Sunday, 19 September 2010

Heading home

Judy & Alison came back from their trip to Australia and re-joined Constance at Bath. We went down on to the River Avon through the Widcombe Flight.
Bath Deep Lock, all 19' 5" of it!
Then it was out on to the river...
Then towards Pulteney Weir, below the Grand Hotel

Having enjoyed pottering rounf the river we went back up the Widcombe flight to Bathwick and stayed the night. Next day we moved on to Bradford-on-Avon. Another lovely trip through the Avon Valley, high above the river, stopping at Dundas for lunch, tea and ice cream and a wander up to Brassknocker Basin. The rest of the day's journey took us to Bradford-on-Avon, just where we had been some three weeks before, just above the Tithe Barn.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Bathampton to Bath

Heather must have enjoyed her Sunday on Constance - she came back and spent two nights and a day on board the following week.
On Friday I prepared a sheet of 18mm plywood for the deck on which one stands whilst steering. Last weekend it had given way due to being almost completely rotten. The ply would need painting.
On Saturday it rained on and off for mst of the day. I managed to get the board primed and undercoated on both sides but as soon as I finished the second side of undercoat, the heavens opened. The surface of the paint look like the surface of the moon, Never mind, nobody will see it, it was the underside.
Painting at Bathampton.
Sunday was an altogether better day - warm and sunny. We decided to move on towards Bath.
Another part of the journey through delightful countryside, then into what is probably the grandest entrance any canal has as it goes into Bath.

The second of the wrought iron bridges of Sydney Gardens with Cleveland House in the background.
We made our way as far as Widcombe Top Lock, had lunch, a quick visit to the shops and then back a mile or so to find some un-restricted mooring. We are still close enough to walk into Bath. What an idyllic loaction!

Bradford-on-Avon to Bathampton

After a week behind the lovely Tithe Barn at Bradford-on-Avon, Heather & Phil came to join us for the day.
Part of the Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn.
We made our way through the beautiful Avon valley, first crossing the Avoncliff Aqueduct, then hugging the valley side, crossed again on the Dundas Aqueduct.

The view back across the Dundas Aqueduct.
Whilst I did the mundane, but very necessary task of 'loo emptying' and water filling, the others wandered off to the 'Angelfish' Tea Rooms along the stub of the somersetshire Coal Canal. After I found my crew again, we moved on towards Bathampton, meeting David along the way. We moored alongside about half a mile from Bathampton. David had prepared a meal for us - it was in his car. We all enjoyed David's lasagne, it was 'first-class'! Heather and Phil enjoyed their day.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Semington to Bradford-on-Avon

Mum & I joined Constance at Semington for the first part of our journey together. We proceeded along the canal to Hilperton, where we stopped for lunch. Here is an example of where some advanced crew training might have been useful... As we stopped alongside the towpath, I hopped ashore with the mid-line and pulled Constance in towards the bank where we wanted to stop. For the sake of safety, I did not take the pins and lump-hammer with me, but asked for them to be thrown ashore on to an empty part of the towpath. The pins came over OK, but the lump hammer bounced a couple of times and gently slid into the canal. Luckily the spare lump-hammer was easily located and came ashore without suffering the same fate. After the boat was suitably moored, a minute or so of trawling with the magnet retrieved the wet lump-hammer. All was OK again.
I walked back to Semington to fetch the car, whilst Mum prepared lunch. In the afternoon we moved on to Bradford-on-Avon and stopped for the night a few hundred yards above the lock. Again, I walked back to get the car. David joined us later in the evening and stayed the night.
Sunday morning we went down through the lock and moored behind the town's great Tithe Barn.
Mum enjoying the view from the cratch.

Whilst David was at the helm.
After mooring, we walked around the town, saw some of the 'Bath Lions' (large and small), the Saxon Church and the adjacent, newer church (only 150 years newer!), then the Tithe Barn.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Devizes to Semington

Devizes (Caen Hill) lock flight due to re-open on Saturday 10th July. We joined Contance at Coate Bridge on Friday eveing and took her to Devizes Wharf and joined the queue. Saturday morning we started off downhill.
After a couple of hours we had made it to the bottom of the main Caen Hill flight and paused for a moment to look back.
By evening we had arrived at Sells Green and stayed for the night.
Sunday morning we set off for Seend Cleeve, by the Barge Inn for water and Loo stop.

By mid afternoon it was almost unbearably hot so we pulled in to have 'Tea & Cake' and a rest. There was a boat ahead of us, similarly moored for refreshments. We recognised them as friends from our local village. The Bishop family had joined Jane on 'About Time' (normally moored near us at Great Bedwyn) for a day trip. It is a small world!
Rosie and Gordon, with windlasses, ready to set the next lock for 'About Time'
As the day cooled, we moved on and stopped at Semington, near where the Wilts & Berks canal used to be.

Great Bedwyn to Devizes

On the weekend of 3rd July we started our journey to Bath. The aim of the trip is to arrive in Bath on about the 3rd weekend in August. The Devizes (Caen Hill) lock flight was closed for a while due to urgent repairs being necessary because of a 'boat strike' at one of the lower locks. This is the first time we have played car and boat leapfrog.
Starting off about lunchtime on Saturday Judy and Alison moved towards the start of the Crofton Flight as I moved the car nearer. I helped with locks/steered etc., until the top of Crofton where we stopped for a well earned 'tea & cake'. I was about to walk back to the car to 'leapfrog' to Wootton Rivers, when the engine would not start. The starter motor would not kick in. After about an hour of tracing wiring, checking switches and relays I discovered the starter solenoid wire dangling below the starter. The vibrations had caused it to drop off. Repaired, boat started, we were each on our way in opposite directions.
I walked back to the car and drove to Wootton Rivers whilst Judy and Alison made their way along the canal to meet me. We eventually met at Wootton Rivers top lock, worked our way to the bottom, so that we were at the start of the Long Pound and stayed the night.
Sunday morning, bright and early, the womenfolk started towards Pewsey, we met again briefly, then leapfrog to Honey Street for lunch. Afternoon leapfrogs were to the two operational swing bridges. Eventually arriving at Coate Bridge in the evening.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Kennet & Avon 200 Year Anniversary Celebrations at Great Bedwyn

On Saturday June 5th Great Bedwyn haeld a celebration ceremony to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the opening of the canal. The 'Rose of Hungerford' arrived with various 'dignitaries', the K&A Trust were well represented and the canal users and villagers came of offer their support.
The celebration culminated with fellow canal enthusiasts Timothy West & Prunella Scales unveiling a celebratory plaque which will be mounted for all to see.

Timothy West giving his unveiling speech.
Prunella joining in with the applause.

And here is the plaque, now unveiled. All we now need is somewhere to permanently mount it, so that all can read and enjoy it. The information on the plaque is similar to other tourist information boards and shows local walks, items of interest around the canal at Great Bedwyn and shows some of the flora and fauna to look out for.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Ratty and friends

Wildlife is abundant along our wonderful canal system. We have enjoyed watching the little black bundles of fluff that are Moorhen chicks. We have watched mother duck herding her brood together and getting them to paddle in one direction with her continuous quiet chatter.
Kingfishers are an occasional treat. We can usually work out where their fishing perches are, so if a photographer wanted to 'stake-out' a kingfisher, I am sure we could help.
Water voles are stated to be our most endangered mammal and indeed we do not normally see them, so it came as a pleasant surprise that, whilst duck watching, we saw movement on the far bank immediately opposite our mooring. It was 'Ratty' & 'Mrs Ratty' busying themselves along the bank, through the vegetation, with occasional trips into the water. Regrettably too far away for a photograph.
Later in the evening we went for a walk around 'Freeman's Marsh' and were delighted to see another water vole sat on the abundant floating water weed. Three within an hour and within half a mile!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Spring Bank Holiday long weekend

It was great to get away for the long weekend, the weather was variable, some rain, drizzle and some sunshine. Typical Bank holiday weekend weather actually.
We left Great Bedwyn on Saturday morning and made our way towards Hungerford. In the end the rain beat us and we stopped before Froxfield bottom lock for the night. It continued to rain well into the night.
Sunday was a better day. We moved on to Hungerford and stopped just beyond the town. Alison & I went back to town for shopping, then we moved on to Kintbury. We moored along the visitor moorings and enjoyed a warm sunny evening. I went for a short walk around the village and along the canal.
The television decided it was time to die, just as 'Lewis' was about to start, so there would be no more televison this holiday.
Monday we moved on towards Hamstead. I wanted to see what effect there would be when the Kennet joined and left the canal. The river was very calm but the effect could be felt. At least we would know what to expect if the river was in spate. After Hamstead lock, we turned round and made our way back to Hungerford, stopping near the Church for the night.
Tuesday was wet again. It started with drizzle and did not really clear up all day. Upon leaving Hungerford, the first lock is Cobbler's Lock, we had just got through when Alison missed her footing and fell into the canal from the boat. Judy and I were finishing off the closing of gates/raising of paddles when Judy heard the cry for help.
Alison was stepping ashore with the mid line to hold the boat whilst we finished off, she mis-judged the distance and slid into the canal, still holding on to the rope. With the added weight of the water she was unable to climb aboard the boat that had drifted well out of our reach. She held on to the rope and eventually found enough of the length to throw the line to me. We pulled the boat towards the bank, with Alison still holding on to the rope. As soon as she was close enough, we were able to haul her out of the water. As there was nobody about, she took off most of her wet outer garments and went below. There was plenty of hot water to wash with and soon, in dry clothing we were on our way again.
We had a realtively uneventful journey to Great Bedwyn.
Wednesday, because we were going home, was a glorious day. We stayed as late as we could and enjoyed the sunshine.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Too hot to work...

The weekend 22nd/23rd May was extremely hot. I was trying to paint part of the top of the boat, the area normally covered by the hatch. I found rust patches and decided to clean them up and paint the area. The paint was virtually drying on the brush as I was applying it. Coupled with the fact that the pussy willow trees were disseminating their seed - it was like a snowstorm. The little seed thingys were sticking to the paint. It was a painting nightmare so I gave up. It was too hot to do much gardening - the bankside greenery was growing so well that it would not be long before we would not be able to see out of the windows. I trimmed some of the branches of the overhanging pussy willow so I could get my aerials up without them getting tangled, then had to settle down with a cool beer.
It was a case of build some form of sunshade and enjoy the relaxation.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

I like the new LEDs!

Having read of the advantages of LED modules to replace the halogen lighting in the 'lounge', I decided to purchase three LED replacement MR11 units from a young lady pirate who advertises such items for sale.
Replacing the units themselves was easy, just remove the old ones and plug in the new and test them. I must say, the 'warm white' modules were at least as bright as our previously fitted 20W modules and at 2.4W each they represent a considerable saving on the leisure battery.
Time to look at replacing the fluorescent tubed modules methinks...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

What a lovely weekend!

Friday morning (17th April) was a beautiful day and the promise was for it to stay good over the weekend. I was feeling a bit rough, having been a little over-stressed during the week. Judy & Alison did not take much persuasion to come to Constance for the weekend.
We arrived Friday afternoon and went down to the watering hole to off-load all the stuff from the car. We also had 16 gallons of diesel in cans.
After all of this was done we move down one lock and stopped alongside the towpath for the night. On Saturday morning I walked the short distance back to Great Bedwyn to get bread and cakes. After breakfast, we moved slowly on towards Froxfield, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and peace.
We decided to stop just between Froxfield bottom lock and the winding hole. We turned, found some sunshine and stopped. We had lunch and Judy and I walked into Hungerford, leaving Alison to do her homework and revision.
For our evening meal we went to the Pelican Inn on the A4 at Froxfield. We enjoyed it very much!
Sunday morning we leisurely made our way back towards Great Bedwyn, avoiding, as much as we could, upsetting the many fishermen along the towpath.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Easter Weekend away

We managed to get to Devizes over the Easter weekend. On Maundy Thursday evening we went to Constance and got ourselves ready for an early Friday morning departure. On Good Friday, nice and early,I collected loads of Hot Cross Buns and some bread from the bakery and we set off. The weather was not very promising being dull and drizzly.
By the time we got to Crofton Bottom Lock it was raining heavily and the main thrust of the 'Devizes to Westminster Kayak Race' kayakers were upon us. We pulled in and stopped for a couple of hours and watched muddy, drenched kayakers portaging their kayaks over the closely spaced locks. The towpath was, by now, a mud bath.
After lunch the weather improved slightly so we went on up the Crofton Flight, through the Bruce Tunnel and down to the start of theLong Pound at Wootton Rivers, where we stopped for the night. I went up to the Royal Oak pub for a pint.
Constance approaching Pewsey Wharf.
Easter Saturday started with better weather and we made good progress along the Long Pound arriving at Devizes mid afternoon, by which time it was drizzling. We went into Devizes and bought what shopping we needed. In the evening we went out for a meal.
Easter Sunday Judy & Alison went to church in Devizes whilst I visited the K&A museum. In the aftrnoon we started our journey back to Pewsey arriving about 4pm.

This is the decorated west face of the lady's Bridge, built in 1808 and decorated as part of the appeasement of the then landowner, Lady Sussanah Wroughton, who reluctantly allowed the canal to pass through her land.
Easter Monday saw us return to our mooring at Great Bedwyn,, having climbed from Wooton rivers to the top, passed along by Burbage Wharf and through the Bruce Tunnel.

Whilst we pass through the 510yd Bruce tunnel through the hill at the south end of the Savernake Forest, the railway crosses from our right bank to our left bank.
Tuesday was a leisurely day, sat at our mooring, enjoying the sunshine and feeding the various wildfowl. We were visited by several Mallard ducks & drakes and these two Canada geese.

They were not frightened to come right up to us to be fed.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Easter preparations

Winter painting of the cratch and other inside jobs now completed it is time to tidy up. We hope to go to Devizes and back over the Easter weekend. All the things are back in the cratch, all the paint and tools put away. The engine has been tested, as has hot water and batteries.
Further to my previous post: I was by no means the only boat to have been broken into. Neighbours report the same as I have - it seems that the only thing to have been taken is food. nothing else touched.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A strange occurrence...

I had a text today, from British Waterways Moorings Department telling me that my boat appears to have been broken into and that they have informed the Police. On phoning the Police, they confirm that more than one boat at Great Bedwyn has been broken into and mine was one of them. They had already sent a CSI (sounds like a tv program) and would I be able to visit the boat and check for damage and missing items.
Needless to say, I was on my way...
I arrived at the boat and confirmed that the front doors of the cabin had indeed been forced open and there was some minor damage done to the woodwork around a door bolt. The security chain was off and dangling. The rear doors were still padlocked as normal.
On the journey I imagined the worst, as one does. What could have been 'nicked'? What items of value are kept on board?
With trepidation I entered the boat by unlocking the rear entrance. Everything was as it should be I spent about half an hour gently working my way through the boat. I could find there to be nothing missing. Nobody had even slept on the bed!
So, it would appear that someone had broken in and taken nothing. Hopefully that means that I got away with that one! Phew!
I secured the front doors by another means, then locked them, locked the back doors and came home, feeling relieved.
Strange things happen, don't they!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The painting jobs continue

The weather has improved a little and is now warmer during the day. I have been doing some more painting. The panel where the instruments and controls are positioned was a sort of grey colour and had suffered from continual traffic. It is now Buttermilk gloss. This has made it appear lighter, brighter and warmer. When the sun catches the paintwork it sends a lovely glow into the galley area.
Owing to pressure of work, it will be another couple of weeks before I can continue with any more painting.
The cratch deck paint should be hard by then. I did not realise how long it takes for paint to cure! So, all the cratch stuff is still in the cabin.
I will have one more visit before Easter, to tidy up, then we will re-attempt our fateful journey from between Christmas and New Year. By Easter we should not be troubled by thick ice - we hope!
Devizes here we come...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A Black Cratch Deck

After much work the cratch deck is now black!

I bought one of those £70 850W petrol generators a couple of weeks ago. This has enabled me to charge the batteries when it is running, but more importantly it allows me to use my electric power tools.

The cratch deck was in a very rusty state, particulalry at the lowest points where water lays. The electric drill with a rotary wire brush was used to remove superficial rust. The worst bits had to be chipped off with a hammer, then wire brushed again. First application was a 'Rust Convertor' (by whatever spelling) then four coats of Yacht Primer, followed by two coats of Black Undercoat, then finished off with two coats of Black Gloss Topcoat.

As you can see from the picture the cratch deck is a lovely glossy black. This makes the 'Buttermilk' of the cratch interior now look pretty mucky. I guess this is my next job after the paint has hardened.

I can't wait to get all the things out of the cabin, back into the cratch. I never knew there was so much stuff stored in the cratch until I had to move it all inside. Hmmm! Let me see...

There's a mop, a chimney brush, the river anchor with its chain and rope (they all live in a plastic box with the spare ropes, windlasses and pins). Then there is the wood basket for the logs, the log saw, the television aerial... Oh the list goes on!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Story so far...

We first met Constance in September of 2009, in Devizes Marina.

Constance is a 36' narrow-boat, built in 1980 with a BMC 1.5 diesel engine, 4 berths, galley, shower/toilet and covered cratch. We all fell in love with her at first sight. After a test drive I organised a hull survey and then made an offer to purchase. Constance underwent a Boat Safety Survey and failed on a couple of minor points. Constance has her bottom 'blacked' before leaving Devizes Marina.

By the middle of October 2009, Constance was ours!

During this time I obtained a permanent mooring at Great Bedwyn, just above Church Lock (64) and we moved her to her new home.

For the Autumn half-term we went on a trip to Hungerford (and just beyond) for a few days.

The picture, left, shows Alison steering Constance into a lock just east of Hungerford.

At the end of half-term week, Mum, Heather & Phil came and joined us for the day. We went to the Cross Keys for lunch then went up the canal for a couple of locks, returning in time for tea.

One of the BSS failures was that there was a small amount of diesel leaking around the fuel filter area. This was eventually tracked to a leaky fuel leak off rail. A replacement was purchased, fitted and the BSS Certificate duly obtained.

Constance was still difficult to start. Even holding the glowplugs on for 30-40 seconds it was still taking a minute or more on the starter motor to get her started.

Judy and I had a night on our own on Constance to celebrate our wedding anniversary with Alison staying with a friend on a sleepover. We went to the Cross Keys for a meal.

Constance at her home mooring just above Chuch Lock (64) at Great Bedwyn. The church tower is barely visible behind the cedar of Lebanon tree.

On the day after Boxing Day (27th) we arrived at Great Bedwyn for a week living aboard Constance. We set off towards Devizes, it was bright and sunny. We stopped for the night at Crofton Bottom lock. The days are so short at this time of year that we need to be moored by about 3.30pm otherwise we might not find anywhere to moor before it gets too dark to see.

28th December - 'Twas a cold and frosty morning as we set off to go up the Crofton Flight. The picture to the left is Wilton Water, taken before we moved off.
Constance became an ice-breaker. The ice was not too thick and was patchy as we moved towards the Bruce Tunnel. Then we really hit thick ice. Constance could no longer break the ice or steer a straight course. The noise of the ice passing the boat and the crunching of ice with the propeller was too much. Now we were stuck!

We had to use the boat poles to beat holes in the ice so that we could turn round and re-trace our steps.
The weather got worse the next night and throughout the next day as we returned to Great Bedwyn. We stayed on Constance, but went out in the car and explored the area around Great Bedwyn.
I made many trips to Constance in the New Year. I changed the oil & oil filter (goodness only knows when they were last done). I changed the fuel filter, reamed out the glow plug holes, cleaned and tested the glow plugs. During this operation I found one of the (previously untouched) fuel return lines was lose in its fitting. This would allow air back into the system, was this the reason for the poor starting?
With the fuel system fully bled it was time to start the engine. 30 seconds on the glow plugs, turn the key to engage the starter and it started imediately. What a relief!
With the engine now starting well, it was time to turn my attention to other urgent matters. The cratch deck was extremely rusty and it poor condition, so I set about cleaning it. Wire brushing and the use of a 'chipping hammer' removed the rust and an anti-rust treatment applied. This was followed by four coats of primer, two coats of black undercoat the two coats of gloss.
Now we have caught up...
Time to 'post' my first Blog page!