6 November 2012

Autumn on the Kennett and Avon

Normally we have one week a year on the narrow boat, NB never called a barge.  But this year we were lucky to be able to carry over from last year and have two weeks.  

The down side (there's always a down side) was that the only two consecutive weeks we could get were the last two weeks of October. It was rather chilly, well not exactly chilly, it was very cold, especially at night-time.   But, as can be seen in this photo, some days there was weak and watery sunshine, especially early mornings and evenings. These were rather atmospheric, see this photo .

The surprising thing was that, with this weather, some people were going round in coats, hats, scarves and gloves, whilst others wore short and t-shirts.  It was as if no-one couldn't decide what the weather was really like.

small, interesting hill somewhere east of Hilperton
We decided to traverse the Kennet and Avon Canal (http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/canals-and-rivers/kennet-and-avon-canal), starting at Hilperton, nr Trowbridge and travelling as far east as we could, then perhaps travelling west towards Bath/Bristol if there were time:  

Encroaching on the canal, often growing on either side, was a long grass which looked as though it was trying to be grown-up bamboo.  To get this caught in the rudder would've been disastrous.

There was so much autumn colour that it was difficult to remember to concentrate on helping with the locks.

Here is one of the over 160 locks through which we passed (never again - it was far too much like hard work!)  ...  showing one of the more spectacular of the very leaky locks:

Little cottage in a wood ....
colourful virginia creeper

Here are photos of some of the wildlife encountered - also there were ducks, alpacas, chubby lambs,  swans with their cygnets, cows - these bullocks were totally unconcerned at the boats and boaters.  

Many people were walking their (usually very well-behaved) dogs along the tow-path, only one of which had a death-wish of jumping into the muddy, filthy water.  

Interestingly about half the dogs were of a terrier type, a quarter were black labs and a quarter were all other breeds put together.
Fungus time of year
fungi growing in the lock gate - note the lock is empty as the boat is so low.

There was lots and lots of very cold and persistent rain. Days of it!  Unfortunately, when the weather was like that there wasn't much chance to take any photos. It was a case of being soaking wet and keeping going 'til we could tie up for the night, so rather an endurance test.  And the wet and the damp falling leaves meant it was rather slippery.

But we survived it and have learned that never again will we keep going for miles and miles soaking wet.  We were very lucky not to catch a cold or 'flu'.  

There were some rewards for all the hard work:  the warm galley at the end of the day with a lovely meal, the central heating on, a quick drink and our own chocolates (fromhttp://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/). Here's a pic of the chocs, before we dug into them:

We travelled from Hilperton, up Caen Hill, through Devizes with its excellent market, Crofton which has a pump engine which unfortunately wasn't open when we moored nearby, Pewsey, Little Bedwyn, which has an interesting local shop, Hungerford (lovely shops, esp charity shop near to the canal mooring), Kintbury, Newbury, Thatcham, Aldermaston, then returned to Hilperton (http://www.kennetandavontrust.co.uk/Canal_Map.html).  
Caen Hill from the western end - hard work!
Returning was much faster as many of the locks had to be left empty so traversing up-hill was much quicker than having to fill the lock every time we needed to travel down hill.
Interesting local shop in Bedwyn
We had a free day before the end of the holiday, so motored to Bradford-upon-Avon as had heard from a friend that it's a delightful place.  And so it was.

Bradford-upon-Avon is proud of its Olympic Gold medallist (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-19224396)
Bradford-upon-Avon is a lovely town with beautiful Bath stone buildings, small interesting shops and an variety of places to eat.  It's the sort of place which I'd like to visit again.

Tank trap by one of the bridges

Footnote: On the left is one of the tank traps beside one of the bridges on the Kennet & Avon Canal - important line of defence in WW2 (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GHQ_Line and http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-second-world-war-60-years-on-where-we-drew-the-line-1116218.html.)

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