We had a really quiet night at the “prison” moorings in the middle of Reading – the flood lights from the prison giving us a daylight feel all night! Luckily the boat builders (MGM) made us some blackout bungs for the portholes which came in very handy last night.
Leaving Reading this morning the first thing you have to do is operate the traffic lights. This is to allow the safe passage of craft through the narrow, and fast flowing, River Kennet as it courses its way through the city centre.
Press the button and the lights turn to green. We’re off!
Travelling through the city shopping centre -the water course looks quite wide here but it narrows quite a lot in some places.
Leaving the city we arrive at the other end of the traffic light section and moor up at the pontoon ready for County Lock. Not an easy manoeuvre as the weir to the right of the lock causes the water to eddy around the pontoon so it’s a case of get to the pontoon and tie up quick!
The next lock is Fobney Lock and it too has its own “Wipe out” feature. We noticed that the old Water Works buildings next to the lock are now being renovated, which was something we were hoping would happen when we came through on our last boat in 2007.
The locks on the Kennet and Avon are nearly all different. This is Garston Lock and is the sole remaining turf sided chamber. A weird experience as the picture shows.
Garston (turf) Lock when filled.
Some locks are huge – this one allowing ‘Chance’ to float about a bit.
Some locks have scalloped sides – there must be a reason or was the builder on something?
Moving on and we got terribly held up at the Aldermaston Wharf road bridge, which takes a lot of traffic, and is timed so that boaters can’t “overuse” it and cause major traffic hold ups. It’s also inoperative between 4:30 and 5:30 in the evenings (also in the morning rush hour). The consequence of all this was that we ended up travelling quite late this evening.
At Woolhampton, as the light was beginning to fade, we had to negotiate the notorious 100 yard stretch of canal which has a swing bridge followed by the River Kennet entering the system and then a lock which has to entered. Both the the lock and the road bridge have to be open before you enter the stretch as the river flows in with such force that the boat will come to grief if you can’t get through the flow and into the lock. It’s not for the faint hearted and certainly not for hire boaters who have just a couple of hours experience under their belt. Which is where we met Fatima Whitbread and her family in that very position.
So, with a bit of explanation and encouragement, we got her through the obstacle course and safely into the lock. She did it without any major problems (no surprize there then!) and we followed behind her until we were both safely in the lock.
Fatima giving James an appreciative cuddle on board ‘Chance’ after the “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” experience!
After that we managed to moor up just as darkness was falling, with Fatima moored securely behind us.