|Newbury Lock, with its unique lever-operated paddle gear|
Now there is a potential Channel 4 alternative – have a team of ten men (dressed as pirates) and a team of ten women (in skimpy sailor's outfits), give them multiple crates of beer and wine and watch them get increasingly idiotic as the day wears on, culminating in one or more falling in.
Personally, though, I think that's rather crude. I prefer the subtlety of the BBC version. The contenders have to be intelligent – bankers, doctors, marketing types – and the judging panel (get this) is a couple of middle aged housewives.
We saw the finale of the pilot show this afternoon: two such boats had to drop through the lock after Aldermaston Wharf, turn in the winding hole below and come back up the lock to return the boats. Apparently that's one of the stipulations of the hire operator there.
Their antics were beyond hilarious. They got one turned reasonably okay but then that completely blocked the winding hole space for the other boat when it tried the manoeuvre.
"Oh dear," said our judging houseswives on their canalside bench. "Why didn't they just take one out, turn it round and go back in the lock, then do it with the other one." You're absolutely right, judges. Zerol points for both teams.
|Memorial plaque at Newbury Lock|
Newbury Lock, first of the day, is the official boundary between the original canalised River Kennet to Reading and the stretch from Newbury to Bath which joined it 60 years later. There's a plaque to record as much at the lock.
The day had started quietly enough in the company of a competent pair on their smart little 50 footer. Except that the lady lockie from that and myself chatted our way into B&Q carpark instead of the next lock! Busily talking we had missed the bridge taking the towpath to the other side and had to retrace our steps.
|Serious flooding of the towpath near Thatcham|
Our travelling companions pulled a flanker on us here: we'd come upon another narrowboat waiting for the lock and they waved us ahead to partner this one. "We are stopping soon; you go on."
|Why Thatcham's lock is so big and oddly sided I can't say|
|The Kennet here has moments of rare beauty|
|Not so much a sidestream at Towney Lock, more a Niagara|