Monday, 7 October 2013

Stop 'n go

It's been slower going since our locking marathon up to Devizes – aching muscles and joints take a while to recover these days. We are now in Hungerford, the overtly , yet charming Berkshire town that is the next town of any size eastwards along the canal.
It's 25 miles on from Devizes and, I wasn't surprised to realise when checking back in the guidebook, two dozen locks as well. Devizes is the place where the canal changes character dramatically: westwards it plunges headlong down in lock flights whereas eastwards it steps slowly and carefully down in single locks (or groups of two and three) spread out along its length.
I know which I prefer: a day or two of hard work and then some light relief. The lock-a-mile style of the run to Hungerford became decidedly irksome as we found lock after lock set against us and seemed to be barely round the bend before the next appeared - always just a little too far away for a comfortable walk.
It's not just the design of the canal which is different: the number of boats is far, far less. West of the Caen Hill locks three or four hire companies keep the canal busy with moving boats whereas here we saw barely three or four boats a day.
The numbers of seemingly static boats is far lower, too. Yes, there are still some clusters, inevitably near pubs, roads or good tv reception points, but nowhere near the lines of non-movers out west.
On our way east we've passed back through the rolling, open downlands of Wiltshire that lured us to some enjoyable long walks on our way down. Now we are back into leafy, wooded Berkshire where the canal will merge with the River Kennet.
Now that's what I call a pie!
The weather has been the real talking point. A couple of days ago it was cold and damp enough to light the back cabin stove and for Mrs B to produce one of her magnificent chicken and vegetable pies in it (not for nothing is she the author of  The Canal Boat Cook Book). Yet yesterday we were digging the shorts back out of the 'not needed for a few months' drawer under the bed and sitting in warm sunshine on the deck eating a salad. Cazy.
Next stop is Newbury - just nine miles but 11 locks away - and then the Thames at Reading will seem almost at touching distance with 18 miles and 21 locks to go.
We now have a deadline - Teddington Lock by the 18th of the month. What Car? magazine was launched 40 years ago this month and a group of us old crusties who worked on it as eager young motoring hacks are being wheeled in to Haymarket Publishing to celebrate. I guess we are celebrating our own survival as much as the magazine's!
Anyway, Haymarket's offices are at the old Thames Studios in Teddington, just over the river from the lock so I will be the only one boating to the lunch.


  1. My mum never let me send in a vote on a postcard to Opportunity Knocks, but I still remember the address!

  2. Goodness, in all senses of the word, the pie I mean.

  3. Star came by here a couple of days ago, Stretton Wharf, SU going north, looking and sounding very nice.

    1. Glad to hear it's out and about. The new owner will love it as much as we did I'm sure.

  4. I see Mrs B is keeping you on short rations then.