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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 37

Posted by indigodream on 20 September, 2008

Bristol to Bathampton

Old brewery ready for development in Bristol Floating Harbour

Old brewery ready for development in Bristol Floating Harbour

We had a bit more energy this morning so we set off on the long trip towards home. It was a bit sad to leave Bristol. Richard went to university here so he’s had pleasant trips down memory lane; I’ve just enjoyed the buzz of the harbour. You could have a good holiday here – maybe a 2-centre break with a cruise down to Portishead and back…..

The floating harbour is surprisingly large and the route out towards Netham Lock winds its way through a mix of regenerated buildings plus a few old sites that are just biding their time for the developers. Bristol really has made something of its waterfront.

Netham Lock is generally open unless there’s a very high tide. We’d expected it to be open when we arrived but it seems that not only was there a spring tide but they had dropped the level in the harbour slightly. The lock gates could only be opened with the aid of a tirfor! Once they managed to open the lock gate there was a strong flow of water from the river. Richard and Blue had gone for a nosey -I had to use 1000rpm just to stand still in the lock to pick them up! As you come out of Netham lock do watch out for this flow – the tide was running out and the water was pretty fast. Use lots of revs and stay to slightly to the left coming out (with a look out) until you’re onto the river proper. Go too far to the right and you

The lovely river Avon

The lovely river Avon

can get caught in the main river flow to the weir. Nothing that a big engine can’t cope with but why take the risk?

After the drama of the lock the river was fine – water levels were high and there was a strong flow in places (especially below the weirs) but it was all very manageable. There’s particularly strong cross-current from the weir below Swineford lock. It’s a pleasure to be on this stretch of river – from Bristol right up to the outskirts of Bath the scenery is just stunning. There are several locks – all are very rural and great places for dogs to have a rummage. They had a very stimulating day!

What struck me most was the high wooded banks looking lush in every shade of dark green. I’d love to see it in October when it has its autumn colours. 'Vultures' on the Avon!Mind you, by then we’ll be on the Thames and that’s quite magnificent in the autumn as well. There was lots of bird life around – we saw several streaks of irridescent blue flashing past – kingfishers – almost too fast to register on the eye before they’re gone. We also saw four buzzards circling lazily above the river. In fact, it might have been in Africa as the local cormorants did their best impression of vultures sitting atop dead trees!

Visitor moorings are few and far between on this stretch. We did like the look of the pontoon just before bridge 211 – a huge disused railway bridge that now carries the Bristol to Bath cycleway (and footpath). The moorings looked like they backed onto top rummaging territory for the dogs. If we come this way again we’ll have to work the schedule so that we stay the night there.

Just after Kelson lock we had cause for envy. As you know, Blue’s obedience, in particular, lacks a little something. Just above the lock we saw a load of chickens leaping off their coop and running up the path. We thought they were being

Useful visitor moorings on the Avon

Useful visitor moorings on the Avon

attacked, but no, they were running towards their owner who was whistling at them to come. I hate to admit it, but that flock of chickens was better trained and more obedient than my dogs. I hung my head in shame and cruised by quickly!

After the lovely run up the Avon it was such a disappointment to come to Bath. Here’s a city that’s done nothing with its waterway. The watersides are bleak and there are few visitor moorings until you get well out of town up the Bath locks. I know that there’s a bit of brightness if you venture up to Pultney Weir but I think that the city really has turned its back on the river. It makes me cross – it could be such an asset for boaters and city coffers alike.

We made it to Bath in good time so we carried on

Bath - drab from the water

Bath - drab from the water

up the Bath locks, eager to escape this drab city (from the water). We shared the last few locks with an unlicensed continuous moorer – he had asked politely if he could share the locks with us and we couldn’t really refuse. By the end we felt exploited – I respect anyone’s ‘freedom’ to choose a lifestyle but not if I have to pay for it. As the solitary young man said “I just move between Bath and Bradford-on-Avon – BW don’t like it but there’s nothing they can do about it, so there”. With a £150 hike in license fees for continuous cruisers in the offing I wasn’t amused. That’s the trouble – BW don’t seem to think it’s feasible to enforce the rules on mooring but they think a hike in fees is manageable. But all that means is that the people who ‘honesty’ pay now end up paying more and those that don’t pay now won’t care! I was glad to lose our freeloading companion at Bath top lock.

We cruised on to Bathampton – there’s a particularly fine canalside pub, The George Inn, by bridge 183. There are good moorings by the pub but these are generally full unless you get there early. We took the earliest available towpath mooring – you’ll need a plank and a machete but they’re otherwise fine! We had an enormous meal at the pub – truly excellent and went back on board in good spirits.

Photoblog:

I thought I’d add a few more views of the Avon though the pictures don’t do it justice. If you’re ever cruising down here then don’t stop at Bath – do the last bit down the Bristol. I promise you won’t regret it! I’ve also thrown in a few photos of the dogs because I think they’re cute!

"Are we there yet?"

Lou adapting to the pace of life onboard!

Lou adapting to the pace of life onboard!

A thriving habitat on the Avon

A thriving habitat on the Avon

Lou being a poster girl for Kelston Lock

Lou being a poster girl for Kelston Lock

Views from the Avon

Views from the Avon

Views from the Avon

Views from the Avon

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