Posts Tagged ‘Kennet and Avon Canal’

On the canal in 1975

May 31, 2016

During the mid-70s, before the arrival of children, we had thought of buying a canal boat. We made a brief excursion into boat ownership with a strange little craft that had the name ‘Snatcher’ written on it. In theory, it had a car engine driving it with three forward gears and a reverse. In practice it was difficult to keep going and perhaps this was one of those occasions.


That’s me at the front, paddling the boat. My wife is at the back with a pair of nephews. I’m guessing we were somewhere near Honeystreet. Well perhaps the photo – I guess taken by my brother in law – captures the spirit of adventure in those days when our local canal, the Kennet and Avon, was not a through waterway and anything went. Nephews certainly look nervous!

These days this stretch of canal is the haunt of modern, luxurious narrow boats with some wider ones as well for this canal is a barge canal and can, mostly, take two narrow boats side by side through the locks. With Snatcher we never had to worry about locks for it was and still is in the middle of a 15 mile lock free stretch.

Ugly Ducklings?

April 30, 2016

A few days ago we helped take a boat up the Devizes flight of locks and in my blog post I included a swan’s nest.

Now we have helped take the boat back down and the cygnets have hatched out – or a few of them have.


How could they ever be described as ugly ducklings!

They are really very cute little birds and they do what they can to imitate mum.


Mum sucks something by the edge of the canal and so we do as well.

They are just delightful.


The remaining nest was now deserted. Many of the eggs had not hatched.


So these eggs failed, but at least three hatched out.

On being photographed – Caen Hill locks

April 26, 2016

Chased by the paparazzi

Well not really, of course, but at time it almost felt like it. But here’s the word of advice. If you want to feel like a superstar chased by photographers then take a boat up the Caen Hill flight of locks near Devizes. Make sure it’s a decent day for weather and a weekend as well. Then be ready to pose.

Caen Hill locks are, of course, an unofficial wonder of the world. There are 29 locks in all, but 16 of them form what looks like a giant’s staircase with one lock seemingly built on the previous one. In the true canal sense this isn’t a staircase for a true staircase has no intervening stretches of canal between them. The Caen Hill flight has short pounds, as they are called between the top gate of one lock and the bottom gate of the next. To help with water management each pound opened out at the side to a large area – about an acre in extent. They make a haven for wildlife.

So here we see a swan’s nest by one of the locks and adjacent to one of the side pounds.


And here we see the boat we were helping on.


The boat has just left one lock and has almost reached the next one. The entrance to the side pound can be seen.

And here’s the boat in a lock near the bottom of the flight,


Passing through a lock takes the time it takes. There is nothing you can do to increase the speed at which water enters or drains out of a lock. So like our gallant lock workers here, sit on the beam and relax.


There were getting to be more canal watchers about. Once upon a time people watching canal boats were called gongoozlers. Soon we had them in droves.


That’s my wife at the back of the boat. She was in charge of the boat at the time. On the front is one of her old school friends. It must have been the men doing the work at that time.


The gathering gongoozlers watch and snap photos of our Boat (we don’t own it, it was hired). The boat is out of sight, deep in the lock.


I snap a photo of people taking photos of our boat. It was now lunch time, clearly the time for the boat watchers.


A pair of Canada geese are uninterested in people – unless they feed them.


This is an old school friend of mine – married to my wife’s old school friend. He’s resting on a beam again whilst a lock fills

Permanent moorings.


We moored here for a while to enjoy a spot of lunch. Our mooring was not permanent and had a 24 hour limit.

My photos don’t really convey the almost continuous sight of cameras of all kinds pointing at us as we worked the locks or the boat. I dare say we’ll be on dozens, even hundreds of personal pages by now.




Swan attack

March 1, 2015

Like most people, I love swans but am just a bit wary of them. They are big and brave and stories abound about how a swan’s wing can break human bones. And when nesting or with young cygnets, they can put up unlikely challenges.

Back in 2009 I was given a birthday present of a family day out, hiring a day boat on the Long Pound of the Kennet and Avon Canal. We came under a swan attack as we passed close by a nest, actually close to a bridge I have featured on this blog called Ladies Bridge. Our boat wasn’t huge, but it had six adults on board and however plucky a swan might be it wasn’t going to stop us.


He probably thinks he won the battle, for we cruised on and didn’t disturb his mate on the nest.

A game that gets called ‘Trains’ in this family has also featured before on this blog in a post I called ‘trains in a tent’. This picture could be captioned ‘Trains in a Boat’.


Hmm, my bet is that the blues went on to be the winners. As per usual, there has been a brew up.

Thanks to my children and their other halves for a grand day out. And what a lot has happened since then. Other halves have become spouses and we now have three grandchildren. We of the senior generation have retired and seem to be busy as ever. What a wonderful life it is.

“My” Canal

October 6, 2013

Back at Christmas 1998 my daughter gave me a present of a length of canal. It wasn’t actually ownership; it was a way of giving money to assist with keeping our local Kennet and Avon Canal in good order. But with a certificate, it felt like ownership and so there is a one metre length of the canal near Allington that I take a proprietorial interest in.

With all the hullaballoo of Christmas, it wasn’t until 10th January 1999 that I got to visit ‘my’ canal. The impression was that my daughter’s gift had worked fast, for that very stretch of canal was under repair at the time.


My bit of canal is just this side of the swing bridge and there it was, de-watered so that bridge repairs could be carried out.


A mud dam had been constructed so that just a short length of canal needed draining. Allington is on a 15 mile long loch free stretch. You wouldn’t want to have to drain all that so that maintenance could be carried out.


The setting is idyllic with the gorgeous downs forming a magical backdrop.

We’ll now fast forward to July 20th 2002.


There’s the bridge which had long since been completed and the canal looked as it should.

And boats were passing by as well.


We’ll fast forward again to May 20th 2009.

Here we have my children and their other halves opening the bridge so that I can steer a boat through.


And there I go – very much enjoying a birthday present day on a small hire boat.


So a great present in 1998 – a present which still lasts and occupies no space in my home.

Thanks one and all!

Caen Hill Locks

May 7, 2013

The Caen Hill Locks form the steepest part of one of the biggest canal ‘hills’ in England. There are, altogether, 29 locks in the Devizes flight and they lift canal boats 237 feet. The Caen Hill part of the flight consists of 16 locks often (and technically wrongly) called a staircase. In a true canal staircase the top gate of one lock is also the bottom gate of the next lock. At Caen Hill the locks are separated by short lengths of canal. In canal parlance, the lengths between locks are called pounds. If pounds are short it is all too easy for them to run out of water so at Caen Hill lakes were constructed alongside the canal – known as side pounds to act as stores of water.

That’s enough technical stuff! When I first knew the canal, back in 1970, The Devizes flight was entirely derelict. Boats hadn’t passed that way for many a year and there looked to be no prospect of them ever doing so again. It was a total mess.


We are by a lock ahead of us is a short pound with the side pound off to the left. It’s a pattern that repeats for the 16 Caen Hill locks.

With virtually no water, you get a chance to see the workings.


Up on the left hand side is the mechanism to operate a lifting gate. It’s called a ground paddle and lifting the gate allowed water out of the lock. People who have never done it just won’t realise that you can’t open a lock gate until the water level on both sides is the same.


You can also see, when you stand in the bottom of a lock, just how massive they are. Building the canal had been an amazing undertaking at the start of the 19th century.

Here’s a view down Caen Hill


I am so pleased to say I was wrong about boats never returning. The canal has been fully restored. These days it serves the leisure business rather than freight haulage, but the restored canal makes a grand sight.

That’s a 2007 view down the hill.  Some difference!


It’s no quick matter working boats up and down the locks. You can probably expect about four hours of hard labour! I know. I’ve done it!