Kennet and Avon Canal Holiday

9-16 June 2012

A slightly reduced group this year, we decided to take advantage by taking a boat on the Kennet & Avon Canal, where it seems harder to find the boats that cater for 8 or 9 adults. We were delighted to welcome Claire this year, a friend of Lucy & Stephen's from their sailing holidays

Just after we set off from the marina on the edge of Bradford-on-Avon, Jane contemplates the canal

Merry & Mary busily unpacking all our things

Shortly after getting underway, we were surprised with a tasty chocolate cake to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary - what a lovely thought!

Merry & Jane watch as Lucy works the swing bridge

Passing the end of the currently derelict Wilts & Berks Canal as we approach the first lock of the holiday

Lucy steering the boat into the lock, being careful not to hit either the lock side or the boat we are sharing with - helped by Claire

Claire taking a first time at steering - she proved very capable

A pleasant view  on our first evening as Stephen waits at another lock waiting for our boat - in the distance - to reach the lock

A lesson in lockworking - plenty of practice to come....

And a beautiful sunset


The following morning, Lucy makes the bow rope into a pretty (if less useful) spiral, while we set off

Approaching another swing bridge

The locks start to come closer together in the early stages of the Devizes flight

The weather wasn't as pleasant as it might have been!

Lock-wheeling: Lucy steers our boat Selwood out of one lock with Jane and Claire ready to close the gates behind her, while Mary is ready at the next lock; Stephen waits at the next lock up, ready to start emptying it once Mary's lock begins to fill.

The challenging Caen Hill is 16 locks in a straight line up the hill, forming the most visually impressive part of the 29 locks of the Devizes flight.

Still, no hurry - time to take things easy!

Lucy goes on to the next lock to prepare it

Stephen hops across the lock gates as we gradually gain height

We were delighted to be joined by Sybil and Barry at this point, who have recently escaped from Edmonton and live nearby - it was wonderful to see them again!

Lucy steering round another boat

There was a sign saying not to allow the swans to go through the lock (there is another family of swans a little further down), so they had to be tempted back out with breadcrumbs

Finally at the top of the flight, it's time for a well earned break, and the weather has warmed up enough for ice-cream

Devizes Wharf, where we filled up with water on the left of picture before reversing across to the other side for the night


The following day however brought a lot of rain - luckily on a lockless stretch, so we could leave one poor person outside at a time and everyone else could stay dry. Stephen has drawn the short straw here!

But soon the locks return and it's all hands on deck. The rain continued relentlessly, and there weren't many photos taken this day.


Yesterday evening we came through the Bruce Tunnel on the summit level, and this morning it was time to start descending, first through the Crofton locks, with Merry at the tiller.

Merry steers between locks as an aggregates train goes by

Lots of rather tiresome Canada geese

Crofton Pumping Station - well worth a visit when in steam. Remarkably it is ten years since Lucy and Stephen were here last on a much better day when the steam pumping engines were in action.

Merry goes on for some lock-wheeling. Unfortunately we made a sudden change of plan here and took advantage of an unoccupied tap to fill up with water. When Merry saw Mary walking towards her to advise her of the change of plan, Merry thought we were on our way and walked on to the next lock, so had rather a long wait for us.

Wilton Water, a small reservoir from which the Crofton pumping engine lifts water to the summit level of the canal

Another goods train for Jane as we get under way after re-watering

The remains of anti-tank obstacles put on all the bridges along the canal in World War II when the Thames to Reading and then the Kennet and Avon Canal were to be a line of defence if the Germans should successfully invade the south coast.

Claire is learning the best way to wait for the locks to fill or empty!

We shared a few locks with this people, who Mary got quite friendly with....

.... and then borrowed their bicycle to help with the lock-wheeling!

We reached Hungerford where we winded the boat and picked up Sarah, who was to join us for the rest of the week, from the railway station. We had a very pleasant if somewhat pricey meal at an Italian restaurant in Hungerford.


Next morning the weather has improved a lot, so Lucy takes the chance of a rest in the sunshine

While Merry waits for the lock to be ready

The lock has a swing bridge across the chamber, which has to be opened before the boat rises too far.

The plan had been to get back on board, but Mary is finding that the right-hand bank of the canal doesn't want to let go, and as it isn't a long walk, we decide to go for a stroll

The canal crosses the River Dun on a low aqueduct, almost completely invisibly from the canal or its towpath - only those who know it is there will push their way through the undergrowth

Jane appears to be supervising

At this point there was a shriek of 'STEAM TRAIN!!!!' from Jane and we all whipped round to see this exciting sight! Stephen sadly had popped to the bathroom and missed it!

Sarah having joined us on Tuesday evening, we took the opportunity of a group photo, as sadly Mary & Claire had to leave us on Wednesday

The boat disappears into the distance, Stephen trying to work out whether possible gaps ahead were long enough for our boat

Sarah working hard with the gates

Another chance for a sit down

Or perhaps a nap?

Back at Crofton locks

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Stephen had managed to locate the steam train from earlier, which turned out to be the Orient Express, and he even tracked down the time of its expected return along the line.....

So we were able to capture this great shot - or did we?

The crane at Burbage Wharf

The view through the kitchen window from our mooring - or the hole where the window was before Stephen removed it to improve ventilation as it was very hot in the galley


Another pleasant day, another lock, another little lie down....

A suspension bridge is an uncommon sight on the canals

Picked Hill - possibly once Pict Hill

The White Horse on Milk Hill

Lucy would like to point out that she very rarely bites!

The canal takes on a very rural, almost riverine, character as it narrows between vegetation

Mary steering along a pretty country stretch

An early attempt at a skew bridge, not elegantly done but clearly sufficiently effective as it is still here two hundred years later

Sarah had just left her old job, and her colleagues bought her this lovely bunch of flowers which she brought with her

One of the many pillboxes which, together with the anti-tank obstacles seen earlier, offer more evidence of the defensive line prepared along the canal.

The shortest narrowboat we've ever seen, I think!

If only we could remember the joke!


With rain threatening, we arrive back at the top of the Caen Hill flight

But luckily find another boat to share with

A pair of New Zealand couples, one borrowing the boat for three months, the other joining them for a fortnight

Lots of shouted and ignored instructions from each boat result in a somewhat awkward cross over here as two boats coming up pass the two of us going down

Some beautifully symmetric steering from Stephen on the left and the New Zealand skipper on the right

Lucy's turn - it's much more elegant (and efficient) to steer alongside the other boat from lock to lock on these short pounds

With the wind starting to rise, Stephen takes the boat round the corner into the next lock, still in perfect unison with our temporary friends

I wonder what Jane's looking for - perhaps the legendary lemon cake!

The signs of improving weather, as steerers and lockworkers throw wet weather gear onto the nearest bunk!

Stephen works the swing bridge

On this final afternoon the wind became extremely strong - Lucy is actually moving down the canal in a straight line, in spite of where the nose of the boat is pointing!

This made drop offs for bridge working quite exciting!

After our passage through on the first day, someone had apparently rammed the lock and badly damaged one of the gates. As a result it has been closed off, meaning Stephen has to steer the boat through a single gate - not usually a problem, but in an extreme crosswind.....

Just the slightest of nudges - impressing the BW man who is assisting with passage through the damaged lock. Apparently everyone else that day had lost control in the wind and given the damaged gate another good shove!

Quite chilly today, but at least dry, as Lucy waits for the lock to fill

The strong winds ripple the water, and also make hovering outside the lock impractical, so Stephen at the tiller is hoping for a helpful push away from the bank once the gates are open

Trees bend in the wind

Another look at the point where the Wilts & Berks Canal once left to travel via Swindon to Abingdon on the Thames


On our final morning, Stephen knocks out the mooring pins

Lucy does a last turn at steering as the others pack

And sadly, we arrive back at the boatyard. Another wonderful holiday - the weather could have been a lot worse.
I'm sure we'll have another adventure next year or the year after!


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson