We had a great time in Bristol and were sorely tempted by the estuary trip up to Sharpness but the timings of the winter stoppages in that area and the prospect of getting stuck on the far side of the country from all our family (on whom we're hoping to rely for the occasional 'house relief' during the dark winter months on the boat - hint, hint) unfortunately forced us to conclude that a return back down the canal would be a wiser option.
And, having decided to go; well, what was the point in hanging around? We did a short first day so that Vicky could get her Lidl fix in Trowbridge and moored right on the proposed new junction with the under-restoration Wilts & Berks Canal. There's nothing but a sign at the moment but one day...
With bad weather threatened for later in the week we pressed on the next morning towards the daunting Caen Hill flight. Initial thoughts were that we would do the 14 locks leading up to the flight then moor at the bottom and carry on the next day.
But when we got there it was only 2.30pm and the sun was sort of shining so we decided to go for it.
Two and a half hours later we were up the flight - the only boat on the whole route during that time. And with just six more locks before Devizes Wharf we thought we might as well do them to. And we finished them just as the drizzle, which had come and gone during the afternoon, turned into more serious rain. Thirty six locks plus five swingbridges thrown in too.
Large portions of fish and chips took away some of the pain but we were both crashed out by 8.30 p.m.
As much as the weather what had driven us on was a desire to be away from the rather depressing western half of the canal. It's a beautiful waterway, with fine scenery and delightful towns like Bradford on Avon and Bath. But the mile after mile of moored boats gets very depressing. I'm upset by the squalid ruins that some people live on and angered by the flagrant abuse of the system by others - those who effectively 'live' on short term visitor moorings, who continuously cruise no more than a mile or so. (Or less - can a boat with no engine being poled along, or a pedal powered boat seriously be a continuous cruiser?)
But at least these are impecunious students and others trying to live cheaply. What of the brand new widebeams whose owners have bought as floating homes - if you can afford a new widebeam you can afford a mooring fee I think.
Rant over! We are now in Devizes and will be heading gradually east from here to reach the Thames and then aim for Brentford and the Grand Union. Well, that's today's plan anyway.