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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 43

Posted by indigodream on 26 September, 2008

Woolhampton to Reading (Thames and Kennet Marina)

We knew that there were restrictions on the opening of Aldermaston liftbridge during the rush hour so we had a choice – get up at 6am and beat the rush or get up at 7.30am and get there just afterwards. You can guess which one we chose! Absolutely no-one on board Indigo Dream is a morning person, especially Blue and Lou.

When we looked for details of the Aldermaston Bridge restrictions we couldn’t find any on the web, but they are clearly marked on the bridge itself. Here they are for future reference:

  • Open from dawn to 8am
  • Closed 8am to 9am
  • Open 9am to 4.30pm
  • Closed 4.30pm to 5.30pm
  • Open 5.30pm to dusk
  • Closed dusk ’til dawn

So it’s just as well we didn’t push on last night – the bridge would have been shut anyway!

Lou enjoying the soft grass and the sunshine

Lou enjoying the soft grass and the sunshine

We headed off for Aldermaston – it’s a lovely rural stretch though there was tremendous traffic noise from the A4 which runs parallel here (though some distance away). We got to Aldermaston Lock
at around 8.30am – perfect timing. I like Aldermaston – we’ve moored here before and it’s a very pleasant spot (though too close to the main road for dogs to be unrestrained). The lock is very large and has attractively scalloped sides. There’s a useful service point below the lock where we got rid of a load of accumulated rubbish. At 9am precisely we were ready for the bridge and went through without inconveniencing too many drivers.

We had a classic incident at Theale swingbridge. It’s an electrically operated bridge. Now most of you will know that first the red lights go on to stop the traffic, then there’s an interval before the barriers come down before the bridge finally opens. Just as the barriers were coming down a small red car came shooting over the bridge and had to stop abruptly before hitting the barrier at the other end. Richard was highly amused but also worried as he had hit emergency stop and wondered what would happen next. The young girl driver said “I didn’t jump the lights, honest” as Richard ducked to avoid getting hit by flying pigs. Anyway what to do next? Electric swingbridges tend to operate in a sequence and I wasn’t sure we could reverse it in order to get rid of the errant car. In the end, Richard got the car to creep forward until its bonnet was just under the barrier and the back wheels were off just off the bridge. He then hit the open button again and the bridge swung open behind them and I dashed through. It was such a bizarre sight – the car (with 2 nervously giggling girlies) perched precariously (but safely) between the open bridge and the closed barriers. Again, our problems with the datacard has deprived you of a classic photo!

The rural landscape downstream of Aldermaston is punctuated by road bridges so the dogs were more constrained today. There is good rummaging below Tyle Mill swingbridge and there is an open field by Sulhampstead swingbridge. Richard, Blue and Lou had a good walk between Garston Lock and Hissey’s bridge – the towpath leaves the canal and wanders through a bit of woodland – top rummaging. Too much so, reported Richard, as Blue showed a great reluctance to follow the pack. The path goes under the M4 and Blue was keen to find a way up to the motorway but fortunately didn’t! Lou got spooked by the traffic noise under the bridge so all in all Richard had a stressful walk! In the meantime I was moored up under Hissey’s Bridge (our pre-arranged pick-up point) wondering what had become of them all!

Blue on a mission....

Blue on a mission....

Richard decided to cycle on to Burghfield Lock. It was a bit far for the dogs to follow him on the bike so they came back on board. Had they been able to walk with him, though they’d have a great time. The path runs through open scrubland and the river meanders drunkenly. If your crew’s onboard then it’s a good idea to have a lookout on this section. Richard tried to give me directions from the shore but our radios weren’t working too well and I was pleased that there were no boats coming upstream.

Along the next section, the map shows that Reading is gradually closing around the canal, but it’s still surprisingly rural. I was pleased about this as Richard’s sister, Danusia, was going to join us at “The Cunning Man” pub just upstream of Burghfield Bridge. We arrived at exactly the same time – what great co-ordination. We were making good time so we stopped for lunch at the pub. They do very good

Vast lakes near Shenfield/Garston Locks

Vast lakes near Shenfield/Garston Locks

food here – dogs aren’t allowed inside but they can go into the garden. Not a problem – it was a fine day and we enjoyed a great meal outside in the sunshine. (Another day’s cruising restained by a pub lunch …)

Danusia had brought her adorable dog Polo with her. Polo gets on with everyone – I’ve never known a dog (or human) that didn’t like him. Even Lou dispenses with her usual robust greeting when he’s around, mind you, Polo sensibly didn’t try to jump onto the sofa with her! Blue and Polo were a right pair – following each other around the locksides and generally having a ‘boys adventure’ while Lou spent the whole afternoon sleeping. We watched the boys very carefully – they both have criminal records – many convictions of running away when

Garston Lock - the second of the two turf-sided locks

Garston Lock - the second of the two turf-sided locks

called and causing their mums acute stress and embarrassment.

We do try not to take advantage of the fact that Danusia’s a vet but we did welcome her opinion of Blue’s bite wound. You’ll be glad to know that it’s healing well and isn’t infected -phew!

We left the pub soon after 2pm and the schedule was looking good. But then we hit a snag, literally! At Southcote Lock (No. 104) as Richard opened one of the lock gates it just wouldn’t open fully. The other gate could be opened and I could slip in – so far so good. He closed the errant gate but then he couldn’t get the paddle down – something had jammed in the sluice. Subsequent investigations with the boat pole revealed that something, probably a log, had been swept under the open paddle and become jammed. This prevented us from shutting the paddle and it was the piece protruding out which

Heave.....

Heave.....

was preventing the gate from opening fully. By this time we’d been joined by the crew of a boat hoping to come up the lock. Everyone tried various ingenious ways of unsticking this obstruction while I got on the phone to BW. I reckoned that whatever it was would be too much for our primitive tools. I have to say that BW were very efficient – they rang back and let us know what was happening and had a crew to us within 20 minutes. Equipped with forks, they managed to get a firmer hold on the obstruction and pulled it out. No wonder we couldn’t move it – it was an enormous log.

Despite the delay we still got to Reading in good time and passed through County Lock with a week to spare! We’d been warned about the river flow at County Lock but it’s not such an issue going downstream. It seems bizarre that the closure of County

That's a BIG log

That's a BIG log!

Lock will essentially isolate the K & A for a month – it only drops the level by about a foot!

While we were in the lock we sent Danusia forward to press the button on the ‘pedestrian crossing’ lights that control the passage through the Oracle. To our amazement they changed to green immediately and we had to rush to get through before they changed back again. Reading’s waterfront is great – beautifully developed with numerous restaurants and bars. It would be enhanced by a few visitor moorings though. We spent our whole time waving at people on the canalside enjoying their cafe lifestyle.

Soon after this I left the boat. If you turn into the loop after High Bridge and the unnamed footbridge immediately afterwards then that takes you to the

Part of Reading's waterfront

Part of Reading's waterfront

nearest point to the train station. Richard dropped me off just before the bridge (there’s only one on the loop) and off I went to pick up the car from Portishead. Richard and Danusia took the boat through Blake’s Lock and across the river to the Thames & Kennet Marina. There they met up with Danusia’s friend, Martin, who was to gave her a lift back to the Cunning Man. A quick drink was called for but as Martin is on an Atkins Diet it had to be wIne!

Apparently Portishead is the largest town in Britain without a train station – what a nuisance! I took the train to Bristol then a cab to Portishead then drove back to Reading. I was knackered at the end of this and couldn’t contemplate the drive from Reading back to Surrey. However by the time I got back to the boat, Richard had already stripped it bare so he took over the driving and took us home.

It’s been a tremendous 10 days and I was so sad to leave the boat. I was musing on whether to have my long hair converted to dusty dreadlocks and drop out of society and loaf around on the boat. The idea appealed but, as my wise friends pointed out, you need a lot of money to drop out of society, why else would we bother with pensions 🙂

2 Responses to “The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 43”

  1. Greygal said

    All good things must come to an end but you’ll be back on board soon, I’m sure. Thoroughly enjoyed all the posts, particularly the doggy adventures – they keep you on your toes, don’t they?!

  2. indigodream said

    Soon back on board? Well not for another 7 hours ….

    Sue got behind with the blog last week – we had a poor 3g signal a few times where we moored and then needed time to dissect the data card to see if we could extract missing photos – sadly not.

    Dogs are with me in the office today, working hard, flat out in fact, waiting for lunch and keeping a watch out for another dog they have smelt but is not in till the afternoon. It is very tough being a dog.

    Richard

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