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Tuesday 30 June 2015

High on a hill... but no goats.

What a start to the day. Not a cloud in the sky and the birds singing in the trees. We let go and it sounded like war had broken out. There was the crump crump of artillery and I'm sure I heard the hammering of a heavy machine gun. I was hoping that it would be war games on Salisbury Plain and it was definitely sounded to be from that area

There seems to be a lot of action on Salisbury Plain and there were lots of helicopters around too. The noises went on all day and the smoke continued too.

There are very few places to moor, on this stretch at least, and there are plenty of reeds. Where ever there is a road bridge there are boats that look to have been there for a while. You have to resort to finding a patch of bank that isn't too high and that you can get fairly close to, and then leap ashore and cut a patch for you to get on and off.

We are getting closer to the Downs and we are hoping to find a place to tie up so we can explore.

We found a spot near All Cannings Bridge and used the long gangplank for the first time. The weather was very hot so we decided to put off our walk until later in the day. Meanwhile I thought I would do a bit of maintenance on the fore deck by de-rusting the bad patches and covering the bare spots with anti rust and then a coat of primer. It was so hot that I only lasted a couple of hours.

We can see the Alton Barnes White Horse on the Pewsey Downs. It was dug out in 1812 and some times at the Winter Solstice it is lit by candles. I expect that looks pretty good from the canal.

As we climbed up Clifford's Hill we saw these marks in a wheat field and wondered what they were. I know that this area of the country is well known for crop circles. There have been a few fenced off area on the walk so wondered if there was some sort of mining in bell pits. I checked on Google Earth and there is no sign of them on there. So, crop circles?

Looking down from Clifford's Hill and looking towards Tan Hill.

The view from the top of Tan Hill looking towards the north. There is no sign of a electricity pylon or a wind generator. I wonder if this was in the north it would look like that?

Silbury Hill sticks out well to the north too. It was built in prehistoric times and forms part of the neolithic Avebury and Stonehenge complex. It is the tallest neolithic mound in Europe at almost 100ft high.

Running along the top of this ridge line is a section of the East Wansdyke. It is early medieval, 5th of 6th century. It was thought to have built by the Romano British people who were left after the Romans withdrew. It is on the north side of the ridge and it is thought that it was built to protect them from the insurgent West Saxons that were spreading over the country from the Thames Valley to the north. It is quite a large feature with the bank over 13 feet high in parts and a ditch over 8 feet deep. It must have been quite a remarkable feature even now. The ditch and bank of the Wansdyke looking to the West from Pewsey Downs.

It was a lovely walk and once we got on to the hills there was a lovely cooling breeze too. We saw a linnet, a stoat, loads of different butterflies including a Marbled White and watched a hawk hunting but we were unable to name it. As we walked down from the ridge we walked down another sunken road that must have been as old as the Wansdyke. There were lovely flowers and loads of spotted orchids on the side of the path. It was great to get up high and have a long view. I'm not sure that we will have another long walk if it is going to be even warmer tomorrow.

Monday 29 June 2015

Out into the country.

We were going to move off this morning after a bit of shopping but as there was room on the 1100 Wadsworth Brewery tour we decided to hang on a little. We went and did the shopping and were back on time for the tour. The brewery was bought by Henry Wadsworth in 1875 when he had an advance on his inheritance of about £6000 to buy the premises. The original brewery was much smaller and about 100 mt away. The present brewery were built in 1885 to meet the new demand for his beers. and is a tower brewery as the process uses gravity mainly in the process.
 Wadsworth's Northgate Brewery opened in 1885.

Henry was very young when he bought the place, 22, and was still a bit of a lad. He cycled from London to Bath on an old bone shaker and enjoyed hot air ballooning too. He used to ride his penny farthing round Devizes visiting the 35 pobs they had at that time and sampling a half at each. Needless to say they weren't all checked on the same day! He died at age 77 when he fell off his horse when out hunting. He had no heirs so luckily he had brought his school boy friend, John Smith Bartholomew, into the business and he married Henry's sister. The company is still run by the Bartholomew family.

Wadsworth's still deliver to their pubs in a two and half mile radius using the shire horses and dray. They also show them around the country fairs where they regularly win rosettes. They were beautiful and huge, over 18 hands. 

Their other claim to fame is that they are one of the few places that hand paint all their signs for their pubs. I must say that this is a bit of a thing of mine as I do like to say a proper sign outside a pub. They also paint all the signs by hand such as 'toilets', 'carpark' etc. The artists can take about two weeks to paint a sign and longer with the planning etc. He has been there 24 years and is on his fourth round of going round the 250 pub signs as they last about 5 to 7 years.

It was a very good tour and with the tasting afterwards lasted over two hours. It seems that '6X' is the favourite of their beers, but very closely followed by 'Swordfish' that has rum added right at the end. The local favourite is the 'Henry's IPA'. Henry Wadsworth liked this so called it after himself. It seems that when he first started to brew he called his beers 'A', 'B', 'C' etc.

After a bite to eat we were ready to go. By then all the moorings were full and boats were still coming up the flight, and being very tired after the trip up the 29 locks, were disappointed to see there was no room. We made somebodies day and moved off to the water point. The museum and shop seem to have been closed all the time we have been here. The place reminds me of a low budget motel in the US of A. but maybe it is supposed to be like a stables.

There were tempting glimpses of the downs through the very high banks and many trees along the cut. Disappointingly there were few places to moor as there were loads of reeds and shallows along the bank.

We were approaching Bishop Canning swing bridge when we passed a boat with his engines running and obviously ready to leave. He didn't return our greeting but pulled off and followed us to the bridge. Helen swung the bridge and let him through but I don't know why he was so miserable as we would always let single handers through. Mind you I notice that swing bridge landings are on the same side as you work the bridge unlike many canals that makes it very awkward to work through them on your own.

We were going to moor round here much earlier and go for a walk but being later than anticipated we carried on a little way.

 An inviting path to explore.
We started the washing before we left and filled up so we have found a good place to get it dry. We will get on tomorrow and have a walk up to the ridge line and hopefully a bit of a breeze. It is supposed to be even hotter on Wednesday.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Round Devizes.

Before breakfast I popped out to the petrol station near the top lock to get a Sunday paper and then managed to read it on the Sunday! Normally I haven't really finished it by the following weekend. We were waiting for the Wiltshire Museum that opened at 1200. We arrived soon after and we were a little perturbed to find that we had to pay. I'm glad we did though as it was a very well laid out and descriptive little museum that was much better than Gloucester where we also paid, and plenty that we have been round for free. It explained very well the early history of the downs in the area and had some fantastic exhibits. It managed to tell me the relevance of the exhibits to each other as the ages moved from Beaker Man through the Iron Age and through to the Romans. They also explained the differences in the type of burials and monuments of the stone age. I difficult feat I can assure you.

This was the Corn Exchange but I have never seen such a big statue in a site like that.

Off the Market Place and almost next to the Corn Exchange is the Bear. It was a very posh place when Devizes was a favoured stop over between London and Bath for those taking the waters. It is a pretty nice spot today.

On the other side of the Market Place is the Cheese Market. There was a little bric a brac sale on so we went in to have a poke about and I found this notice for the conduct of the Cheese Market from the Town Council. Who would have thought that selling cheese was such a problem.

I'm not sure what this building used to be but the plaques etc were very lovely.

Detail of the bust of Matilda.

The New Town Hall and also the offices of the Devizes and Roundway Burial Committee. St. John's is in the background.

One of the oldest houses in Devizes hidden away down St.John's Alley.

The castle at Devizes was built by the Normans. It later burnt down and then was rebuilt in stone. It became important during the English Civil War. The castle changed hands several times and at Roundway there was the only battle that the Royalist actually won. After the victory of the Parlimentary forces and the elevation of Oliver Cromwell. He passed a law that the castle was to be destroyed. It was later rebuilt in 1838 as a private residence and has been added to since then.

There are a couple of stories from Devizes. The Market Cross built in 1814 has a plaque that recounts one of them. In 1753 a Ruth Pierce had agreed to purchase a sack of wheat, clubbing together with three other women. When it came to the reckoning one of the women found that she was short so asked Ruth to pay up. Ruth swore that she had already paid and if she was not telling the truth may she drop down dead. She repeated this other and then dropped down dead and was found clutching the money in her hand. The Coroner gave the cause of death as the wrath of God.

The other story is of the 18th Century also, during the time of smugglers and Revenue Men. Some locals were using rakes to drag out barrels of brandy from the bottom of the pound in the town when they were caught red handed by the Customs men. When asked what they were doing they pointed to the reflection of the full moon in the pond and acting daft declared they were trying to get the big cheese out of the pond! They got away with at from then on folk from here have been called Moonrakers. The town is another place that obviously was a very rich past and have managed to retain many of the better buildings. It has an open countenance and is well worth a good look round.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Going up in the world.

We got up a little earlier than normal so that we could get to the bottom of the 29 locks ready for the up and waiting for somebody to share with. We got round the corner and as nobody was on the water tap we stopped and filled up. There were two cherry trees right next to the tap so whilst we were waiting for the water, and another boat, we picked what we could reach. We got as punnet full before the water finished. They are not as sweet as the ones we picked at Runcorn in July 2013 but they will be fine in a pie or something. That is the ones that will be left!

Just before the first lock of the 29 on the Caen Hill Flight are the old abutments of a railway bridge and Foxhanger hire boats. We moored up and waited for 40 mins but as nobody was insight we set off.

The water is pumped back up to the top from the bottom and next to the bottom lock is a small solar farm that powers it. It is like looking at the Smartguauge in big size!

We started out on the trip up in the world at 1015.

We were very lonely for half the locks but got into the swing of it and were making good time. Helen making light work of the first seven locks.

This flight of locks were the last thing to be completed on the Kennet and Avon Canal and to bring some revenue in to the company they were transshipping cargo from boats at the the top and bottom and carrying up and down with a plate way railway. These foot tunnels are what remains of the access for it beneath the roads. 

This is the supposedly daunting 16 central Caen Hill Locks. In fact these are the easiest locks to work as they are nice and close together so if you are able you can work ahead on your own and prepare the next lock whilst the boat is coming up the one before. The gradient of these locks is 1 in 30!

The pumping station at the bottom of the lock can pump around 32 million litres of water back up to the top every day, which I read is a lock full every 11 minutes. Each of the locks has a full sized side pound that can save a full lock of water that means that much less water is wasted over the bye washes and makes it all possible.

After half way up we managed to catch up with a hire boat that had four working the locks. After that it was easier but slower. Helen talked the Dad on the helm to pass from one lock to the next in tandem and this certainly speeds things up. (Marilyn would be proud of her). We got a good system going and were working ahead so swinging along very nicely.

The reward at the top of the 16 central locks was not only the beautiful view but an ice cream from the cafe and five minutes to eat it! I didn't see a voluntary lock keeper working a paddle or gate but they do have a couple of quad bikes to go up and down the flight.

The last six locks seemed to disappear quickly and we were  passing through lock 50 and looking for a mooring, which fortunately there were some left. From lock 22 to Lock 50 had taken us 4 hours 45 minutes. That means it was a little less than 10  minutes per lock. The first two thirds were on our own and only three were our way and when sharing we only had another three our way so I am very pleased with that performance. You can see the Wadsworth beer storage yard opposite the berth and the brewery is just over the road.

Mind you I was jiggered when we were moored up. I felt a little better after a bacon sarnie. We then wandered into town and looked for a bit of this and that. We found a pork pie and found the British Lion that had the siren call for us to go and have a drink. I didn't put up much resistance and throughly enjoyed the pint that hardly touched the sides. We then got a £10 deal at M&S and on wandering back to the boat we heard the call again, but this time it was the Bear Hotel. Helen really enjoyed the place so I was able to have a couple of beers here. Folk seem friendly but we were just a bit too late for the street market. As Wadsworth is brewed here I expect that we will be testing it out in more of the locals. We have a day or so here so I reckon we will be resting my legs by sitting at a bar or two. It has been a very nice day and with marvelous weather too. The gongoozlers are not quite as close to the action as at Foxton Locks so we did get too many daft questions but we also didn't get too many offers of help either. I'm glad I don't have to do it every day though!

Friday 26 June 2015

Wrong wharf!

We got away at the normal time and Helen arrived at the lock to find somebody was turning it round after a trip boat had gone through. As it was it meant were able to help a hire boat up who had not managed to do a single lock as they were late when they picked the boat up so the guy did the handover and they just did the first lock for them at Bradford and left them to it. They went down to the top of the Bath locks and stopped and so this one was there first one on their own. On top of this most of the crew had left early. Mind you they had had a great time and would like to do it again.

When we eventually got up the lock we found the water point was empty so stopped to fill up and drop the rubbish off.

This is no oil painting... well actually it is and must have taken ages.

This was a lovely stretch of canal with no boats in sight.

 But astern was a different story with loads of boats all over the canal. From Bath has been like this pretty much all the way so don't expect to get anywhere in a hurry.

I had heard that the diesel at Hilperton was cheap so as we needed half a tank we stopped off and filled up. The folk were very friendly and soon had us filled and away. A couple of hundred yards up the canal was a sign saying diesel 65p domestic! I looked in my Pearson's and it only showed one wharf so I stopped at the first place. Don't you hate that when I nearly paid 80p domestic. That is about eight pints I will have to forego now! Make sure you stop at the second wharf (from the dirction of Bath that is), not ABC hire centre but The Boatyard.

We went up the Semmington Locks on our own although boats coming down did leave gates open for us. Rain had been forecast for late morning but nothing materialised so it was a pleasant trip.

The views start to extend and there are inviting looking villages in the distance.

After passing through three swing bridges that are fixed in place with a bolt and chain that are opened using a lock paddle windlass (but seem mostly to be left hand tight) we caught up with a hire boat at the foot of the Seend Locks.

There were four in the shore party so we were able to get up the flight speedily with a fair bit of banter going on. They had aimed for Bristol but had to turn round at Salford so had done okay. They were more first timers but with a bit of Thames cruiser experience. They also said they would do it again.

Our lock partners stopped between the next two swing bridges but we decided to carry on. I opened the second bridge for Helen and just as I closed it the first drops of rain started. It was then a mission to find a bit of bank to tie to and so we were soon all fast and the short gangway out.We were soon battened down and had a coffee and Tia Maria with a toasted Bath bun.

The rain stopped after about an hour and the sun is trying to come out again. It is a good job that there is no pub close as I have money to make up.

Thursday 25 June 2015


We were waiting for a hire boat to leave from astern of us but they appeared to be stuck on the ledge so we set off across the Dundas Aqueduct. It was almost a continuous line of moored boats all the way to Bradford on Avon.
Passing over the aqueduct.

There appeared to be no moorings below the lock but then a boat peeled off to go up the lock and we slid in and moored up. We were then off to Sainsbury's and doing a shop that would mean we would be able to top up the cupboards. After packing it away and lunch we were off to explore Bradford. First stop was the Tourist Information and we spent 20p on a guided walk round the town. Well worth the expense.

A lovely street in Bradford with the Bath Stone. On the left is Holy Trinity Church and some of them on the right are 17th century Glebe cottages.

Just near Holy Trinity is this Saxon Church of St Laurence. It had been 'lost' as it had been used as a school and home but was rediscovered in 1856 and rebuilt as it was built in the 11th Century.

We then walked up the hill to the north via little lanes and steps until we got to a another old little church that had been a hostel for the pilgrims to Glastonbury (no not the festival) and also had a hermitage attached.  The view over the town was fantastic.

The view from St Mary Toby Chapel with the Avon.

St Mary Toby chapel was a ruin until bought by a Victorian gentleman that paid to have it reinstated.

These weavers cottages must have the best view in town with a view right across the the White Horse on Salisbury Plain.

The 14th Century Tithe Barn was fantastic, and would be another fantastic venue for arts like Ilford Manor yesterday. In fact there is a production of Hamlet on this weekend but they are sold out.

The roof timbers were fantastic. There are other buildings in the complex and was an actual working farm until 1971.

The Town Bridge was widened in 1769 and replaced the old ford. Broad Ford became Bradford on Avon. What looks like a chantry chapel is actually a Victorian lock up, but it was built on the footings of a Medieval chapel.

The Bridge Tea Rooms have won tea shop of the year at least twice and looked quite reasonably priced. It looks lucky if it will still be standing for next years awards!

Bardford on Avon is a nice place, especially when you get off the main streets. The Tory on the hill was very pretty and peaceful. It is obvious that the Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust is very active and has access to plenty of funds as they have saved many buildings in the town. Mind you we didn't find a butchers as I was looking forward to a pork pie. There are plenty of posh second hand dress shops. And we have noticed all over the country that there are many, many barbers and hair salons everywhere. Well worth a stop for a look see and on such a beautiful day anywhere would look beautiful.