Hungerford

So locked in at Crofton on Saturday 10/8. we wandered up to the pump house. Smoke had been billowing from the chimney, and once we had paid our entrance fee, we could see the stokers hard at work. Well one of them was, the younger one, whilst the older more experienced chap, watched on giving helpful tips.

Trainee stoker at work
You could feel the heat from several feet away

The boiler is a Lancashire boiler, and the steam from it is used to drive two beam engines, which pump the water from a lake 40 feet below the summit.

Looking across the engines.

In the picture above the engine on the far side is on its down stroke. The two red valves are used to provide, or shut off the steam to each engine. Each stroke of the beam, pumps one ton of water to the summit.

Water being pulled up from the well
Pumped water enters channel leading to summit

After a couple of hours wandering around, taking in the blended smells of steam, oil and smoke it was time to visit the cafe for lunch. On the way down you get a birds eye view of the boiler, which contains 4000 gallon of water.

Lancashire boiler form above

Back at the boat we battened down the hatches, as the forecast wind increased in strength as the day progressed.

Sunday 11/8. The wind was still blowing, but nothing like the previous day. There was also a lack of smoke visible from the pump house chimney, initially we thought the stoker had let the fire go out, but it transpired that a fault had developed, and they had to stop the operation. We were lucky we went when we did. The lock keeper was late unlocking the gates, and we found out it was due to a car being in the canal further along. When he eventually arrived boats began to depart, and the water level in the pound dropped with each Lock use. Our boat already on the bottom, began to tilt as the levels dropped, so we also slipped our lines and moved off. It was very blustery so we were looking to stop at the next available spot. Great Bedwyn was busy as expected, so we carried on until we arrived at Froxfield. It was as we descended in the Lock we spotted it.

Something not quite right through the bridge
That shouldn’t be there

Apparently it came off the road in the early hours, and fortunately nobody was hurt. We expect someone has some explaining to do, especially if it was his Mum’s car. We found a mooring and secured the boat. At least we were the right side of the vehicle hazard, so we shouldn’t be held up if they try to recover it.

Froxfield mooring, view from well deck

This morning we were up and away with the lark, well not quite but early enough. We were not planning on going far, our destination of choice was Hungerford, just over two miles away. Rain threatened but never really materialised, and we met a few oncoming boats. This was good news, as they had probably departed Hungerford meaning space would be available. It was, just below the Lock on the visitor mooring in the town centre. We secured the boat, then set about a couple of maintenance tasks.

Moored in Hungerford

Recently we have noticed a small damp patch appear underneath the calorifier, aka hot water tank. On inspection the bad news is, that none of the joints or connections are leaking. This means it is the far more expensive tank that has the problem. Slight at the moment so we can manage, but it will need to be sorted soon. We will book into Calcutt Boats who serviced our diesel heater, to get a new one fitted.

Totals Sunday 11/8. 4 Miles 7 Locks

Monday 12/8. 2 Miles 6 Locks

Running total 439 Miles 482 Locks 15 Tunnels

Crofton

Since our last post, we have navigated two of the main obstacles on the Kennet and Avon, Caen Hill and the Summit Level. We ascended Caen Hill on Sunday 4/8. The weather was fine and sunny, which brought many tourists to the flight. I lost count at the number of photographs and videos that were taken. We moored at the top of the sixteen Locks in the pound by the cafe, which is where we had lunch and an ice cream.

Caen Hill Locks, looking back down the flight

The next morning we had a relatively short cruise, as we travelled just one mile and six Locks to the top of the flight. We took a mooring just before the winding hole, then visited the town of Devizes for supplies.

Moored in Devizes

Tuesday 6/8. We were now navigating ‘the long pound’ fifteen miles with no locks. We were aiming for either All Cannings, or Honey Street. The choice was made for us when passing All Cannings, it was full. At Honey Street we found a mooring by the Barge Inn, which is also below the White Horse.

Moored at Honey Street
Alton Barnes White Horse

On Wednesday 7/8. we continued travelling through the Vale of Pewsey, heading for Pewsey Wharf. First we had to stop at Honey Street Wharf, for water and diesel. We had filled here on route to Bristol, so it would be interesting to see how much diesel we had used. It was 88 litres. We were once again travelling with nb Lady Penelope, and arriving at Pewsey Wharf we were lucky, two spaces were available. We were now only two miles away from Wootton Rivers Bottom Lock, and the start of the restricted Summit Level.

Thursday 8/8. At 8.30 am we set off for the summit crossing. Our transit up Wootton Rivers Locks was fairly speedy, there were only nine boats in the group. We then had a short cruise across the top of the Kennet and Avon, including passage through the Bruce Tunnel.

502 yds Bruce Tunnel ahead

Descending the further side of the summit, we opted to stop part way down the Crofton Lock flight by Crofton Pumping Station. Although it was likely the limited mooring at Great Bedwyn would be full, the main reason for stopping here, the beam engine is going to be fired this weekend. This was an opportunity not to be missed. We secured the boat, then went for lunch at the cafe in the engine house.

Moored at Crofton, pump house in the background

Today we walked into the nearby village of Wilton, before the high winds, and heavy rain which has been forecast arrives. Perched on top of the hill overlooking the village, is a fine example of a working windmill. Closed to visitors today, but we were able to access the grounds.

Windmill overlooking Wilton
A non working day, sails neatly folded

On our way back to the boat, we spotted an excellent sign, black smoke billowing from the smoke stack at the engine house. Clearly the boilers were being fired, ready for work tomorrow. One other benefit of stopping where we have, due to the restrictions in place on the flight, we are currently locked in, so there has been no passing traffic.

Totals Sunday 4/8. 1 Mile 16 Locks

Monday 5/8. 1 Mile 6 Locks

Tuesday 6/8. 7 Miles

Wednesday 7/8. 5 Miles

Thursday 8/8. 6 Miles 10 Locks 1 Tunnel

Running total 433 Miles 469 Locks 15 Tunnels