Monday, 5 May 2014

Three in a lock with a bad atmosphere.

A dry day.  That is to say its not raining for once…. in addition to that, we were to move today.  David had very positive reports of the weather from his early morning dash back to Great Bedwyn to his favourite bakers.  We now had croissants, carrot cake and divine bread too.
      I was actually dressed on his return and as we were thinking about setting off there was the sound of a boat’s engine coming along.  Marvellous!   At long last a boat to share these horrid locks with.  Then hopes were dashed as two boats appeared in the lock.  Hopes raised again as we saw that both boats were little ‘Trail’ boats.  Short fibreglass boats that whizz along, get taken out of the water at a drop of a hat, put onto a trailer if required and popped back in again, so it would be so easy to avoid a trip back again, say on the K&A if you wanted to…. Just saying.

David asked the first driver how many of these they could get into a lock  “Oh four if we wanted to” says he cheerfully and whizzed past.  As the second boat arrived David asked if we could possibly share the lock with them if they went in one behind the other, “Oh I can’t do anything right this morning, you had better ask him, he’ll be here in a minute” and she whizzed off too….  She was speaking of her husband, he was shutting the gates of the lock behind them and looked well.... If looks could kill we would all be dead! Well by now we had ropes in hands and looked at each other, but the chap was approaching so as he passed by David called out  “Do you mind if we do the lock with you?” 
“If yer want…..”  was the only answer, he didn’t pause, he didn't look back and he didn’t smile, his face as long as a door. Well after that I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to bother but David was adamant that any help with the locks would be good so he said come on we’ll do one at least.

Now David had fetched a bike out so on it I hopped and I whizzed along to the lock to help prepare it, the little boats were one behind the other and one had the rope out and was pulling it in to the side, I can understand that they would be nervous as a narrowboat comes in. The second boat’s lady captain yelled in the most cross tones to her husband as she tried to throw the rope to him but he stood there with his hands in his pockets “Oh don’t be so DIFFICULT”  she yelled across the lock at him and he responded by taking the rope.  I turned and signalled to David to come in dead slow, I didn’t know if it was us that had provoked such a bad atmosphere, David nodded and crept in.  

Then I heard the lady saying to David in a very loud voice “I don’t know whats the matter with him today!  Even the grandchildren call him Grump-pa but today he is much worse”,   all heard this as she had said it so loudly,  I didn’t know where to look, but as the lock slowly filled I moved away and chatted to the other couple. A charming couple who also looked a bit awkward about it all.

Three in a lock
Soon chuckling was heard from David and this lady, then giggling, and by the next lock huge bursts of laughter were coming from the two captains.  Those two had certainly made friends, so I decided to had a go with the husband, I approached most tentatively as if holding a grenade but, ever so slowly then a bit more work  and I got a smile, then a chat then  we were getting on famously. It had been such an inauspicious start too.  
The two boats had had in the past a bad experience with a narrowboat in a lock with the man revving and bashing them so not surprisingly they were cautious, she paid David a compliment on his driving skills which pleased him, good thing she had’t seen him in a car…… David went in first to the next lock which seemed to work well.

As the tunnel approached, the lady captain asked her husband if he was getting on or was going to walk the two and a half miles....  She said quietly to me I will make him a coffee and get a sticky bun to sweeten him up a bit.  The bun clearly worked wonders as when we arrived at the moorings we all ended up having lunch together at The Royal Oak in 
Wootton Rivers, such were the peels of laughter emitting from our table that the waitress commented that it was nice to hear laughter.
"All's well that ends well"  comes to mind.

Burbage Wharf.  One of a few of these lifts they want to preserve.
I was looking forward to a 2.5 mile lock free section, but
It was deadly dull, no views at all.
Lots of moored boats near locks.

Start of Bruce Tunnel
Other end of it.
It transpired that these little boats had been made in this area for 25 years this year and 23 boats were all making their way from all over the country for a rally. We very much hope to catch them all up again on the way back.

After lunch the six of us walked towards the church, we had borrowed the key from the pub who are holders.  This is the church;

Wootton Rivers church clock, notice the clock face...?    Glory be to god 

Are all organ pipes this colourful?
The Royal Oak pub Mid 16th Century.  Glad I won't be paying for the new thatch.

Courtyard of the pub.

An interesting spire, very typical of Essex Spires I am told and the clock is made out of donated spare metal.

Now i have to assure you Reader, that I was not on private land when I took this shot, but almost, it was from the grave yard.  This building is The Manor House and is on the site of a saxon settlement.  It is huge and we were very pleased to see that the owners are chopping down all the vile Leyllandi trees between the canal and their garden so firstly there is wood here to be had and secondly you will be able to see this amazing house as you pass by on the canal.

The Manor House at Wootton Rivers, magnificent. 
This sign for mooring is another brilliant idea.  You may not be able to make it out but believe me it says 24hr each way, but it is sat right next to a water point which several boats ignored. Fine.

Faded sign, new water point.

Broken off paddle. I asked this local chap is the K&A has always been like this and he said "No, it used to be worse".

Amazing chimneys attached to a much much older wooden framed part of this house.


  1. Having escaped the clutches of the K&A via the Bristol Channel am reading your blog with a wry smile! The problem with the lock gates - the safety rails not high enough and end too soon! Total opposite to Grand Union .. Same but Sooo different.

  2. If you do go back we really recommend The Red House at Marsh Benham fab food