Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Third time lucky

Tug Harry nestles in the steep valley
This is the third time we have been past this spot on the K&A but the first time we had moored here. What a find! It's an absolute delight. Where were we? At Claverton, nestled down in the steep, tree filled Avon valley.
Claverton water powered pumping station fed the canal
The only downside is that we arrived and found Claverton was shut. The famous waterwheel powered pumping station is closed to visitors during long term repairs – indeed the whole village seemed to be shut. There was not a sign of life when we walked through it.
And the next day we walked a couple of miles to Limpley Stoke and discovered that was shut too. It was Monday but the pub was closed, the garage was closed, the village shop (if it was ever open) was closed.
Even the main A36 road was shut – and had been for four months – because it was crumbling down the hill towards the canal. And that meant that the Spar shop in the local petrol station was shut too!
The only place that was open was the Angelfish Cafe at Brassknocker Basin at the end of the surviving stub of the Somersetshire Coal Canal which joined the canal by the Dundas Aqueduct. So we consoled ourselves with an excellent lunch in the sun there.

The causeway across the Avon at pretty Warleigh Weir
But it was all still a lovely place to be. The setting is gorgeous and the star attraction is the stunning Warleigh Weir, a long curving shallow weir across the river which is topped by a stone walkway that lies just below the surface, giving those a bit more daring than us the chance to walk across it.
The weir lies at one end of an island formed by the river and the millstream that feeds Claverton waterwheel which in turn fed the canal. These days an electric pump does the job though the waterwheel still turns on special days.
The island is rough meadow and a popular spot for local picnickers and swimmers – though not so popular as to be crowded or frighten away the birdlife. We spotted a couple of resident kingfishers though they resolutely refused to pose for the camera.
The little villages of Claverton and Limpley Stoke, further down the canal by the spectacular Aqueduct, are picture postcard pretty though, to judge by the stature of the houses, were always distinctly affluent.
Grand Warleigh Manor hides in the trees above the weir
On the edge of Bath, this is the land of grand houses. Big Warleigh Manor lurks in the trees on the hill overlooking the weir but is dwarfed by the huge Claverton Manor on the opposite hillside. Now the American Museum, this was for decades the home of the wealthy local Skrine family and, one imagines, every house in Claverton originally served the Manor. 
But is dwarfed by the huge Claverton Manor opposite
The mile long Manor drive is now a B-road
Claverton church is quite modest, though, which is perhaps why one of Georgian Bath's richest men, the self-effacing Ralph Allen chose to be buried here.
The tomb of postal pioneer Ralph Allen
He made his first fortune from developing the early postal system and his second from owning the quarries that provided the stone from which Bath was built. But he was a modest man and gave much of his wealth to local good causes.
Tonight we are moored in picturesque Bradford on Avon and on the first of doubtless many appalling K&A moorings – three feet out from the edge and yet still aground!
You can find delightful new spots on this canal but some of its horrors are still the same.

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