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

Great Bedwyn

Well today we have reached the queue for the summit level. First we had to navigate four miles and nine Locks. The first Lock of the day was an interesting one, it has a swing bridge that sits across the middle of the Lock. It is necessary to swing it before filling the Lock, or as the water rises, so the boat will be crushed against the underside of the bridge.

Hungerford Marsh Lock with swing bridge

Initially we could not work out why a bridge was needed, when you can simply walk across the Lock beams. Then the residents turned up to see what we were doing with their bridge, and presumably to make sure we put it back when we finished.

Curious cows

It took four hours, but eventually we arrived at Great Bedwyn. Several of the pounds between Hungerford and Great Bedwyn were very low on water, and even maintaining the centre of the channel was sticky in places. On approach to the designated moorings, we saw they were rammed full, with several boats already breasted up. We had a go at mooring in the rough to the rear of the line of boats, but it was very shallow. Fortunately, one of the boat owners asked if we wanted to tie up to them, so we did.

We are the second boat from the far end

After securing the boat we took four legs for his walk, and also to see what the situation was ahead at the stoppage. There are several boats waiting, staggered along the bank, so there may be upwards of fifteen or more, looking to cross the summit tomorrow. On our way back we popped into the village to visit the local watering hole. The Three Tuns P.H. is at the top of a hill, and it was closed. Thirsty, we returned to the boat. Later in the afternoon we were buzzed several times by apache helicopters.

Apache flyby

The Locks are due to be opened from 10am, with last entry by 12. Hopefully we will be lucky, but if not we can afford to wait a while.

Totals 4 Miles 9 Locks

Running total 320 Miles 345 Locks 9 Tunnels

Hungerford

We arrived in Hungerford yesterday afternoon. Just prior to the mooring spot we made use of the Canal and River Trust services area. We attempted to use the older of our prepaid cards first, and it worked. The pump was also in good order, unlike the one at Newbury Marina, so now we have an empty black tank, which means if we get held up crossing the summit level, we have a good fourteen days grace. The mooring opportunities were tight, but we did manage to find a spot above the Lock. After securing the boat we wandered into town to explore the numerous antique shops.

Hungerford town centre

There was even an extra venue to look at, due to an antique fair being held in the town hall. The proprietor of the shop Below Stairs is famous, due to his regular appearance on Dickinson’s The Real Deal. https://www.belowstairs.co.uk His shop was filled with highly polished brass and copper.

Today we took four legs for a walk, then set off for a Sunday roast at The Downgate P.H. This had been recommended to us by the crew of the local Trust trip boat, when we passed them in a lock the previous day. We were not disappointed. There is also a festival taking place in Hungerford, and a very impressive steam engine was on display. The owner was present and stated that steam engines had been in his family continuously since the mid 1800’s.

Side view
Front view

The afternoon will be spent lazing about, keeping a watch on England’s performance in the Cricket World Cup final. Tomorrow we have a fair few Locks to navigate, before we reach our destination of Great Bedwyn, so an early start will be the order of the day.

Totals 3 Miles 4 Locks.

Running total 316 Miles 336 Locks 9 Tunnels.