The last two weekends boating has been 3 of us on 2 boats, it's hard work, but it's not too bad. This weekend I was on my own, zaniyah and Ed were still in wet dock although apparently unable to paint past Saturday due to a leak in the coverings. This makes the locks significantly more effort, since you're doing all of the work.
Saturday wasn't too bad, only a hand full of locks, and all up hill, so the "please leave lock empty after use" signs were working in my favour, I stopped for the night near Wootton Rivers, which had very nice pub serving good food if a little expensive.
Sunday, it rained for most of the day, on the way up to the summit of the Kennet and Avon canal only saw 2 boats coming the other way, two wide beams with a reasonably large crew, travelling as a group, since I only one of them can get through the locks at a time I was able to go up the lock while they were filling it so the next boat could come down. One less lock for me to operate, since they were kind enough to operate it for me.
On the way down the other side of the summit, my luck changed for the better. Since it was cold and wet I stopped for 10 minutes to light the fire. Just as I'm getting ready to leave another narrow boat turns up heading in the same direction. (Although you can only get 1 wide beam boat in a lock, you can get 2 narrow boats in a lock). So we started off down the Crofton flight together, with a reasonable number of crew to operate the locks. As we got to the visitor moorings near to Crofton pumping station it was decided it was time for lunch. This is where I expected my luck to change...
Crofton pumping station is, I believe, unique. The two engines that they use are steam driven. "Number 1" engine is the oldest working beam engine in the world. It's an 1812 Bolton and Watt engine. When running it pumps approximately 6.25 tonnes of water PER STROKE. "Number 2" engine is an 1846 Harvey engine. These two and the associated coal fired boilers are housed side by side in a 3 storey building, with some of the pump below ground level. These things are huge monsters, with that strange charm that big steam engines have, well for me at least. I ended up chatting to two of the engineers, and learnt quite a bit about the workings and history of steam engines. If the big kid in you likes steam engines, this one's worth a visit on a steaming weekend.
Having wandered around the pumping station and eaten some lunch, I expected to be doing the rest of the flight, and associated locks on my own. This turned out not to be the case, just as I was shutting up the lock to head off to the next the boat I'd been down the rest of the flight with started to head off down the flight. So I set the lock filling for them and waited for them in the next lock. We then boated together for the rest of the day, with me leaving each lock first, setting and opening the locks, and them operating them and closing them up. We then gave up for the night somewhere around 6 when we came to a suitable stretch for mooring.
Monday being a bank holiday I continued on my merry way, this time on my own, since I had no idea when the boat I'd been sharing locks with was planning on setting off. With the locks now a reasonable distance apart I made quite good time, and stopped for the day at about 3 when a suitable mooring presented its self. The minor amusement being that according to my map I'm apparently moored half a mile from "The Wilderness". This is actually just a stretch of woodland outside Kintbury, but simple things and all that.
Since the train fare would now be about 90 quid a day to get to work, I've rented a room on campus for the week. Polden court, it turns out is some of the University's nicer accommodation. So this morning I had a massive 5 minute commute to work, so much nicer than last weeks 2 hours each way. Next week I'll be on campus again, having moved the boat even further towards Reading. The following weekend my holiday on the Thames begins! Here's hoping the weather's better than this week...