Tumbling down the hill from Devizes in a succession of flights, 36 locks have seen the rolling downlands disappear in favour of somewhat less soul-lifting low flat plains. The stone houses are still charming and the hamlets pretty but it's just not the same.
The canal-scape is quite different, too: much busier for one thing. The stretch from the bottom of the Devizes locks to Bath is home to several hire boat firms and their boats are on the move in both directions - wide beams as well as narrow boats. It's been good to meet foreign visitors enjoying our canals, too: we met a family of New Zealanders and an American couple who've been coming on canal holidays for the past five years.
Less pleasing, though, to witness the growing ranks of 'continuous moorers' in varying condition from good to dire. Are they all engaged in a continuous journey, staying not more than 14 days before moving on? Maybe – though the evidence suggests not. And if they were then there would be a helluva lot more boats on the move than there presently are.
I'm a bit of a woolly minded liberal on this subject: for some the canals are all they can manage in the way of a home, while others side-step the rules because they can. I don't have any sympathy for someone who can afford a £100k+ widebeam or barge and then can't or won't pay for a mooring. But the whole issue has been allowed to grow until it's almost out of control and won't be resolved without a lot of pain all round.
But let's not get too grumpy, we have also seen an entertaining range of craft down to the utterly bizarre - like the pedal-powered 'green lifestyle' boat we passed (stationary, not being pedalled by its crew of Wiggins-alikes). So here's a few:
|Lovely wooden hull but quite a project|
|You're entering Indian country - nice boat, great paint job|
|Little aluminium (I think) lifeboat|