The next stage of the trip, Reading to Newbury, also went pretty well much according to plan! Such a shame Karen was busy on a care job, so couldn’t be with me. Fortunately, a lovely couple, Donna and Wyn, who we met during our boating travels in France, were both keen and able to assist.
According to the planner, this should have taken about 14 boating hours. We took close to 18 boating hours, but we were taking it slowly, and were pushing against a strong flowing Kennet River.
Wyn and Donna picked me up near Devizes, where I work, and drove us all to the Tingdene Marina near Reading.
I had arranged to meet Alex, the broker who handled the sale of the boat, here at the marina. I hoped he could help me get the generator going so we could power the bow thruster. Which he did! Many thanks to Alex of Stanley and Thomas Brokerage. He has been amazing and helpful throughout the process.
The other thing we had to learn and do was to take down the collapsible wheelhouse. Maximum air draft on the K and A is 2.3 metres and our wheelhouse is 2.6 metres. I also took the forward searchlight off, so we had an air draft of 2.0 metres.
Off we go.
It wasn’t particularly difficult to collapse the wheelhouse. But definitely a 2-person job.
We got going just after 15.00 hrs. So glad to have the bow thruster working, even though it meant running the generator most of the time. (The generator is also a BetaMarine – and very quiet.)
Literally a few metres on the Thames and we turned into the Kennet and Avon Canal.
On the Kennet and Avon Canal
With a new boat I was still getting used to, along with the many strong cross flows where the canal and the Kennet River cross, I was most apprehensive about this part of the trip through Reading. But we had no major issues – did bump a couple of times, but nothing remotely serious.
The first lock – Blake’s Lock – is under control of the EA (Environment Agency) so was manned (or womanned in this case). After that we had to do it all ourselves.
The journey through Reading takes you through the middle of The Oracle shopping centre!
At the end of the first day, we moored up at 19.15, near the Burghfield Bridge, conveniently right outside the Cunning Man pub! Where of course we had a relaxing sundowner or two.
4 hours, 4 miles, 4 locks with a total rise of 17’ 07”
A very busy day! We got going early, at 08.30, and planned to go as far as we could before finding a mooring spot.
Lovely scenery but much of the same. We travelled 11 miles, negotiated 12 locks and 6 swing or lift bridges, before mooring up just after 19.00 at Thatcham Bridge. Total rise of 82’
And it was sunny and very hot!!
Possibly the overriding memory is the poor condition of the locks and lock gates.
It is quite fun passing through swing or lift bridges as we get to hold up the traffic!!!
Some of these are manually operated but most require the BW (British Waterways) key, which I had acquired.
And of course, our mooring was just a few minutes walk from The Swan pub.
Again we got going early, as we wanted to get moored up in Newbury and retrieve Wyn and Donna’s car from Reading and then get back home.
Not only are many of the locks in poor condition, but the stretch just before Newbury was so overgrown that we barely fitted through the reeds.
A common problem on all the canals these days is the number of permanently moored boats, many illegally.
After passing through the last lock – (Greenham Lock) it was a really tight squeeze to get through the boats moored on both sides of the canal. My boat is 11 ft wide. A 12 ft wide boat would have really struggled!
Anyway, we moored up successfully at the services quay at Newbury Marina at 11.30. Connected to shore power. I put out extra mooring ropes as not sure how long the boat will be moored here, and passing boats always go past too fast!!
Today we did 4 miles, 5 locks with a total rise of 27’ 01” and 2 swing bridges.
Donna and Wyn walked up to the station and took the train back to Reading to collect their car while I cleaned and tidied the boat and made a start putting up the wheelhouse.
I think I have successfully put Donna and Wyn off of ever wanting a canal boat in the UK. Along with them, Karen and I have cruised a lot on the French Waterways, and we will never ever complain about the French locks again!
They made good time and were soon back at the boat with the car. We finished putting up the wheelhouse, packed up and headed for home.
Next up will be the trip from Newbury to Devizes, but when that is going to happen – who knows?