Floating Harbour update

During our time here, we have visited some of the sites on offer, and enjoyed the bars and restaurants. We have used the small ferry next to our mooring, to nip across the harbour several times, and have visited the SS Great Britain, Clifton Suspension Bridge, and the Observatory, with its Giants Cave and working Camera Obscura. Below is selection of photographs.

SS Great Britain
Side view of hull and smokestack
View of the stern
Propeller and leading edge of rudder
The ship’s bell
Steerage class accommodation
Clifton Suspension Bridge and Avon Gorge
Clifton Suspension Bridge road view
Giants Cave observation platform

Tide out in Avon Gorge

Tomorrow our time in Bristol will be over, and we will set off on a return route to Bath. The flow of the river will be against us this time, so the journey may take a little longer, and we will likely use more diesel.

Bristol Floating Harbour

We had a lengthy trip ahead of us today. Based on information we had been given, about the lack of mooring opportunities between Bath and Bristol, we had decided the trip should be done in one day. This meant seventeen miles and 7 Locks were ahead of us. Fortunately with the deep water of a river beneath us, and the flow in our favour, this would only take about six hours. So at 6.45 am, we slipped our lines and departed Bath.

Looking back towards Bath

The early morning coolness was so refreshing, especially after the stifling heat of the previous day. We navigated two Locks, then on approach to the third, we spotted nb Lady Penelope about to depart its mooring. We once again had Lock partners for the rest of the journey. At Hanham Lock, we had reached the end of the waterway controlled by the Canal and River Trust. Before proceeding, we phoned ahead to the final Lock at Netham, to inform the Lock keeper we were on our way. Once through the Lock we were technically on tidal waters, although currently they are neap tides, so the effect is minimal. About 45 minutes later we arrived at Netham Lock, and visited the office to be relieved of some money. We booked in for three nights, then set off along the feeder channel towards the floating harbour.

Cruising along the feeder channel

This channel is nearly a mile long, and links the river Avon to the floating harbour. We were definitely in an urban environment now, but once we turned from the feeder channel into the main harbour, the smallness of our tiny narrow boat, became all the more obvious.

Passing large ships and cranes
An interesting wooden ship
Some floating restaurants

We had a few bridges to pass under, the lowest with an air draft of 2.2 meters. We had removed the satellite dish, which was just as well, we only had a few inches to spare. There are several visitor mooring locations within the harbour, but we were aiming for harbour inlet. The reason being, it is located directly opposite a very famous ship, the SS Great Britain.

Moored, SS Great Britain in the background

You can see the six masts of the SS Great Britain in the background of the photo above. We were going to get a picture of our boat in front of the ship, but did not want to lose our mooring spot. We will do that when we leave on Monday. We now have three nights and two days to explore all that Bristol has to offer.

Total 17 Miles 7 Locks

Running total 377 Miles 409 Locks 12 Tunnels

Bath (River Avon Mooring)

Just a short post today to update our movement this morning. As planned we set off at 9 am for Bath Top Lock. Just as we were about to enter, who should come into view, nb Lady Penelope. We now had a partner for the descent of the six Locks. By the time we reached the penultimate Lock, the volunteers had begun to arrive. Bath Deep Lock, is just that. At 19 feet 10 inches, the second deepest in the country apparently. It used to be two Locks, but to make room for a road, it was converted into a single Lock.

Entering Bath Deep Lock
Within the cavernous chamber
Making our escape

One more Lock and we were onto the River Avon. As you exit there are warnings about strong flows, but with the complete lack of prolonged rain, the river is very benign.

River Avon, left towards Bristol

You can turn right and head up the Avon, but only for a quarter of a mile, to the famous Pulteney Weir. The crew was picked up from the floating pontoon, and we then travelled about 300 yards downstream to the mooring we checked out yesterday. The exercise for the remainder of the day, is to keep the sun out of the boat, and the breeze blowing through it. Tomorrow we have a long day aiming for Bristol, but it is forecast to be 8 degrees cooler.

Totals 1 Miles 6 Locks

Running total 360 Miles 402 Locks 12 Tunnels

Bath

Last night we had the thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms. It wasn’t the noise, although the sound of the rain told you it was torrential, it was the light show taking place inside the boat. The lightening flashes were almost constant, and were being reflected inside the boat, through the roof prisms. It was like being at a disco with strobe lighting. Peering out of the portholes, the night was like day.

This morning we manoeuvred onto the water point at 8 am, then had breakfast whilst waiting for the tank to fill. This was a good decision, as shortly after, two boats arrived wanting water, had we waited until after breakfast, it could have been a very long wait. Once we set off towards Bath, the sun got up and we were in for another warm day. Soon we were passing the site of Claverton pumping station, a water powered pump, which lifts water from the River Avon into the canal. It began operating in 1813 and has a 15 foot diameter wheel. The pump suffered a major breakdown in 1952, but has since been restored. As we rounded the bend towards Bathampton, the mooring opportunities were limited, so we carried on. We were intending on descending three Locks of the Bath flight. Just prior to entering Bath we passed through two tunnels of about 50 yards in length.

Cleveland House Tunnel

The tunnel above passes beneath Cleveland House, which was the old canal company’s headquarters.

Emerging from the tunnel

Passing Sydney Wharf and heading towards the Top Lock, we spotted a hire boat just departing a mooring. This in the centre of Bath, and next to a shady tree. It was our lucky day.

Moored in Bath
View from side hatch looking across Bath

In the photo above, you can see the shady spot that would keep me and the crew cool during the afternoon. We wandered into Bath to check out the moorings below the Locks, and found there are plenty. Then into the city for some lunch. We always expected Bath to be busy, but this was an understatement. Then we spotted people wearing gowns and mortar boards, we had arrived in Bath on graduation day. Tomorrow we will descend the six Locks, and moor on the outskirts of the city. This will position us well for the run into Bristol on Friday.

Totals 5 Miles 2 Tunnels

Running total 359 Miles 396 Locks 12 Tunnels

Dundas Aqueduct

Today we had an easy day ahead of us, which was just as well due to the impending heatwave we have been forecast. At 9 am there was still mist hanging over the Canal, but this did not last long. We had a couple of manual swing bridges to deal with, before arriving at Bradford-on-Avon. We had also been warned that from now on, the number of moored boats would mean spending most of our time with the engine on tick over. The only Lock we had to navigate is located close to the centre of the town, and was being manned by at least four volunteers. Probably due to the fact there is a nice tearoom overlooking the Lock. Whilst mooring on the approach into Bradford-on Avon would be tight, there was plenty of opportunities to tie up on the other side of the town. Our next landmark was the Avoncliff Aqueduct, where the canal performs a couple of sharp 90 degree turns to carry it over the river below.

Turning onto Avoncliff Aqueduct

The Canal now runs along the side of several deep gorges and parallel to the railway line, following the course of the River Avon. A couple of miles further on we crossed our second Aqueduct, the Dundas Aqueduct. There was plenty of visitor mooring here, and at the far end, some much needed shade. The Aqueduct was built from stone in 1804, and is named after the first chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company.

Crossing Dundas Aqueduct
Moored western end of the Dundas Aqueduct

In the photo above the Canal is to the left. To the right is the entrance to the former Somersetshire Coal Canal. This Canal opened in 1805, and was built to supply coal to Bath and Bristol, from the Somerset coal fields. At its peak it was serving 30 collieries. It was finally abandoned in 1904, so this remarkable feat of engineering, lasted just 100 years. A small section has been restored, and now operates as private moorings and boatyard.

Entrance to the Somersetshire Coal Canal

At the end of the Coal Canal Arm is a cafe, where we had lunch and an ice cream. Wandering back to the boat, you get a better side view of the Dundas Aqueduct.

Side view of Dundas Aqueduct

We are now on the outskirts of Bath which we should reach tomorrow. This means we will be timing our approach to Bristol, to coincide with the neap tides, so the tidal section of the River Avon should be fairly benign.

Totals 9 Miles 1 Lock

Running total 354 Miles 396 Locks 10 Tunnels

Semington

We had no particular goal in mind today, we would just stop when we felt we had done enough. We did however need to navigate the Seend Lock flight, five Locks which drop the canal a further 38 feet. Between the third and forth Lock are services and a water point, so we made use of both. This was our first opportunity to try out our new expanding hoses, to replace the old leaking ones we have been using up till now. They worked very well, and shrunk back to a third of their size afterwards. It was here we also met nb Lady Penelope again. We have been playing leap frog with this boat since Newbury at least, and on occasions sharing Locks. We carried on towards Semington where at the Top Lock we descended separately. The approach to the Lock is interesting in that the Canal is divided by a central reservation.

Keep right of central reservation

This Lock has sustained substantial damage to its lower walls, where a wide beam became jammed earlier in the year. It appears that they had to remove a significant amount of brickwork to free the boat. Obviously a repair is pending. Below the next Lock we passed what was the former junction of the Wilts and Berks Canal. This used to run all the way to Abingdon on the river Thames. If it was still in existence, we would not need to go back up Caen Hill, in a couple of weeks.

Former entrance to the Wilts and Berks Canal

A couple of hundred yards further on we called it a day, whilst nb Lady Penelope carried on. We secured the boat and took four legs in search of the local pub.

Moored at Semington

After lunch and on return to the boat, we made a few phone calls to plan our trip down the tidal section of the river Avon, and into Bristol floating harbour later in the week.

Totals 3 Miles 7 Locks

Running total 345 Miles 395 Locks 10 Tunnels

Sells Green

At about 9.15 am, boats began arriving in the pound we had spent the night. The first to arrive, would be our locking partner for the day. The water levels in the pounds looked quite good, so we assume that the long awaited repaired pump, has been installed and is working well. Just before 10 am, the Lock keeper removed the padlocks and we were on our way. As the Locks were so close together, and in a straight line, we were able to exit and enter the Locks simultaneously as a pair, which made the whole process quicker and easier. At the bottom of the sixteen Locks, the other boat found a mooring spot, and was intending on stopping for the day. We still had a further seven Locks to do, but not before taking a photo, looking back at where we had come from.

Caen Hill Locks

On arrival at Sells Green, we found a fair bit of mooring available, and so took our choice of spot. We had thought of filling with water, but given the amount of boat traffic, we decided against that idea, in case all the available mooring quickly disappeared. We have seen a significant increase in the number of hire boats today, then it dawned, the school holidays have begun.

Moored at Sells Green

We wandered off to the local pub, the Three Magpies, to see if they were still serving lunch. But we had arrived too late so sadly not. Lunch was had onboard, then we spent the afternoon relaxing aka recovering, from all the Lock work we had done.

Totals 2 Miles 23 Locks

Running total 342 Miles 388 Locks 10 Tunnels

Caen Hill

We have decided to cheat, we didn’t fancy 29 Locks in one day, that sounds too much like hard work. We had some heavy rain overnight, but by 11am the skies were clearing. There had been quite a bit of traffic going down the Lock flight this morning, so we took four legs for his walk, to see how it was progressing. The first six Locks are unrestricted, and just prior to the restriction there is visitor mooring for two boats. We returned to the boat and began our descent. We would likely reach the mooring spot before encountering those ascending the flight. Three Locks down and we passed the Black Horse P.H. with its bankside mooring empty.

Descending Lock three, Black Horse P.H. to the left.

We arrived at our intended spot, just as the boat traffic ascending began to arrive. We secured the boat, then went along to the small Lock cafe for lunch. We are now well placed for the opening of the flight at 10 am tomorrow, and instead of 29 Locks, we only have 23 to do.

Moored on Caen Hill flight

The first six Locks are spread over just under a mile, the next sixteen are clumped together in half a mile, so quite a steep hill. The Canal is lowered by 130 feet through these 16 Locks.

Totals 1 Mile 6 Locks

Running total 340 Miles 365 Locks 10 Tunnels

Devizes

Just a short post today, to keep our progress up to date. Setting off from All Cannings, it was quite chilly this morning, following some overnight rain. The low cloud still clung to the hills in the distance, but the sun was making attempts to break through. One other boat departed just before us, also heading for Devizes. We had two swing bridges to deal with, encountering a wide beam at one of them, and six miles to navigate. As we arrived at Devizes, the boat ahead of us, found a spot and pulled in. As we passed, it was looking rather full ahead. We were keeping everything crossed, because if we failed to find a mooring spot, we had 29 Locks to deal with, and we didn’t fancy that today. As we approached the Top Lock, we were fortunate. Several spaces were available, so we moored at the start of the visitor moorings. You are allowed 72 hours here, and as the weather is forecast heavy rain for the next day or so, we will probably use that time. We took four legs for a walk down the flight, and spoke with the Lock keeper to confirm that the current restrictions haven’t changed. Then after lunch, we wandered into Devizes to pick up some fruit and veg from the market.

Moored at Devizes, Caen Hill Top Lock in the background

So now we will sit out the bad weather, and look forward to the return of the heatwave next week.

Totals 6 Miles

Running total 339 Miles 359 Locks 10 Tunnels

All Cannings

When we told people we were aiming for All Cannings, most simply laughed, some shook their heads, and a few said ‘you’ll be lucky’. Apparently it is a popular mooring site, with limited space and is usually full. We only had six miles to go, and for a time we are being spoilt, with no Locks to navigate. Progress was fairly slow though, due to the increase in moored boats we are having to pass, with the engine just ticking over. Still the countryside we are passing through, is very scenic and hilly.

Pickled Hill

The stretch of canal passing Pickled Hill was lovely, but mooring would be difficult, and in the reeds, although a couple of boats had managed it. A mile further on we arrived at Honey Street. The Wharf here supplies diesel, so we topped up the tank. We knew we were getting close to our destination, when the chalk horse came into view.

Alton Barnes White Horse

The horse was cut into the Hill in 1812, and on a good day can be seen from 22 miles away. On arrival at All Cannings, we rounded the bend towards the mooring area, and it was nearly full. There was just one spot available, but it looked a little short. Fortunately a chap on an adjoining boat, offered to shuffle up a few feet closing a gap, and it was just enough. We shoehorned ourselves in and secured the boat.

Moored at All Cannings, not much room between boats
White Horse on the Hill in the background

After lunch, we went for a walk along the towpath to the next bridge, a couple of hundred yards away. Four legs was left behind, it was too hot for him, and he was panting. It was much cooler inside the boat. We found the track we were looking for, and also the sign posts to our goal. Our reason for visiting this spot, is one day, not too soon we hope, we will spend an eternity here.

Information on the Long Barrow at All Cannings

The Barrow was built in 2014, and was the first Barrow to be built in the U.K. for over 5000 years. It was the idea of a local farmer, who has given up part of his land for the structure, and is now allowing it to revert back to its original state, of chalk grassland. Inside the Barrow, the stone chambers are built from a central corridor, which is aligned to the sunrise on the winter solstice.

Entrance to the Long Barrow
View along the central corridor

In the photo above, our spot is within the chamber to the left, where the Ammonite fossil is located above the lintel.

Side view of the Barrow
The Barrow blending into the landscape

After visiting our final resting place to be, we wandered into the village to stock up on a few items at the local store. It was a lovely little village shop, but closed for lunch from twelve till three. So we went to the pub for refreshments while we waited for it to open. Tomorrow we will probably aim for Devizes, another Lock free day, but then the following day it’s Caen Hill with its 29 Locks, and no stopping once on the Lock flight.

Totals 6 Miles

Running total 333 Miles 359 Locks 10 Tunnels