going again. It might take some time though.

We finally managed to get Toque off the boat for a walk as up to now with the rain and all the locks and bridges it had been a bit difficult. We do need to be wary of our surroundings as foxes do abound. Having said that, maybe we should be more wary of the seagulls as a chihuahua was snatched by one a few days back and has never been seen of since – ooops!!

Something else we are going to see a lot of on this canal are the pill boxes that were built during the Second World War. These were built during the time when the Brits felt there was going to be a land invasion by the Germans and they used the Thames River and larger rivers as a last ditch control line. As we all know, that never happened but they have left many of these sitting along the edge of the Kennet River and the Thames River.

To wind off the blog today this is just a short video of us going into a lock and as we know Wolfgang reads the blog religiously we just wanted to show him that Ange De L’Eau is above water line – at present 🤪

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