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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Basingstoke Canal virgins.

It was very peaceful overnight and it was a struggle to get out of bed and away for 0830. I couldn't remember whether we were to be met at 0900 or 0930 so I thought we had better be there for the earlier time.

We moored a bit away from the Junction as it is under the M25 motorway. There was a better standard of graffiti on the pillars holding it up.

I'm not surer what it all means but it does show a certain skill with a spray can though. Nobody used to walk around with a ruck sac in the past so it was hard to carry a jumble of spray cans secretly. Now everybody seems to have them and who knows what is in them!

Our first glimpse of the first look on the Basingstoke, Woodham Bottom Lock. As it turned out it was 0930 we were to be met, and right on time Matt Turns up in his van. He had the paperwork to go through and for my to sign, having done it all over the phone previously.  We paid for a week at the price of £40. This actually gives you 9 days I think. They wanted to sight my insurance and the BSS certificate. We then unlocked the top gate paddles and we were off. I suspect that he also opened some of the bottom gates on the way up.

This is a little like Three Bridges at the bottom of the Grand Union as the motorway passes over the railway and then the Wey goes under to. The Basingstoke peels of just before. You can't really see the railway though. I must try for a better photo on the way down.

We had been asked to leave the top gates open with the lock full as there were three boats coming down the locks. Normally you are meant to close the top gates and lift one bottom paddle to leave the lock empty. Despite running through the suburbs it remains very green and secluded. Other than the fact that the tow path is extremely busy. First came the runners, then the dog walkers and then the bikers and at the rear were the walkers to/from the shops and then the Grand Parents with push chairs etc.

There are about 20 odd moorings for house boats on this first section of the canal and some are looking better than others. The first of the three boats coming down was non other than blogger and map maker 'Waterway Routes'. Obviously we met on the only bend on that part of the canal so there was no time for pleasantries. 

The canal is quite shallow of the centre line, and there is a heavy bed of weed there to catch you too, if you stray off line. It is really odd to have to adjust to the speed of the boat on a canal. At first I kept thinking we were going so slowly due to the weed round the prop., and indeed occasionally it was and removed by a quick buzz astern, but mainly it was due to not having the depth.

There are moorings right near the centre of Woking if you wanted to do the shops etc. We chose to continue on to Bridge Barn, which is a Harvester pub. There is supposed to be a water point here, and an elsan but they are been refurbished at the moment. Anew pan is going in tomorrow so another week or so and it should be done and dusted.

Once moored up I had a chat to the volunteers who were working on the sanitary station. We went for a walk up the canal to the top of the St. John's Locks as we had a letter to post. We decided to stop for a pint at the Bridge Barn pub on the way back. The smell of fried food is in the air. We decided to stop between the Woodham and St John's Lock flights as Matt told us that there was a problem with one of the lock gates on the next set of Locks at Brookwood. This may take until Wednesday to fix but they would know more latter. If we were stuck than we may as well take the journey step by step. It is the Farnborough Air Show this week or so and following Shorham last year when a plane crashed and killed those people they are stopping boats moving past the end of the runway during flying. That means you can only pass between Eelmore and Norris Bridges in the mornings. The logistics of getting on to and up and down this canal takes a lot of brain power if you are on a schedule. The other limiting factor is that the maximum height is 5'10". I'm pretty sure we are no more than that but we will see when we get to Fleet. If we get to Fleet that is!!

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