Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Bells and the Bus Driver

Town Bridge Bradford-on-Avon 
Morning Jotters

What a week it's been! This last stretch has truly been the most spectacular and the weather has made it extra special. We reached our destination (Bath) almost 3 months after starting out from our home mooring last March - it does seem like an awfully long time ago. The highlight of this week and possibly the whole trip so far, was coming down the Caen flight on Tuesday. I've seen pictures of this famous landmark but they can't do it justice. The black and white lock arms stretch away in front of you and seem never ending but your reward comes in the following days as you reach some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere on the waterways. Bradford-on-Avon, Avoncliffe, the Dundas Aquadeuct, Claverton, Bathampton and finally, Bath, the jewel in the crown. I hardly know where to begin to share the delights of this week with you.

Did you notice it's been a little warm? We studied the forecast and saw that Tuesday was going to be the coolest day of the week, so we made an early start from Honey Street on Monday morning, arriving in Devizes in time to stock up with a few treats from M&S and have a look round the town. There's a very pretty market place with statues and a fountain, lots of lovely old buildings and its own brewery situated in a very imposing building right by the town centre. Apparently there are more pubs than people in Devizes and we certainly saw plenty of public houses as we walked around. The very imposing Bear Hotel dominates the Market Place but there are many more tucked into the surrounding streets. We also spotted a sign for a castle but I'm sorry to say it was too hot to go exploring, my mind was already on the exertions of the Caen flight.

Sunset st Seende Cleeve
I was up early and wielding my windlass at the first lock by 8am. There are 6 locks before the main descent, 16 in the flight and a further 7 locks before the job is completed. I can't tell you how glad I was to see the Canal and River Trust volunteers setting the locks ahead of us as I completed number six and walked down to the flight. This happy band were working in pairs and as Carl came down one lock, they had the next one ready for him to enter - all I had to do was close a few gates and walk down the flight, lending a windlass at every third lock or so. I watched a Kingfisher hovering over one of the side ponds and swooping down to catch a fish, I've only ever seen them fishing on the canals, I've not seen them hovering like a humming bird before - such beautiful birds. The volunteers left us at lock 29 and walked back to the top for their well-earned tea break, I was really very grateful for their help and after a short tea-break ourselves, we completed the last 7 locks and moored by the Foxhangers boatyard at the bottom. I could only manage 3 locks the next day and we spent a lazy afternoon by the pub in Seend Cleeve, watching the sun set with a glass of Old Mout cider and watching the hordes of hire boats rushing by us .

The Bridge Tearooms Bradford-on-Avon
Tricky and I don't like very hot weather, so it was a bit of luck to find a mooring under a horse chestnut tree in Bradford-on-Avon. The tree shaded the cabin but left the panels in full sun - a perfect combination for us. I caught the bus into town, leaving Carl and Tricky minding the solar panels. I was so busy looking at the sights that I missed the stop and was carried on to the top of the hill. To tell the truth, I was waiting for the pensioners; they usually get off in the centre of things and I can follow the grey-haired trolley draggers to the shops, only this time they didn't get off and it was a while before I realised we were leaving the town behind and rang the bell. It was a happy accident though, and I clicked away with my camera as I walked back through the prettiest streets you have ever seen. I've taken far too many photos and I'll post the best of them on the blog - I hope you can find them, I'm especially pleased with the one I took of the town bridge, have a look and see what you think.

It was another hot day on Friday with storms forecast overnight so we decided to sit tight in our shady spot and leave Tricky on guard while we both went into town for more sightseeing and shopping in Sainsburys. We waited in the shady park for the bus to arrive, trying to ignore a pair of hippies canoodling on a park bench. There was a lot of tutting going on from the benches around us - I don't think the upright citizens of Bradford-on-Avon approved. The bus turned up but it was going up the hill and around the estates before coming back down into the town and then on to Sainsburys - oops! I got it wrong again. The bus driver was a nice young man and said he didn't mind if we came along for the ride, rather than waiting in the hot sun. Now that makes a nice change - a pleasant and friendly bus driver. We rattled off up the hill and round the residential estates, enjoying the cool air and the view over the valley. The bus pulled up outside a house, where an elderly lady waited on a chair by her front door. The driver hopped out of his seat, ran up the path and handed the lady a newspaper - now I really am impressed with this young man, it might have been a relative but even so, my heart was warmed by his kindness.

I've really not left time to tell you about the delights of the Claverton Pumping Station - we were so lucky to arrive on the one Saturday a month that the pump is working. We were shown around by an enthusiastic volunteer and had the full guided tour. We saw the huge water wheels driving the pump, which originally kept the canal topped up with water from the river Avon. It's a marvellous piece of engineering and gave us a fascinating insight into what life was like for the people living in Engine Cottage during its working life.

A lady stopped to talk and told us a very interesting story. She was on a bell ringing holiday with a group of friends, travelling along in a narrowboat and ringing a quarter peal at churches along the way - now that's a new one on me. You do meet the most interesting people when you're sitting on the towpath watching the world go by.

And so, finally, we arrived in Bath. I'll write more about that next week. I hope you're enjoying this lovely weather, I thought I heard someone say it was too flipping hot – surely not!

Lots of Love and Hugs
The Floating Chandlers

ps The meadow by the river in Claverton was filled with families enjoying the sunny weather with a picnic and a paddle in the river. I was amazed to see so many people in the water so early in the year, I bet it was freezing!