London, Cornwall and the Kennet & Avon Canal
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Sun. July 23rd, 2006

Kennet & Avon Canal

Cool and overcast in the AM, nice warm afternoon

Oakhill Downs BridgeAwoke at 6:30 and got dressed. Coffee was delivered to our door at 7:00, and our breakfast orders taken. We'd moored near Oakhill Down Bridge so after coffee we hopped off and went to explore. The bridge was not only turf covered, but frog covered as well. There were billions of the tiny things and we had the dickens of a time trying to make certain we didn't step on any of them.

We got underway about 8:00. We weren't quite ready for breakfast yet so we worked out that 10:00 would be a good time to aim for as we'd be ready to eat and hopefully there'd be a suitable stopping place.

Walking the Towpath We made good time, and went thru several locks, with us walking along the towpath, taking pics and stretching our legs. By the time a good breakfast stop came a long it was nearly 11, so we decided to call it brunch and asked Marge if we could just skip lunch today. I can only walk off so many meals in one day.

While we were having breakfast the assigned "cabin boy" of the day went thru and made our beds, cleaned the bath and did general straightening up of our rooms. When we came back there was Kels' jacket ever so neatly folded and sitting on the bed, and her shoes lined up underneath. From there out she was always careful not to leave her cabin a mess for fear of finding her bathrobe carefully folded into the shape of a swan and adorning the bunk.

Stopped at the Crofton Pumping Station which was really cool. It pumped water from the highest spring to the canal summit, under steam. Toured thru the workings of the beam engine. Girls seemed bored. Also saw a biplane overhead. There was a pond nearby with a rather strong odor, it smelled like Harris Ranch. Crofton Beam Engine

Moved along the Kennet and Avon Canal, going thru locks and walking the path. We eventually got into a lock which filled about 3/4s of the way, and then started draining back out. The paddle was stuck most of the way up, and there was what looked to be hydraulic fluid leaking into the water. We got back out of the lock, moored up and Bill put in a call to British Waterways. They were having a busy day as a tree had gone down somewhere and was blocking the canal, and someone had driven a stolen car into a lock creating a stoppage. Despite all that they were out in an hour or so to fix it by adding fluid. So much for their quiet Sunday.

Repairing the Lock We walked along the path for about 45 mins while we waited, and Bill went up to warn the the boaters coming down that the lock was broken but BWW was on the way. Bill also showed us the stinging nettle plants, but said they weren't that bad, as we found out for ourselves later that afternoon. They really don't sting much at all, but they sure do itch after.

Entering the Bruce TunnelOnce the lock was repaired we headed on to the Bruce Tunnel under the Savernake Forest. 502 yards of long dark passage. But as we could see the other end the whole time it wasn't very spooky.

There was a beer festival at Pewsey Wharf so mooring was pretty tough.
We didn't want to get too close and find no spots left, nor did we really want the noise for half the night. The boys hopped off and drove stakes into the bank and we were able to moor up to those. It was a bit of a slippery jump, but much to our amazement, no one actually fell in. Probably due to the fact we were careful about having a good hold on a helping hand when making the hop.

Why the Boats Are So NarrowI   kept meaning to ask Bill or Marge about the artwork, since we'd noticed it seemed as if all the canal boats had various paintings of roses and castles. Never quite remembered, but finally was able to look into what the origins are. No one seems to be quite sure.

Dinner was lamb, ooh! my fave, in a red wine sauce.
It was so nummy I was glad we'd skipped lunch so I was hungry by dinner hour. We had a few beers and tried to talk the two boys into playing a game of Apples to Apples, but they politely declined. Which was probably as well since fairly soon after the drowsys hit and we crawled to bed. It had felt chilly when we first went in, but that changed quick enough and we were kicking off the covers shortly after.

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