Thursday, 16 August 2012

Way Out West

While Pat thinks the Kennet & Avon is a bit dull, compared to some of the other waterways we have travelled on this summer, I am slowly warming to its charms, albeit if only for the crazy sights we keep seeing as we have headed  west.
One craft, moored up just outside Devizes, had built a greenhouse on the front and had planted a lawn on the roof. It was quite green and verdant. Must make a great putting green, but God knows how they get the mower up there.

Who says you can't take your garden with you!
Then there was the “Skip”. Yes, folks, this was a regular skip, that an enterprising boater had used to make into a little boat, which he had fitted with an outboard motor. He was very proud of it, painted in its primary “Lego” colours, and he was taking it through a lock, so it must have been pretty stable.

Pat admires the floating skip
As as we entered Devizes I saw the slogan on a board at the end of a garden. “What if the Okie Cokie is not really what it’s all about!” How profound and wacky is that.
As for our navigation over the week, Newbury slowly gave way to the delights of the rolling hills of the Vale of Pewsey. We have been lead to believe the photo (below) that we took last Thursday, was of the famous “Watership Down”, which many years ago we walked over with our chums, the Scotts, (Dory & Chris), who visited us on Monday. As a big fan of the book, but not so much the film, I am happy to think it is true – it certainly fits the bill, and seems to be in the right part of the country.

Watership Down.... we think
Last weekend we duly fried again as the nation had its third slice of summer. We were in Devizes, in Wiltshire, where we descended the famous Caen Hill flight of locks. Here we said goodbye to Barry and Helen, who had been our travelling companions for the last 30 miles or so from Kintbury. They had moored in a marina a couple of miles outside Devizes, but walked down the flight on Saturday morning to say goodbye. We shared the rest of the journey with Peter and Helene, from Guildford, who were hiring narrowboat “Bath”, and needed to go down the flight on Saturday.
The previous evening all three of us had both moored at The Barge Inn, Honeystreet, right outside the pub. The hostelry is run by the local community and was featured on BBC last summer, “Village SOS”, with Sarah Beeny. The series looked at attempts by villages up and down the country to restore the fabric of their community via lottery grants. The pub was resurrected and is clearly successful. My verdict: they could look after the beer a bit better. One ale was just on the turn, and when I mentioned it, the reply was, of course, “well nobody else has complained”. Their other beer, called Roswell (not sure who brews it) was much better. As was the grub, which was quite acceptable.
We found Devizes to be a very attractive town which is dominated by the Caen Hill flight of locks and Wadworths Brewery. We also welcomed back to TCW some old friends of the boat, Dave and Caroline, from Gloucester, our “Locking Posse”, who finally got to have some time with us in the sunshine.
There are 15 locks on the Caen Hill flight; another seven at the bottom and  five at the top. It was a piece of cake with four helpers opening and closing paddles and setting up the locks. We passed only one other boat on the flight, which was quite surprising, especially being Saturday. The Caen Hill flight attracts huge number of “gongoozlers” (look it up in the dictionary) and they snapped away with their digital cameras as we dropped through each lock. They all wanted to ask the same old question and poor old Pete in his hire boat, beside me, could have been invisible.

"Gongoozlers" check out our progress on the Caen Hill Flight
We parted ways on Sunday evening, after an excellent roast in a local pub and three hours in front of the telly watching the closing ceremony of London 2012.

Roger sporting the latest in "must have" narrowboat wear - the exclusive "Cat's Whiskers" polo shirt

Gold Post Box in Bradford On Avon
We are currently in and around Bradford-On-Avon. Here we saw our first gold post box. This one commemorates Ed McKeever, the sprint canoeist who won gold last week. We were intending to cruise into Bath, before turning round and returning to Newbury, but a lock gate at one of the city’s locks is badly damaged, and is being repaired, but the navigation will not open again until this weekend. So we went into Bath yesterday by bus and had a great day. I hadn’t been there for several years, and we took advantage of the free walking tour and really enjoyed the experience. The sun shone as well. It’s a different story today and we went a few more miles, before winding at the Dundas aquaduct, in the driving rain. So now we are pointed east and ready to go back up the Caen Hill flight this weekend.


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